After much research and testing, I decided that noise cancelling head phones were not the option for me. That left headphones with noise isolation for use in various environments.
Unfortunately you cannot do comparative tests with headphones that are designed for in ear use, due to health reasons (although I'm sure a good clean would solve these issues).
Firstly the HC5 headphones as supplied. As mentioned else where, the cable design is such that rubbing noise passes from the cable to the ear phones. Therefore it is essential to run the cable behind the ears. This deadens most of this noise, unless you are wearing a hat.The flexible cable distance from the headphones to the Y join is 333mm. This is enough for me to wrap the cable around my ears and under my chin. A sliding ring can be used to tighten this under the chin, to help prevent the cable from coming out of behind the ears. the remaining cable to the connector is about 880mm, ending in a 90degree gold plated plug.
As for audio quality, my ears are past their best due to hearing damage (which is why I want ambient noise reduction). All comments about lack of bass are correct, especially that you need to push the ear pieces a long way in to the ear. The better the seal in the ear, the better the sound. There are plenty of headphone end options to choose from. I had the large 3 way cone in the right ear and the foam in the left.
Compared to other head phones, there was definitely only a little base. The rest was fine. Once fitted properly, there was definitely more noise ambient noise reduction than any noise cancelling headphones I tried, including the Bose ones. The plugs were a little uncomfortable after an hour or more. this persuaded me to try the moulded ear plugs.
The headphones allow you to visit the ACS web site and get a voucher for ear mouldings. I did this and visited one of the places listed on the web site for the procedure. Unfortunately my left ear had too much wax in it and I had to get it unblocked via the doctors. A slightly unpleasant process. I then got the moulding done; took about 15 minutes. Two days later I got an Email for £80 from ACS. Paid this and was told 4 week delivery. Took 7 weeks.
Initially they don't look much, but the translucent silicone moulding are easy to fit on the head phones. Once you know what orientation to fit them in to your ear, they go in easily, and come out easily as well. Definitely the best noise isolation I've experienced. All frequencies are suppressed dramatically. The only noise that comes through is when you rest your head on something and noise is transmitted through the bone.
The sound quality has also improved, with the whole range being sharper. I still find the base weak though.
I would love to try the mouldings with the more expensive headphones in the range, but unfortunately they are not interchangeable.
When walking the jarring of the feet on the ground can cause noise in the headphones. Something I experienced with all headphones pushed firmly in the ear.
The ACS web site says you have to pay extra for the company to keep you moulding information. The fitter said they do that automatically now, but they only keep them for four years. this is because your ears are continuously growing, and will have changed in four years. Does this mean I will need new mouldings in four years time?
So, If you are looking for the ultimate isolation from outside noise, so that you can use low volumes to protect your hearing, then I would recommend these. If you want a headphone with the best sound quality and plenty of base, look else where. I hope there is enough here to help your purchase decision.