Will This App Make Sleeping on Airplanes Easier?

Have trouble sleeping on an airplane? There may be an app for that. AIRSLEEP is an iOS app that combines nature sounds, ambient music and “slow wave” audio to hypnotize you into sleep. The combination is supposed to cancel out cabin noise and match your brain’s low-level “delta waves” as you fall asleep. The app itself is free and comes with some basic sounds including rain, beach waves and desert wind, but you pay to expand your “sleep library” with additional sounds such as “monk chant,” holiday sleep sounds (think snow falling and the crackling of a fireplace) and a “control freak” customizable program.

Does it work? There are only a few reviews on iTunes so far, and they are a mixed bag.

The “slow waves” seem to create a good bit of reverse feedback in addition to the ambient sounds to cover up background noise, and the sounds are definitely soothing. When you open the program, you agree to a standard disclaimer that you will not use while operating heavy machinery and such, but also not under the influence of alcohol, which many of us use to help sleep. If you are someone who has used a sleep sound machine with success at home, this might be the app for you. If the wind chimes make you feel like you’re locked in a candle shop, you might be better off with noise-canceling headphones.

Try it yourself at www.air-sleep.com. Sweet dreams!

Review: Denon AH-NC800 active noise canceling headphones

Denon AH-NC800 noise canceling headphones

Frequent travelers almost always have a couple of gadgets they consider a “must have” in their technology arsenal – and noise canceling headphones are almost always high on that list. Walk through any premium class cabin, and you’ll see row after row of people blocking out the noise of air travel.

In this review, we’ll take a closer look at a pair of headphones from audio experts Denon. Their AH-NC800 noise canceling headphones also celebrate the 100th anniversary of the company, making one of the oldest names in the industry.

The headphones are active noise canceling – which means they use microphones and special circuitry to listen to outside noise, and actually cancel it out with “anti-noise”. By creating an opposite audio signal, your music or other audio source is combined, and in an ideal situation, the only remaining noise is what you actually want to hear – blocking jet engines, crying babies and your husband or wife.

Before we go on – let me point out that these are by no means budget friendly headphones. With a retail price of just under $350, these are the headphones you buy when you really want to appreciate your music, and get rid of noise. If you are used to traveling with $2 headphones, you’ll either need to reconsider your needs, or keep suffering.Hardware

Denon AH-NC800 noise canceling headphones

The AH-NC800’s come in an attractive plastic case, with plenty of mentions of the 100 year anniversary of the company. Inside the box are the headphones, a hard-shell carrying case, 2 audio cables, an airplane adapter plug and a AAA battery.

The AH-NC800’s run off a single battery, and the estimated lifespan of a single battery is about 40 hours. As can be expected from a pair of premium headphones, the AH-NC800’s will work with or without a battery, which means you don’t end up without music on a long flight if your battery dies.

The headphones fold up onto a neat little unit, flat enough to pack away in your carry-on. The carrying case has a pouch for the various cables, and enough room on the outside to store your media player.

Noise canceling comes from a system not found on most other headphones. Inside the AH-NC800’s are two microphones – one to pick up outside noise, and one that actually picks up noise from within the headphones themselves. These two technologies make it possible to block things like engine noise, but even things like vibrations from your airplane seat, and even cord vibrations.

Noise cancellation

Denon AH-NC800 noise canceling headphones

Of course, the big question is whether these nifty technologies actually work in real life. Thankfully, they do work – just not as effective as some other products on the market. That said – all is not lost, because the AH-NC800’s excel at two things no other headphones on the market get close to – comfort and audio quality. Put simply, the Denon AH-NC800’s are the most comfortable on-ear headphones I’ve ever tested. Audio quality when used with and without the noise cancellation feature is also excellent.

On paper, the AH-NC800’s promise a 99% reduction in noise. This number is based off the combination of physical noise reduction (earpads) and active noise cancellation. Unfortunately, the actual number for the noise reduction is not published anywhere.

Sound quality

Denon AH-NC800 noise canceling headphones

When the cancellation circuit is on, there is no evidence of the “hiss” you often get on other brands. One option on the active noise cancellation feature is an audio restoration switch, but even after trying a variety of compressed and uncompressed audio, I could not notice a single difference in sound quality.

Bass is rich, and as long as the quality of the sound you feed the headphones is decent, what you hear will be excellent too.

Performance on the road

Travel with the AH-NC800’s is obviously where they’ll be in their element. The entire package of headphones, a battery and cables weighs just under 13 ounces (368 grams). With enough battery life for several long-haul flights, you really only need to worry about a single backup battery to keep you going for weeks.

The audio cable can be removed, which makes it possible to sleep on the plane with the headphones on, and since they are mighty comfortable, keeping them on for an 18 hour flight shouldn’t be a big problem. In my experience, it does help to take them off once an hour to let your ears cool down.

Wrap-up

The MSRP for the Denon AH-NC800’s is $349.99, but you can find them online for around $300. I always have a hard time recommending products like this when the price is this high, but you really can’t go wrong with a good pair of noise canceling headphones. Even though the AH-NC800’s may lack a bit in the noise canceling department, they more than make up for this in comfort and sound quality. Ideally, when spending this much on headphones, you’ll visit your local audio dealer and take the headphones for a spin before investing in them.

Warranty on the AH-NC800’s is one year, and Denon has a global network of customer service centers. You’ll find the headphones and a list of retail stores and online dealers at Denon.com.


11 tips for sleeping on planes

I have been blessed with the gift of being able to sleep on virtually any moving vehicle. I’ve slept in large airplanes, small propeller planes, trucks on unsealed roads, cars, trains and boats. I sleep without the help of drugs, herbal supplements or any other gimmicks. I find my seat and my brain seems to decide, “Hey, this is going to be boring; let’s just skip it.” Several hours later, I wake up as my plane is on final approach.

My personal record for continuous sleep on a plane is 11.5 hours on a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. Granted, that was in first class on V Australia, so the conditions were optimal. But my coach class record is 8.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep on a flight from Detroit to Tokyo. I followed that up with a 2.5 hour nap later in the flight. I would say that, on average, I spend 85% of my time on airplanes in an unconscious state. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, how do I do it? Well, if I could guarantee a solid slumber on a flight, I’d be hosting an infomercial right now selling the Mike Method for two easy payments of $49.95. Sadly, I think I am just lucky that I can sleep anywhere. However, there certainly are a few things that you can do to create an environment more conducive to sleeping on a plane (or any mode of transportation, really).1. Relax
Whether you’re on your way to an important meeting for work, visiting your in-laws or just going on vacation, the act of transporting yourself from one place to another can, in and of itself, be stressful. The same things that keep you awake at home – stress, anxiety, pressure – will keep you awake on the plane. Clear your mind and sleep is more likely to come.

2. Remove Contact Lenses
I always fly with my contacts out and my glasses on. Plane air is dry and sleeping with your contact lenses in is never fun. I’m much more apt to fall asleep if my contacts are out and my eyes are comfortable. In fact, when I’m ready to go to sleep, I take my glasses off and clip them on my shirt. They’re close by for when I wake up, but without them my body knows that it’s time power down.

3. Familiar Music
An iPod (or other portable music device) is a great way to block out the noise around you. But for optimal results, create a playlist purely for sleeping. Fill it with music that is soothing (for you) and, most importantly, very familiar to you. If you listen to music that is new to you, your brain will stay active trying to pay attention to the unfamiliar stimuli. Find some comfort music that you know backwards and forwards so that your brain can listen to it on autopilot. I have a playlist on my iPod entitled “Sleep.” I’ve listened to that 400+ song playlist on countless flights over the years. It has changed minimally and the moment it starts, my mind begins to shut off.

4. Earplugs/Noise-Canceling Headphones
If music isn’t your thing, simply block out the noise with good old-fashioned foam earplugs or new-fangled noise canceling headphones. Whatever you need to block out the crying babies, sniffling germ-carriers and endless announcements from the flight crew about how the in-flight entertainment system needs to be reset.

5. Dress Comfortably
THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT SWEATPANTS IN PUBLIC ARE SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE! However, packing a change of clothes for long flights can be very helpful. If you don’t want to carry around a pair of pajama pants, wear an outfit that is comfortable and breathable. Bring layers so that you can handle whatever the plane’s climate control system throws at you. And take off your shoes when nap time comes. But trust me, put them back on when you visit the toilet.

6. Have a Drink
Notice that I said a drink. Drink too much and you’ll only guarantee yourself numerous trips to the lavatory and some fitful half-sleep followed by dehydration and a headache. If one glass of wine makes you drowsy, don’t feel bad. Just don’t let that one drink turn into a party at 35,000 feet.

7. Travel Pillows
This is going to shock many of you, but I do not use a travel pillow. At least not on planes. But I know more than a few people who swear by them. If you’re one of those people, find one that works for you and stick with it. The more you make it a part of your routine, the more likely you are to get comfortable with it.

8. Sit With Friends
Every little creature comfort can help when you’re not used to sleeping on planes. Having friends around you rather than strangers may help you relax and get comfortable. Plus, you won’t feel bad if your snoring keeps your husband awake. He probably deserves it.

9. Sleep Masks
Again, this one isn’t in my toolkit, but it may work for you if you are easily distracted or are a very light sleeper. Sure, you’re going to look like a moron, but if you need to block out everything in order to sleep, then you need to make sensory deprivation your top priority. What’s more important to you: Looking cool in front of people you will never see again or arriving at your destination well-rested?

10. Pack Snacks
Many people eschew sleep out of fear that they will miss the in-flight meal. While microwaved chicken is pretty underwhelming, it is often the only substantial meal you’ll receive on a long-haul flight. Pack a few filling snacks (ie, trail mix, dried fruit, a sandwich or Handi-Snacks) and you can eat whenever you stomach desires. Once you’re not held hostage by the flight’s feeding schedule, you’ll be able to relax, sleep and wake up to a treat of your own choosing.

11. Sleeping Pills
Call me a purist, but I consider sleeping pills and herbal supplements to be cheating. However, if you genuinely cannot fall asleep naturally and truly need to sleep on a flight, then I suppose I can understand going the pill-popping route. But I will put an asterisk next to your name in the record books.

It’s not rocket science, but falling asleep on planes can be challenging for some people. Hopefully these tips help you drift off to your happy place rather than enduring the mundanity of air travel. Your mileage may vary, and I can’t guarantee that you’ll be a plane sleeping machine like me, but utilizing some or all of these suggestions should help you get comfortable and sleep through almost any flight.

Do you have your own method for falling asleep on planes? Any tricks worth sharing? Drop us a line in the comments.

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Gadling gear review – Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC3 noise canceling headphones

In one of the final Gadling gear reviews of 2009, I’ll show off the Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC3 noise canceling headphones. The ATH-ANC3’s use active noise cancellation to drown out the noise around you. The exact technology behind noise cancellation is pretty complicated, but all you need to know is that these headphones use tiny microphones to listen to the sounds around you, and use something called “antinoise” to cancel out engine noise, crying babies and nagging seatmates.

The ATH-ANC3’s consist of a small control box, a regular 3.5mm headphone jack and 2 earpieces. The earpieces are slightly larger than “normal” earphones, but are extremely comfortable. Included with the package are 2 additional sets of replacement ear-gels, so you’ll always be able to find the perfect fit.

Since the earpieces are “in-ear”, they provide a very good sound seal, which is the first level of defense against unwanted noise. Even when not powered on, the headphones block out a considerable amount of sound. The control pod houses a single AAA battery (one is included in the box). The best part of the electronics is that the headphone still work when the battery dies. This means you won’t lose your music if you forget to bring a spare battery.

Controls on the pod are simple – power and monitor. The monitor button allows you to listen to the outside noise, without having to remove the headphones. This is of course perfect if you need to listen to a cabin announcement.

Audio performance from the QuietPoint ATH-ANC3 headphones is quite simply spectacular. Music sounds vibrant, with plenty of bass. When you enable the noise cancellation circuit, you obviously hear a minor reduction in sound quality, but unlike with some other headphones, this reduction is very minor. In addition to this, the ATH-ANC3’s produce virtually no background “hiss”, something many other noise canceling headphones suffer from.

The noise cancellation rating from Audio-Technica is 20dB, or up to 90%. While the ATH-ANC3’s may not kill all engine noise on your flight, they will greatly reduce it, to the point where your flight (and music) becomes much more comfortable.

The headphones come in a very nice hard carrying pouch. Included in the package is a half meter extension cable, airplane jack adapter, a AAA battery and an assortment of replacement earpieces.

Final thoughts

When you start shopping for noise canceling headphones, you need to make several choices – you can go with passive headphones (that only isolate the noise), you can pick large on-ear headphones, or in-ear ones like the ATH-ANC3’s. The advantage of in-ear headphones is that they work well for side sleepers making it possible to take a nap on your flight.

The sound quality of the Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC3 headphones is fantastic, as its ability to cancel outside noise. But perhaps its best feature is the price – the MSRP (from Audio-Technica) is $169.95, but smart shoppers can often find them for as low as $50. We have regularly featured them as one of our daily deals here on Gadling.

To be honest – even at the $170 price point, these headphones are very much worth it. They are compact, run forever off a single battery, and produce exceptional noise cancellation. But when you find them at $50, you are practically stealing them.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC3 product page

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Gadling gear review – Able Planet Clear Harmony noise canceling headphones

Regular travelers will know that a well performing pair of noise canceling headphones are an integral part of a road warrior arsenal. Good headphones block out engine noise, seatmates, crying babies and flight attendants. In recent years. the noise canceling technology inside these headphones has improved to the point where they can cancel out almost all the outside noise. Flying in peace has never been easier.

In this Gadling gear review, we’ll look at the Able Planet Clear Harmony noise canceling headphones. Able Planet may not be the largest manufacturer of headphones, but they produce a very well rated lineup of headphones, including several active noise canceling models.

The technology behind active noise cancellation

Active noise canceling technology works by listening to the noise around your head, and producing anti-noise. By canceling out the waveforms picked up by your ears, you can actually make the noise go away. If you have never worn a pair of active noise canceling headphones, your first experience with them will be awesome.

The Clear Harmony headphones are the top of the line headphones from Able Planet. They come in a very nice sturdy carrying case, and include an audio cable with volume control, dual plug adapter, 1/4″ adapter and batteries.

The headphones themselves are very comfortable – a padded leather headband and earpieces make for a really good fit. On the left earpiece, you’ll find a battery cover (the headphones take 2 AAA batteries), a power switch with green LED indicator and the 3.5mm audio input.

One of the first features I need to point out is that the headphones work when the batteries are empty or the headphones are turned off. This is perfect when you run out of power halfway over the ocean, or when you want to use them during takeoff and landing.

Audio performance

Audio is the next feature that deserves some attention – the Clear Harmony headphones sound absolutely fantastic. Able Planet clearly spent as much time on the noise cancellation as they did on making sure the audio sounded good. Even with the noise cancellation circuit turned on, bass is nice and powerful, and there is little to no “hiss” as found on older generation noise canceling headphones.

Noise cancellation

Now on to the noise cancellation itself; it is good, but not great. I compared the Clear Harmony headphones with the Bose QC2 and QC15 headphones, and the Audio Technica ATH-ANC3 active noise canceling headphones. Sadly, they did not perform as well as any of these competitors. That said – their audio quality was sufficient for me to still enjoy listening to them.

The Able Planet Clear Harmony headphones come with a $299.99 price tag. This is 4 cents more than the retail price of the newest Bose headphones, the Quiet Comfort 15’s.

Thankfully there is good news as well – the Clear Harmony headphones can be found online for as little as $210 – which
suddenly makes them a tremendous good deal.

Final thoughts

Despite the fact that their noise cancellation is weaker than the competition, the Able Planet Clear Harmony headphones make up for this shortcoming with some fantastic audio. The package itself is also great – a good study carrying case and volume control audio cable complete the package.

All in all, I’m happy to recommend the Clear Harmony headphones to anyone looking for an affordable pair of noise canceling headphones, without breaking the bank. You can read more about the Able Planet Clear Harmony headphones at the web site of the manufacturer.