Shut Up and Sing
By Andy Sim
When it comes to keeping out the racket, Bose's QuietComfort 3, Sony's MDR-NC500D and Sennheiser's PXC 450 are some of your usual suspects in the line of traveling headsets. Likewise, Audio-Technica will be adding to that count in very much the same vein. Having reviewed their ATH-ANC3 in-ears two months back, it's about time we followed up with their headphone counterpart, the QuietPoint ATH-ANC7.
What's in a ATH-ANC7
The ATH-ANC7 is fundamentally a pair of active noise-cancelling headphones packaged in a sturdy, black zippered canvas bag. Measuring approximately 210mm, the casing is compact enough to fit comfortably into a suitcase and can even be carried around on its own. On top of that, the Japanese audio specialists have thrown in accessories like a gold-plated 6.3mm stereo plug and an airline adapter. Rather ingeniously, its detachable 1.6m cable transforms the QuietPoint into a standalone noise-canceller. This is somewhat useful if you wish to snooze without fussy cables.
For the headphone itself, the span of its headband is adjustable at both ends, but the leather padding is noticeably shorter compared to similarly constructed models like Sennheiser's much older PXC 350 for example. The ANC7's cups are cushioned with soft leather which makes them easy on the ears when worn, and additionally, the cups are able to swivel 90 degrees for improved comfort. A simple slider switch sits on the left cup exterior to enable ANC7's active noise-cancelling features as well as signal amplification.
Performance is a Mixed Bag
To activate its noise cancelling features, a single AAA battery is required. But fret not should the battery fail midway through your flight, for the ANC7 also labors in passive mode, albeit with much softer audio yields and noise cuts. Upon putting the headphones on, we found that its ear cups alone were sufficient to block out a small detail of ambient ruckus without its juice turned on. Even so, we subjected the QuietPoint through our usual simulation of environmental noise with the aid of the Denon HI-FI Check CD, and in this aspect, the ANC7 worked out to be a bitter sweet affair. Allow us to explain.
The QuietPoint didn't perform very well when powered on without audio inputs, for a greater part of the 125Hz, 1kHz and 8kHz frequencies managed to slip through. However, the headset strangely exhibited a different persona when we hooked it up to a Creative ZEN Stone Plus to act as its music source. Even with music played back at subtle decibel levels, the headphones attenuated the low, mid range pink noise and even a healthy portion of the higher frequencies with great aplomb. In this manner alone, the ANC7 is one up against its in-ear buddy, the ANC3.
Honestly, we were surprised at the QuietPoint's acoustic performance. On heavier tracks like Goo Goo Dolls' "What A Scene", the band's vocals, kick bass, cymbals, and even the guitar scratches sounded distinct and well isolated. More importantly, the bass levels produced are full and punchy without distorting or muddying other instruments. Its internal amplification also means that a comfortably loud output is attainable at a mere level 10 of the Zen's volume bar.
To wrap it up, the QuietPoint's large-aperture 40mm drivers didn't disappoint when it came to audio performance. The ear cones are comfortably sized without being too large such that it leaks sound unnecessarily, and if it wasn't for its less than stellar active noise-cancellation performance, the QuietPoint would most probably deserve a page somewhere in the annals of the noise-cancelling gods.
- Drive diameter: 40.0mm
- Magnet: Neodymium
- Sensitivity: 109 dB/mW
- Frequency response: 10 - 25,000Hz
- Impedance: 260Ω
- QuietPoint Active Noise Reduction: Up to 20dB
- Battery type: AAA (alkaline)
- Battery Life: Up to 40 hours
- 200g without cable and battery
- Accessories included: Detachable 1.6 m cable with 3.5 mm stereo mini plugs, 6.3mm stereo adapter, Airline Adapter, AAA battery, Carrying case with attached accessory pouch
- Price: S$325