Sony MDR-NC33 review

Better than your bundled 'phones, but you can do much better for the cash Tested at £50.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The sound’s passable, but they don’t do what it says on the tin


  • +

    Good detailing

  • +

    comfortable, sweet midrange


  • -

    Cheap feel

  • -

    poor noise-cancelling

  • -


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For some, the noise-cancelling headphone is one of the great inventions of the 20th century.

A wonderful device that allows you to block out tedious mobile phone conversations, air conditioners, screaming children et al – and, more importantly, enjoy your music in isolation.

These £50 noise-cancelling buds from Sony also have an added ‘Monitor' function which allows you to have a conversation (sort-of) while your earphones are still in place.

Comfortable enough
At first glance these black, plastic Sony's feel cheap, but in place they're comfortable enough, with the on/off controls for the noise cancelling, and monitor on a battery-pack that clips to your belt.

In use, they serve up a sound with a confident midrange that handles vocals well, together with a bright yet smooth treble.

The bass lacks some authority though, and, with the noise-cancelling function switched off, the sound becomes rapidly wearing.

Cancel the noise cancelling

The average sound would be forgivable if these earphones were better at what they're supposed to do – namely cancel out ambient noise. Unfortunately they're not great at it. Nearby conversations are easily audible, as, indeed, are many of the other sounds that should be blotted out.

It's not so surprising, then, that the monitor function works fine – since you could probably pretty much hear what was being said without it.

If you're after an upgrade set of earphones for your MP3 player, these are serviceable, but no more than that – and if it's specifically noise-cancellers you're after they will probably disappoint.

Either way, it's hard to give these headphones a decent rating when there's so much better around.

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What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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