Saturday, January 31, 2015

Audio- Technica ATH-ANC70 Review

The Audio- Technica ATH-ANC70's are active noise canceling headphone's that incorporate features such as a foldable and portable design, comfortable padding, striking aesthetic and, in this case, a handy play/pause button located on the left ear cup, tastefully disguised as the Audio- Technica logo.  The ANC70's compete directly with Bose's Quiet Comfort line (specifically the new Quiet Comfort 25's) but slot in at a much lower $200 dollar asking price.  So how do they stack up?

The ANC70's come with a very nice hard carrying case, Audio-Technica obviously assumes that you may want to travel with these headphones, and given their usefulness at blocking out plane engine noise, it makes sense to use them for such a purpose. The carrying case includes a relocatable zippered velcro pouch on the interior to store the included detachable cable, as well as the airplane adapter and 1/4 stereo adapter.  The ANC70's ear cups fold flat, enabling them to be stored in the hard carrying case. The carrying case is extremely well built, durable and a nice inclusion and accessory to the ANC70's.

The ANC70's are entirely plastic in their construction, despite this they feel solidly built and overall relatively durable.  They don't exude the same confidence that say, the Audio- Technica ATH M50X's display in terms of build and overall durability, however the M50X's are designed for a demanding and rigorous studio environment while the ANC70's are not.  The ANC70's are built accordingly given their target market, primarily casual listeners and traveler's.  Either way, this is Audio- Technica we are talking about, and having personally reviewed numerous Audio- Technica products, build quality and durability are not something you should be worried about with the ANC70's in any case.  The ANC70's use what I would refer to as "high quality pleather," pleather meaning plastic faux leather material. Maintaining little clamping pressure, just enough to keep them situated firmly on the head, combined with the plushy leather ear pads results in a very comfortable set of headphones.  Other than the typical ear sweat (which is a given due to the pleather material used) the ANC70's are extremely comfortable for even the longest listening sessions. The ANC70's are relatively hefty headphones (weighing in at 7.8 ounces), due to the active noise cancellation technology inside and the battery required to power them.  This does not adversely effect comfort however.

The ATH-ANC70's feature a blue LED illuminated button on the left ear cup for muting the headphones and answering phone calls if you happen to be using the headphones with a your smartphone.  I really like the inclusion of this button, as I can quickly mute my music to hear for a brief moment, rather than having to remove the headphones entirely.  The ANC70's also have a volume control slider on the left ear cup as well.  I personally just prefer to adjust volume using either the controls on my iPhone or my FiiO amp myself, but the volume slider is useful for fine volume adjustment.  As I mentioned earlier, the ANC70's take a singular AAA battery to power the active noise cancellation functionality.  They will run in passive mode without the battery but the active noise cancellation functionality is then lost and the sound quality decreases significantly (it's not something I would recommend doing other than out of absolute necessity).  Audio- Technica states that you should expect around 40 hours of battery life, and I confirm that their number is accurate.  I got around 38 hours and some change of battery life in my testing using a standard alkaline AAA battery, and around 27 to 30 hours of battery life using a rechargeable Sanyo Eneloop AAA battery.  The battery compartment is located in the right ear cup, sliding up on the ear cup cover reveals the compartment, making battery replacement a straightforward and trivial process.

Audio- Technica claims that the ANC70's reduce environmental noise by up to 90%, courtesy of their Quiet Point active noise cancellation technology.  While I am not going to delve deeply into how active noise cancellation technology works in this review, refer to one of my earlier blogposts for more info here.  While I can't apply a specific percentage value to how well the ANC70's reduced noise, I can tell you that they did a very effective job at reducing outside ambient sound.  They did tend to reproduce a noticeable amount of white noise in very noisy environments however.  While the ANC70's cancel outside ambient noise far better than many headphones on the market (I would say that they are better than average) Bose's QC 15 and QC 25's still do a better job at completely deadening outside noise. The Bose QC headphones don't stack up in terms of build however, but that's a story for another day.  I was overall impressed by the noise canceling technology in the ANC70's, when you consider that they cost around $100 dollars less (and sometimes more depending on where you buy them) than the Bose QC 25's, it becomes an acceptable compromise to have slightly worse noise canceling and better build quality with the ANC70's.

The ATH ANC70's have 40mm drivers, and because of their active noise cancellation, the ANC70's are powered by an onboard amplifier, and can therefore reach deafening volumes rather quickly.  Despite the 40mm drivers, the bass response on the ANC70's felt relatively subdued.  Bass impact was present but it wasn't the "slam you in the face" response that you get from Audio- Technica's M40 and M50X's.  The midrange is nicely implemented, accurate and possesses a nice warmth to it.  The midrange is by far the strongest frequency range on these headphones, acoustic and classical music tends to perform better than other genre's on these headphones.  The upper range was disappointingly shrill in key areas, such as cymbal crashes and hi-hat's.  It's ever so slightly too sibilant for me, making me often wish that the highs were just a little bit more rolled back.  Combined with the bass lightness, the ANC70's provided a particularly ho-hum audio experience.  In addition, playing the ANC70's without battery power further decreases bass impact, reducing the overall sound quality even further.  I would not recommend using these headphones without the battery unless you absolutely have to.  While the ANC70's are capable of playing at very loud volumes, the have a nasty tendency to get distorted when the volume is cranked too high.  This is a problem I have noticed with many other noise canceling headphones as well, leading me to believe that it's a byproduct of the necessity for built in amplifiers in these headphones, that results in distortion when high input power is present.

The ANC70's perform very well in comparison to similarly priced, and even more expensive noise canceling headphones on the market.  The noise cancellation technology performed admirably, the build quality was spot on and the included accessories (namely the carrying case) were of high quality as well. Despite this, the audio quality was relatively ho-hum and distinctly disappointing in some areas.  I often find that noise canceling headphones compromise audio quality for noise cancellation technology and other features, and the ANC70's are no exception.  Perhaps it's the noise cancellation technology itself that results in this compromise, but from a purely audio standpoint, the ANC70's performed under my expectations.  For someone who travel's by plane frequently or simply a casual listener that want's good quality noise cancellation for far less than what they would have to pay for a Bose set, the ANC70's make sense.  For someone who demands a no-compromise audio approach, the ANC70's (and noise canceling headphones in general) simply aren't going to live up to that demand.

CLICK HERE for Audio-Technica ATH- ANC70 Product Page
CLICK HERE for Audio-Technica ATH- ANC70 Amazon Product Page 

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