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Joe Dunlap

Noise canceling headphones on set?

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My instinct is that it’s a bad idea to use active noise canceling headphones for monitoring on set but there have been times where it may have worked pretty well. Just curious if anyone else has done this. I like the idea of only hearing what the microphone is capturing and not hearing room tone bleed from around the headphones. 

 

My normal set set is the HD25 but just got a set of the PXC550 for traveling. 

 

 

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I’ve been using in-ears for headphone isolation/ear protection for about 10 years. They are not noise cancelling, but the isolation is incredible. 

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I agree with Dan and FerrousBeard. What I want isn't noise cancellation, but isolation. I want to hear certain noises to know if they're going to degrade my tracks. Totally nonscientific anecdotal goofing around suggests that noise-cancelling headsets don't eliminate lav/clothing rustle, mouth clicks, and such...but they can remove passing trucks. As in: if the sound acoustically can reach the noise-cancelling headphone, it will try to eliminate it... and then I can't tell if it's also reaching the microphone. But that was with a producer's Bose headphones; maybe other models will differentiate between local (at headphone) and distant (at microphone) reception of the sounds. 

 

Anyway, that's my take. But I use over-the-ear 7506s, so I have a touch more isolation than you do with HD25s. Maybe some non-noise cancelling over-the-ear Sennheisers will work for you? Or can you turn off the noise cancelling on your PXC550 and see what you think (factoring in the bluetoothyness)? 

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Not that I use NC HPs but I'd assumed the system worked because the the 2 elements (emitter and mic) were near coincident.

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I have both the Bose cancelling headphones and 2 versions of the Remote "aircraft" type cans with the Sony drivers.  The former are helpful on long flights for reducing the roar of the aircraft engines and HVAC systems, but do not much at all for nearby conversations, crying babies etc.  As audio headphones I think they leave a lot to be desired, compared to what I'm used to in terms of clarity, detail and freq response: they sound like cheap headphones.  The current model of Remote Audio HN headphones match my regular 7506 etc headphones pretty well, but with far greater isolation.   Pretty much all of my location music recording work,  which nearly always needs to happen with me in the same room as the players for various reasons, would not work nearly as well without them.  Mic position especially as well as my live ref mix are really improved by being able to hear what's going on far more clearly than with regular headphones.  If I didn't have the Remote HNs with me and had to record in a noisy environment, I think I'd go with my normal headphones and live with the bleed instead of trying to record and mix using those Bose, they are really strange sounding...

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17 hours ago, Jim Feeley said:

I agree with Dan and FerrousBeard. What I want isn't noise cancellation, but isolation. I want to hear certain noises to know if they're going to degrade my tracks. Totally nonscientific anecdotal goofing around suggests that noise-cancelling headsets don't eliminate lav/clothing rustle, mouth clicks, and such...but they can remove passing trucks. As in: if the sound acoustically can reach the noise-cancelling headphone, it will try to eliminate it... and then I can't tell if it's also reaching the microphone. But that was with a producer's Bose headphones; maybe other models will differentiate between local (at headphone) and distant (at microphone) reception of the sounds. 

 

Noise cancelling headphones cancel background noise reaching your head by phase cancellation by using microphones mounted on the cups. Of course it doesn't filter out any problems picked up by your microphones. So, clothing rustles, etc, will be heard actually better. While isolation headphones are better at removing high frequencies, noise cancellation excels with low frequencies. Phase matching for high frequencies is too critical, so it's not feasible. 

 

The advantage of cutting low frequency background noise is that our ears suffer from a masking effect from low frequency sounds. So, removing them can be really beneficial.

 

In short: you will hear better what your microphones are actually picking up. Maybe some manufacturer has added some "intelligent" noise removal system? I don´t know if that's the case. I can say mine don't do that.

 

I own a pair of Sennheiser PXC-550 and the sound is very good. Maybe not as "analytical" (ie, a bit overhyped in the high mids) as the MDR-7506 or the Ultrasone HFI-650, which are really good for monitoring, but I don't think they hide much.

 

I have also a lighter pair by Sennheiser, I don't remember the model now. They are small over the ear ones with the typical "walkman style" form factor. Adequate for uncompromising situations but I wouldn't trust them for anything serious. They are a bit bassy and, moreover, given the small size they are prone to distortion (I think caused by some feedback between the speakers and the microphones) if the phase cancellation tries to cancel a strong bassy sound. For example, traveling by bus and hitting a bump. 

 

The PXC-550 doesn't suffer that problem. Moreover you have three different noise cancellation settings: 0, mid, high.

 

Of course not all headphones are born equal. I tried a pair of Bose (I don't remember the model) and the result wasn't so good. Slightly better cancellation but a somewhat "boxy" sound. And if you want to punish someone, Beats are orders of magnitude worse than the worst torture device developed in the Middle Ages :)

 

 

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I tried my Bose on set and found phase issues between the noise cancellation and the same noise coming from the mic making it impossible to know what you are actually hearing.  This only happens when listening in the same room as the mic.

I've used them successfully when mixing outside (mic inside), but in every situation, both on set and live music performances, I have found custom molded in ears with double cup construction ear muffs over the top to be the best.

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On 2/1/2019 at 4:26 AM, Jim Feeley said:

But I use over-the-ear 7506

Sounds like Remote Audio headphones are the ones for you, the use the same drivers as in the Sony 7506 so what you're already used to listening to from years and years will be pretty close to the same response as what you hear with the Remote Audio ones

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