Published on December 8th, 2012 | by Greg1
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.