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I love listening to my iPod when out and about, but my ears are so ridiculously small that the in-ear buds that came with the device just slip out or move around - I knew I had to get myself some larger headphones, even if it meant looking like something from the 1980s. As I'm not keen to spend a ton of money on something I'm going to be carting about with me, I decided to go for this basic, entry-level model and see how I went with them. SPECIFICATIONS Type: 40mm Cobalt Magnet Impedance: 32 ohms Sensitivity: 96dB Frequency: 20Hz - 20KHz Active Noise Reduction: 12dB at 300Hz Power: 1 AAA battery Plug: 3.5mm stereo plug APPEARANCE These are your bog-standard over-ear headphones: two grey ear-shells with black padding on the inside. They're also slightly on the oval rather than the round side, which ensures a better fit on your ears - the ear-shells also turn slightly to the left and the right to mould to all sorts of heads. I've got small ears and a fairly small head, and these fit just fine. Connecting the two ear-shells is a black plastic bridge with more padding on the top, which I think is a nice touch as it stops it rubbing on the top of your head! You can adjust the bridge to make it longer or shorter. The cables are securely fastened to the ear-shells and join together at a sensible distance down - so they're not going to strangle you or anything. Overall they're not particularly fashionable or flashy but fairly reliable-looking. EASE OF USE These couldn't be simpler, really. These headphones are noise-cancelling, so the basic premise is that they cancel out some or all of the background noise around you as well as playing your music over the top. They've got a small unit on the cord which has the 'off' and 'on' switch for the noise cancelling function, as well as a small wheel for volume control and a switch to 'mute'. Plugging them in is a doddle, just stick the jack into the socket on your iPod or computer and you're good to go. All very easy to understand! SOUND QUALITY So how do these stand up in terms of sound quality? The first test of noise-cancelling headphones should be to put them on, switch them on and then see how much of the background noise disappears: when I did this, most but not all of the noise around me was blocked out - everything was muffled but it certainly wasn't like being in a silent room. There was also a very definite sound of white noise which was actually a bit unpleasant. I did the same test in the car, and the white noise was less prominent, but then the overall experience was generally noisier! Basically, these headphones will cancel a lot of the background noise out, but don't expect miracles. Quality of music sound is a different matter, however, and on this front these are very good: clear, sharp and able to carry a lot of fine detail in the music. Bass is pronounced but not overpowering; overall they've got a good depth of sound and are not at all tinny or echoey (my number one hatred when using earphones). I listen to music when a passenger in the car a lot and am aware that I have to have the volume up very high to cancel out the other noises; switching on the noise cancelling in the car really does help BUT it seems that it's prone to skipping and blipping if it's a bumpy ride. Not ideal; it doesn't do it all the time but when it does it's absolutely unlistenable and defeats the whole point as I then have to have the volume at a ridiculous level again! The gym is the other place where I really use these headphones; they stand up to my pounding the treadmill very well but I've noticed that it's impossible to use the noise-cancelling as something in the electronic machines interferes with it. Again, not crucial as they do work fine just as they are, but it's annoying. ROBUSTNESS As I've said, these are pretty solid and stand up to being carried around a lot (to and from the gym 3 times a week and on every long journey). I've had them about six months and haven't had any problems. They are quite large so be aware that they take up a lot of room in your bag - these aren't dinky little earbuds. They fold into themselves, which offers some protection, but I always try to make sure I've got something padded around them in case the bag gets bashed. PRICE AND AVAILABILITY They're £17.99 from Maplin, which is really an excellent deal given that they're such brilliant quality for an entry-level product. Unfortunately they don't seem to be widely available; I've tried Googling them but nothing comes up. Better get down to Maplin (or get onto www.maplin.co.uk) if you want a pair. OVERALL Four stars from me as they're such fantastic quality for an entry-level product. The sound is great and when it decides to work, the noise cancelling function is actually very effective - but they're losing the fifth star because of the annoyingly erratic noise-cancelling. Overall, a good choice.