In one of the final Gadling gear reviews of 2009, I’ll show off the Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC3 noise canceling headphones. The ATH-ANC3′s use active noise cancellation to drown out the noise around you. The exact technology behind noise cancellation is pretty complicated, but all you need to know is that these headphones use tiny microphones to listen to the sounds around you, and use something called “antinoise” to cancel out engine noise, crying babies and nagging seatmates.
The ATH-ANC3′s consist of a small control box, a regular 3.5mm headphone jack and 2 earpieces. The earpieces are slightly larger than “normal” earphones, but are extremely comfortable. Included with the package are 2 additional sets of replacement ear-gels, so you’ll always be able to find the perfect fit.
Since the earpieces are “in-ear”, they provide a very good sound seal, which is the first level of defense against unwanted noise. Even when not powered on, the headphones block out a considerable amount of sound. The control pod houses a single AAA battery (one is included in the box). The best part of the electronics is that the headphone still work when the battery dies. This means you won’t lose your music if you forget to bring a spare battery.
Controls on the pod are simple – power and monitor. The monitor button allows you to listen to the outside noise, without having to remove the headphones. This is of course perfect if you need to listen to a cabin announcement.
Audio performance from the QuietPoint ATH-ANC3 headphones is quite simply spectacular. Music sounds vibrant, with plenty of bass. When you enable the noise cancellation circuit, you obviously hear a minor reduction in sound quality, but unlike with some other headphones, this reduction is very minor. In addition to this, the ATH-ANC3′s produce virtually no background “hiss”, something many other noise canceling headphones suffer from.
The noise cancellation rating from Audio-Technica is 20dB, or up to 90%. While the ATH-ANC3′s may not kill all engine noise on your flight, they will greatly reduce it, to the point where your flight (and music) becomes much more comfortable.
The headphones come in a very nice hard carrying pouch. Included in the package is a half meter extension cable, airplane jack adapter, a AAA battery and an assortment of replacement earpieces.
When you start shopping for noise canceling headphones, you need to make several choices – you can go with passive headphones (that only isolate the noise), you can pick large on-ear headphones, or in-ear ones like the ATH-ANC3′s. The advantage of in-ear headphones is that they work well for side sleepers making it possible to take a nap on your flight.
The sound quality of the Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC3 headphones is fantastic, as its ability to cancel outside noise. But perhaps its best feature is the price – the MSRP (from Audio-Technica) is $169.95, but smart shoppers can often find them for as low as $50. We have regularly featured them as one of our daily deals here on Gadling.
To be honest – even at the $170 price point, these headphones are very much worth it. They are compact, run forever off a single battery, and produce exceptional noise cancellation. But when you find them at $50, you are practically stealing them.