Frequent fliers have a tricky challenge when it comes to picking out headphones. Finding headphones with a travel-friendly design that are also comfortable and provide great sound, with some ability to block out ambient noise, can be tough. Add in a budget of about £80 and you can forget about getting all those features in one package. Or maybe not. Audio Technica's ATH-ANC1 QuietPoint headphones hit that price point and solidly address all of the above considerations.
The ATH-ANC1 headphones are clearly designed with the traveller in mind -- they're among the most compact on-ear models we've come across. The adjustable metal headband is very thin, and covered with flexible black plastic. You might think the band's lack of padding, which serves to eliminate bulk, would make it uncomfortable but, surprisingly, that's not the case.
Although they don't provide the cushiest fit possible, the headphones aren't overly tight and are very lightweight. Plus, the earpieces, which are also impressively compact, at 43mm in diameter, are padded with a soft leatherette material. The one potential downside is that the headband doesn't seem completely sturdy.
Descending from each earpiece is a thick, flexible black cable that combines about 30cm down at a Y-junction, where it becomes even thicker and more durable. Follow the cord of the ATH-ANC1 another 53cm and you'll get to the integrated noise-cancellation module. We're really happy with the placement of this feature, as it's ideally positioned for clipping to your pocket or belt, as opposed to your shirt. Another cable, measuring an additional 25cm and terminating in a gold-plated straight plug, serves to connect to an audio device.
In addition to the noise-cancellation feature -- a pretty simple affair, with a battery compartment, on/off switch, and built-in clip -- Audio Technica includes a few other extras in the package. The ATH-ANC1 headphones come with one AAA battery, a 51cm extender cable, a dual-pronged aeroplane adaptor, and a soft-sided zippered pouch with two compartments. You can also use the headphones with or without the noise-cancellation feature activated. That's not too shabby, considering the affordable price tag.
Come on, feel the noise cancellation
Although the ATH-ANC1 headphones work just fine without the noise-cancellation feature turned on, sound is rather hollow and lacking when you listen in this way, but the fact that they provide even decent audio without battery power is a plus. Still, flipping the power switch makes a huge difference. Music immediately becomes deeper, richer and more open. The bass response is kicky without being overpowering and the mid-range has that warm, buttery quality that we crave. Even the highs are impressively detailed, given the affordable price point, although they may not be quite crisp enough for some listeners.
The ATH-ANC1 headphones' capability to block out ambient noise particularly pleased us. We tested them in a busy coffee shop and were happy to note a significant reduction in the endless, mindless chatter surrounding us. That said, these headphones aren't the most efficient we've tested -- we had to have the test MP3 player turned up nearly all the way to get the volume we crave, and we don't listen to music at high levels. If you like your music loud, these headphones may not satisfy you.
We were impressed with the level of audio and balance offered by the Audio Technica ATH-ANC1 QuietPoint headphones, and we think they'll work well for those who enjoy a wide variety of music genres.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet