Noise cancellation--once a technology reserved for the likes of fighter pilots--is about to reach the consumer market. Prices of earphones that suppress unwanted sounds by generating equal and opposite "antinoise" sound waves have recently dropped from more than $1,000 to as little as $500. Now, at least two companies are poised to hit mainstream consumers with earphones priced under $200. On May 27, Noise Cancellation Technologies Inc. in Stamford, Conn., was set to unveil a family of NoiseBuster headsets priced at $99 to $199. A rival, Active Noise & Vibration Technologies Inc. in Phoenix, says it plans to introduce a similar headset priced at around $189 in August or September.
Noise Cancellation says its NoiseBuster can reduce noise by up to 10 decibels, which represents roughly a 50% reduction in perceived noise. The headset can be worn alone or used in conjunction with portable cassette or compact-disk players. That way someone could, say, listen to music while mowing the lawn without cranking the volume way up.