By Jock Elliott, KB2GOM
As an oldster with a bit of hearing deficit, I am a big fan of anything that helps me to hear better when I am trying to tease out hard-to-hear signals, whether medium wave broadcast, shortwave broadcast, or single-sideband signals on the HF ham bands.
Toward that end, headphones help a lot. They deliver the audio signal directly into the ear canal while reducing distraction from external sounds. I had some inexpensive headphones from a big-box store, but I wondered if there were headphones that would be better suited for DXing.
So I contacted the folks at BHI to see if they had any headphones that would help with medium wave DXing. BHI is the British company that manufactures really effective noise cancelling products.
BHI describes the HP-1 Wired Stereo Headphones as “Comfortable Folding dynamic stereo headphones for Radio Communications,” and, in my view, they are just that. I found the HP-1 to be highly useful for medium wave and shortwave DXing. To my ear, they sound like they are biased toward high frequencies, with lower bass response than on the headphones I bought from the big-box store years ago. Because of the lower bass response, I find it easier to tease out faint signals on the airwaves, and the ear cups are comfortable for long-term listening. The cable is 1.9 m long and is terminated with an integral 3.5mm stereo jack plug. The HP-1 headphones are supplied with a 1/4″ stereo to 3.5mm stereo adapter.
The NCH Active Noise Cancelling headphones are a bit of a different beast: they are NOT designed to cancel noise on the broadcast signal you are listening to. Instead, they are designed to reduce external noise. According to the BHI website:
“The bhi NCH active noise cancelling headphones (ANC) do not work like our other DSP noise cancelling products but effectively reduce external ambient background noise enabling you to concentrate more and enjoy your listening experience when listening in a noisy environment. The over-ear style NCH headphones also give good passive audio isolation from external noise.”
These headphones are powered an AAA battery. There is a switch to turn the noise-cancellation circuity on and off, and there is an LED that lights when the unit is activated. The NCH headphones have a 1.25m detachable cable with 3.5mm jack plug (both ends).
So I tried out the NCH headphones while mowing the lawn with a gasoline-powered lawnmower and listening to an audio book on my digital recorder. Bottom line: they really work to significantly reduce (but not totally eliminate) an external noise source and make the listening experience more pleasant. And when they are not turned on, they work really well as ordinary headphones for DXing. Like the HP-1 headphones, they are comfortable and biased toward high frequency.
In the end, I found both these headphones worked well for their intended purpose, and I am happy to recommend them.