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JVC HA-NC80 review: JVC HA-NC80 noise cancelling headphones

JVC's HA-NC80s offer a truly affordable way for you to escape the hums and bangs of public transport and office chatter. JVC claims the HA-NC80s will block 75 per cent of such ambient noise -- for this price, that's an enticing claim

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JVC's HA-NC80s offer a truly affordable way for you to escape the hums and bangs of office chatter, public transport engines and aeroplane turbines. Noise-cancelling headphones are designed to reduce the sound level before it even reaches your eardrum, and JVC claims the HA-NC80s will block 75 per cent of such ambient noise. For around £40, that's an enticing claim.

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6.5

JVC HA-NC80

The Good

Decent sound quality; nice build; carry pouch included.

The Bad

Earcups are too small; noise cancellation not very effective; sound leaks out.

The Bottom Line

For the price, the JVC HA-NC80s offer an acceptable sound quality, but the noise-cancelling feature just isn't up to what it could be. Anyone on a budget should give them a try, but if you can afford more money you can find much better performance

Design
The HA-NC80s fold up into a convenient flat semi-circle shape for easy storage, making them extra-suitable as travelling headphones. The 1.5m cable feels rugged and hard-wearing. The top-most part of the headband is nicely padded and it extends enough to accommodate even the widest of skulls.

The earcups are very well padded, but incredibly small. Unless you have ears no larger than a two-pence piece, you'll struggle to get your whole ear inside. This sadly makes periods of extended use quite uncomfortable and we found ourselves having to give our ears a five-minute break every hour or so to give them a rest from the pressure.

Noise-cancellation controls feature on the lower part of the right earcup and are easily accessible with a thumb.

Features
Living up to their name, the HA-NC80s' main feature is noise cancellation. Two modes are supported: 'Low' for countering noise you might experience on a bus, and 'Wide' for use on the Tube or on a plane. The headphones will last for up to 50 hours from a decent AAA battery.

We found that the 'phones manage to block various low-level frequency sounds -- such as our air-conditioning system in the office -- fairly effectively, but voices, keyboard tapping and coughing (it's flu season here at CNET.co.uk) were let through without hindrance.

We don't have as many jet engines hanging around our offices as British Airways might, so we can't vouch for the cancellation of in-flight noise. But our tests on the Tube certainly showed that the HA-NC80s leave a lot to be desired in the noise-cancelling department.

Performance
Sound quality from the HA-NC80s was fairly average, but acceptable for noise-cancelling headphones at this price. Bass response is quite good, so dance fans will feel pleasantly catered for. Mid-range frequencies are a little muddy, but higher frequencies are adequately reproduced. You won't complain too much for a £35 pair of 'phones.

A downside we see often with headphones, as opposed to earbuds, is that sound leaks into the outside world. This is true for these JVC offerings, sadly. At higher volumes your neighbours are going to hear almost as much of the music as you are.

JVC also kindly includes a dual-prong headphone adaptor for use with an aeroplane's in-flight entertainment system, along with a soft little carry-pouch too.

Conclusion
For around £35, the HA-NC80's aren't bad value. Those on a limited budget will find the headphones reproduce music well enough, but the noise cancellation just isn't that effective.

If you're lucky like us and are able to listen to your MP3 player in the office, these headphones will tackle the drone of the air conditioning. But if you're looking to silence something noisier, you should raid your savings and opt for a more effective pair of noise cancellers, such as the £100 Logitechs, or the £275 Bose QuietComfort 3s.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide