Gadgets ANC_9_Hi2__45617.1338600087.1280.1280

Published on December 8th, 2012 | by Greg


Sounds Of The Season: Audio-Technica ATH-ANC9

The holidays mean travel, And travel means noise- airplane engines and crying children, not to mention music that is cheery the first few times but can quickly become a bit grating. We’ve been spending quite a bit of time in subways, buses, and trains as well, and they have their own sound issues. That’s why we can definitely appreciate active noise-cancelling headphones, especially ones as good as the latest from Audio-Technica.

We’ve been grateful for some peace and quiet, thanks to the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC9s. While most over-the-ear headphones offer some degree of passive noise-cancelling, simply by blocking out the sound, you’ve probably heard of or tried out active noise-cancelling models as well. The only major downside is the need to worry about another set of batteries, but the trade-off is worth it.

This pair includes a nifty new system that lets you choose between three modes, one for transit and especially designed to block out low-level hums, another for crowded spaces that targets the mid-frequencies, and a third aims to create a “pristine, peaceful environment conducive to studying’. We found ourselves setting it primarily on the third mode and leaving it there, but they do actually make an audible difference if you’re on a vehicle with that low-frequency thrum. Controls are on the earpiece, and easy to adjust without taking them off.

The other absolute essential for noise-cancelling headphones is comfort. You’ll be wearing these for long periods of time, and generally comfort is a higher priority than sound quality or even weight. Active cancellation technology requires microphones and batteries, so they weight a bit more, but aren’t bad at eight ounces without battery. We loved the memory foam ear pads, which are better than most materials at shutting out sound and still offering a nice, enclosing feeling. And speaking of mics, there are actually four separate mics here, two on each earpiece.

Included in the box is a pretty typical case, adapters for both 1/4 stereo and old-school airline plugs, as well as two cables, one each with/without in-line controls and a smartphone-compatible microphone. We made some calls, and found the quality to be more than acceptable. And music playback is excellent, comparable to anything in the $200 price range- bass was punchy, and we’d describe the sound as crisp and balanced. Serious listeners will want to disable noise canceling when not needed, and it’s easy to do (plus audio works perfectly fine in passive mode, if batteries are removed or dead). Controls were standard, as were the cables themselves. Battery life is rated at 25 hours or so (we never ran out in a few weeks of testing), and the system uses two AAAs.

We’ve tried out other QuietPoint gear over the years, and Audio-Technica products have been proven to last. The only major downsides to these were the size and styling- they’re fairly bulky, don’t fold up quite as neatly as some others that we’ve seen, and no one would claim that they’re sexy. But all that aside, they are some of the best-performing active noise-cancelling headphones we’ve seen. Available now, online and in stores, for $280.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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