There was a time when noise-cancelling headphones were hard to find and wireless options were non-existent. But that's changed over the years with a number of audio companies creating great noise-cencelling headphones that are bereft of cables. Audio-technica's ATH-ANC700BT QuietPoint Wireless Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones tick many of the boxes travellers and music lovers need. Here's Gizmodo's road test.
I paired the ATH-ANC700BT headphones to two devices - an iPhone X and an iPad Pro. As a regular traveller these are the two devices I'm most likely to use on a long flight for licensing to tunes or watching a movie or catching up on whatever TV series currently has my attention. Pairing was straightforward. With the iPhone, which was the first device I connected, the headphones were ready to pair as soon as I turned them on. The headphones go into pairing mode automatically when they are powered on so adding a second device was easy. In fact, the ATH-ANC700BT can be paired with up to eight devices.
For those moments when you can't use Bluetooth - the ATH-ANC700BT uses Bluetooth 4.1 - there's also a 3.5mm cable for connecting to your preferred devices.
Charging is via a regular micro-USB cable with a full charge delivering up to 25 hours of playback time with both active noice cancelling and Bluetooth in use. If you turn off the noise cancellation, that goes up by another five hours. If you use a wired connection with noise cancellation on, audio-technica says they ATH-ANC700BT will last an impressive 45 hours on a single charge.
Ordinarily I wouldn't spend a lot of time on a headphone's controls, But the ATH-ANC700BT is a spacial case. Other than the on/off switch on left side, there aren't any other buttons. Changing the volume, skipping through tracks and toggling the noise cancellation are all handled by gestures.
Tapping the centre of the left side housing is the play/pause control and will answer or hang-up incoming calls. A tap-hold on the centre region initiated Siri. tapping the area above and believe the centre of the left side changes the volume and swiping up and down skips back and forth through tracks. Placing your hand over the left side toggles the noise cancellation.
Tapping the right area to initiate the controls was tricky at first and took some time to get used to. Also, I found myself accidentally initiating Siri or skipping tracks when I was adjusting the position of the headphones.
This is all great but the headphones I received lacked an instruction manual. I had to go on a fishing expedition on audio-technica's website and the documentation was not easy to find.
But, more annoying, is that there's no easy way to figure this out as the ATH-ANC700BT lacks any indication on the headphones themselves.
I review a lot of products and think I can figure things out quite quickly. But in their desire to make a clean product, audio-technica has made a product with a steeper-than-necessary learning curve.
I work from a home much of the time and my desk is adjacent to a large, and somewhat noisy, fish tank. The filter has a steady hum that I can tune out most of the time so I figured that would be a good test for the noise cancellation. For comparison, I also used a pair of Bose QC15 headphones. These are wired but serve as a reasonable comparison.
In a reasonably quiet environment, the ATH-ANC700BT delivered great sound. For example, listening to dialog in Jessica Jones, voices were crystal clear and the underlying soundtrack was very clear - I was able to immerse in the series far more than when watching on TV, even with a descent sound system.
With music, I listened to several different genres from both my own collection and from Spotify. I don't like really heavy bass from headphones The ATH-ANC700BT delivered a listening experience I enjoyed. Playing music through a decent set of headphones, that dulls background noise does help immersing yourself in the music.
The noise cancellation was effective and blunted the hum of that fish tank filter as well as the Bose headphones.
If you're looking for great sound, the ATH-ANC700BT deliver.
The ear-cups on the ATH-ANC700BT are soft and comfortable. The head-band is adjustable and can accomodate skulls far bigger than mine. There's some padding on the band. After a few hours, they were still comfortable to wear although, in a warm environment, my ears did get quite warm.
Price, availability and recommendation
At $349. the ATH-ANC700BT QuietPoint Wireless Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones represent a significant investment. Sound quality was excellent and the noise cancellation features work well. They are comfortable and the battery life is excellent.
Would I buy them? I already own a couple of pairs of noise cancelling headphones and the audio-technica ATH-ANC700BT are great. If I was on the market, they would be on the shortlist.