If you are a bit like me and are always on the road traveling different places, you probably know just how exhausting this can be.
In order to keep myself from feeling tired all the time while traveling, I always carry some form of Noise Cancelling headphones with me, so I can escape the busyness around me.
Most of the times I’m using my faithful Bose Quietcomfort 25’s (reviewed HERE), but sometimes I just need something more portable, something that fits right into my pocket. This is where some good earbuds with noise cancelling come in handy.
So let’s take a look at some of the Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds in 2017. Be sure to bookmark this page, as this guide is a work in progress.
Click on each product to go straight to the review on this page.
|Samsung Level U Pro ANC||⭐⭐⭐||⭐⭐⭐||⭐⭐⭐||Low|
|Phiaton BT 220||⭐⭐⭐⭐||⭐⭐⭐||⭐⭐⭐||High|
|Bose QC30||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐||⭐⭐⭐⭐||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐||Very High|
|Sennheiser CXC 700||⭐⭐⭐⭐||⭐⭐⭐⭐||⭐⭐⭐⭐||High|
Samsung Level U Pro Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
It’s safe to say Samsung is a very well known company, a giant in the consumer electronics space, one with a huge following.
Over the last few years, this behemoth of a company has decided to expand its list of products to headphones and not just the stock headphones that come packed with every Samsung phone.
The latest in this niche is a line that has been very well received by customers and critics alike, known simply as Level U, the line consists of 3 very similar headphones, the wired (the wire is detachable) Samsung Level U, the Bluetooth-enabled Samsung Level U Pro and the flagship of the line, the Samsung Level U Pro ANC, the Noise Cancelling version.
In this review, I will be focused on the pros and cons of the latter, a headphone that Samsung hopes will be able to muscle its way into the ever expanding ANC market.
Design and Comfort
The horseshoe design pioneered by LG is unashamedly copied by Samsung (as by many others) and used to good effect here. Coming in two conservative colors, white and black, the Level U Pro ANC’s convey a certain sense of class and style that’ll undoubtedly please many, as it did me.
The calm sense of style is further conveyed by earbuds that feature magnets at the back to clasp them together when not in use, avoiding the messy tangle that sometimes comes with wearing headphones on the go.
The headphones are so lightweight that you’ll likely forget you have them on at some point, which is a good thing in my book as it means they’re the not intrusive or bulky fixtures that wireless Noise Cancelling headphones usually are.
The horseshoe design means there’s no clunky remote/ANC control box dangling at the end of your earphones. In this case, the ANC technology is housed within the earbuds, the control buttons are on said neckband and feature the usual volume controls (doubling as skip forward and backward), play/pause buttons on the right-hand side.
This brings me to the materials used in making the Level U Pro ANC’s, hard plastic tinged with a little aluminum in just the right places and as I said above the overall result is lightweight but seemingly durable. Except maybe for the buds which feel a tiny bit cheap, but that might just be my cynicism at how light they are.
The ear-tips are gel and conform to the shape of your ear quite well, providing a pretty solid seal and an above average level of comfort.
Extra cool points are thrown in by the fact that these are sweat resistant and splash proof.
The Noise Cancelling technology employed by Samsung is supposed to cancel 90% of ambient noise. It’s very hard to verify those claims and Samsung probably knows that.
That said I have to say their ANC tech is pretty good for the price range and manages to cancel out most noise in an office environment without much trouble. However in louder environments that ability is significantly reduced, although I’m talking very much louder here, crowded subway station, cars honking, etc.
Samsung has made a big deal about the new hi-res technology they’ve employed on this line of headphones (they’re calling it UHQA), claiming it delivers a true 24-bit sound experience and this time I agree. The 13 mm Dynamic and 13 mm Piezo drivers used are really good and provide a rich immersive sound.
The bass is not overly boosted but it’s still very good, with the sub-bass levels providing a certain intensity that’s really hard to find.
Treble is a little pushy though causing some sibilance at high volumes. Mids are solid and well defined, thus no spectrum really overpowers the others here.
The headphones come with an app called Level on which you can customize the sound quality, your notification system, e.g you can set the headphones to vibrate when you have incoming calls or messages.
You can also set the headphones to read aloud text notifications, a very useful feature especially when your hands are busy. The sad part though is the app is only compatible with android phones, so for Apple users, you won’t be able to enjoy that benefit.
You can also share your music with someone else that has Level U Pro headphones without them connecting to your source to do it. An impressive feature but one that’s not like to be used to much as far as I can see.
The Samsung Level U Pro’s were clearly made with certain ideas in mind. And while some of them might not be groundbreaking, all of them are well implemented, especially when it comes to the app.
The ANC is one of those ideas that doesn’t chart new territory but it’s well implemented and is just about right for this price tag.
What is impressive though is the sound quality, especially when the app comes into play. Customizing the sound brings it just below premium levels, a good feat considering these are mid-range headphones.
So if you’re an Android user, these will represent more than value for money spent. If however, you use an Apple device then you won’t be getting anything more than a mid-range headphone, which isn’t as bad as it sounds because that’s what you’ll be paying for and you can do a lot worse for this price.
When it comes to Active Noise Cancelling technology you will very rarely find it used in cheap headphones. The technology is kind of expensive to implement, so it’s no surprise really. However once in a while manufacturers will attempt to buck the trend with varying degrees of success.
Audio-Technica’s ATH-ANC23 Noise Cancelling Earbuds are therefore one of very few active NC headphones in their price range from the big manufacturers in the industry so the decision to try them out was a no-brainer.
Features and Design
The earbuds are designed as canalphone’s instead of the more popular in-ear design. This means Audio-Technica used bigger speakers than would fit into normal human ears, so to compensate they then slightly elongate the earbuds to slip into your ear canal with the ear-tips reaching a little further in than normal. The design does take some getting used to but is comfortable enough not to cause ear-fatigue.
The box does include 3 different sized silicone ear-tips and a comply foam one for best fit so comfort is fully assured.
Now it’s very difficult for NC headphones to look sleek and sophisticated given they have to carry a NC control box/pack somewhere. Traditionally most manufacturers have chosen to have the pack in various positions on the connecting cable. Audio-Technica is no different and chose to place the box almost dead center of the cable.
The choice was not particularly well thought out I have to say as this immediately presented me with a challenge of two dimensions. First, the control box dangles quite a few centimeters above my belt so I can’t clip it there or in my pants pocket, I have to clip it on my shirt which leaves me with a bunched up cable from there to my earbuds.
The second thing is that once I clip the box on my shirt I cannot slip my cellphone (or any device for that matter) into my pants pocket as the cable from the control box to the plug is too short. So I have to wear a jacket or put it in my shirt pocket, which will be very frustrating if you don’t have either on any given day.
So while the ANC23’s are quite comfortable the design flaw with the cable will probably irk most users as it did me. Making the cable from box to earbuds shorter so as to clip to my shirt without bunching up, or otherwise putting the control box right near the plug to make it easier to put both the box and my device into pants pocket would solve this problem.
The ANC23’s although quite good at noise cancelling would be no match for more expensive sets from Bose, Sony or even Audio-Technica’s own high-end sets, however I repeat, they are quite good.
In fact they are astonishingly good for their price and manage to cancel out quite a lot of ambient noise, although not quite the 90% Audio-Technica claims, hard as that might be to quantify. Expect the noise of fans, trains, drone of an airplane, and cars to be drowned out completely but loud talking will still filter through.
Sound quality is very good with thumping, muscular bass coupled with solid mids and highs and the canalphone design comes to good use here as the large 12 mm drivers come into play. The various sound spectra come across clear and instruments retain their fidelity with perfect harmony. At high volumes the clarity does suffer a little though with the highs muddling and the instruments sounding kind of squashed in a way.
The battery life is another plus with the normal AAA battery slated to last a good 60 hours and that the headphones continue to work as normal headphones without a battery is a huge bonus many manufacturers tend to overlook.
A weird flaw with the ANC23’s falls into this category, in short it’s that these headphones do not have a mic, meaning you cannot take calls using them. I still can’t fathom how Audio-Technica could drop the ball on something so minor, but then again I guess they figure a lot of people still use devices other than cellphones for their music, podcasts, et al.
Are They Worth It?
Manufacturing active noise cancelling earbuds on a budget will always present a few problems and the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 Noise Cancelling Earbuds are not without their resulting flaws.
The biggest is that they don’t have a mic and while I have problems with the proportions of their cables, some may find them suitable.
The canalphone design is not a problem as it is comfortable but if you haven’t used it before it will take some time to get accustomed to the feel.
That said the sound quality is miles above average and rare at such a price. Add to that the active noise cancelling and you have a set of earbuds well worth of consideration if you’re on a tight budget or if you’ve never used NC headphones and would like to try them out without the risk of going all out for a $300-$400 set.
When it comes to ANC ear buds, these are one of the best earbuds under $50!
Phiaton BT 220 Wireless Noise Cancelling Earbuds
If you’re a frequent traveler or you work in a noisy environment then you already know just how Noise Cancelling technology has proved itself to be a useful tool over the years. Similarly Bluetooth technology has gone a long way in the efforts to ensure wireless headphones are indeed the future.
Headphones using either technology have become increasingly popular with manufacturers and consumers alike, however it’s still rare to find headphones utilizing both technologies simultaneously and even then most that do are over-ear headphones.
The Phiaton BT 220 Noise Cancelling Earbuds is one of the few sets to make an effort to buck this trend and use the in-ear design. The result is an intriguing headphone I was certainly eager to try out for myself with some interesting observations coming from my time spent with them.
Right of the bat the Phiaton BT 220’s are eye catching with their sleek black and silver-grey color mix. The top of the NC circuit box is in said grey and the choice is inspired as it’s stylish combination with the black on the rest of the box exudes a beauty that almost succeeds in hiding the organizational mess made of the rest of the box, especially the buttons.
The box has a metal clip at the back to attach to your shirt or jacket, a good idea as there’s really nowhere else to put the box but the clip is frustratingly tight and you will likely have to use two hands to pry it open enough to clip to whatever you want.
This brings me to another aspect of the organizational mess that comes with the BT 220’s. The buttons are close together and very easy to press with the power button on the front of the box. The play/pause button is located on the right hand side of the remote together with the volume up/down buttons. The left side houses the Noise Cancelling switch and a monitor button that mutes music and disables NC when pressed (pressing it again will resume both).
The whole design means you’re likely to press one or more buttons when clipping the circuit box in place, even picking it up poses a problem to be honest and is very frustrating when the’re on and music is playing.
The earpieces complement the polished look of the entire set with an in-canal (canalphone style) design that uses large 14.3 mm drivers inside the housing.
The design angles the ear-tips inward to fit into the ear-canal as the drivers are too large to fit in human ears. A design that many are still getting used to as it’s not as popular as the regular in-ear design. However the fit is quite comfortable and Phiaton doesn’t leave anything to chance here with an extra 3 silicone ear-tips coming with the headphones as well as the ultra comfortable Comply foam buds.
The headphones do tend towards the bulky side, especially the circuit box and no amount of sleek coloring can hide it. The resulting weight however is inconsequential as the box clips onto your clothes. You could also use the included lanyard and leave it dangling from somewhere else. Either way, the weight won’t tug at the headphones much less pull them out of your ears.
As Noise Cancelling headphones go the BT 220’s are not exactly the cream of the crop (as their price point suggest) and shouldn’t be treated as such. That said these are really good NC headphones and they managed to cancel out most ambient noises that I came across in daily life.
They withstand the drone of an airplane quite well, managing an almost complete shut out even with no music playing. Cars and trains are similarly drowned out and with music playing I was able to completely shut out all the above mentioned noises with no trouble at all.
The circuit does produce the low hissing sound common in most mid to low end NC headphones (even some high-end ones have it), but the background noise it cancels in the process more than makes up for that.
The sound quality is pretty good too with the large drivers coming in handy to produce a strong capable bass (although it’s certainly not overwhelmingly powerful), the mids and highs are a lot more pronounced than in most headphones and I would go as far as to say they slightly overpower the lower frequencies, something that will disappoint the bass heads out there. At high volumes the set holds up well with no distortion coming through.
The headphones incorporate CVC technology to ensure that calls retain the highest fidelity possible with zero complaints from the people on the other end of my calls and I was able to make and receive calls with no trouble, even in the loudest places (train station).
The Bluetooth used is version 4.0 and is integrated with NFC technology making pairing for non-iphone users even easier with it being complete in just one swipe (still easily paired with iphones though so don’t worry).
Battery power is stated at 16 hours however with NC on you’re more likely to get around 12 which is what I consistently got, a full charge should take about 2 hours.
The Phiaton’s can also be used without a battery as normal headphones, however that requires you to use the included micro-USB cable to 1/8 adapter that connects to the box and your device respectively, a nifty feature should you forget to charge your set before a long trip.
The Phiaton’s won’t disappoint you if you can handle a bit of clumsy organisation on the circuit box and can live with the mids and highs taking the shine on most songs.
All in all the Phiaton BT 220’s do not belong in the upper echelons of Noise Cancelling headphones but that’s okay because they were never meant to.
What they are is a very good set of mid-range NC headphones for those who would like to own wireless NC headphones without having to fork out fortunes on them.
And a suspect NC circuit box design aside, they manage to be all that they were intended to be, with solid sound output (unless you’re a bass head), durable design and NC capabilities that stand well above average.
Chinese manufacturers have a huge reputation the world over, an unenviable one. To be precise they have a reputation as copycats, incredibly cheap ones at that and have traditionally not been taken seriously by most consumers as a result.
A few companies have however begun to shift the immutable tide that is public opinion. Huawei is an integral part of those companies that are slowly but surely pushing Chinese manufacturers out of their position as undesirables when it comes to the tech world. Their smartphones have been so good that they’ve earned Huawei third place in the world in terms of market share after giants Apple and Samsung.
The reason for this surge in prominence is simple, Huawei has become adept at innovating and improving on technology and this innovation is not confined to smartphones but to all the other industries Huawei is increasingly becoming active in.
It’s exactly this newly minted reputation as an innovator that had me chomping at the bit to try out their new Noise Cancelling headphones, the Huawei AM185’s.
To say I was instantly drawn to the AM185’s is the understatement of the century. Okay first of all one thing about me, I love beauty like most people but make that beauty elegant, sleek and minimalistic and you have me for life (maybe I’m alone in that but damn it, it gets me every time).
Obviously I’d seen pictures before I ordered my pair but as good as the pictures are they do not do justice to the aesthetic masterpiece that are the AM185’s.
From jack to earbud the headphones are gold in color (except of course for the black ear-tips), the gold is by no means gaudy and is so light it’s almost silver-like. The little black there is doesn’t intrude on the visual, instead the two colors complement each other much like Barack and Michelle.
The earbuds have U shaped ear-hooks protruding at the top, these are adjustable to your ears to provide the best fit possible. The silicone ear-tips are malleable and conform to the shape of your ears much like foam buds (at least they did mine) and the two accompany each other quite well to provide ultra-comfort.
That said the seal really isn’t the best out there but that’s more to do with the overall design than specifically the ear-tips or hooks.
The cable is braided in order to prevent tangling, making it all the more durable in the process.
The control box located down the cable (about breast height) has to be hands down the best looking and least intrusive Noise Cancelling Box I’ve ever seen. Add the fact that it’s light and the controls are quite easy to find and use and you definitely have a winner.
The materials seem very durable and the overall feel of the headphones is light but convincingly strong and sturdy to the touch.
The one flaw in the design is quite major if you don’t use a mid-range to top end Huawei smartphone, and it’s that the charging port is not USB like most headphones (or most rechargeable accessories for that matter). Instead the set charges through the audio port, so Huawei provides a USB-A adapter that you can use to connect to any USB cable, which could get real tricky if you loose it as you can only get it from them and no one else.
The battery also isn’t as great as most NC headphones lasting just up to 6 hours. The good news is if you use any of the major Huawei smartphones your phone will automatically recharge the headphones for you so you never have to worry about the battery running out, a nifty little trick every phone manufacturer should work on immediately.
Performance, Noise Cancelling and Sound Quality
While the Huawei AM185’s certainly don’t reinvent the wheel here, they do a good job of cancelling noise. The lower frequencies are fully cancelled out while the mid-range and higher frequencies are significantly reduced.
However as the price suggests you shouldn’t expect to hear absolutely zero with these on because loud noise will leak in, although that might be compounded by the fact that I didn’t get a very good seal with any of the ear-tips provided.
Also as a result of the lack of a tight seal volume was never really loud even at the highest settings. However that shouldn’t overshadow the fact that the sound is actually quite good.
The bass is a little artificially magnified but that should only please the bass heads out there. The mids are crisp and clean and the highs equally so, although they have a tinny feel at the highest volume setting.
Huawei utilized a sound chamber design with composite diaphragms to enhance clarity and reduce distortion on these beauties and it shows. Sound reproduction is quite faithful as a result and even has a little sound stage to it.
After all the praise, one thing to point out is that the volume controls don’t work on an iPhone.
The AM185’s are actually quite a good set of headphones all things considered, appealing and mostly very good at what they are meant to do.
The problem is these headphones feel like they were manufactured with Huawei smartphone users in mind and the flaws they exhibit largely stem from that and in the process alienate just about everyone else.
If however you can ignore these flaws, the audio port that also serves as a charging port, the volume controls that aren’t compatible with an iPhone, then you will surely find these headphones more than useful.
Their sleek charm is second to none, they’re comfortable and their sound quality and NC are both very good and overall will make many a customer happy. Again if said customer can ignore the Huawei-centric feel they have.
If however you already use a compatible smartphone, then I must say have fun using these beauties to the best of their capabilities. I envy you and so will a lot of people!
Bose QuietControl 30 Wireless Noise Cancelling Earbuds
Bose has over the years built an impressive reputation as the brand to beat (or otherwise imitate) when it comes to Noise Cancelling earbuds, and with it a following fierce enough to rival Apple’s famed loyalists.
With the latest in their production line, the QuietControl 30 Wireless Noise Cancelling Earbuds, Bose has made a move to solidify its claim as a leader in the active noise cancelling headphone game.
However the Bose QuietControl 30 Noise cancelling earbuds are not without their flaws and the following is a review of the good and the bad from Bose’s latest offering, a headphone that could be looked at as either a wireless version of the QuietComfort 20i or the Noise Cancelling version of the SoundSport wireless headphones.
Comfort and Design Quality
The QuietControl 30 (QC30) is immediately distinguishable from its QuiteComfort cousin/s (the QC20i and the over ear QC35) first by the change in name to signify one of the major changes in design and a first in the industry, the ability to control the Noise Cancelling function to your preferred levels instead of just on or off.
The second immediately recognizable change is the wearable horseshoe neckband design pioneered by LG that is quickly becoming popular (for better or worse depending on where you stand) with headphone manufacturers the world over. As this is easily the most divisive design feature I will start with it and work my way up (pardon the pun).
I must confess, this was the first time I used headphones designed this way and I was skeptical at first but I have to say the design is mostly useful and easily tolerable once you factor in the pros and cons.
First of all the QC30’s are not only wireless, they’re also active Noise Cancelling headphones. Both Bluetooth and active NC require a battery to work and together they require an even bigger battery than normal. Normally these batteries would either be housed in the earpieces or have a battery pack attached to the cables (like the QC20i), resulting in clunky and heavy earpieces that easily fall out or a clunky circuit box that almost always looks out of place wherever you place it.
The neckband negates this by housing the battery and the fact that it sits on your neck means the weight isn’t carried on the earbuds so they won’t fall out. Besides the fact it sits on your neck comfortably, the weight is negligible and over time you will probably forget you have something there, at least I did.
The earbuds come with the classic Bose Stay hear+ tips (in three sizes) and don’t have to be jammed all the way into your canals to stay put, hence the earbuds are extremely comfortable to wear and ear fatigue is not an issue. The fit is so secure and comfortable I even used them for my workout without having them fall off, although the neckband did get a little annoying when I was jogging.
The controls are housed on an in-line remote dangling close to the right earbud. The remote features volume up and down buttons, Noise Cancelling Controls (up or down) and a multi-function button that truly redefines the term as it is used not just for switching on/off, playback, receiving and declining calls but also to skip forward, backward and rewind as well as fast forward.
The NC function is quite simply the best thing about these headphones. Honestly it’s a little magical how well they manage to tune out the world at the touch of a button. At the risk of sounding like a proud parent gushing over a newborn baby, this is why Bose has such a big reputation as being the best at NC headphones.
The fact that you can adjust NC to whatever level you want is an added benefit that shouldn’t be underestimated. When walking about all I had to do was lower the NC and I could hear cars but still shut out the buzz of a busy street packed with people even with no music on, like I said earlier, magical!
As with all NC headphones these aren’t really designed for sound purists and shouldn’t be judged as such. The bass is full and rich, with some audible compensation (bass boost) on some tracks that normally lack substantial bass. That however is not a bad thing unless you’re planning to use them as in-studio headphones, in which case you’re looking in the wrong place anyway.
Mids are strong and solid with the highs also maintaining the same level of output as the mids, some tracks did sound a little strained on the highs, but that was barely noticeable really.
The problems in sound quality arise when it comes to calls. For some reason Bose hasn’t quite figured this one out yet, because when I used the mic for calls, I immediately started getting complaints about my reception being bad and some crackling on the line. This is probably the most annoying thing for me when it comes to these headphones as I love everything else about them.
To solve this problem I have to speak with the in-line remote really close to my mouth and so would you (probably). The good thing however is that the ambient noise mics in the earbuds filter out any background noise on my end and I can hear the caller as clearly as if they were next to me.
Which brings me to another slight problem with the QC30’s. They stop working as soon as the battery is dead and can’t be used as normal earbuds thereafter. That they can’t be used while charging only adds to this problem. However the battery life is excellent at 10 hours (with full recharge needing 2 hours) so that slightly makes up for it.
Bluetooth is excellent as well with no connectivity issues and a range well over the standard 10 meters.
Besides the annoying issues with the mic during calls, the horseshoe neckband many love to hate, there is one other pretty obvious downside to the QC30’s (standard with most Bose headphones really) and it’s that these are very expensive. In fact at $299 some would say ridiculously so.
However that seems to be the going price for premium NC headphones so if price is not an issue for you, these are excellent NC headphones and well worth their price.
They are incredibly good at what they are supposed to do. In fact I dare say you won’t find any headphones better at noise cancelling than these. They are just as good as Bose’s previous offerings in that regard, but what puts them ahead in my opinion is that you can control to what extent you want to hear the outside world.
So if you’re looking to enclose yourself in your own world with music, your favorite podcast, audio book, shut out your annoying work colleagues or your snoring spouse (they can work as a Sleep Headphone too), then these are the best your money can buy, you won’t be disappointed.
Be sure to check my review on the Bose QuietComfort 20, as they are a bit cheaper but still have the same level of ANC.
TaoTronics is a brand known for their sporty, wireless range of headphones so it may come as a surprise to some that they actually produce Noise Cancelling headphones with the TT-EP01 Wired Noise Cancelling headphone as their sole venture into that niche so far.
They’re also a company well known for their willingness to make affordable yet quality products and they haven’t veered from that formula with their new product.
Design And Fit
Right from the moment you lay eyes on them the TaoTronics TT-EP01’s convey a sense of calm sophistication, the timeless combination of black and silver exudes authority and purpose.
The design is just as effortlessly engaging as the color or maybe as a result of it, either way these headphones manage to look good in a way that is certain to appeal to most people. The headphones are made from an aluminium metal alloy that feels quite light but at the same time sturdy and durable. A gold plated jack completes the sleek look and feel of the TT-EP01’s.
Using the headphones was a little less impressive than the design and I was disappointed by the rubber ear-tips as they were really not as comfortable to wear as they could be no matter the size I chose. After a couple of hours of use my ears started to feel fatigued. The ear hooks didn’t help much either in this case and couldn’t relieve my discomfort no matter how I placed them, leading me to conclude the ear-tips where the problem.
I was right. I decided on a whim to replace the ear-tips with a set of Comply Foam buds that I had tucked away and presto, as comfortable as my old pair of Nikes.
The TT-EP01 features an in-line remote with 3 multi-purpose controls and a control box housing the Noise Cancelling technology. The remote is at the top end of the 55-inch long cable and the control box is about 6 inches above the audio jack meaning you can leave both hanging (causes the earbuds to move from your ears so not recommended) or tuck the control box into your pocket as the length of the cable allows for that.
The control box also houses a 140 mAh battery that allows up to 15 hours of listening, although if you use these at a high volume setting with NC on you’re more likely to get around 12 hours which is still pretty reasonable.
Sound and Noise Cancelling Quality
Like the build, the sound coming from the TT-EP01’s is sturdy and firm. The bass is strong and has a boosted quality to it that bass heads will really enjoy. The mids are crisp and clean, with the highs complementing them quite well. The sound does distort a little at high volumes but not so much as to make it unbearable to listen to.
Although it isn’t quite up to premium standards, Noise Cancelling is pretty good, so good that it readily cancels out the drone of a plane, the whirring of a fan and the rumble of cars and trains. The only sounds it fails to drown out completely are that of people talking and like most other NC headphones sudden loud noises.
One other thing I noticed when it comes to sound is that the cable seems very sensitive and touching it while listening to music or talking on the phone results in annoying crackling noises interfering with the audio quality.
TaoTronics also includes an airplane audio adapter with the headphones so airplane sources can be used with the headphones if you travel frequently.
The TaoTronics TT-EP01’s are built by a company that values affordability but yet still focuses on making the product as beautiful and usable as possible. While this is a good thing it also means some parts of the product are likely to suffer and the TT-EP01’s are not an exception to the rule.
The cheap plastic ear-tips are certainly not the most comfortable in the world and TaoTronics might have been better served throwing in a pair of the more comfortable yet inexpensive Comply Foam Buds (or anything along those lines).
The sound quality is good and a pro on this set, however the cable sensitivity messes that up a little and could be improved, while the NC is pretty good for this price.
The best feature however is by far their durability and the classy minimalistic look it comes with. In fact, such is the quality of their design and build you’d be forgiven for thinking they cost at least 3 times what they actually go for. In any case what you will most certainly realize is the degree of care that went into this look and feel.
All in all the pros far outweigh the cons and the TaoTronics TT-EP01’s are certainly worthy of consideration as a budget option Noise Cancelling Headphone.
Sennheiser CXC 700
It doesn’t come as a surprise to me when people ask about the effectiveness of Noise Cancelling Headphones and if they’re really worth buying. In a time where so much technology abounds it’s often difficult to discern between what’s useful and what’s just designed to make as much money as possible from the customer.
However if you’ve ever been subjected to the wailing of a baby on the plane while you try to fall asleep (no, I don’t hate babies, just the noise) or tried to shut out the annoying chatter of colleagues at work while doing your best to beat that fast approaching deadline then you’ll know just how valuable silence can be.
Of course that being said the next big question becomes which one of the myriad of NC headphones is worth choosing. Sennheiser is a very well known leader in the audio industry and their latest in the NC production line the CXC 700 just cannot be ignored in this search(for better and for worse).
The Sennheiser CXC 700’s are immediately eye catching, however for all the wrong reasons I feel. Had I not paid for them I would never have known how expensive (well moderately expensive really) they are just from their design and feel.
They’re made from hard black plastic and the little flashes of silver present proved to be paint instead of metal. The color combination usually works for most headphones but here it’s just not compelling.
The control box found on most in-ear NC headphones sits just below the halfway mark of the cable and to be honest has to be the most unwieldy, clunky box I’ve ever seen on a pair of NC’s. That’s not to say the box isn’t functional, nope, not at all.
The problem is, there doesn’t seem to have been a lot of thought that went into trying to make it a bit more eye catching or even remotely appealing to look at or touch. The hard plastic is fully present here with the battery cap painted silver, perhaps in a bid to make it prominent because it certainly doesn’t feel like it was for aesthetic purposes. The only exception to the full on plastic is the metal clip at the back.
The only saving grace here is that the cable is long enough for me to clip the thing to my trouser pocket or waistband away from sight. The box houses a few buttons on it, notably the novel NoiseGard switch that lets you flit between the three NC modes available on these headphones.
That switch is on the side as is the more common Talkthrough function switch, on the front is the power switch which has a volume slider inside. As useful as those switches all are, it’s a shame that the box doesn’t double as an in-line remote, a possibly fatal flaw in this day and age.
The cable is not hard unwieldy plastic like the rest of the set (thankfully) and doesn’t add to the bulk.
Another saving grace in terms of design is the in-canal design which is probably one of the best I have ever used and provides a tight seal that shuts out so much noise you probably won’t have to turn on NC in quieter environments. While I’m not usually a fan of silicon buds (I prefer foam) these ones are quite comfortable and with the sizes to choose from should prove the same for most.
Noise Cancelling and Sound Quality
There are three modes of NC here with the first one cancelling just low frequencies, the second one concentrating on higher frequencies and the third a hybrid of the two so you’ll have to pick which one you use depending on your environment.
The low end is the most effective, cancelling out about 90% of all noise in that range but the other two are pretty good as well (honestly they have to be considering how unattractive they look).
For office use and generally on my commute (talkative people) I tend to use the last mode to cover as many noise frequencies as possible.
The sound quality of the CXC 700’s is, in keeping with most Sennheiser products, very good. It’s so good that there’s little difference in sound quality with the NC turned off and the detail recreation is exhilarating in it’s authenticity.
They are a little bass heavy but thankfully they don’t muddle even at high volumes. The mid-range is clean and consistent throughout, while the highs are a little unusual in their prominence. The prominence of the highs tends to cause some harshness at high volumes that stops these headphones from reaching high-end quality which, to be fair, they aren’t.
To power the NC, Sennheiser makes use of a AAA battery that lasts for about 16 hours which isn’t much considering you’re going to have to replace them quite frequently.
Sennheiser has always made really good headphones and with the CXC 700’s they’ve mostly managed to keep that trend going.
Where the CXC 700’s fail, they do so quite miserably.
The lack of a pause/play function doesn’t do them any favors but where they disappoint most is in how they look and feel.
They don’t look like headphones that you will instantly fall in love with, but once you look past their appearance they will surprise you with near excellent functionality in terms of sound (the quality of sound is comparable to normal headphones in this price range) and Noise Cancellation, much like the plain girl/boy next door you’d be surprised what giving these babies a chance will do for you, or in this case your music.