9 easy ways to improve your laptop's sound

Just say no to lousy laptop audio. With a few inexpensive upgrades, your notebook can sound like a million bucks.

Block out the world: Panasonic RP-HC101 "Slimz" noise-canceling headphones

Panasonic RP-HC101 noise-canceling headphones

The worst part of a notebook's sound system is that it can't compete with the racket -- from cubicle conversations to street traffic -- of the real world. That's where noise-canceling headphones, like Panasonic's RP-HC101, come in.

The RP-HC101 listens to the world around you and creates an opposing waveform that cancels out the most offensive ambient sound, reducing the hum of an air conditioner or the rattle of train wheels to next to nothing. The headphones have a slim design; they fold flat and weigh just 3 ounces, making them more suitable for travel than many other noise-canceling headphones. The best part is that you can wear them for hours without discomfort or headaches.

The noise-canceling circuit has an on-off switch as well as a volume control; it requires an AAA battery. The RP-HC101 headset plugs into any laptop or digital music player via the standard audio jack and lets the music shine through. Too bad the warranty only lasts for 90 days.

Note: These headphones are so new that they're not yet for sale on the Panasonic Web site, but a company spokesperson said they would be available by the end of June. In the meantime, the spokesperson said they're available in J&R and Fry's stores, and should be rolling out to various online retailers within the next month or so.

Price: $100

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