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Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 Noise-Cancelling Headphones

(with Brian Dixon)

Coming from a name like Audio-Technica, with its background in high-performance audio for home and professional use, we had high expectations for the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones.
And we were not disappointed; With a list price of $219, but a street price of around $119, these headphones clearly delivered better sound than other noise-reduction products in the $100-plus price range (see previous posts on Headphones).

Audio-Technica rates the QuietPoint active noise reduction as up to 85%, a similar claim to competing products -- although A-T goes further to spec the reduction as up to 20 dB. The performance is certainly at least as good as other sets we've tried.

But the big difference is in the better, more accurate sound. Noise reduction can result in a somewhat muddier sound, especially for higher frequencies. But these A-T headphones had no such problem -- the highs came though well.

We were most impressed by the clarity of the headphones. The lows and mids sound very rich and satisfying, and the high end was very pronounced without being grating or tiring to the ears.

See my Portable Audio Accessories Gallery for information on headphones and earphones.

    Find the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 Headphones on Amazon.com

More on sound and design ...

To try out the headphones with a more classical sound, we listened to the English Concert Choir singing Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass -- a large, orchestral setting where we could hear each instrument distinctly, without the overall sound becoming mushed together. And a solo guitar piece from Pepe Romero had a nice fullness without being distracting, probably from some EQ processing with the noise cancellation.

At the other extreme, we listened to some heavier rock material, comparing high-end studio production to home studio recordings. Again, there was a pleasant fullness/richness to the sound, both with the noise cancellation active and inactive.

Audio-Technica describes the difference in these headphones as coming from the large-aperture 40 mm drivers, and the neodymium magnet systems that A-T designed to deliver deeper bass, extended treble and higher fidelity. Apparently, it works.

Otherwise, these Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 Headphones have a similar external design to others that we've looked at. They're comfortable for longer-term wear, with padded earpieces that enclose the whole ear. They're designed for travel, with earpieces that rotate flat and a 5-foot detachable cord. They still work as headphones with no power to listen to music in passive mode, and you can use them without playing audio by switching them on to quiet the background noise in your environment.

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