Tivoli Audio Radio Silenz (Black) review:

Tivoli Audio Radio Silenz (Black)

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The wood trim on the earcups is available in 3 difference colors (walnut color shown). Sarah Tew/CNET

The noise-canceling feature is also disappointing. To be clear, this is an active noise-canceling headphone, so the noise-canceling circuitry is incorporated into the aforementioned inline dongle (it's powered by a AAA battery and gives you about 50 hours of use). A button on the dongle, which also has a volume control, allows you to defeat the noise canceling and quiet your music so you can hear what's going on outside your headphones and talk to someone, perhaps a flight attendant. That's a nice feature and I also appreciated that you don't have to engage the noise-canceling to listen to music.

I tried the noise-cancelling in a few different environments and found that it did an OK job muffling the sound of the air-conditioning fan in my office (it's a loud fan that's similar to the background noise you'd experience on an aircraft). But the problem is you can hear a discernible hiss when listening to quieter music or during gaps in playback. This is par for the course for NC headphones, but it seemed much more noticeable on this model.

Look, if Tivoli has been put these out for $79 or even $99, I would have been much more willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and be less critical. The wood trim does add a nice touch to the design of the headphones. But the $159.99 price tag strikes me as cynical. Sure, plenty of other companies have tweaked and polished off-the-shelf designs of various consumer electronics products. But the Radio Silenz and HT-21 headphones are just too closely separated at birth. As it stands, you'd be better off with the compact and supercomfortable Bose OE2 or OE2i or Sennheiser's more affordable HD 238, which is being replaced by the HD 239.

Those models don't offer active noise-cancellation, but they do passively seal out a good amount of sound and you won't have to deal with hearing that audible hiss during quieter tracks or gaps in playback.

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Close-up of the inline noise-canceling dongle. Sarah Tew/CNET

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