The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7b over-ear, active noise cancelling headphones look great, out of the box. I was really excited to open the package when it arrived, because the packaging is part of any product’s allure. I wasn’t disappointed. The box prepared me for the treat inside.
I’d been looking forward to testing this headphone because the spec looked good and it was recommended to me, even though it wasn’t on my shortlist of units to test. This Audio-Technica unit turns out to be so good, I don’t know how I missed having it on the list.
The 7b unit is an enhanced version of the ATH-ANC7 and it has an environmental noise reduction up to 85%.
The ear pads are a nice size for my ears (which aren’t small) and I was able to wear them for two hours straight without any discomfort. One problem I always look for in headphones is – can my ears fit inside them without being bent or squashed.
The ear cans both swivel, a good thing for packing, for those times you want to pick up the unit to listen, without actually putting them on, and for adjustment to your head.
Two identical cables were supplied. A good thing, because Sally vacuumed the office without warning me and the vacuum cleaner destroyed one of them. Luckily, this unit has plugs on both ends of the cable, so it just pulled out of the socket and didn’t do any other damage. This isn’t the first time I’ve had a problem with a cable, so I think this is a great feature, because on many other headphones, this would have been a major issue.
Each cable has a straight 3.5mm plug on one end and a 90-degree 3.5mm plug on the other. The 90-degree plug is perfect to fit my Canon XH-A1 video camera, which I used in testing. There is a 3.5mm to 1/4″ adaptor for the home stereo and dual-point plugs for airline use.
The ATH-ANC7b headphones have an impedance of 300ohms and the tip ring sleeve plug fits my XH-A1 video camera, iPhone and the home stereo. Typical impedance for iphone buds is 32 ohms, but the iphone has enough power to drive the ATH-ANC7b.
Stated bandwidth is 10Hz to 25kHz, a wider range than I can hear, wider than either the camera or iphone can output, but equal to the stereo. It is a nice range that sounded great with the different styles of music I tested it with. Output level was good, at the stated 109dB/mW.
The bass is nice and solid, the highs are crisp and the midrange is full. Whether I was listening to a sad violin, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Guns ‘n Roses or a symphony orchestra, the sound was clear and crisp. It didn’t match a set of good surround sound speakers, but close enough.
On turning on the noice cancelling circuit, headphone volume rises and some of the bass drops out, but the sound was still excellent.
The specs say background noise drops by up to 85% (20 dB). The first place I tested the phones was at a local market, using the XH-A1 camera. There was plenty of ambient noise, both in the street and with a loud band playing. With the noise cancellation turned off, separation betwwen the external sound was already good, due to the nicely fitting over-ear padding, which gave a really good seal all round.
When I turned on the noise cancelling switch the first time, I was surprised to hear the level rise by what seemed like 6db, so I had to turn down the camera output volume. Cancellation of the external sound was amazing, a huge improvement over the on-ear headphones I was used to using with the camera. I was able to tell immediately whether the sound quality of an interview was good or whether changes were needed. This was a lifesaver several times, when recording interviews.
In the car, road noise was almost not noticeable, but then I only tested it in a mercedes which is fairly quiet anyway, so I rolled down the window and that gave it more to compete with. Without the noise cancellation, there was definitely some road noise competing with the music, but switching on the noise cancellation took care of most of that. Listening to a talking track was also quite good, but the road noise was slightly more noticeable.
The AAA battery for the noise-cancellation circuitry fits neatly into the swivel-opening earcup door on the right side. This is a great feature that makes the unit a pleasure to use because it doesn’t have extra cables of a battery box. The on-off switch and indicator light are on the left side.
The Audio Technica ATH-ANC7b headphones are a delight to use and I thoroughly recommend them. They are definitely a keeper and any videographer or news reporter who is not using over-ear headphones really needs this model.
The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7b over-ear, active noise cancelling headphones get a 5 star rating.
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