Invasive searches, long lines, obnoxious passengers, delays, high cost –these are just a few of the reasons a lot more people are sticking close to home this Summer. Another issue that travelers cite as one of the most irritating, is noise.
While the days of cocktails served in elegant lounges onboard your next flight are probably reserved for a fortunate few and you’re lucky to get a bottle of water and a bag of pretzels, at least technology works in your favor to make life a bit easier. While you can’t stop a toddlers’ melt-down, or “loud talkers,” or even the problem of distracting noises in your work or home environment, you can use effective, noise cancelling headphones to deal with “noise pollution.” These modern devices literally melt away a lot of the ear-busting, headache-inducing, stress-raising noise, no matter where you are. Pop on a pair, put on some music, and save your sanity!
Recently, I was sent two pairs of Audio-Technica headphones: the ATH-ANC33 iS QuietPoint® Active Noise-Cancelling In-Ear Headphones (Srp $79.95), ( in-ear headphones with ear buds) and Audio Technica Ath-ANC70 QuietPoint Active Noise-cancelling headphones, (srp. $199.95) (over the ear style headphones). Both are designed for use with smart phone. Both performed well in a variety of noise situations. Here’s my report:
The ATHH-ANC70 QuietPoint ATH-ANC70 earphones definitely impressed me under both extremely loud and reasonably noisy conditions. I tried them in a NYC subway, in an automobile with several conversations going on, and at home when construction noises were filtering in from the street.
These headphones combine some of the best features of traditional headphones with some travel-friendly features. For starters, the ear cups are quite comfortable. They are large but not so huge that you feel like Dumbo. The headband is padded so it doesn’t hit the top of your head with a “thud!” and it’s adjustable to fit most head sizes (perhaps not a small child). The ear cups swivel and fold nicely in the included, sleek, round, zippered case (along with the detachable cable with 1/8-inch (3.5 mm) mini-plugs), ¼-inch (6.3 mm) adapter, and an airline adapter.
These headphones are full sized but they are reasonably lightweight, a boon to those who have to carry heavy carry-ons. They are billed as “active noise cancelling” headphones (more on that in a moment) and are touted as effectively reduce distracting background noise by up to 90%, while still offering the audio quality that comes with the Audio Technica name.
The design of the headphones is fairly traditional, but there is a modern feature that is nice. If you want to take a phone call or talk to someone, you can simply press the illuminated logo button on the earcup to do so — no fumbling with cord controls – Nifty!
I think it’s important to share a bit about how active noise-cancelling headphones work. Since I’m not really a tech-geek, I took this information from the Audio Technical web site, and reduced as much of the tech-speak as I could:
How do active noise-cancelling headphones work?
Audio-Technica’s QuietPoint® headphones use active noise-cancelling technology to reduce distracting background noise. Active noise-cancelling headphones have components not present in ordinary (Passive Noise Reduction) headphones that simply cover your ears to help block out external noises. To activate Audio Technica’s noise-cancellation features, you have to turn that feature on. You can also use these headphones as regular (passive noise reduction) headphones without the noise cancellation feature (for example, if your batteries run out during a trip).
Microphone – Noise-cancelling headphones feature a miniature microphone in the earpiece that picks up ambient noise (such as traffic, air-handling systems, etc.)
Noise-canceling circuitry – Electronics in the ear piece create a noise-cancelling wave that is 180° out of phase with the ambient noise. This wave acts like a noise eraser: it cancels out the annoying sounds that surround you without diminishing the audio you want to hear. The result…a peaceful enclave to enjoy the music or movies of your choice.
Battery – The noise-cancelling electronics are battery-powered.
Do These Headphones Really Reduce Noise?
The short answer is “YES” they do. The press literature I received claims that QuietPoint® active noise-cancelling technology reduces environmental noise by up to 90%. I can’t quantify this amount, but with the noise cancellation feature enabled, the ambient noise around me was blurred considerably. I could still hear what was going on around me (it’s not like being in a sensory deprivation tank) but the “din” was dulled enough so that I wasn’t terribly distracted by it. As with a lot of noise cancelling headphones, without music playing, there is a bit of a “hiss” through the headphones. But once I started playing music, I barely noticed any other noise, thanks to what Audio Technical describes as: “powerful large-aperture 40 mm drivers with rare earth magnet systems for impactful bass, accurate mid-range and extended treble.”
As to that impactful bass, again, I’m not going to make any claims. I’m not an audiophile. What I can say is that music sounded crisp and clear and I could hear all the details, such as triangles, or hand claps — the kinds of things that I don’t normally even pick up with my regular earbuds that I normally wear to listen to music on my iPod and smartphone. The balance was quite good while listening to “In Thee” by Blue Oyster Cult, but the bass seemed was very light on an orchestral version of “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Bach. The opposite was true with “Firework” by Katy Perry. These three pieces of music are quite different, so it just demonstrates that the headphones will pick up different things depending upon how something is recorded. The important thing in my opinion is not that the headphones produce concert quality sound, but that when listening to music with the noise cancelling function enabled, the outside world just sort of “melted away” and I felt surrounded by sound of my own choosing. That, was a joy and that’s what I really want when choosing noise cancelling headphones! I also really liked the “press-and-talk” illuminated logo button feature which allowed me to do more than one thing without having to remove the headphones. When I talked on the phone, my listener on the other side had no problem hearing me clearly.
There is a power/low battery indicator light. The battery life is fairly good, although I would have preferred a rechargeable battery. This is a personal preference, as I don’t like to have to carry additional batteries with me. On the other hand, if you are somewhere where you can’t recharge via a USB, a battery is a much better choice, as you can just pop in a new one and continue without interruption. The earphones, I should mention,work with tablets, smartphones, music and DVD players, laptop computers, in-flight entertainment systems and other devices.
Here are the Technical Stats in a Nutshell:
|Frequency Response||10 – 25,000 Hz|
|Quietpoint® Active Noise Reduction||Up to 20 dB|
|Battery||AAA (alkaline or rechargeable)|
|Battery Life||UP to 40 hours, typical (alkaline)**|
|Weight||218 g (7.7 oz), without cable and battery|
|Cable||Detachable 1.2 m (3.9′) cable with 3.5 mm (1/8″) stereo mini-plugs|
|Connector||3.5 mm (1/8″)|
|Accessories Included||6.3 mm (1/4″) stereo adapter; airline adapter; AAA battery; carrying case|
* Specifications measured with headphones in active mode. Specifications are subject to change without notice.
** Battery life for a rechargeable battery is based on the condition of the charged battery and will be less than a non-rechargeable battery in most cases.
For those who just prefer a lightweight ear bud, I recommend the Audio Technica ATH-ANC33iS QuietPoint® Active Noise-Cancelling In-Ear Headphones (Srp $79.95). These too, have active noise reduction (by up to 90%) and still have quality sound. These headphones also have some traditional features, and a few modern bells & whistles.
One of the things some people will really like is that the ear buds are uniquely shaped with tips that you can adjust to small, medium or large but they are mounted on a round black plastic disk that seals against your ear canals to block the outside noises. In all reporting honesty, I found them rather uncomfortable, although effective. An L-shaped 3.5mm plug is at the other end of the earbud cord, and an airline adapter and a travel bag are also included.
On a positive note, when tested on a noisy NYC subway, the earbuds on their own did a decent job of dulling noise, As with the ANTH 70 headphones, these help you silence the world around you (for the most part — I could still hear subway noises and some conversation but it was diminished) and they are much more portable. Just roll them up in the included bag or stuff them in a pocket or purse,
These ATH-ANC33iS in-ear headphones also feature an inline microphone and controller for answering calls and controlling music. The mic and controller support smartphones, iPhones, iPads, many iPods & other compatible devices. The microphone will do a good job of picking up your voice, you don’t have to speak directly into the microphone. You can also put the music on pause to answer a phone call.
Like the larger headphones with ear cups, you can use these ear buds with the noise cancellation function turned off. To turn on the noise cancellation feature, powered by an AAA battery ( for use up to 60 hours), you simply flip the switch on the small, black box controller and a red indicator light will turn on. The controller has a clip so you can wear it on a belt, but as a woman, I found it cumbersome. I tried clipping it on my purse but it kept flopping over. I simply stuffed the entire unit in my handbag but then I couldn’t get to the controls which are high up on the cord and not easily reachable, The controls are not particularly user-friendly either. My other complaint was that the cord wasn’t very long and not tangle-free. One nice feature is that there is a volume control knob on the side of the noise-canceling box so you don’t have to deal with it on your device.
The Bottom Line: These ear buds did a good job in the noise-cancelling department, but I found them a bit cumbersome to use and not as comfortable as I would like if I was going to be wearing them for hours. However, given the price and the compact size, portability, and for all that their features, , I give them two thumbs up!
Here are the Technical Stats in a Nutshell:
|Driver Diameter||13 mm|
|Frequency Response||20 – 20,000 Hz|
|Quietpoint® Active Noise Reduction||Up to 20 dB|
|Battery Life||Up to 60 hours, typical (alkaline)|
|Weight||26 g (0.9 oz) without battery|
|Cable||1.3 m (4.3′) with 3.5 mm stereo mini-plug|
|Accessories Included||Airline adapter; AAA battery; protective pouch; Comply™ Foam Tips (1 pair); ear pieces (rubber tips) (S/M/L size)|
Specifications measured with headphones in active mode.
For more information on these headphones, visit the Audio-Technica Web Site
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