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Sony's incredible shrinking headphones

Sony NBA-XC850

Here's something that caught our eye on a tour of Sony's Tokyo eco centre earlier today.

As part of its environmental policy, Sony is always striving to reduce the size and complexity of its products, and the amount of materials needed to make them.

One of the latest to get the shrinking treatment are these in-ear headphones. On the left of the picture you can see the 2011 MDR-NC300 in-ear noise-cancelling headphones.

They have a separate container for the battery and noise-cancelling electronics (that's the blue bit highlighted in the image).

On the right is the new design for the 2012 XBA-NC850 model. You'll see it doesn't need a separate part for all the noise-cancelling gubbins – by using clever miniaturisation, that can now all fit into the earphone housings themselves.

Sony studied the design of hearing aids to get an understanding of how all the necessary electronics could be shrunk down to the required size.

So the XBA-NC850 uses a tiny battery, far smaller driver and microphone and a miniature processor.

It's just one example of a big company thinking small. Clever.

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Andy Clough

Andy is Global Brand Director of What Hi-Fi? and has been a technology journalist for 30 years. During that time he has covered everything from VHS and Betamax, MiniDisc and DCC to CDi, Laserdisc and 3D TV, and any number of other formats that have come and gone. He loves nothing better than a good old format war. Andy edited several hi-fi and home cinema magazines before relaunching whathifi.com in 2008 and helping turn it into the global success it is today. When not listening to music or watching TV, he spends far too much of his time reading about cars he can't afford to buy.