Direct Sound EX-29: Studio-level ‘passive’ noise cancellers

by Haadi Bakar
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When you want to mute the world, you put on a pair of headphones. The most effective are the noise-cancelling ones, and they come in two configurations; active and passive.

I’ve always prefered active noise-cancelling headphones because I like how their built-in Active Noise Control (ANC) tech do their magic. The ANC circuitry in the ear cup reduces unwanted sound by adding a second sound to “cancel out” the unwanted sound.

But active noise-cancelling headphones do have their drawbacks. I tend to feel discomfort after extended use because the “cancelling out” effect  creates this weird subliminal high frequency hiss, and it’s more obvious while no music is playing.

Active noise-cancelling headsets also require power in order for the ANC to work, so that’s another device needing an overnight charge.

And yes, they’re mostly overpriced compared to regular headsets.

Passive noise-cancelling headphones however, don’t have all these issues, which makes them a great alternative.

These closed-back headphones rely on their good-fitting earcups that seal around our ears and prevent unwanted noise from creeping in, and because they don’t have any fancy electronics, they don’t require batteries to operate.

Recently I’ve tried a pair from a brand called Direct Sound. This brand is best known for making headphones for professional studio use.

The EX-29 Extreme Isolation headphones is the American company’s flagship, with famous drummers such as Megadeth’s Shawn Drover and Terry Bozzio having used them during their studio recordings.

For general use, the dynamic closed-back EX-29 does an excellent job in the soundproofing department. I was listening to my jams on my phone while I was having company, and even at mid volume, I couldn’t pick up his voice as he was trying to have a conversation with me.

As the name suggests, the EX-29 offer 29 decibal passive attenuation (a general term to describe reduction in signal strength) thanks to the heavily padded “gun muff” style ear cushion cups that acts as an isolation chamber.

Those heavy paddings are also comfortable around the ears, even for extended use. The padded and adjustable headband helps secure its position on the wearer’s head, and at 326 grammes, the headset itself doesn’t feel heavy when worn.

The EX-29 sounds good too. It uses high-fidelity 40mm drivers and delivers a frequency range of 20Hz-20kHz.

The headset has a 9-foot long cable, while the 3.5mm headphone jack at the end of the cord also comes with a gold-plated 1/4 adapter strapped next to it, handy for musicians who wish to plug the EX-29 onto a mixer or amplifier.

While the EX-29 is designed with studio professionals and drummers in mind, anyone can pick this up for quiet listening at home.

It’s also the less costly option for those looking to get an affordable pair of noise-cancelling headsets. The Ex-29 works as advertised, no expensive electronic trickery involved.

I would recommend the active noise-cancelling headphones such as the Bose QC25s to frequent travellers, as they are more effective in drowning out airplane engine noise. But if you just want to block out ambient noise when you’re at home or at the office, the EX-29 is a good pick.

Interested buyers can contact the distributor of Direct Sound headphones in Brunei at 7299889 (Ridhwan). Also available in stock is the Direct Sound YourTones Home Series headphones.

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