In-Flight Audio Options for Your PowerBook

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Date: Wednesday, November 7th, 2001, 19:32
Category: Archive


There are a number of options available to facilitate in-flight enjoyment of audio over the din of the aircraft engines. One option touched upon in several Go2Mac articles is boosting the sound output via an external amplifier. The lo-fi Boostaroo amplifier is a cost effective choice. There is a hiss when there is no music, but the price is right at US$20. For US$85, the Minidisco HB375 is a higher quality amp for headphones.

Another approach is to use a noise cancelling headphone. These are relatively good at dealing with the steady background noise in an airplane, but they are much larger than earbuds and create the annoying feeling of pressure on the eardrums for many listeners.

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My choice would be earphones that fit into the ear canal and provide significant noise attenuation. Koss makes a low cost product called “The Plug” at $15. Many complain that they do not fit well and some clever solutions for adapting foam or silicone earplugs have been developed by enterprising users. The sound quality is not great, but far superior to cranking up the volume of conventional earbuds to drown out the background noise.

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A higher quality product is the Sony Fontopia MDR-EX70LP. It has a much better transducer and several sizes of silicone plugs are included to fit different size ears. At US$50 it is still an affordable product. If money is no object for your new iPod, the Etymotics 4S is a high end audiophile phone at $270, with the option of custom molded ear plugs. Some argue that they provide the highest quality headphone experience available at any price.

Another advantage of canal type phones is that you will not annoy your neighbors and can even leave them in as earplugs to cut down on noise while napping. Just be aware you may not hear the announcement to turn off electronic devices near the end of your flight, so pay attention. Some people can’t get a good fit or just find them uncomfortable.

You will need a splitter in order for two passengers to watch a movie (Radio Shack part #274-879) and possibly an external amplifier as well, depending on the volume level you are trying to achieve. Radio shack even makes an adapter so that you can use your phones in the funny double mono plugs found on many aircraft (Radio Shack part #42-2495).

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