The ATH-ANC3 noise-canceling headphones from Audio Technica feature make for great travel companions thanks to active noise cancellation, which basically entails using built-in microphones to take an audio sample of surrounding ambient noise and then creating the exact opposite noise to cancel the ambient noise out. Sound amazing? It is! So how well does it work on such a tiny pair of headphones?
Let’s find out.
The ATH-ANC3 headphone kit retails for around $100 and includes what you see in the above photo there: the headphones themselves, three sets of variably sized earpieces, an extension cable, airplane connector, AAA battery, and travel case.
Audio Technica’s product page claims that the headphones are able to cancel out up to 85% or 20 decibels of background noise.
Without getting into the nitty gritty, here’s a major selling point for these headphones; They’ve now replaced my $400 Sony noise-canceling headphones for traveling. Instead of carrying around big, over-the-ear headphones, I’m now quite content with keeping the little Audio Technica headphones in my bag.
The actual noise canceling works pretty well on an airplane, blocking out a lot of the really loud engine noise. Where the headphones really shine, though, is in the car. I wore them on a three hour car ride (I wasn’t driving) through the Colorado mountains recently and the difference was astonishing. Road noise all but disappeared.
The size of the headphones, too, is key. It’s as though Audio Technica said “Let’s literally add as little bulk to the headphones as possible.” The result is a little tiny bump that holds a AAA battery, an on/off switch, and a “monitor” button that you can use to temporarily cut off the noise cancellation. No fuss, no muss.
The three sizes of earplugs is a definite plus. When I first tried the headphones, too much noise was seeping in so I switched to the largest size and heard a huge difference. The earplugs are pretty comfortable, too. I’m able to wear them for about four hours straight before I feel like I need to take them out for a while.
Audio quality is really good – as I said before, these $100 headphones have replaced a pair of $400 headphones. Bass is rich without being overpowering and mids and highs are clean without distorting even at high volume. You probably wouldn’t get an audiophile to choose these headphones over a super-expensive pair that have to be custom-molded to each user’s ear canals – BUT! – you’d probably get them to say, “Wow, these are only a hundred bucks?”
Finally, the carrying case is a nice addition. It’s hard-backed and fits my iPod Touch perfectly, so I’m able to keep all my audio gear in one place when traveling.
Some may find that the 85% noise cancellation isn’t quite enough for them. That’s the one area where I sometimes miss my Sony headphones, as they’re able to really, really block just about everything out. The Audio Technica headphones block most of it out, but not all. They’re still far better than conventional headphones, though.
Also, the battery life is rated at 50 hours but I found that I’d often forget to turn the headphones off and the battery would drain down for an entire day. It’d be nice to maybe have some sort of auto-off function if the headphones could sense that they weren’t plugged in to anything or that no music was being played through them. That, or just automatically turn off after six hours or something. I’ve already gone through a handful of batteries because I forgot to turn the headphones off. Luckily – and this is a huge plus – the headphones work as normal, non noise-canceling headphones when turned off. So you’ll still be able to listen to music if they die on you.
If you travel a lot, you’d be hard pressed to find a better set of noise-canceling headphones for the money. The great sound quality, all-in-one travel case, small headphone size, and relatively low price make the ATH-ANC3’s a winner.
ATH-ANC3 QuietPoint Active Noise-Canceling In-Ear Headphones [Audio Technica]
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