I compared the affordable Philips SHB8850NC noise-cancelling headphones with the premium Bose QuietComfort 15 noise-cancelling headphones and the ordinary Apple EarPods with Lightning Connector.
The Philips SHB8850 noise-cancelling headphones (pictured left) sit on the ear, rather than around it, which I find uncomfortable after a couple of hours. I prefer models that sit around the ear, so the Bose QC 15 (pictured above right) wins by a long-shot here.
Philips SHB8850 headphones on the left, Bose QuietComfort 15 on the right
The Philips headphones (pictured above left; Bose QC 15 on the right) are as the most compact noise-cancelling headphones I’ve tried in the last three years, apart from a couple of in-ear models. The ears fold up inside the headband, and they’re quite small and bendy, so very packable. In-ear headphones, like the iPhone 7, are obviously smaller, being just an earbud and some wires, but for on-ear or over-ear, these can’t be beat.
Being your basic black and silver, these are perfectly inoffensive, but the silvery parts on the ears might be a tady shiny for some.
Testing these on a train, they were noticeably better at blocking backround noise than the standard iPhone 7 in-ear headphones, but not as good as the Bose QC15. They use active noise-cancelling technology, as opposed to passive – which is what many cheaper models use – and this makes a world of difference. But the Bose headphones were noticeably better at blocking out train noises.
As for treble, bass and dialogue clarity, I could barely tell difference between the Phillips and the Bose when I tested these listening to Rolling in the Deep by Adele, Reach for the Stars by S Club 7 (don’t judge) and watching Designated Survivor on Netflix. The Bose headphones did have a slightly richer bass, but I reckon 90% of people would never notice the difference. However, the sound of the Philips (and the Bose) was definitely better than the iPhone 7 headphones.
The range on these seemed pretty good. I left my phone on a table and walked into another room without a drop in the podcast I was listening to (Freakonomics – it’s excellent). However, first-time set-up of the Bluetooth connectivity is a bit of a faff, but once it’s done, it’s done. But if you’re flying, don’t worry. These come with a wire that you can use to plug into your seat’s armrest jack to listen to in-flight movies.
Having tested about 10 pairs of noise-cancelling headphones over the past few years, these win hands down for value-for-money. Similar-priced models simply do not have the same sound quality, noise-cancelling effectiveness or functionality.
Confusing and annoying sums up the charging issue. It’s hardly a deal-breaker, but you can’t tell when the headphones are off, nor when they’re charging or fully charged. And because it uses a USB to micro-USB cable, if it runs out of juice, you can’t just buy a AAA battery, as you can with the Bose, so you have to carry the spare cable around with you all the time.
If money is no object, the Bose QuietComfort models definitely beat the Philips for comfort. But at roughly half the price of Bose QCs, the Philips SHB8850NC are the clear value-for-money winners. What’s more, these are Bluetooth. Excellent noise-cancelling and sound quality, plus the best packability of any non-earbud model I’ve seen. Nonetheless, I probably wouldn’t buy these – or any in-ear or on-ear model – because they hurt my ears after a couple of hours, which somewhat negates the point for me since I only use these on long flights.
And if you aren’t bothered by snug on-ear headphones – or you mostly want these for shorter trips, such as daily commutes to work – save the extra money that the Bose model would cost and buy the Philips SHB8750NC instead.