I rather like my Bose QC-2 headphones, but now, Pogue says, there are very good alternatives:
PANASONIC RP-HC500 The pleasantly smushy-edged earcups on this new model do an excellent job of isolating your ears. That may be one reason the noise cancellation works so well; all but the highest frequencies are subtracted. Better still, the music reproduction is stellar, especially in the crisp, clean higher registers.
I waited to look up the prices for these products until after I’d tested them. So I was astonished to discover that you can find these online for $100. You get quality that’s nearly indistinguishable from the Boses — for a third the price.
AUDIO-TECHNICA ATH-ANC7 Here is another winner, with another surprising price: $132 for these comfy, solidly built, absolutely great-sounding headphones. The circuitry cuts out a huge swath of engine, road or train noise, and the music is crystal clear, sweet and finely textured.
David doesn't say which are truly around the ear vs. on the ear. This is an important distinction for eyeglass wearing Luddites. On the ear phones painfully compress my the ears against eyeglass frames, I can really only wear over the ear phones. If I were shopping today I'd consider the above two -- assuming they're "over the ear".
Credit to Pogue as well for pointing out that the Bose QC-3 phones require one to carry a LiOn charger! Grrrr. They should, at the very least, have included a mini-B charging port. That would rule them out for me.
In defense of Bose's high price, the quality of everything in the QC-2 kit is impressive, and Bose customer services is peerless. When a manufacturing defect caused cracks to appear in the arms of my 3 yo phones the discussion with customer service took about a minute. The replacements were a completely new set, not a refurb. I wouldn't mind seeing Bose's price drop to, say, $275 however.