I woke up from my three-minute nap and I couldn't hear the plane's engines. This should have filled me with something, maybe fear, probably panic, but by this point in the day my brain, and by extension my body, could no longer bring itself to care. I had spent more than eight hours in an airport, been on the plane once, been deplaned once, been rescheduled twice and all of that after watching my city flood and avoiding abandoned cars that littered my neighborhood on the drive to the airport last Tuesday. If the punchline to that joke was being on a plane that died mid-air, I wouldn't have been surprised at that point. Disappointed, maybe, but not surprised.
But then I reached up and flicked a button on my headphones, and in less than a second the sounds of flight rushed in behind the sounds of Rome Hero Foxes "Hunters." There it all was, the engines roaring, voices chatting, people and things bumping around due to turbulence. The noise cancelling function on these headphones were not playing around, and had it not been for the near-constant turbulence and the fact I was 15 minutes away from throwing up on a plane for the first time in my life, I might have been able to nap the rest of the flight to Dallas. At least I didn't have to hear the revulsion of the person sitting next to me when that second part happened. Small miracles.
Noise cancelling technology is one that we take for granted. It's somehow both easy to explain and yet it feels like magic. You flick a switch or press a button and the rest of the world goes away, leaving you to enjoy whatever it is you're enjoying without the outside world trying to work its way in to your ears.
The Samsung Level On Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones manage to kill two of the annoying quirks of travel in ways that work simply. Through noise cancellation, you can ignore the crying babies, loud phone talkers and slightly belligerent, annoyed travelers around you and focus on whatever audio entertainment you enjoy, and thanks to Bluetooth connection technology you don't have to worry about cords getting tangled up in the mess that is the rest of your luggage.
You pair up the headphones to the device of your choosing (for the purposes of this review I used an iPhone 5), put them on your head, make sure the noise cancellation button is on, and away you go.
The Level On headphones work pretty much perfectly when it comes to listening to music. With the noise cancellation on, I really did feel like I was off in my own world, albeit one that was slowly unraveling in to absurdity due to everything else not involving the headphones.
On the flight back, which was more successful because even though my flight got cancelled and the flight I was put on to replace it sent me to the wrong airport I was only at the airport for three hours, I decided to see how they handled non-music listening. As I listened to the RPPR crew discuss game design I could hear some of the outside world trying to creep in to my ears, but not a lot. With my eyes closed I was aware that there was an outside world, but one that sounded further away than it actually was. If you're a podcast or audio book listener, you're still in a much better place than you are with regular headphones.
The Level On headphones are comfortable enough and hold up for easy storage with the rest of your luggage. They do come with a cord so that if you're one of those people who think the airlines REALLY mean it when they say "put your phone into airplane mode" you can still use the headphones without feeling like a monster. I, being a monster, used Bluetooth. I also threw up.
I'm not saying that there's a correlation there, but karma as a concept exists for a reason.
It's worth mentioning here that you do need to charge the headphones for them to work, and that you'll burn through the battery power faster with the noise cancelling feature on. This isn't a huge deal, because as a culture we've slowly learned that everything we love needs to be plugged in to a power source at some point of the day, but it still feels a little silly to have to charge up headphones, at least at first anyway. Then you realize how great they work, and if plugging them in makes the magic happen, so be it.
Travelling is fun and exciting, or at least the idea of it is. The actual mechanics of travelling can be awful; technology fails, weather is unpredictable and at the airport hell truly is other people. The Samsung Level On headphones can't do much about the first two of those issues, but they can help you make your life about the noises you want to hear. Even if that's Tycho's "Adrift" while you're sick on a plane.