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MP3 Players

Sony MDR-NC500D: World's first digital noise-cancellers

Sony introduced yesterday the world's first digital noise-cancelling headphones. These cancel-tastic new cans will cost around £200 next month and are set to compete with industry-leading models

These headphones are so new there aren't even any official product shots available yet!

Sony's conference yesterday saw the launch of the world's first digital noise-cancelling headphones, the MDR-NC500Ds. Noise cancellers typically hold a microphone inside the 'phones. This microphone actively records ambient noise around the listener, inverts it in real time and pipes it into the listeners' ears. This 'cancels' out unwanted noise and allows you to listen to music at lower volumes.

But that's not good enough for Sony, that has built into its new headphones a digital signal processor (DSP) that intelligently works to cancel out the most prominently annoying ambient noise. The DSP records ambient sounds into analogue form, converts it to digital and runs it through a software engine that also 'enhances' (we've not heard it yet) mid-range vocals while alleviating excessive bass frequencies.

Sony claims this digital solution to noise cancellation is more effective than traditional solutions, meaning the MDR-NC500Ds are challenging noise-cancellation leaders Sennheiser and Bose -- no easy task.

These cans are powered by an internal lithium-ion battery, producing a poor 16 hours of usage -- competing models offer up to 40. When you're away from a charging point, an external AA battery pack comes into play. Eugh. External.

Expect availability next month for $400 or, more realistically, around £200. -Nate Lanxon