updated 10:05 am EDT, Wed October 11, 2006
Sony Altus Headphones
Noise-canceling earphones in the past have either sat directly in the ear canal, blocking ambient sounds without any choice, or else have required an active system that generates a counter sound -- and requires a battery to function. The Altus headphones from Sony, just announced today, draw on the advantages of both while having the weaknesses of neither. The over-the-ear headphones block outside noise by controlling diaphragms inside each cup through a single, passive switch. The Altus can either allow the diaphragms to move easily, allowing ambient noise into the headset when a lack of awareness might be dangerous, or fix them in place to block everything but the intended source. As the system doesn't draw power, noise cancellation is always an option regardless of how long the headphones are used.
The Altus headphones also improve the frequency to 80KHz; this gives a level of accuracy that wasn't possible in earlier portable headphones, says Sony. Though large, the headphones can be folded to be more portable and are shipped with a pouch for traveling. Expect to see the Altus available in stores by November for $150.