First Grope of Sony MDR-NC500D Digital Noise Cancelling Headphones

0026sonygizmodo.jpgSony introduced the world's first headphone with "digital technology for precise noise canceling"-although we're not sure exactly what that means-these headphones have three different environmental modes, and a switch to let the outside noise in. Sony claims to block 99 per cent of noise in the 160HZ range (which is the same as a jet engine). The MDR-NC500D will be available in February for $US400.


Sony Electronics. "The ability to bring digital technology to ultra-light headphones should keep Sony as the industry leader in the headphone market."


Digital Signal Processor Boosts Noise Canceling Accuracy

LAS VEGAS (CES Booth #14200), Jan. 6, 2008 - For anyone who spends more time reclined on an airplane rather than sitting at home in a recliner, Sony today unveiled the world's first digital noise canceling headphones.

The lightweight, MDR-NC500D model headphones use digital technology to more accurately reduce stress-inducing noise from planes, trains and busses, while providing a high-quality audio experience.

The headphones can reduce up to 99 percent of ambient noise at 160HZ, which is the peak frequency of a jet engine.

"By going digital, our noise canceling headphones deliver a balanced and rich sound, while delivering the highest level of noise cancellation when traveling or commuting," said Andy Bubala, director of marketing for personal audio accessories at

Digital Defeats Analog

The increased rate and accuracy of noise reduction in these six-ounce headphones is due to the use or a unique digital noise canceling software engine, a set of digital filters located in the built-in digital signal processor.

To start the noise canceling process a microphone found inside the ear cup of the headphones takes an analog audio reading and converts the sound to digital. At the same time, the analog audio input signal is converted to a digital signal and sent through a digital equalizer to enhance the mid-range vocals and alleviate the excess bass — two features that can be negatively affected in most noise-canceling headphones.

The audio signal is compared to the noise signal, and the DNC software engine uses a digital filter to remove ambient noise that registers in the desired frequency range. The resulting signal is converted back to analog and sent to the headphones' driver for sound reproduction. Bubala said this digital-based process enables more effective noise cancellation than is possible using analog filter technology.

Sony's DNC software engine makes it possible for these digital noise canceling headphones to offer three distinct noise canceling modes optimized for different environments: airplane, train/ bus, or office.

By pressing an artificial intelligence noise canceling button found on the outside of the right ear piece, the headphones scan the ambient noise profile and intelligently select the best mode to cancel out the highest amount of unwanted sound.

Each mode uses a different digital filter in the digital signal processor, which has been specifically tuned for effective noise reduction in these different sound environments.

Quality, Comfort and Style

Sony developed the MDR-NC500D digital noise canceling headphones with long flights and stress relief in mind. They are powered by an internal lithium-ion battery that can operate for up to 16 hours on a single charge. They also have an external battery box that holds two AA batteries for when there is no access to a wall plug.

To provide comfort during long hours of wear, the new headphones feature thick, urethane foam padding in the ear pieces that reduce pressure and pinching on the outer ear. To add style to comfort, the ear cups are finished with black lacquer and have a single-sided cord connection for convenience.

The headphones' monitor switch allows you to temporarily suspend the noise cancellation feature and mute the music to listen to flight announcements.

The MDR-NC500D headphones will be available in February for about $400 at, at Sony Style® retail stores (, at military base exchanges, and authorized dealers nationwide.

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