PodPro noise-reducing headphones
When doing my first daily booth cruise at the recent MacWorld Expo, I noticed MacAlly’s new PodPro noise reduction headphones. Being the not-very satisfied owner of Sony MDR-NC5 Headphones, I wanted to evaluate the new MacAlly offering.
MacAlly had a review unit UPS’d to the Weeks division of MyMac.com labs the day after I returned from the Expo.
The PodPros are full over-the-ear headphones, not ear buds, and are colored to match the iPod’s ivory color. The ‘Pros are easy to adjust, and comfortable for long listening sessions. The connector cord is about three feet long, which is long enough to keep the iPod on a belt clip, or in a pocket. A volume rheostat in the middle of the cord is handy for volume adjustments when the iPod is in a case or a pocket. MacAlly ships the ProdPros with a zippered travel bag. One unexpected nice touch is an airline seat audio jack adapter, allowing you to use the PodPros to listen to in-flight entertainment.
The ear cups are lined with a soft leather-like material, which I found very comfortable. When using the PodPros in the gym, the liner did tend to get sweaty, but they were easy to wipe dry with a cloth.
Noise reduction technology needs power, and the PodPro is no exception. The unit needs two AAA batteries, which MacAlly says will last 100 hours. So far, I’ve logged more than 30 hours of usage, and the original batteries are still going strong. Just make sure you switch off the noise reduction “on-off” switch located on the left headphone when your listening session is complete, or your 100 hours will be used up in, well, 100 hours. You can still use the PodPro as a standard headphone without batteries, or with the noise reduction turned off.
Like most people, I use my iPod in a variety of locations, and some are noisier than others: the gym is loud, while jogging the local side streets is quiet. Airline jets are in between, as most of the sound is wind noise and mechanical hum. Noise reduction technology allows you to save your hearing by reducing the background noise, so you don’t need to crank up the iPod volume to hearing-unfriendly levels to enjoy your tunes.
Most noise reduction headphones are simply “on or off.” The PodPros have a rotating thumbwheel on the left headphone that permits you to adjust the amount of noise reduction. As applying noise reduction does affect sound quality, having the ability to adjust the amount of noise reduction is good. I keep the noise reduction set to Max, and still find the audio quality to be very good. When you spend $69.00 for a noise-reducing headphone, you want to reduce the noise, right?
With the PodPros taking a healthy whack off the background noise level, I found my iPod sounded better than ever. Sound quality using the PodPro is far superior to the Apple-supplied ear buds. PodPro noise reduction capability and sound quality are both better than my soon-to-be surplus Sony MDR-NC5 headphones.
“But”, as Steve Jobs usually says at the end of his Keynote addresses, “there’s one more thing.” Unfortunately, the “one more thing” with the PodPros is not good news. The only drawback to the PodPros is a known problem that surfaces when the headphones are used in a car. When using the PodPros in a car (as a passenger) I found the ‘phones produced a short blast of static each time my car went over a bump. The noise was clearly related to the degree of noise reduction I’d dialed in. With no noise reduction, there was no bump-induced static. With the noise reduction turned up high, a rough road produced so many pops and blasts of static that I couldn’t use the PodPros at all. The same problem occurred while on my next airline flight as a passenger. The expansion joints in the taxiways produced the same pops as did road bumps. Once airborne, the PodPros produced distortion-free sound. Interestingly enough, jogging was trouble-free; my footfalls did not cause problems.
It’s generally not recommended to use headphones while driving a car, as you’ll be less able to hear sirens and other important sounds, so this problem may not be a big deal. But if you want to use them while a passenger, it’s serious problem. MacAlly says they’re aware of the issue, and are working on a fix, but have no timetable yet.
Conclusion: I love the PodPros. They’re well-made, comfortable, effective noise reducers, and produce good sound for their price. While I don’t use the headphones while the driver, I do want to use them when I’m a passenger. But the bump-related noise issue has to be fixed before I can give them the great rating they deserve. Until MacAlly gets the problem fixed, I can only give the PodPro headphone a strong 3.5 rating.