Although noise-canceling technology has been around for awhile now, the standard price to acquire it I’ve felt has always been a little high for the average buyer. For the past few weeks I’ve been reviewing great headsets from terrific game-peripheral manufacturers, so I wanted to branch out into something a bit more mainstream and more practical for everyone else.
Gaming headsets are great, and you probably have one that you just love, but what about when you leave your place, or when you’re traveling? I’m 27, when I’m not at our offices here in New York, I’m either on a train or a plane, heading to the next convention or tech-show. Gaming headsets (bless them) are usually pretty flashy, they are either small and just your run-of-the-mill headsets, or they have lights, microphones, tongles, giant logos or something else that I don’t really want to broadcast around while I’m traveling.
On the flip-side, noise-canceling headphones and stereo-centric headphones can be priced so far above gaming headsets that it makes them unreasonable to travel with. Or their price makes gambling on purchasing them just too much of a risky investment. With this problem in mind I set out to test the competition of noise-canceling headsets so I could review a pair that made sense for the interested buyer.
I have reviewed dozens and dozens of headsets in my career but I’m not an audiophile in the true-sense of the word. I have rules about headsets though that I think are pretty universal, and I hold brands to those rules regardless of price. I am always looking for something that is durable, that works well for its intention, is compatible with most (if not all) of my devices, and is cost-effective. I say cost-effective because yes, you can stop into the largest brand on the market, drop $300 to $400 on noise-canceling headsets and they will be exactly what they say they are on the box. The problem with larger brands however, is that even though technology kind of plateaus at a certain point, the price never seems to, and eventually you can match, or almost match, their performance with less-expensive options. That’s what I wanted to do with a pair of noise-canceling headphones.
As you can tell already, I went with the Able Planet True Fidelity headphones, but it wasn’t an easy decision to say the least. The headset market is completely over-saturated with brand-names, and with those names comes about 30 options per line. Now if you are an audiophile, then you don’t need reviews and I understand that. They usually have their favorite brand and their favorite line and that’s great. For the average consumer however, like me, we have our rules and our standards but price and actual real-world durability is definitely a factor when shopping around.
I found Able Planet through a referral and added them to my list. I won’t list off the ones that didn’t make the cut because it wouldn’t be fair to those products not go into enough detail on why they were cut, but I will go into detail on why I chose Able Planet and let you compare your own choices.
The entire reason for this list was finding noise-canceling technology so I’ll get into that first. If you are shopping for noise-canceling headphones than it’s safe to say you are around some busy environments. First of all, you have to make sure that your noise-canceling headphones can be turned on and off, that’s a convenience and a safety issue. You don’t want a pair that you will make leave one headphone off to hear announcements or train stops, or be walking around completely cut-off from sound. The Able Planet headphones have an easy on/off switch located on one of the earpieces just for this feature. This is great because headset’s switch are located on the wire, which can be bumped or broken, so the earpiece is the best place.
If you’re curious on how noise-canceling works, here is a quick note. Outside noise is detected through a microphone, the headphones then emit inverted sound-waves in your ear so that it cancels out the noise around you. It’s like the perfect white-noise machine only you don’t actually hear it. It’s not a bubble, it doesn’t turn off all sound 100% of the time, but it drowns out noise, mutes it, and creates an almost undetectable hum that allows you to ignore sound more easily and relax. You can play music or watch TV with this technology on as well, this is where the headsets really shine. The outside world is drowned out, so you can listen to music or watch a show at lower volumes, and that creates almost the perfect bubble to immerse yourself in.
The headphones themselves power the noise-canceling tech on 1x AAA battery that neatly hides into one of the earpieces. I’ve gone non-stop for a few days for about 4-5 hours a night and haven’t had to change it yet (West Wing marathons while my girlfriend has been catching up on The New Girl). This was actually part of my real world experiments for you the reader. Even though we always have about 3 screens in one room now, there is still one TV, and if you like to sit with your partner while they watch TV and you work or play games, this is the headset for you. If you would like a detailed explanation with graphs and the science behind the technology, you can check out the official product page for the headsets at ableplanet/linxaudio
If you are on the more technical side of home-audio then I can tell you the headsets have a frequency response between 20Hz-20,000Hz with sensitivity at 1 kHz, 115 dB (Off); 121 dB (On). The headsets are large, over-the-ear headsets that are extremely lightweight. They are comfortable even after hours of use and do not get hot or begin to pull, or slide on your hair (I have medium length hair so it’s a problem at times with cheap headsets). They also didn’t weigh-down my neck after a few hours on a plane. Whether it was with my iPhone, iPad, while gaming or TV watching, I really thought they out-performed even some of the more expensive brands. I liked that they are minimal in design, nothing flashy or cheap looking. They are over-the-ear yes, but they don’t look like you are listening for radar pings in a 1940’s war movie. They are well designed and perfect for traveling, by perfect for traveling I mean no one will even look twice at them or you.
The headphones themselves are shipped in a case that has everything you would need when you leave the house or travel. There is the actual headset (that twist so they lie flat), 1x AAA battery (I love when companies include these), there are two connector wires so you can pick which you like better. Your options included are (one has a dial for volume (+/-) basic setup, the other has a +/pause/- trio of buttons) both are included and both are standard connectors for tablets, phones, computers and other standard devices. There is also a 1/4 Home Stereo Adaptor if you need it and an airplane adapter, which I thought was just an awesome addition because I would never have thought to buy one. The hard shell-case is custom made for the headsets and has a zipper-net insert for all the accessories I just mentioned.
So another great fact that I’ve learned about the brand is probably one of their best sellers, the policy for returns is that the headphones are covered by a limited lifetime warranty once the product is registered with Able Planet. Probably the best thing you could hear when shopping for headphones of this quality.
These headsets also come in at $139.99, that is about half-off the leading brand-name choices that are out there right now. Like I said before, there is nothing wrong with those top-tier first-market brands and their prices will get you exactly what’s inside the box, but when I’m talking to friends and other writers that travel as much as I do, these are the first I would suggest you checkout when shopping.
more info: ableplanet