New Zealand based Phitek Systems has been recognised as one of the leaders in innovative audio processing systems for a host of different applications. Whilst mainly concentrating on the avionics and consumer electronics space, they've produced some remarkable products showcasing their noise cancellation technology.

The technical information supplied to us from Phitek explains that noise cancellation works on the principle of creating another noise to block out an existing one. This "anti-noise" must be the exact opposite of the existing noise - that is to say, a sound wave that is 180 degrees out of phase. This may all sound a bit complicated to those of us who slept through physics class at high school, so just picture incoming sound as a game of Tetris, with the headphones supplying the block you need to make it all go away. Or something.

The M14 headphones come with their own robust case, which looks capable of being thrown into an overnight bag and knocked around without risk of damaging anything. This might sound like a small matter, but believe me you take notice of such things when you check the retail price. I'll say it once here so we can move on: these headphones are not cheap. Also included is a 3.5mm to 6.5mm adaptor, and one of those weird aeroplane adaptors they use to stop cattle-class customers from venting their frustration at the lack of leg room by stealing the airlines headphones. Oh, and the lead is detachable, which means if you trip over it at some point you don't have to replace the entire package.

Setting up the M14 was a piece of cake. Simply take the supplied AAA battery, open a hatch on the side of one of the headphones and install it. One battery supplies up to 40 hours of noise cancellation, which should be enough for a fairly marathon gaming session at a huge LAN, if only they had odour-cancellation. Once the headphones have been supplied with a power source, put them on and flip the switch. The effect this technology has is nothing short of amazing - it takes perhaps two seconds to almost completely remove background noise. The constant drone that you're usually not aware of suddenly becomes conspicuous by its absence, you become far more aware of slight vibrations, and you can sense a strange electrical pitch similar to the few minutes before an electrical storm. Initially, it's a bit disorientating, but happily you rapidly get used to it and it soon feels perfectly normal. Phitek claim a reduction of up to 22dB - I'd believe it.

Continued on next page...