MDR NC-33 from Sony is the first pair of noise cancelling earphones I have tried. Seeing them in the Sony store I got mixed feelings as most in-ear earphones isolate against noise by blocking the ear canal. On the other hand I thought that if you first have noise isolation by blockage, and add 90% less noise by using noise isolating circuitry you might end up with 100% noise free listening.
The NC-33 comes with the standard extras such as a carrying pouch, extra earbuds and flight plug headphone adapter. One AAA-battery to power the noise cancelling circuitry, and according to Sony one battery will last at least 50 hours depending on whether it is rechargeable or not. A dry-cell battery is supposed to last for up to 100 hours. I have yet to run out of my first battery, but then I have not had the circuitry on at all times. The sound quality is just as good without the noise cancelling on.
The NC-33 are quite bulky due to the noise cancelling circuitry, but I still enjoy the unique look of the earphones. What is less appealing is the large lump found about 0,6 meters from the Y-cable to the earphones. It is and looks bulky, and with a shiny red light when the noise cancelling circuitry is active makes me feel like a cyborg or something. I understand that the battery has to be put somewhere, and it is better to have it on the cord than near the earphones due to weight. I have been trying the black NC-33, and they are also available in white, blue and red. The most commonly sold is the black one though.
I have always had the same problem with the earbuds that I have got with the Sony Ericson phones I have owned prior to the iPhone. They feel squidgy when inserted, and actually make wet noises in my ear when I touch them. They seem to take what little moisture I have in my ear canal, and kind of multiply it into a puddle. I have tried really drying my ear canals with tops, and still the earbuds do this. And it is the same kind of earbuds used in the NC-33, and sadly they behave as I am used to. I have not had this problem with any other brand or style of earbuds.
The positive side to it is that the earbuds are really comfortable, and fit really well into the ear canal. You get them in three different sizes, and I guess everyone will be able to use at least one of them comfortably.
The box containing the circuitry and AAA-battery is quite heavy, and if you don’t clip it to a belt or any other piece of clothing they tend to put strain on the earbuds. Using them in bed before going to sleep for example is a pain when I have to go to the bathroom, and the lump dangles within my range of aim. It also tends to bang against furniture if you don’t fasten the clip, and it feels quite unsafe because of the fact that it contains high tech electronics.
The cord I would say has a medium tendency to tangle itself, which isn’t too bad.
The best feature of the NC-33 is the great audio, which gives a good representation of the recorded materials. In my opinion they are suitable for all kinds of music, and games when it comes to keeping the sound tight. Those who want to have their music layered, and separated should look elsewhere. To place the sound of the NC-33 in a real world situation I would say that they sound like being at a concert using foam ear protection: a bit muffled but still those sounds you are there to hear come through really well.
The selling point for the Sony MDR NC-33 is the high tech noise isolating circuitry. I do not understand the noise isolating feature at all. I have compared using it with the circuitry on or off, and to me there is not much difference. The earbuds themselves are designed to block out unwanted noise. When I turn the noise cancelling feature on the red light is all that is happening as far as I can tell. I can still hear the printer in the background printing drivel that I heard with the circuitry off. If I want to talk to someone there is a button to press to get to monitor mode. While I hold the monitor button the circuitry almost mutes the audio. I can still hear the music in the background, and it is easier to actually remove one earphone to be able to talk instead of holding the button. Part of the problem is also finding the button depending on where the circuitry/battery compartment is located. If I have it in a pocket it is too hard to find, and actually hold the small monitor button.
Ok so I can’t notice the 90% noise cancellation due to the earphones themselves blocking the sound, but that is only the first aspect I have trouble with. The second is the fact that the circuitry is prone to interference. So far all of the tested headphones using active noise cancellation have had trouble with using the Edge/3G networks as well as surrounding phones and modems. What the larger headphones have in common though is that the interference isn’t louder than the music you are listening to, and thus isn’t as intrusive. When using the NC-33 I almost tear them out of my ears when the loud interference hits me. Considering the noise cancelling circuitry itself isn’t all that needed I conclude the following: If you want to have a comparable sound and fit to the NC-33 get little brother Sony MDREX300SLB instead at less than half the money, and without paying for a feature that is not worth the cost.
The NC-33 presents game audio really well with good power in everything from weapon fire to zombie grunts in Call of Duty World at War Zombies. More mellow sounds are also presented really well such as the music found in Ravensword. To play any game that uses Edge/3G for highscores or online games you need to shut off the noise cancelling circuitry.
The Sony MDR NC-33 comes equipped with a noise cancelling circuitry that does more harm than good. Seeing that this both puts a bulky battery compartment, larger earphones and a heftier price tag on the NC-33 I can’t recommend them even thought they have a great fit for most ears, good noise isolation, and really good sound quality.