A few weeks ago, I purchased a pair of Audio Technica ATH-ANC7 Noise-Cancelling Headphones. Over the July 4th holiday, my family and I went to visit my grandmother in Georgia, so I got a great chance to try them out. As the title of this post suggests, I really like them.
I attempted to take some pictures of the headphones, but they turned out really bad. Rather than horrify you with my pathetic attempts, I've decided to go with some stock photos.
As one might guess from the above picture, the ear pieces on these headphones are large enough to cover your ears. This design passively reduces any ambient noise, even before the noise-cancellation circuitry is turned on. Another plus is that active cancellation doesn't need to be enabled to listen to music (unlike the mega-expensive Bose headphones). Passive mode works well enough that, in a quiet place like my office, I don't really need to enable the active cancellation. However, it's worthwhile to note that, when in passive mode, any music played through the headphones sounds slightly muffled.
Enabling active mode is done through the flick of a switch located on the left ear piece. When enabled, any sound coming through the headphones is amplified, in addition to the added noise-cancellation. The difference between music quality in the enabled and disabled states is startling. What once was muffled becomes crystal clear. You literally have to hear the difference to understand what I'm talking about. Again, in a quiet enough location, I can live in passive mode. But active mode is good enough that many people may prefer to leave it enabled all the time.
So how does the actual noise-cancellation stack up? On our trip to Georgia, I used active mode the entire time to block out all the road noise. Needless to say, I was astounded at how well it worked. In the past, I ran my MP3 player at a volume level of 14 or 15 to hear the music over the noise. Now I can run the volume down to 7 or 8 and still hear amazingly well (even music with a high dynamic range). Great sounding music, and I'm saving my ears: win-win!
This second photograph showcases everything that you get with the package. The headphones and accessories come in an ultra-nice carrying case, which is rigid enough to prevent it from being crushed. A little zippered pouch holds the various accessories: the detachable headphone cable (5 feet long), a 6.3mm stereo adapter, an airline adapter, and a single AAA battery. Yes, this pair of headphones uses a single AAA battery. Shocked? I know I was. The battery lives in a tiny compartment in the left ear-cup, neatly tucked out of sight. I partially expected the included battery to be a no-name brand, but they actually shipped an Energizer brand battery. Time will tell how long the battery life is. I haven't been keeping track of how long I've used the headphones, but a rough number of "days" will suffice.
Several other points are worth mentioning. These headphones are extremely comfortable, and I find that I can wear them for an extended period of time without causing my ears to hurt. The adjustable band at the top of the headphones also allows folks with a large cranium (like myself) to wear them comfortably, without having their brains squeezed out of their head. Yet another plus is that the headphones are surprisingly lightweight. And I can even store my MP3 player in the case (in the middle of where the headphones themselves live). Score!
Overall, I couldn't be any happier with these headphones. Note that the availability (and pricing) of these is hit-or-miss. The ATH-ANC7's were recently one of two pairs recommended by a reviewer from the NY Times (his video review is pretty funny). Due to the upswing in demand, they disappeared shortly after the review was released. They used to be available at Amazon for around $135, but they shortly thereafter disappeared. I picked mine up on eBay for just under $200 (shipping included). Amazon now lists them again at $180 (as of this writing), but I know that Dustin recently bought a pair for around $160 at Amazon. So your pricing and participation may vary, as they say.
If you're in the market for noise-canceling headphones, I strongly suggest checking out the Audio Technica ATH-ANC7's. I've been thoroughly impressed, and they are quite a step up from my $10 Sony ear-buds. :-D