Sony's line-topping Street Style headphone set, the MDR-G94NC, not only looks really cool, it also offers the latest blip in headphone technology: noise cancellation. The headphones retail for $70.
The G94NC's earpieces are finished in a sleek steel gray with silver accents, and its behind-the-neck Street Style design won't interfere with your hairstyle or hat. But you may have to suffer to look so cool; the G94NC exerted too much pressure on our ears, so it was moderately uncomfortable after an hour or so. At least the neckband can be folded for compact storage, and Sony includes a plug-in adapter for use on planes. Another plus is that the noise-canceling circuitry is built into the earpiece rather than the cord and is powered by a single AAA battery.
The G94NC is fitted with a 22-inch cord, which is an ideal length if you're plugging it into an in-line remote clipped to the front of your shirt (such as the one found on the iRiver iHP-120 and high-end Apple iPods) but is way too short otherwise. While Sony supplies a 41-inch extension cord, we found the combined 63-inch length too long.
We weren't at all impressed with the MDR-G94NC's ability to reduce noise on the New York City subway. It only slightly hushed the roar of the trains, and it was easy to see why the noise-cancellation effect was so weak: the G94NC's ear cushions are too small to seal off your ears from the environment, so some outside noise leaks in. The G94NC was one of the least effective noise-canceling models we've ever tested.
Things were no better on the sound-quality front. The MDR-G94NC's large (30mm) drivers, neodymium magnets, and turbo ducts are said to enhance bass performance, but our listening tests didn't bear this out. The G94NC's sound was slightly hollow, or canned, and its bass response was only fair. Also, the G94NC was inefficient, so it wouldn't play loud enough on our Jens of Sweden MP-110 MP3 player. With our iPod's more robust output-level capabilities, the G94NC's volume was adequate.
In the final analysis, the MDR-G94NC headphones offer neither good sound quality nor acceptable noise reduction. If the around-the-back design appeals to you, consider instead the MDR-G74SL, a Street Style model that offers rock-solid bass and smooth midrange for a cheaper price. If you're looking for good noise cancellation, check out Sony's more expensive MDR-NC11 or Shure's $99 noise-isolating E2c in-ear headphones. Both are excellent alternatives to the G94NC.