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These noise-canceling over-the-ear wireless headphones are a steal at $42

Are they as good as $300 Bose QuietComfort 'phones? No. But are they good? Very much yes. Plus: A sweet deal on SanDisk's 128GB Ultra Fit drive.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read

I got Srhythm... I got Smusic... all for $42. Who could ask for anything more?


Happy Monday, cheeps! A few quick housekeeping notes before we dive in, starting with a recently updated Cheapskate FAQ page. It includes all the different ways you can receive my deals (including a Flipboard magazine!) and answers to all your Cheapskate-related questions.

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Next, if you live in the metro-Detroit area, there are two opportunities to come see me this week. I'll be sharing my "7 surprising secrets of saving money online" at the Wixom Public Library (Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.) and the Roseville Public Library (Thursday, 6:30 p.m.). I'll be raffling off some cool prizes, so get there if you can! (Coincidentally, there's road construction underway at both libraries, so plan a little extra time for arrival and parking.)

Here's a loaded question: Do you really need to pay $200-$300 for a decent pair of over-the-ear headphones with active noise-cancellation (ANC)?

You do not: For a limited time, and while supplies last, you can get the Srhythm NC25 wireless ANC headphones for $42 with promo code BY965YNE. (Tested and verified at 8:45 a.m. PT.) They currently sell for $70, but have been priced as low as $50.

Because these are decidedly Bose QuietComfort 25-like in their design and feature set, I asked to test-drive a pair. Because I don't own a Bose headphone myself, however, I compared them with my similarly high-end Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 .

Audio quality is incredibly subjective, and I lack the audiophile acumen to be able to pinpoint range-this or lows-that. Most of the songs I listened to on the NC25, I thought, "Wow, that sounds really good." Then I put on my BackBeats for the same song and thought, "Yeah, that's a little better." But significantly, overwhelmingly better? An extra $150-plus better? Not to me.

The NC25s have extremely cushy ear-cups, but they do get a little uncomfortable after awhile -- something I find true of all over-the-ear headphones. What's nice is that each ear cup is hinged independently of the headband, so the fit is about as good as it gets. Each one also folds to make for a more compact travel companion -- and Srhythm supplies a zippered hard-shell case toward that end.

To test the ANC, I had Cheapskate Jr. take me for a drive. (Just passed his driver's test!) With ANC deactivated, I could hear the low hum of road noise. With a push of the ANC button, it all but disappeared -- a noticeable improvement. Same test with the BackBeats: the road noise vanished completely. I guess that's the difference between $42 and $200.

I also watched some videos to make sure there wasn't any Bluetooth latency. There wasn't.

There's really only one thing I don't like about these headphones: The warranty is just three months. I don't understand why, and it doesn't fill me with hope for the NC25's long-term reliability.

As for user reviews, 4.4 stars out of 5 from a fairly small sampling. Interestingly, Fakespot says they're all legit, while ReviewMeta says at least half are "unnatural." (That's another reason I wanted to try them for myself.)

I guess I'll put it this way: If you thought headphones with active noise-cancellation were beyond your budget, think again. The NC25 surpassed my expectations in nearly every way, even though its warranty gives me pause.

Your thoughts?


Bonus deal: Need extra storage for your laptop or, more likely, Chromebook? If you can spare a USB port full-time, I recommend a flush-fit flash drive.

Like this one: For a limited time, and while supplies last, the SanDisk 128GB Ultra Fit USB 3.1 drive is just $25. It normally runs $38.

The Ultra Fit won't rest perfectly flush with your USB port, but it sticks out only a quarter-inch or so -- so no problem leaving it inserted full-time.

It's a super-speedy USB 3.1 drive (but backward-compatible with USB 3.0 and 2.0), and it includes SanDisk's SecureAccess encryption software if you want to protect your files. That's an awful lot of extra storage for $25.

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