Logitech has an extensive line of cell phone and gaming headsets, but the company has made a few rare departures into the world of portable audio headphones with products such as the Curve Headphones and the Wireless Headphones for MP3. Another such product is the $150 Noise Cancelling Headphones, a sealed earcup-style headphone with passive as well as active noise-hushing capabilities.
Logitech wins style points for the Noise Canceling Headphones' modern-yet-understated design. The fully enclosed earcups, which twist to lie flat for easy storage, form attractively curved rectangles, and the black and brushed-charcoal coloring is sure to have nearly universal appeal. A soft, pleasantly smushy padding lines the inside of the cups and conforms nicely to the contours around the ear. However, the bottom edge of the earpiece pushed the backs of my earrings uncomfortably into my neck--a typical problem with earcup-style headphones (and the reason many ladies, and some men, prefer earbuds). I also found that the headphones exerted a slight pressure on the back of my jaw that turned into an uncomfortable twinge after an hour or so of use. The padded headband, though, is comfortable as can be: it's adjustable, and it leans slightly forward for an ergonomic fit.
The Logitech Noise Canceling Headphones come with a nice array of extras, including a removable audio cable that measures approximately five feet long (plenty; it's also thinner than typical over-the-ear headphone cables). There's also a well-designed hard-shell travel case, which offers a Velcro loop for the cable, earcup molds, a AAA battery cutout (which is where you'll find the included AA battery), a small square pocket with a picture of an airplane on it (for the included airplane audio jack adapter), and even a slot for your MP3 player. The latter appears to be sized with the iPod in mind, but really any like-size (or smaller) device should fit.
Of course, the main feature of these 'phones is the active noise cancelling, and it's a little difficult to tell how well this feature works. I don't mean that in a bad way--the earcups on their own do such an admirable job of keeping out extraneous noise that it's tough to tell the difference when the noise-canceling switch, which is located on the left earcup, is activated. With no music playing, the feature does indeed appear to alter the hum of an office air conditioner from a low, distant ocean sound to a less insistent, albeit higher-pitched, wind sound. I'm not sure which I prefer, though it hardly matters, because why would you want to sit in silence with a pair of headphones on anyway? It would be interesting to hear what it does to an airplane engine drone, though.
As for music, the Logitech Noise Canceling Headphones are certainly up to task, though the experience differs depending on whether you activate the noise cancellation. You start out with the switch turned to off and think, "This sounds OK." Then, you flip it on and boom! The mid- and low-ends really pop out. In fact, so much goes into it that the music sounds muffled for a second and a half before leveling off. I personally preferred this richer-sounding music--when the noise cancellation is off, it sounds hollow. But certain listeners and discerning audiophiles who shun overprocessing (and probably shouldn't be using noise-canceling earphones anyway) may not take a shine to it.
Once I settled into the on position with a Creative Zen V Plus playing the tunes, I enjoyed plenty of detail and bass. In Bad Religion's "Sorrow," the deep strum of bass was easily discernible even behind the frantic lead guitar. Every instrument in the hip-hop track "Good Stuff" by Kelis stood out, and Danny Tenaglia's dance track "Moody" was bass-tastic. The processing that goes into the noise-cancellation feature can make things sound fake (or tubular and tinny), depending on the device playing the music and the person who's listening to it, but all in all, the headphones should satisfy a range of globe-trotting listeners. They're certainly a good alternative the Bose's expensive QuietComfort 3 headphones.