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MP3 Players

Hands-on with the Sennheiser PXC 350 headphones

Want some £300 Sennheiser headphones for a shade over £200? Here's the new PXC 350s -- a cheaper version of the lovely 450s. We've got some and we're very happy little beavers

Cast those brains back to July 2007. Do you remember reading about the £300 PXC 450 noise-cancelling headphones from Sennheiser? They were the terrific 'phones that ended up scoring an impressive 8.7 in our tests. Today we're going to give you the lowdown on the brand new PXC 350s -- a version of the 450s, but at £230 distinctly more affordable.

These new cans are cheaper for a reason: the Talk-Thru functionality has been vanquished, removed and incinerated. Talk-Thru is a feature of the 450s that lets you automatically take the volume down by pressing a button on the side of one earcup. Voices around you are then amplified, using built-in microphones, directly into the headphones -- very neat for asking your BA stewardess for another pack of ready-salted KPs.

What the 350s lose in bonus features, they make up for with superb noise-cancellation and audiophile-grade sound quality. Sadly, while CNET is very generous with work-related expenses, the powers that be continually say, "No, a private jet is not vital to your job," so testing the noise-cancellation in its ideal environment is difficult. But in our office space we got good results: the rumble of air conditioner was as good as dead and keyboard tapping was muffled.

Voices were quietened, though not severely -- we could still hear colleagues across the office over the top of Widor's Toccata and Fugue in D-minor. This small reduction in cancellation is another key difference between the 350s and the more expensive 450s. Notably, like the 450s, the headphones will still act as terrific passive 'phones when batteries keel over and wave the white flag.

Sound quality is absolutely top-notch though. We got a terrific performance from the Duofol diaphragms, with crisp highs and booming bass. Listening to Dream Theater's Dark Eternal Night, with the gain-heavy hammering of twin bass drums, and the layers of complex keyboard and guitar instrumentation, there was no negative impact on the tone of the bright hi-hats, china cymbals or the varying vocal styles.

Our initial testing highlighted excellent performance, but come back very soon when our extensive results will be published in our full review. -Nate Lanxon

Update: A previous version of this article implied Sennheiser had claimed the PXC 350s were better at cancelling voice than sound-isolating earphones. This was an oversight and we apologise for any confusion this caused. 

Update: A full review of the PXC 350s is now available.