Sony MDR-NC500D

  • Well built
  • Plentiful accessories
  • Noise cancellation can't be switched off
  • Expensive
  • Tight fit may be uncomfortable
  • Bass is soft

Sony's MDR-NC500D noise-canceling headphones have their fans, and critics note that the Sony headphones work quite well at eliminating background noise. They are the first to use digital noise cancellation. The headphones have different noise-canceling modes that kick in based on the auditory environment. However, sound quality gets decidedly mixed reviews, with complaints about softness in the bass being most common. Turning the noise cancellation off is not an option. These headphones are expensive, but critics find that the high cost is balanced by a host of included accessories: a carrying case with shoulder strap, AC charger, numerous detachable cords and two plug adapters. Still, most reviewers find that models from Bose, such as the QuietComfort 15 (Est. $300) , outperform the MDR-NC500Ds and offer a better value.

We found a good balance of reviews of the Sony MDR-NC500D headphones. Prolific headphones reviewers at CNET and What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision look at the NC500Ds, while consumer testing magazines Which? and include them in their latest comprehensive roundups. Users at weigh in, too, though opinions there are split.

Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
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CNET's Jasmine France gives the Sony MDR-NC500D headphones a good rating in this balanced review. She says that while the Sony headphones have good noise canceling and overall sound quality (though bass is "mushy"), they're not the most comfortable headphones around. The MDR-NC500D headphones are expensive, too, but France feels that this is compensated for somewhat by accessories such as a rechargeable battery pack and AC adapter. CNET awards the Sony MDR-NC500D headphones 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Review: Sony MDR-NC500D Digital Noise Canceling Headphones, Jasmine France, April 15, 2008

2. Which? magazine

Britain's Which? magazine tests 56 headphones in their latest roundup, with the Sony MDR-NC500D headphones earning a Best Buy designation. Very good noise cancellation and plentiful accessories are highlights. Sound is described as "good," though testers note slight pressure on the ears and say the ear pads tend to get hot and sticky.

Review: Headphones, Editors of Which?

3. tests and ranks a variety of stereo and noise-canceling headphones, including the Sony MDR-NC500D. Ratings judge sound quality, sensitivity and isolation, but discussion is brief.

Review: Headphones, Editors of

4. What Hi-Fi?

British audiophile magazine What Hi-Fi? takes a very short look at the Sony MDR-NC500D noise-canceling headphones. The reviewer says that while the noise canceling doesn't quite live up to Sony's claims, it's still very good, and the headphones fit well. But sound is only "decent": "The problem is that deep bass is soft, while treble exhibits some tiresome hardness." What Hi-Fi? awards the Sony MDR-NC500D 3 out of 5 stars.

Review: Sony MDR-NC500D, Editors of What Hi-Fi?


Only about 35 users post reviews of the Sony MDR-NC500D headphones, and there is little consensus. The overall rating is 3.5 stars out of 5, with a nearly even distribution between good and bad evaluations. Fans praise their noise canceling, but detractors say Bose QuietComfort headphones are superior.

Review: Sony MDR-NC500D Digital Noise Canceling Headphone (Black), Contributors to

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