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Bose QC20- noise cancelling earphones on motorcycle- "long-term" South American ride review

Discussion in 'Equipment' started by bakercdb, Jul 2, 2016.

  1. bakercdb

    bakercdb Still searching

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    I bought the Bose QC20 In Ear earbuds, with active noise cancelling, for use while on my motorcycle.
    I wanted to put some miles on them before reporting. (c 15,000 miles over 4 months dramatically varied conditions from Bolivia to Ushuaia, to Suriname).

    Quite Stunning, IMO. Dramatic reduction in noise.

    My standard test is to put my music at a high normal level, and see how fast I can go before the music is not clearly audible. The Bose are remarkable, and blow away my c $400 Fit Ear custom molded ear buds , which are materially better than the best passive buds I've owned (Shure c $150).
    (to be fair, my molded buds are only a year old, but off a 5yr old mold of my ears, so likely not at their best, given ear size/shape changes over the years).

    I carried the molded as a backup during my trip, and pulled them out a couple of times when I forgot to charge the Bose, but quickly returned to the Bose (I have an on board SAE plug, and a SAE to USB charger, so can charge on the bike).

    Also, discovered they work great for noisy hotel rooms, better than my disposable foam plugs, and stay in all night, and are comfortable enough to sleep with (not plugged into music, but just turned on).

    The only material issue that I noted is a "popping" noise, with air pressure changes. On my setup, this was caused mainly by following trucks (unavoidable in Brazil), which caused turbulence that the Bose didn't like, thus producing a tolerable, but a little annoying "popping" noise. But, never bad enough that I ever thought about switching to my custom molded buds.

    (note, my setup is a 2015 F800GSA with stock Adventure windscreen, and Schuberth C3Pro Concept modular helmet (which is advertised as super quiet, but I give it an OK with my setup/height - 6'.0", Heidenau K60 Scout tires, and Arrow Full exhaust/headers, with NO catalyst (ie, loud tires and exhaust, esp after 27k miles on the exhaust glass packing- need to see if that can be repacked??).

    Great alternative to foam plugs. I'm not sure what passive earbuds and my setup would have done to my hearing for a year and 27k miles trip. Likely not good.

    BUY FROM BOSE TO GET A FREE TRIAL IF YOU ARE INTERESTED. DRIVE BEHIND SOME LARGE TRUCKS, ETC. Your setup, hearing, tolerance, expectations, may vary. $300 is not cheap, but the Bose blew away B&O, etc that I tested at the music shop.
    Battery life, I believe is advertised 20hrs with 2hr recharge. Seems close.

    ORDER EITHER APPLE OR ANDROID model. Remote is specific to IOS or Android (but will function on anything, just ex the remote functions)

    https://www.bose.com/en_us/products...cancelling-headphones.html#v=qc20_apple_black
    #1
  2. SCflyer

    SCflyer Long timer

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    Looks like they will work without being plugged into music device. How do they do when not playing music...which likely cancels/replaces a bit of outside noise too.
    #2
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  3. Smoke Eater 3

    Smoke Eater 3 Long timer Supporter

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    I thought about this but I have a question that no one seems to be able to answer. Noise canceling is done by reading and producing an equal and negative sound wave that opposes the original sound. Wouldn't this be doubling the damaging sound even though your brain doesn't register it?

    The sound is still there because its only masked by the electronics.
    #3
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  4. Brad-Man

    Brad-Man Been here awhile

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    I would think that the fact you don't need to have the music as loud to hear it clearly would result in a lower of all spl on your ears.

    Keep in mind this technology has been around for years and started with the aviation industry where the ability to hear act is critical...
    #4
  5. boney

    boney Ride > Post Supporter

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    I'm no expert but sound is nothing more than pressure changes that happen at a frequency that we can "hear." To cancel a sound it seems that Bose would create a negative pressure wave to counteract a positive one, and the opposite. Again, in my untrained opinion, resulting in "no" pressure change if it were to completely eliminate a sound. That seems to me as the opposite of doubling it.
    #5
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  6. DiabloADV

    DiabloADV Semi-Occasional

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    I just tried these today. Put them on, hit the switch...and the world went nearly silent. Spooky actually. I stood in the parking lot of the best buy next to a freeway turning them on and off. Absolutely amazing.

    Went home and got on my noisy Burgman. It's tricky getting a full face helmet on without dislodging the ear buds. But...I got rolling at 70 mph on the freeway and hit the switch.

    Just. Effing. Amazing. Better than the best earplugs I've ever used. And all this is without music. There's a button you can click on the cord that cuts the noise cancelling by half...good to have in traffic. But...at 80mph...I have found riding Nirvana.

    I also played some tunes. Set the volume parked. And did not need to turn it up! All the way back up to 80mph.

    This is the best $250 I've ever spent on this pastime.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #6
  7. DiabloADV

    DiabloADV Semi-Occasional

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    Nope. The sound is gone. That's the physics of it.
    #7
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  8. Daemon Angel

    Daemon Angel Been here awhile

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    This has been answered in multiple threads and also if you google it ;-)

    It is a bit counter intuitive, I totally agree.

    A picture often helps.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    sound is a wave. Like you can see in the pictures. If you add a wave that is the opposite of it, it will end in the waves cancelling each other. Leading to no wave, so no sound, nothing for your ears to pick up.
    Even when I write it, I understand it (science master) it still feels strange.
    Think of it as 2 trucks pulling on a rope in opposite direction. If they are both exactly the same trucks and use the same power they both wont be going anywhere. This is a bit the same, 2 forces cancelling each other.

    How do you feel about these in comparison to good foam earplugs or custom made earplugs?

    Webbikeworld also had a review on them and found the sound reduction to be similar. So I'm just wondering, as I don't really listen to music on the bike, if it would be interesting.

    How was it putting them in and putting on your helmet? Do they stay in?
    #8
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  9. DiabloADV

    DiabloADV Semi-Occasional

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    My answer...I've used the roll-up foam earplugs for years. I insert them deep into my ear, and it's about the most sound attenuation available from any earplug, including custom. 32 or 33db.

    The Bose buds are the equal of that, but better. With the foam plugs in, the closed off ear canal becomes a little resonating chamber. While noise from "over that way" is blocked nicely, anything that touches your jaw or head around your ears becomes a direct sound transmitter. The whole experience just feels strange and disconnected.

    The Bose buds don't close off the ear canal and that booming is sharply lessened. They're comfortable...don't even know they're there.

    Plus, I have to shove the foam plugs in deep to really get the full sound kill. So they hurt after a couple hours. All the fussing with earplugs makes me skip taking the bike a lot of the time.

    These Bose things are near miraculous. Rather than spend $500-600-800-1000 trying to find the perfect quiet helmet and quiet windshield, just buy these plus whatever budget helmet goes over them and fits your head. I'm going down to Cyclegear today to buy a Bilt flip-up so it will be easy to put on with the earbuds in place. My Shoei Qwest is hard to pull on with the buds...they keep slipping out and I have to start over. A flip up or open face helmet is a lot easier.

    Seriously...if I'd had these before, I would have even bought a different motorcycle because I'm always so picky about wind noise. Now I can forget about wind noise.
    #9
  10. rally roo

    rally roo Total poser

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    I'm curious; where do you keep the battery box/remote while riding? It seems like it would pick up the same "ambient" noise (e.g. engine noise, road noise, etc.), but would 'hear' different localized wind noise than you do inside your helmet (if that makes sense).
    #10
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  11. DiabloADV

    DiabloADV Semi-Occasional

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    The battery is down near the end of the cord. It would be in your pocket with the phone. If plugging into a bluetooth headset receiver on the side of the helmet, you'd use an extension, and then put the battery in a coat pocket.

    The remote/control pod sits at the junction of the L/R earbud cords, and would hang under your chin. The microphone in the control is only for voice calls, and only if you're using a phone and not a bluetooth headset. That mic does not pick up the ambient sound for purposes of noise reduction. It's off all the time, unless you're making a call using your phone. Which would not work on a bike, really. I'll be using mine with a Sena SMH10. I've ordered a new mounting plate that is for earbuds instead of helmet speakers. I'll use the Sena microphone for phone calls. The buttons for pause, reverse, skip on the control aren't operative if you're using a bluetooth receiver. They only work if you're using the phone directly.

    The remote/control has a button for "partial" noise reduction. That button will work with a phone as input, or with a bluetooth receiver. Very handy feature so you can temporarily turn off the noise reduction with a simple button push.

    The mics for the noise reduction are built into the earbuds. Whatever sound they pick up is the sound that is being mitigated.
    #11
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  12. DiabloADV

    DiabloADV Semi-Occasional

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    Of course, you don't have to plug it into a phone or blue tooth at all. Just use the noise reduction and ride in near silence.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #12
  13. BillsburgGS

    BillsburgGS Been here awhile

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    I've had a pair for about a year. I have not tried them on my bike, but use them on airplanes all the time. Compared to the big cans so many people wear (including Bose NC cans ) these take up barely any room in my briefcase/backpack and are much more comfortable. They knock out a majority of the jet engine noise but I can still hear flight attendants and neighboring passengers fine without hitting the "noise cancellation pride button".

    I originally bought noise cancellation headphones (Bose cans) because I had read that the most exhausting part of flying was the hours of exposure to loud noise. True or placebo effect, I think noise cancellation really does leave me less tired. FWIW I fly about 35 round trips per year. Also is great when running a lawnmower, snowblower, etc.
    #13
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  14. SportEvo

    SportEvo Been here awhile

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    I am a big fan. Schuberth c3 allows me to pull helmet on without dislodging.
    Harder to do with Schuberth S1.
    Pete
    #14
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  15. JC100

    JC100 Long timer

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    What about the helmet rubbing against the pick up mics on the sides of the earphones? Doesn't that produce odd noise effects in ear? If you have traditional noise cancelling earphones you can get the same effect by tapping or touching the mics on those. I never went down the noise cancelling in ear buds route because of this but if this isn't happening here I'd be willing to try.
    #15
  16. DiabloADV

    DiabloADV Semi-Occasional

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    In my qwest helmet, I already had pockets for speakers and had trimmed the fabric of the cheek pads away from my ears. So the ear buds don't touch anything. But yes, if something is pressed up against the ear buds, that transmitted sound doesn't get cancelled


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    #16
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  17. Gruesome

    Gruesome Alter Heizer

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    Thanks to bakercdb for the original post, and to diabloadv for reviving it!
    I just bought a pair of Bose QC20 noise cancelling ear buds, after reading about them here: absolutely amazing!

    I tried them without sound input, for one hour at interstate speeds. They don't block out horns or sirens (nor screeching tires, I assume), but the wind noise is essentially gone. I think this is the solution to the 'finding a quiet helmet' and 'finding a quiet screen' problems.

    They fit less tight than foam plugs, hence more comfy, and subjectively create less of a muffled sound and isolated feeling. I always felt wary of ear plugs in city traffic, and only used them for (very few) longer distance rides.
    I noticed occasional 'pops' similar to what the OP described, and also an occasional ticking sound. Might have been due to very low charge state of the battery, or due to contact between the bud or cable and helmet, I don't know.

    Currently $250 (+ tax) new at Bose stores or online (reduced from $300 because a new Bluetooth model is coming out), $225 factory refurbished at Bose outlet stores.
    #17
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  18. JC100

    JC100 Long timer

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    #18
  19. Gruesome

    Gruesome Alter Heizer

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    Interesting. I was told (in the outlet store) the only difference between the old and the new version is that the old version came in gray, and the newer one in black and white. The hissing WBW is referring to might indicate some problem with their particular tested pair of ear buds? The less-than-100% cancellation of voices, horns, engine sounds etc. is an absolute must for my application (usage while riding), so I don't understand the WBW disappointment with this fact. Although I'm sure hearing-impaired riders develop ways to cope, I wouldn't want to ride in absolute silence. I want to be able to hear outside sounds.

    Today, I tried the QC20 with the visor up at up to 60 mph: the reduction of wind noise is simply amazing! Over lunch I did a quick 'reference ride' without the buds: with the relatively strong cross winds today there is all kinds of whistling in addition to the loud whooshing noise. There's none of that with the ear buds: just the pleasant low rumble and whir of the engine, with the occasional 'thump' from turbulence. A lot of the intake noise of the bike is also strongly reduced. But the important outside sounds are still audible, just over a much reduced noise background. Based on two hours of experience so far, it seems to make riding a lot more relaxed and less stressful.

    Regarding the form factor: I'm carrying the battery in one of the inside pockets of my Atlantis jacket. The cable seems just the right length, and of a good sturdy thickness.

    Noise cancelling versus suppression: I don't understand the WBW argument, and I don't think that is my fault. (Warning: long diatribe, with numbers.) We perceive noise, light etc. on a logarithmic scale. Our eyes and ears have ranges that cover many powers of ten between the lowest and the highest signal they can perceive without damage. So it doesn't make much sense to speak about 'twice as loud' etc., it's more factors of ten that count, and that's why dBs are used as units. 10 dB is a factor ten in power, 20 dB a factor 100, and so on. If you measure amplitude-type quantities (voltage, pressure level), then 20dB corresponds to a factor ten in the measured quantity (and still a factor 100 in the related power quantity). For sound pressure levels, 0 dB is defined as the hearing threshold (with 94 dB corresponding to 1 Pascal pressure). 40 dB is a quiet room; the noise under a helmet is probably in the 80-90 dB range, so a (sound pressure) factor 100 to 300 louder. According to another review (http://stereos.about.com/od/StereoHeadphoneReviews/ss/Bose-Qc-20-Measurements.htm) , the maximum noise cancellation of the QC20 is about 45dB (sound pressure level) at 160 Hz. More typical values are better than 30 dB between 100 and 400 Hz, and better than 20 dB between 400 Hz and 5kHz. So it brings low-to-mid frequencies down from noisy helmet (90 dB) to not-too-noisy room level (60 dB), and the voice-and-higher range to a 'cafeteria-type' din. Those are factors of 100 and 1000 in sound power!
    #19
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  20. Daemon Angel

    Daemon Angel Been here awhile

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    After all this I'm strongly considering ordering them from the Bose site and try with their 30 days test period.
    They were never something I really considered as I don't listen to music on the motorcycle. I even turn it off in the car sometimes to enjoy the "quiet" (no other input than some white noise).
    #20