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Part III of our series on Noise Reducing Headsets.

The Brookstone unit does not perform as well as either the higher priced Bose units or the lower priced Noisebuster and Plane Quiet units.

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Brookstone Foldable Noise Reducing Headphones

The Brookstone unit design is reminiscent of the Bose Quiet Comfort 2, with the batteries and electronics in the headphones rather than in a box at the end of a cord.

But quality-wise, it is vastly inferior.

Part 3 of a series on noise reducing headphones - click for Parts One  Two  Three  Four  Five  Six  Seven  Eight  Nine  Ten  Eleven  Twelve



More expensive than the Plane Quiet headphones, but not nearly as good.  These headphones are neither good quality nor good value.

What You Get

Do you want something a bit better than the $40 Noisebuster noise reduction headphones, but less expensive than the top of the line $300 Bose unit? If so, you might choose to consider the Brookstone product, priced at $99 (plus another $3 for batteries).

But, unfortunately, although Brookstone has a good reputation for up market gadgets, this product does not seem to represent as any improvement over the Noisebuster unit, while not being nearly as good as either the Plane Quiet or the Bose unit. Sadly, the Brookstone unit is not sufficiently better than the Noisebuster to justify its extra cost, while not being nearly good enough as the Plane Quiet and Bose units to appeal to people wanting the best.

The unit comes complete with a soft zippered case to carry them, a cord to connect to a CD player or airline sound system, and a plug adapter to connect to airline systems with two plugs rather than one. A very brief instruction sheet is also included, but if you're expecting batteries as well, you'll be disappointed. Although the $40 unit includes free batteries, and of course the Bose unit also comes with batteries, the Brookstone unit does not - a petty meanness for an expensive product from an up-market company.

The cover on one of the two headphone pieces lifts off to reveal a place to put two AAA batteries. The battery cover seemed flimsy and 'cheap'. The other side headphone piece contains the controls - an 'on/off' switch and a misleadingly labeled 'volume' control - in actual fact it varies the amount of noise reduction rather than the volume of any music being heard!

Due to all the electronics being contained within the headphones themselves, if you just want to use them to quieten your surroundings, you don't need any cords trailing out of them, and the unit is free of special control boxes at the end of such cords. But the downside is that the headphones themselves are heavier than the other two units - more than twice the weight of the Noisebusters and slightly heavier than the Bose.

Of course, as soon as you wish to listen to music from any source, you then need to plug a cord into the headphones and into the music source. Brookstone supply a very basic cord that also has a volume control in the middle of it. One end is red (the instruction sheet says to plug this end into the music source) and the other is black (to plug into the headphones). Neither end is labeled, but fortunately it doesn't seem to make any difference which end is plugged into what (I'll guarantee there's no way you'll remember which end goes where!). The headphones will play music without the need to turn on the noise reduction, so if the batteries go flat (claimed life of 80-120 hours) you can still use them to listen to music (the Bose unit needs batteries even just to play music - if the batteries die, the headphones become completely useless until you replace the batteries).

Usability Experience

The headphones are much larger than the Noisebuster unit, but they still rest on the ear, squashing your ears in the process, and I found that this made them very quickly very uncomfortable, so much so that I chose not to continue the extended usage testing that I've given to the other two units. By comparison, the large Bose unit fits around the ear, not compressing the ears at all, and remaining comfortable, even for extended (10+ hour) flights. The Noisebuster units are smaller and lighter and so don't press as uncomfortably on the ears.

The headphones also lacked any pivot points to allow them to sit more comfortably and closely on the ears. I also noted that, although with the other two headphone units, I extend the headband adjusters about midway for them to be comfortable on my head, with the Brookstone units I had them closed to minimum size. If your head is much smaller than mine, then the chances are that these headphones may prove to be entirely too big.

Because the headphones are both heavier than the other two units and also don't sit as securely on one's head/ears, I found that I was unconsciously keeping my head still and rigid, and soon got a sore neck because of that while wearing these headphones.

Dissenting opinion : A friend advises that she finds the Brookstone unit more comfortable than the Noisebuster unit, but she has not worn them for more than a couple of minutes. So my own opinion needs to be balanced with hers - maybe the difference in comfort level is more subjective than absolute.

The larger size of the headphones did cause them to give better passive sound reduction than the Noisebusters, but not nearly as good as the Bose unit.

In terms of overall noise reduction, they seemed to work better than the Noisebusters at higher frequencies (due to the blocking effect of the headphone surrounds, I suspect, rather than any extra active noise reduction), but they did not seem to work as well as the Bose unit.


To summarize, every time I return to the Noisebuster unit, I am astonished at just how much value they provide for a mere $40. But, when I look at the Brookstone unit, instead of marveling at how much value one gets for $40, instead I sadly reflect on how little value one gets for $102. And, of course, the Bose unit remains the league leader in terms of quality, and the Plane Quiet the absolute best 'all rounder'. However, if you do choose to buy this unit, you can do so at their retail stores.

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Originally published 15 Feb 2002, last update 20 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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