Noise isolation headphone recommendations?

jasonRF

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I am looking for some noise isolating headphones for my younger daughter to use when my older daughter is practicing her french horn. It is one loud instrument! I wouldn't expect active noise cancelling headphones to work since I have a hard time believing they can respond quickly as a horn concerto is being practiced.

She doesn't like the in-ear phones so I am hoping some over-ear headphones can work. I tried the Sennheiser HD-280 Pro, but they didn't work so well for her - I was underwhelmed by them as well.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Thanks,

Jason
 

Vanadium 50

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You're not the first person to ask this. But first...

How do you make a trumpet sound like a French Horn? Put your hand in the bell and start missing notes.

I know of nobody who has attacked the problem from that end who has been entirely satisfied with the results. What does work is a practice booth - essentially a small soundproof room your daughter can practice in. They start around $3K and go up with size and features (e.g. fans, electricity, audio, XLR passthroughs, etc.) That may sound like a lot of money, because it is, but so is a decent French horn. A step-up double Horn is going to run almost $4K, which is why nobody buys them - not when a pro Horn is $5K. My point is that you've already committed to the most expensive brasswind. It's not much more to be thinking of.
 

jasonRF

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While this isn't the answer I was hoping for, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that a simple fix isn't adequate. I will still try a few of the isolation headphones designed for drummers, but will look into the practice booth. The downside is that I really enjoy hearing a Mozart horn concerto (and even scales) while I cook dinner or do some other chore, especially now that she has played for a handful of years. Too bad it doesn't help my other daughter concentrate while she studies math or Spanish!

Of course you are correct about the cost of French horns. When my daughter came home from school 4 years ago saying she signed up to play the French horn, I had no idea how expensive it would be! Renting a single horn for the first year wasn't bad, but when I looked into renting a double horn it was $100+ a month, so dropping a couple thousand on a "starter" double horn (Conn 8D, but not from the best factory) seemed like a bargain. As a former violin player I didn't appreciate how complicated brass instruments are to play, either. All the wackiness about transposing the music, especially when playing pieces written before valves, seems almost crazy. Good thing she has a quick, nimble mind.

Thanks!

jason
 

Vanadium 50

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I am not a horn expert, but IIRC Conn-Selmer and its predecessor UMI built horns first in Elkhart, then in Abilene, and finally in Eastlake. My guess is "not the best factory" is Abilene. That was from a period when UMI was moving production around, but not moving the tooling with it. They were making a number of questionable decisions in that period. They moved one trumpet brand from Los Angeles (Anaheim) and left the tooling behind, whereupon the now out of work factory workers launched their own company competing with UMI.

That said, if your daughter likes the instrument, that's the important thing. It's easy to get caught up over instrument quality, but I spent a couple of years gigging with a student instrument when I was living overseas. I could tell - but the audience couldn't.

There's one other option, and that is a practice mute. This is in principle, a mute that attenuates the volume, but doesn't do anything else. There is even one, the Yamaha Silent Brass, which electronically undoes the muting and lets the player hear through earphones. My experience is that they do affect the feel of the instrument and they do affect the tone, so practicing without one a good fraction of the time is mandatory. Also, French horn mutes are already compromises. But if the alternative to practicing with one is not practicing at all, it's worth thinking about.
 
What about Bose noise cancelling head phones?
 

Vanadium 50

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What about Bose noise cancelling head phones?
Have you tried this in this application?

The first problem is that they, like all active cancellation systems, are designed to cancel noise. The rumble of an airplane engine, not the French Horn. The second problem is that the human brain can more easily pick up on the remaining music than the remaining noise, so that decibel for decibel, the perception will be that the music is reduced less. Third, related to the first, is that active noise cancellation works well at low frequencies, but that's not where Horn is putting out sound. Finally, the OP has already tried serious noise isolating headphones (with specs close to Bose) and said they didn't work out.

If you tried it in an similar application, I think describing that could be valuable. If your point is just "I like Bose!", that's less likely to be helpful.
 
@Vanadium 50 : Sorry, I haven't tried in this application; I just wanted to give an option to think on.
 

Vanadium 50

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Jason has said he's looked into this, and it doesn't work. Or at least doesn't work better than isolation-type headphones (which is my experience as well).
 

jasonRF

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That said, if your daughter likes the instrument, that's the important thing. It's easy to get caught up over instrument quality, but I spent a couple of years gigging with a student instrument when I was living overseas. I could tell - but the audience couldn't.
Yes, she likes the instrument. The prior owner played it for 25+ years; he was in a number of ensembles and regularly played other gigs as well. So even though it isn't an Elkhart it has reasonable sound, especially in the high register.

There's one other option, and that is a practice mute. This is in principle, a mute that attenuates the volume, but doesn't do anything else. There is even one, the Yamaha Silent Brass, which electronically undoes the muting and lets the player hear through earphones. My experience is that they do affect the feel of the instrument and they do affect the tone, so practicing without one a good fraction of the time is mandatory. Also, French horn mutes are already compromises. But if the alternative to practicing with one is not practicing at all, it's worth thinking about.
Fortunately, the alternative has nothing to do with not practicing. She loves to play and will find a way to do it. This really comes down to minimizing the annoyance to the little sister on those nights where she has a lot of studying to do. The Yamaha Silent Brass looks interesting, and may be the ticket for those nights where little sister is trying to learn algebra and cannot concentrate because our entire house is filled with sound of a practicing horn.

Thanks!

Jason
 

jasonRF

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What about Bose noise cancelling head phones?
I actually have not tried them. I do a lot of signal processing work, though, and the adaptive filters in those must have a pretty slow response time if they are to be effective against lower frequency noise. Perhaps I should do the experiment and give them a try ...

jason
 

harborsparrow

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I used cheap Radio Shack noise cancelling headphones (cost $30 to $40) for years when I was commuting to Philadelphia by train. With the headphones on, there were several benefits: (1) low rumbling noises of the train were reduced, for a more peaceful ride, (2) sounds of buses and helicopters and other engines in the city were reduced, (3) wearing them discouraged people from talking to me (he he--maybe a benefit, maybe not).

Anyway--at this price point, they reduced bass sounds significantly, but I could still hear voices. But even the voice sounds of, say, cell phone talkers were significantly clipped and smoothed out to make them less annoying. I also benefited from wearing them around leaf blowers and lawn mowers. So I think they would indeed help somewhat to reduce the intensity of the deep sounds of a French horn.
 

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