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Thread: Anybody using wireless noise canceling earbuds/headphones in the shop?

  1. #1

    Anybody using wireless noise canceling earbuds/headphones in the shop?

    I'm on the quest for the perfect wireless noise canceling earbuds or headphones to use in the shop and/or for job-site work. I'm a music lover, audiophile (or is it audiophool?) and professional woodworker / carpenter and have tried many different approaches over the years for listening to tunes or podcasts whilst working and have yet to arrive at the ideal solution. I've had a Makita 18V radio for many years that I've used with an iPod/iPhone with downloaded music and that's all fine and well for quieter environs or if you just want some background music, but isn't what I'd call a pleasurable listening experience except in the most quiet of tasks.

    Over the past year or so I've tried the original Apple Airpods (a gift from family) as well as a few pairs of the Isotunes Free earbuds. The Airpods were not the noise canceling Pro models and really were no different in terms of sound isolation or quality than normal wired earbuds. I ended up accidentally loosing one of them and never was able to find it despite a couple of exhaustive searches. They aren't ideal for loud environments anyway and are more of a casual listening device.

    The Isotunes Free offer some sound reduction (I think up to 27 dB reduction) via replaceable foam pads attached to the ends of the buds. They are decent in that regard, but the sound quality is absolutely terrible. I got a pair and the right ear bud made this very annoying buzzing / vibrating sound at nearly any volume with any amount of bass, even speech audio. Complained to Isotunes and was sent a brand new pair and the left ear bud in the new pair did the exact same thing! The max volume level is also intentionally set pretty low, which makes some sense from a protection point of view, but it really isn't loud enough and I find that to be pretty annoying. These issues, coupled with the fact that they just have poor sound quality in general has had me desperate as of late to find a much better replacement.

    I work either on a job-site or in my shop 40+ hours a week and need something that can handle that environment, though I'm not against babying them to make them last if needed. Water / sweat resistance is a requirement I'd say. Excellent sound quality is a must. Noise cancellation / dB reduction is a concern but not quite as high as sound quality. Price is kind of a concern, but you know what they say about the bitter taste of poor quality...

    I've heard good things about the Apple Airpod Pros, but don't know if the sound quality will be up to my standards and while I do like some Apple products, I don't feel like I need to support them if there are better options for me out there. They did just go on a big sale, though ($170 compared to normal price of $250.)

    After reading some reviews of other options recently, it seems like the other front runners in this category are the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 (~ $250) and the Sony WF-1000XM3 ($170)

    I'm trying to stick to earbuds as opposed to over the ear headphones because they are less bulky, don't interfere with safety glasses / respirator quite as much, and aren't as hot and clammy in warm weather.

    Anybody have experience with this?
    Still waters run deep.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Columbus, OH
    I use the 3M over the ear bluetooth isotunes or whatever they call them. Honestly I only listen to podcasts in the shop so audio quality isn't terribly important to me, I really only care about the NRR.

    That said I used to play drums in a number of bands and I would use IEMs to save my ears from that abuse. Once you start talking about audio quality, I would think getting an audiologist to fit you with a custom cast set of ear pieces which would give you the best of audio quality, noise isolation and comfort. I used comply foam tips on mine, which would be tolerable for a couple hours - but custom fit would have been a much needed improvement for anything longer.

  3. #3
    Iím using air pod pro since they were free(-ish). I have been burning off paint overhead for a week now and Iím pleased. Other work was fitting my restored windows while using them and toggling noise cancellation when running the vac. At $170, theyíre a steal.

    Of course, battery battery battery. Bummer x3.

    Annnnnd... I spaced out listening to music when I was fitting the windows and installing them and managed to drop TWO of them. Rather, I let them tumble. One was easy to fix onsite, but the other had to go back to the shop and get some dowels. So now I only use them for repetitive stuff.

    But yes, I do like them.

  4. #4
    My advice is to write off sound quality in favor of safety. That way you can enjoy high fidelity over the long haul. There just doesn't really seem to be a market for high fidelity, OSHA approved headphones or earbuds. Noise canceling is not protection. Sometimes, when I need to hear everything, I'll wear earbuds with earmuffs over them.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Perth, Australia
    Phillip, the Isotunes Free reduce noise by 22dB (compared to the 30dB of the 3M Peltor). If you are hitting close to 90-100dB on the machines/tools on site, then the Isotunes are only borderline acceptable. I find anything above 75dB tiring and painful. 80dB and above is rated dangerous. The sound quality of the Isotune Free is reported to be mediocre at best.

    I have the Airpod Pros with noise cancelling, and use these for casual listening, but especially for airplanes and running on a treadmill. They are good-excellent for this, very comfortable, but apt to loosen and need tightening in the ear every 5 minutes when on the treadmill. I also have a pair of Bose QC20, which are the noise cancelling corded earbuds. These are excellent - again for the above areas as the dB reduction is only 20. I do not know what the new true wireless versions do, however they are advertised to hold a charge for 3 hours only. The Airpod Plus is at least double that.

    Regards from Perth

    Last edited by Derek Cohen; 11-27-2020 at 10:11 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Hayes, Virginia

    I use the Bose Quiet Control 30 earbuds. Battery life is easily 8 hours or more. Mine are used frequently, on my diesel tractor, 25 hp lawn mower and in my workshop with a CNC router running sometimes for hours. The advantage of this model is that they can quickly be removed from my ears if I need to talk to someone close by and I won't lose an earbud. Sweat is not a problem.

    I also have a pair of the Bose wireless headsets but these are to hot to wear in hot weather.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Averill Park NY
    Air pod pro. Amazing noise cancellation and quality sound.
    Some Blue Tools
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    Blue and White 50 Watt

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Lebanon, TN
    I bought these over the ear MPOW Noise cancelling Bluetooth headphone from Amazon ($55). Pair easily to my iPhone, MacBook Pro or Sony sounder for the TV. Great battery life, easy adjust volume and skip tracks.

    I have a pair of Sony noise cancelling, over the ear, headphones, but I usually reach for the MPOW's

  9. #9
    Thanks for the responses.

    Maybe I should re-consider over the ear muffs that are noise cancelling, but I hesitate because of how much I’ve worn the regular 3M / Peltor 105 earmuffs for hearing protection for years. For absolute hearing protection they are excellent, but obviously have no electronics / music built in and they are simply clunky to use, especially with safety glasses and a half mask respirator or if you are doing work where you’re bending over or the like.

    I have tried regular ear buds / air pods underneath the 3M muffs and it is very uncomfortable for more than a few minutes and is also pretty cumbersome and annoying to set up and take off quickly if I get interrupted.

    Can you get custom fit IEM that are totally wireless like the AirPods / Sennheisers? I don’t really want something with a cord attached at all, even if it’s around the back of the neck.
    Still waters run deep.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Columbus, OH
    Quote Originally Posted by Phillip Mitchell View Post
    Can you get custom fit IEM that are totally wireless like the AirPods / Sennheisers? I don’t really want something with a cord attached at all, even if it’s around the back of the neck.
    I've never heard of them, but you might be able to get custom fit tips for other wireless headphones that would offer a similar comfort and NRR effect.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Punta Gorda, FL
    When I owned the Dewalt 735, I would insert 3M ear plugs and put on Sennheiser HDR 170 wireless headphones and crank up the volume. I could still hear the planer pretty well.
    ďTravel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness..." - Mark Twain

    Diapers and Politicians need to be changed often... Usually for the same reason.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Julie Moriarty View Post
    ...Sennheiser HDR 170 wireless headphones...
    My wife has these but I've never thought of trying them in the shop. They were like $30 on Amazon, right? She uses them for zoom calls and that sort of thing. I'm in the same camp as some others: Safety over sound, so use foam ear plugs (due to TX heat) but maybe I should give hers a try.

    Felder USA Territory Representative: Central & South Texas

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Toronto Ontario
    This is what I use in the shop..............Rod.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Bellingham, WA
    I know that this isn't an audiophile solution, but I really like the combination of the highest NRR rated foam plugs I could find (Howard Leight) and a bone conduction AfterShokz headset.

  15. #15
    Pardon my ignorance, but how can you actually hear the music well if you have NRR foam plugs in your ears under the headphones? Seems like it would be muffled and compromised just like the other sounds you’re trying to reduce, but maybe I’m missing something.

    I realize that what I’m looking for is likely an impossible quest, but those are the best kinds, right?

    Something I hadn’t really stopped to consider in this case, though is the differences between active noise cancelling of some of these ear buds (AirPods, etc) and the measured NRR of actual hearing protection. Does anyone have anything to say about the differences, any amount of crossover, actual hearing safety with repeated long term exposure (job site, woodshop with machines) ? Let’s leave concerns of operating machinery while listening to music aside; I feel like that’s a personal choice that everyone can make for themselves. There are certainly times / operations when I turn off external noises other than the single task/machine that is at hand for absolute concentration, but overall I’m experienced and comfortable with listening to music while doing a lot of different woodworking tasks and running different machines. It all depends on the situation, how well you pay attention even during repetitive tasks, and knowing when to shut off all other input.

    The Isotunes Free has a NRR of 22 dB, which I assume is achieved via the foam seal of the earbud itself and not a digital, active noise cancellation effect. The AirPod Pros/etc appear to have the same type of foam seal as well as active noise cancellation, but are maybe not actually tested / rated for NRR because they aren’t marketed as such.
    Last edited by Phillip Mitchell; 11-27-2020 at 2:40 PM.
    Still waters run deep.

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