Despite the fact that I review all manner of audio gear, including expensive and exotic components that costs more than many cars, the product type I get asked about the most is wireless noise-cancelling headphones. Not surprisingly, this is a very crowded product category, with many options to choose from. It's a buyer's market, so to speak. But most of the discussion these days seems to be around pricier options (in the $300-and-up range) and ultra-affordable alternatives (around $100 or less). That leaves a lot of middle ground to be explored. And that's exactly where the ATH-ANC700BT fits in, as the middle of the Audio-Technica noise-cancelling lineup and competitively priced at $199.
Upon first taking the ATH-ANC700BT out of the box, they struck me as a bit plasticky, but they held up well over several months of regular use without any signs of damage or meaningful wear. They have a clean, matte black aesthetic, with the Audio-Technica logo molded into each of the large earcups, which comfortably fit around my ears. The ear cups fold and swivel into a compact, flat package for travel. While the included travel pouch does not provide much protection for travel, the twenty-five-hour battery life is above average and outlasts long travel days. The left earcup has stereo mini jack and micro-USB jack, as well as a small power switch and LED status lights. Notably missing are control buttons, as the ANC700's left earcup is touch sensitive and most functions can be controlled by touch rather intuitively.
I used the included cables to first charge the ANC700s then connect them to my iPhone (with the somewhat awkward Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter) as well as my Questyle QP-1R. I have a very large head, and many headphones uncomfortably squeeze my cranium, but the ANC700 was light and comfortable while remaining securely in place. My eleven-year-old son's head is much smaller, and while he did not engage in any heavy exercise with the headphones, they also seemed to stay in place on his noggin without any issue. The 8.8-ounce weight makes for less inertia to move them off your ears. The large ear cups also form a good seal, which provided good passive noise isolation.
The sound quality varied depending on whether the connection was wired or Bluetooth, and – to a lesser extent – whether noise cancelling was engaged. Listening to Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy" form her album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (Tidal on iPhone, FLAC file on Questyle, Darkroom/Interscope) the bass was sharp and tight, vocals were clear with a wired connection. When I switched to Bluetooth, everything felt a bit sluggish and less dynamic. Turning on noise cancelling also reduced the amount of bass output without increasing clarity.
I also listened to "Havana" off of Camila Cabello's self-titled album (Tidal for iPhone, FLAC file on Questyle, Epic). This track is a more natural sounding recording. With the ANC700 wired to my Questyle player, they were fairly well balanced other than a dip in the upper midrange/lower treble region, which was exacerbated when using a Bluetooth connection to my iPhone. As before, noise cancelling and wireless mode reduced the bass output and shrunk the soundstage.
The ANC700BT's noise cancelling was moderately effective at reducing road noise and the background engine and wind noise from a plane. I would use it on a plane or in a car, but otherwise kept it off as the sonic tradeoff was not worth it to me in static environments.
Competition and Comparison
Sennheiser's Momentum 3 ($399) and Bose QC35II ($349) both offer noticeably better sound quality and noise canceling, but they should at twice the price of the ATH-ANC700BT.
The Cleer Flow ($279) has similar street price to the Audio-Technica, but has slightly less battery life. On the other hand, it benefits from a well-tuned sound with a mid-bass bump and effective noise-cancellation.
Wireless headphones are hitting the market with great frequency, be sure to keep an eye on HomeTheaterReview.com's headphone page to keep up to date.
The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC700BT offers solid performance to those who are willing to plug them and skip the Bluetooth connectivity. The wireless playback and noise cancelling options mean you will take a hit in sound quality for this convenience. While I would love to have all my listening options available without any impact on sound quality, the rational part of me knows that this will take more engineering and cost more. I can easily live with the options provided with these headphones. When I am in a relatively stationary position without excessive background noise, the wired connection provides me with good fairly well-balanced sound. When I am on the move and have road noise or similar to deal with, the wireless and noise-cancelling options are worth the trade-off, especially at this price. In the end, the ATH-ANC700BT provides the listener with options to suit their needs at a competitive price.
• Visit the Audio-Technica website for more product information.
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• Read Audio-Technica Launches the ATH-DSR7BT Wireless Headphones at HomeTheaterReview.com