Krisp’s smart noise-cancelling gets official release and pricing

Background noise on calls could be a thing of the past if Krisp has anything to do with it. The app, now available on Windows and Macs after a long beta, uses machine learning to silence the bustle of a home, shared office, or coffee shop so your voice and the voices of others comes through clearly.

I first encountered Krisp in prototype form when we were visiting UC Berkeley’s Skydeck accelerator, which ended up plugging $500,000 into the startup alongside $1.5M round from Sierra Ventures and Shanda Group.

Like so many apps and services these days, Krisp uses machine learning. But unlike many of them, it uses the technology in a fairly straightforward, easily understandable way.

The machine learning model the company has created is trained to recognize the voice of a person talking into a microphone. By definition pretty much everything else is just noise — so the model just sort of subtracts it from the waveform, leaving your audio clean even if there’s a middle school soccer team invading the cafe where you’re running the call from.

It can also mute sound coming the other direction — that is, the noise on your friend’s side. So if they’re in a noisy street and you’re safe at home, you can apply the smart noise reduction to them as well.

Because it changes the audio signal before it gets to any apps or services, it’s compatible with pretty much everything: Skype, Messenger, Slack, whatever. You could even use it to record podcasts when there’s a leaf blower outside. A mobile version is on the way for release later this year.

It works — I’ve tested it, as have thousands of other users during the beta. But now comes the moment of truth: will anyone pay for it?

The new, official release of the app will let you mute the noise you hear on the line — that is, the noise coming from the microphones of people you talk to — for free, forever. But clearing the noise on your own line, like the baby crying next to you, after a two week trial period, will cost you $5 per month or $50 per year. You can collect free time by referring people to the app, but eventually you’ll probably have to shell out.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that: a straightforward pay-as-you-go business model is refreshing in an age of intrusive data collection, pushy “freemium” platforms, and services that lack any way to make money whatsoever.

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A closer look at the Bose 700 noise-cancelling headphones

As great as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones sound, let’s be real: they look like they were designed for dads on a business trip. And listen, as someone who’s into the whole chunky, dad-shoe trend, I’m not here to judge if you’re into their design. I’m just saying that I need something with a more modern style. Thankfully, Bose has introduced its latest flagship model, the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which features a newly designed stainless steel headband that gives them a more stylish and thinner look than the QuietComfort line. Bose says that the wireless 700s were designed from the ground up and, compared to the QC35 IIs, they also have all-new drivers, ear cushions and USB-C support.

The noise-cancelling tech is better than it’s ever been, too, according to Bose. One of the main attributes the company focused on is the adaptive voice system, which is designed block out noise from your surroundings as you’re using then headphone’s voice features. There are eight microphones total on the 700s, four on each earcup, and they work together to reject ambient noise around you as you move. The goal is to make your voice sound perfectly clear, especially when you’re in a place with a lot of noise.

Bose 700

Bose gave me a demo of this feature by calling someone at a nearby Starbucks in New York City, who took the call first wearing a pair of QC 35IIs and then the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. As you might imagine, a coffee shop in NYC can get pretty loud. And while I could make most of what the person was saying wearing the QuietComforts, the difference was night and day as soon as he switched to the pair of 700s. Suddenly, you couldn’t hear the music playing on the background or the people talking — it was as if he had muted the microphone on the new headphones. This should be useful for people who use voice dictation on their smartphones or tablets, as well.

In addition to the adaptive voice system, the 700s come with controllable noise-cancelling, which lets you adjust how much outside noise you want to block. You can control this with three different buttons on the headphones (low, medium and high setting) or via the Bose Music app. With the full transparency and conversation modes, for instance, you can hear everything happening around even as you listen to your music. And if you pause your tunes to talk to someone in person, which you can do using the 700s’ capacitive touch controls on the right earcup, it doesn’t sound as if you’re underwater and your voice is muffled.

The first thing I noticed when I put on the 700s is how lightweight they feel, but that doesn’t mean they’re not durable — that stainless steel headband makes them durable and the ear cushions are as comfortable as it gets. You’ll have two options to choose from in terms of color: triple black or lux silver, both of which are pictured here. Bose says that the headphones should last up to 20 hours and, like some of its other models, the 700s will work with Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri. With Alexa, however, there’s a low-power wake word mode that’s going to let you call up Amazon’s assistant. For the other two, you’ll still have to use a physical button on the headset.

If you still prefer the look of the QuietComfort 35 IIs, or you don’t care to have the features the 700s have to offer, don’t worry because those aren’t going anywhere. But, if you are feeling the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, Bose will be launching them on June 30th for $399, and pre-orders are available now.

Gallery: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 hands-on | 12 Photos

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The Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones are $50 off. Get on it.

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If you're going to drop $300 on a pair of Bluetooth headphones, the Bose QC 35 II will make it worth your while.
If you’re going to drop $300 on a pair of Bluetooth headphones, the Bose QC 35 II will make it worth your while.
Image: bose

We’ll skip roasting you for the shitty pair of headphones from CVS you’ve been sporting — the Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless headphones, arguably the best pair of headphones ever created, are $50 off at Amazon.

Aside from the fact that they’re so rarely discounted that we can’t even remember the last time we covered a sale, this sale price of $299 is their lowest price ever on Amazon.

Bose is a name people recognize even if they couldn’t care less about fancy audio, and the Quiet Comfort 35 II have remained the headphones to beat since their release in summer 2018. Regardless of which “best headphones” list you look at — whether it’s best noise-canceling headphones, best wireless headphones, or anything else — the QC 35 will be there.

Rocking a clean, minimalistic oval design (whereas many over-ear headphones toe the line of obnoxious), these metallic headphones are guaranteed to draw some jealous eyes on public transportation. But the sound is where they hit truly extraordinary: With volume-optimized EQ for the perfect audio balance and a noise rejecting dual microphone system, they were made for people with the “World: Off. Music: On” mindset.

Image: bose

You can apparently enjoy that immersive sound for up to 20 hours on one charge — just don’t expect Google Assistant to help you out too much.

Regularly $349 (and rarely dropping), you can save $50, choose from black, silver, or rose gold, and get your own QC 35 for $299.

Image: bose

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Master & Dynamic MW65 review: Almost the perfect headphones

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Master & Dynamic has been making some of the world’s best-looking headphones since 2014. The company uses premium materials like leather and anodized aluminum for its high-end products, while the competition settles for cheaper plastic even on flagship models. Despite a lineup that boasts on-ear, over-ear, in-ear, wired, wireless and true-wireless options, M&D still hadn’t entered a key category: active noise-cancellation. With the $499 MW65 introduced earlier this month, the company is making a belated debut, all while maintaining its premium style — and premium price.

Gallery: Master & Dynamic MW65 review | 18 Photos

The first thing that always strikes me when unboxing a piece of Master & Dynamic gear is the product design. As someone with a design background (and who tests a lot of headphones), it’s nice to unwrap audio accessories that aren’t made from plastic and that don’t feel cheaper than they should. The MW65 continues M&D’s heritage of leather and metal that began on the original MH40. Not only do those materials return, but trademark aesthetic details like the metal grilles on the outside of the earcups and other textured surfaces exhibit keen attention to detail.

The MW65 closely resembles its predecessors, the wired MH40, the over-ear MW60 and the convertible MW50+. In fact, the headband is identical to the one on the MW50+, and the panels on the earcups are flat like the MW40 instead of the MW60’s slightly rounded look. Unfortunately, the earpads aren’t magnetic like other M&D headphones. You can remove them, but swapping them out is more cumbersome than before. As was the case on previous models, the onboard controls sit on a ring outside the right earcup. They aren’t on the edge of the earcup itself, but rather on a circular section that sits on top of it. This is also the section where a hinge connects the earcups to the headband.

Master & Dynamic MW65 review

A lot of headphone companies are replacing physical buttons with touch controls, especially on their high-end or flagship wireless models. This is fine when they work well, but based on my experience, touch controls can be frustrating. And when you want to do something simple like adjust the volume or skip tracks, the last thing you need is a struggle. Master & Dynamic kept the physical controls it used on previous models, where a group of three buttons do all the heavy lifting. Volume buttons are on the outside, while the center button handles play/pause with a single click. A double click on that center control skips tracks forward; a triple click skips backward; and a long press activates Google Assistant or another virtual assistant. Although the MW65 is designed for Google Assistant, you can use it with Alexa, Siri and others. Long-press on the volume up button to receive Google Assistant notifications; you can always long-press on the volume-down button to disable it altogether.

M&D has made switching from Google Assistant to another option very easy. Simply holding down both the ANC button and that center play/pause control for five seconds enables a hands-free mode that allows you to use your device’s native assistant. When you want to switch back, repeat the same sequence.

The one difference from those previous models is that the MW65 has a dedicated button for noise cancellation. With a control on the left earcup, you can switch between high (planes, noisy streets), low (quieter or windy environments) or turn it off entirely. There’s also a battery-level indicator on the left side, nestled up against the power and Bluetooth-pairing toggle. It flashes red, orange or green depending on how much juice you have left. A separate light tells you the pairing status (pairing mode vs. paired), so you aren’t left guessing there, either.

Billy Steele/Engadget

Master & Dynamic took a while to release its first headphones with active noise cancellation. The technology can be tricky: You’re trying to block out environmental noise without affecting the overall audio quality inside the headphones. Companies like Bose and Sony take a scorched-earth approach to this, doing whatever it takes to kill all (or very close to all) external sound. Sure, they mostly succeed at that, but the Bose QC35 II and Sony 1000X series also aren’t the best-sounding wireless headphones out there. M&D took a more even-handed approach to ANC, and the overall audio quality on the MW65 is better for it.

The company said “vigorous research” helped it created ANC technology that wouldn’t compromise its “signature acoustics.” The wait was worth it. Master & Dynamic succeeded in keeping its warm- and natural-sounding audio profile, a tuning setting that handles most genres well. Some of the earlier M&D headphones lacked bass and could’ve used more volume, but that’s not the case with the MW65. Electronic tunes like Com Truise’s Persuasion System, hip-hop tracks from Wu-Tang’s Of Mics and Men and the blitzing metal of Oh, Sleeper demand a solid dose of low-end tone. The MW65 accommodates them all without being overpowering. Instruments remain crisp and clear, and there’s a depth to the sound that doesn’t feel overly compressed inside the cans.

Master & Dynamic MW65 review

The audio does change noticeably between noise-canceling modes, especially when you turn off ANC entirely. The best sound is with noise-cancellation on high — that’s when the headphones give the audio the most depth. The low setting is serviceable, but you’ll notice a big difference between high ANC and turning it off. None of this is a bad thing, per se; it’s just something you’ll want to be aware of. Even when set to high, the ANC doesn’t “block out the world,” like my colleague Andrew Tarantola described Sony’s original 1000X. However, since the audio is so much better on the MW65, you probably won’t mind, unless you frequent superloud spots.

It’s impressive that M&D used premium materials and added noise cancellation all while making the MW65 its lightest headphones yet. They weigh in at 245 grams (8.64 ounces). That’s almost 10 grams lighter than the Sony 1000XM3 (254.86 grams/8.99 ounces). Trust me, the difference is noticeable, especially after you’ve been wearing either set for an hour-plus.

The MW65 felt comfy even during my longest listening sessions, which often last up to three hours. The lambskin-wrapped earpads are soft, but they offer the appropriate amount of stability so you can feel the ring of the earcup beneath. The headband isn’t too tight but provides a secure fit without pinching your head.

Billy Steele/Engadget

Master & Dynamic promises up to 24 hours of battery life, significantly less than Sony offers with its 1000XM3. The MW65 does have a quick-charge feature that gives you 12 hours of playback in 15 minutes. I found that I had to plug in these headphones about every third day, after steady use during working hours. I did employ that quick-charge feature more than once, which got me through the end of the day until I could plug the MW65 in overnight. Yes, the MW65 can manage is at least six hours less than some of the competition, but I doubt you’ll need that extra time.

At $499, the MW65 costs $150 more than the list price for both the Bose QC35 II and Sony 1000XM3. Those two models still top my list of the best wireless headphones even though they’ve been out for a while. What’s more, you can typically find them on sale for even less, so you really have to like M&D’s refined design in order to justify the higher price. A lot of the features are similar too, including easy access to a virtual assistant. If your goal is to silence the world around you, the noise cancellation on Sony’s 1000XM3 outperforms the MW65, and I also prefer it to the QC35 II.

After all that, this is another great product from Master & Dynamic where price is my main gripe. Yes, the MW65 looks great, and yes, it sounds really good. Sure, the materials used here are much better than basic plastic. And even though the noise cancellation doesn’t kill all noise, it does its job well without sacrificing great audio in the process. The MW65 are nearly the perfect headphones. It’s a shame most people won’t pay what it costs to find out.

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Noise cancellation for cheap: These Sony Wireless Headphones are on sale for $70 off

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Cut the bullshit out with Sony's noise-cancelling headphones — now for less than half the price of the Bose Quiet Comfort.
Cut the bullshit out with Sony’s noise-cancelling headphones — now for less than half the price of the Bose Quiet Comfort.
Image: sony

You don’t have to be an audiophile to know that headphones without noise cancellation are kind of pointless.

What good does booming bass or sweet highs and lows do when it’s competing with construction outside or a raging toddler two seats away?

If you’re craving some peace and quiet (but could do without Bose’s $349 price tag), these noise-cancelling wireless headphones from Sony are a great choice — and $70 off at Walmart.

Image: sony

The Sony WHCH700N Wireless Headphones are optimal for quite literally any lifestyle. Artificial Intelligence Noise Cancellation scopes out your surroundings and adjusts the sounds for optimal ranges wherever you are — because noise cancellation on an airplane isn’t the same as noise cancellation when walking through Times Square, Sony’s I Headphones Connect app also lets you adjust details manually, and even lets you simulate the sound of an outdoor stage, club, hall, or arena.

Walmart customer TravisJ writes:

“These headphones are awesome. Right out of the box, getting connected and listening to music is seamless. I recommend downloading the app as it has steps to get you connected as well as equalizer settings and toggles for noise canceling as well as other features, but I will stress, it’s not required for use.

For me, personally, I’m not some huge audio nut who breaks down every pitch and note and criticizes it. It sounds great. The surround sound is very nice for movies, music sounds fantastic, and if you like some bass (I do), it has that too.   If you’re looking for a great pair of headphones with all day battery, minimum ear fatigue, and sound you can be happy with, these should be in your cart!”

With battery life up to 50 hours (depending on whether you go wireless or use the headphone jack), you can feel safe that you’ll never have to hear a screaming kid again.

Regularly $198, you can save $70 and grab yours for $128.

Image: sony

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