Low-priced headphones really cut out the noise – USA TODAY
Travelers and commuters face a challenge when trying to find peace and quiet with their music, as low rumblings of engines or crying babies drown out their tunes. While noise canceling headphones can ease the pain, they’ll often set you back a bit with their high price. The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC27x (MSRP $99.95) headphones provide an entry-level step for consumers on-the-go who don’t want to shell out $300.
One of the best things about the ATH-ANC27x is that they function as both active noise cancelers and as traditional headphones. The left ear cup is where you’ll find the “On/Off” switch for the noise cancellation, which requires a single AAA battery. There’s no need to turn on the noise canceling or even insert a battery if you’re in a quiet environment. Even better, the detachable cable means you can use the ANC27x as just sound mufflers, without being tethered by the cable.
As we have seen with other noise canceling headphones at this price point, the ANC27x could have provided awesome sound with tacky noise canceling, or stellar noise canceling with low-tier sound. Instead, it strikes a middle ground, providing decent iterations of both. If you’re using the ANC27x on a plane or train, turning on the canceling will slightly reduce rumbling, bassy noises like an idling engine and really shut down crying babies and screeching brakes. However, certain high-mid range noises—like the “ding” of the fasten seat belt indicator or an urgent ringtone–will still be very audible. And the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) can be switched off at any time.
THE SCIENCE: See how these headphones scored in lab tests
While ANC is on, the ANC27x offer a balanced sound that many people will enjoy. Though it isn’t the most bass-heavy profile on the market, the ANC27x still provide solid bass support. Likewise, middle and high range frequencies like vocals and cymbals will be relatively easy to hear.
Unfortunately, this isn’t quite the case with ANC turned off. Turning it off drops a lot of sub-bass sounds, cutting down the overall fullness of the music. It also disrupts high-mid frequencies, so you’ll notice a loss of clarity in vocals, cymbal splashes, and melodic guitar lines. For the sake of audio quality, it’s definitely better to keep ANC on when possible — unfortunately, this means you’ll need a continuous supply of AAA batteries.
The band material isn’t the most comfortable I’ve ever worn, but the ear pads at least are very cushy and padded, with lots of give. Unfortunately, they’re a little on the small side. Since they don’t envelope the entire ear, the ANC27x will probably bother people with sensitive heads. I’m really shocked by how thin and flimsy this cable feels, too, but it is removable, so if it breaks, you can replace it.
All-in-all, the ANC27x are a little on the cheap side — both in design materials and actual performance. If you do a lot of traveling and you tend to be rough on your cable and connectors, these headphones may not hold up over time. While the soundscape they provide is decent, the fact that it’s notably worse without the battery-powered active noise canceling is a big turn off in terms of everyday use. For their sale price of $76, however, you could also do much worse. The sound is definitely good enough for most users, as is the noise cancellation. If you’re looking for a simple noise cancellation option on a budget, keep the ANC27x headphones on your radar.