There's a LOT of noise in my office. It's at the top end of the "annoying" level, and crossing over into the 'fatiguing" level a lot of the time.
Even when it's quiet, theres a some pretty constant high frequency white noise, and it gets very irritating.
I have a pair of Bose Quiet comfort II headphones, that I absolutely love. I took them into the office one day (a different office, a few years ago), and I started bringing them all the time, because they just made my day to day life better in the office. Unfortunately, the QQIIs are quite large, not very portable, and awfully expensive (about $300) to try and have two pairs.
I wanted a pair of active noise cancelling headphones that I could take with me in my laptop bag everywhere, and that wouldnt be so obtrusive. Unfortunately, I havent yet found a pair of decent high end actives at a relatively reasonable price, that work, and are portable.
At first I figure I would jsut get some good quality passive in ear canal 'phones from Sure, E.A.R., or Etymotic (and I still will at some point soon). A good quality set, custom molded to your ear canal, can provide well over 30db of noise reduction without frequency distortion, and in some cases over 40db. Unfortunately, for me at the moment, said custom pieces run $400-$800.
Now, as I said, I havent found a high end ANR set that I liked yet; but the low end have been getting better and better (and cheaper and cheaper) all the time. I saw these in the store and I figured I'd give them a shot:
The basics are straightforward. These are in ear 'phones with a silicone seal that provides about 20db of noise reduction, as well as an active noise reduction module.
Now as to how they work... not bad. They dont reduce the irritating frequencies as much as the QQIIs do, but for $40 what do you expect. They provide a decent music listening experience, and are fine for watching DVD's on the laptop. They are a bit weak on bass, but better than most cheap ear buds that the average I-pod owner uses; if that's your basis for comparison then thes will sounds like heaven. To an audiophile like myself they have a bit of top end clipping, and although the have decent bass frequency responce, there's jsut not a lot of dynamic bounce or feel on the bottom.
Basically, compared to a Shure reference monitor these are as bad as Koss or Aiwa; compared to Koss, these are great. I'd rate them as somewhere between a good Sony and a Sennheiser.
They, like most non custom in canal 'phones, get uncomfortable after a couple hours. Also they, like most lower cost ANR devices, have a bit of noise induce by the ANR itself; but they DO funtion with the ANR turned off (albeit with a somewhat muted signal).
On the positive side they are well built, as comfortable as in canal 'phones can be, come with a very strong neck loop, and a useful little carrying case. Also, very important for in canal 'phones, they have several sizes of canal inserts to choose from.
Overall, not bad. A good deal for $40, but I'd probably just spend the money on the higher end passives if I had it to spend (and I will at some point). Of course if you don't feel like spending $300-$800 on headphones, and these are comfortable for your ears, they're a great product.