Monoprice Noise Canceling Headphone review: The poor man's Bose QC15

Side by side with the Bose QC15s (in blue). Sarah Tew/CNET

It's also worth noting that the in-line remote just didn't feel like it would hold up that well. Also, the shape of the headband seems like it should be a little more rounded. It's not a huge deal, but the Bose QC15s conform a little better to your head. With the Monoprice headphones, you're aware of the band pushing against the top of your head.

Performance
As I said in my review of the Harman Kardon NC headphones, one of the problems with active noise-canceling headphones is that you usually give up some sound quality whenever you move to a model that runs your sound through noise-canceling circuitry. You tend to lose a bit of clarity, which is evident with headphones like the Monster Inspiration, which come in passive and active noise-canceling versions (the passive version sounds cleaner).

The included accessories. Sarah Tew/CNET

Companies like Harman Kardon and Bose have managed to do a good job making their active noise-canceling headphones sound clean (in the case of the Bose QC 15s, I would use the adjective "smooth"). And while these Monoprice headphones sound fairly decent for a noise-canceling model (they have strong bass), they just don't have the level of clarity that those much higher-priced models do. In short, they don't sound as good.

As for the noise cancellation itself, it's decent. There was a faint hiss when I activated the noise-cancellation, and it didn't muffle the sound as well as the Bose -- which has the best noise cancellation I've encountered. The Monoprice's noise cancellation may also be slightly behind the Harman Kardon NC and Audio-Technica ATH-ANC9, but it's pretty close.

On the plus side, unlike the Bose QC 15s, you can use these in passive mode, with the noise cancellation turned off. They actually sound better, with significantly cleaner sound. And the fact is, the headphones have a tight enough seal around your ear to keep out a lot of ambient noise.

It's worth mentioning that I also compared this Monoprice model with the Creative HN-900, which has a very similar design and can be had for less than $70 online. The Monoprice proved to be a step up from that Creative, with better build quality, better sound, and better noise cancellation. I preferred the Creative's simple, matte finish, and while they're lighter and a touch more comfortable, the headband on the Monoprice model is sturdier, and the Creative's earpads don't use memory foam.

The headphones come with a good carrying case. Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion
With the Monoprice Noise Canceling Headphone, you're getting a product that's about 70 percent as good as the Bose QC15 for a little more than a third of the price. For some people that will be good enough, and it helps that Monoprice throws in some extra accessories, including the in-line microphone for smartphone use. Despite a few flaws, at $112 or so, they're a decent deal if you're looking for a budget pair of noise-canceling headphones.

If you're on the fence about these, I should note that Monoprice does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee on them, so you can order them and get a hold of a pair of Bose QC15s to do your own comparison. After doing your own tests, I would guess that around 70 percent of users will keep them. But then again, maybe I'm a little more picky about my headphones than most people.

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    Where to Buy

    Monoprice Noise Canceling Headphones (with Active Noise Reduction Technology)

    Part Number: 10010 Released: 15 Feb 2013
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    Quick Specifications See All

    • Regional specs shown for US. UK specs are unavailable.

    • Release date 15 Feb 2013
    • Weight 6.3 oz
    • Sound Output Mode stereo
    • Type headset
    • Headphones Form Factor Over-the-ear
    • Connector Type mini-phone stereo 3.5 mm