The sound of silence

True noise cancellation can weirdly center you in the moment, and remove you from it simultaneously. Metropol’s gadget guru Ian Knott experiences Sony’s latest headphones.

There are many models of headphones on the market that have ‘noise reduction’, which relies mainly on the seal of the padding around the ears, some more successful than others. However actual ‘noise-cancelling’ headphones are a different beast altogether.

My time with Sony’s stylish new WH-XB900N Wireless Noise Cancelling headphones was my first experience with true, digital noise cancellation. It takes a little getting used to.

The feeling is slightly disconcerting at first, as sensory deprivation (of one of the senses) kicks in. I can see people’s lips moving around me, I can see my fingers tapping the keys on my keyboard, but there’s no sound. Nothing at all. It’s both weird and awesome at the same time.

It works by collecting the ambient sounds, analysing their waveform and firing an inverted wave-form back at them, effectively cancelling them out.

That leaves an environment where music is the focus, and as part of Sony’s EXTRA BASS® range, these headphones do not disappoint. A dedicated bass duct on the headphone housing and increased air-tightness between the driver units and eardrums help to create precise, punchy rhythms that lift every track. Yet the headphones also maintain vocal clarity for a wonderfully rich, well-rounded listening experience.

My favourite feature is the touch panel on the right headphone housing. You wouldn’t know it’s there, but on it, you can perform actions like pausing, volume control, or skipping tracks with the tap or swipe of your finger. Placing your hand on the housing immediately turns the volume down and turns off noise cancellation for instant conversation. They also boast a huge battery life – 30 hours from just a four-hour charge.

The headphones are foldable and come with a stylish shell-case to keep them safe when not in use. Considering the sound, features, and build quality, the RRP of $449.95 doesn’t seem too much of a stretch if listening to your playlists gets you through the day with a smile.

  • Advanced noise cancellation
  • Clever touch control panel
  • Alexa & Google Assistant compatibility
  • Amazing battery life
  • Stylish storage case included

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