My Review of the Audio Technica ATH-ANC23
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DavidMahler

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Hey all,
 
As many of you know I am now working at Headphones.com.  One of my tasks is to review some of their headphones.  I wanted to post this thread to share with you all that I am flabbergasted (that's right I used the word "flabbergasted"
) by one of the headphones I have auditioned.   If you haven't guessed it's the Audio Technica ATH-ANC23.  When I'm asked to review under $100 headphones, I keep the price in mind, but with these I'm not sure I had to at all.  The sound was on par with headphone at a much higher cost in my opinion.  For $80 I feel these deserve much more attention. 
 
Here's my review...
 
[size=small]DESIGN & FEATURES[/size]
[size=small]I wasn’t sure how the ANC23 would fare in my vast collection of in-ear-monitors.  Unlike most of the others which I’ve had the pleasure of trying/owning, the ANC23 include a very nice Active Noise Canceling feature.  I was initially inclined to care less about QuietPoint ANC feature because I find that most canal-phones do a good job at canceling out noise even without an ANC feature.   However, I found that because of this feature I was less inclined to push the IEMs as deep in and this lead to a comfier fit without sacrificing sound quality.  When the music is turned off and the noise cancelling feature is turned on, you can truly notice the ANC feature at work.  However with music playing, the feature was less noticeable to me.[/size]
[size=small][/size]
[size=small]I tend to prefer IEMs where the cable wraps over and behind the ear.  I just find the fit more comfortable this way and the cable also tends to be less intrusive as well in this configuration.  The ANC23 have a cable which does not natively wrap behind the ear but instead is designed to fall straight down.  Even though this is not my preference, it did not bother me because I still found the earphones themselves to fit very nicely within my ear.  I found it particularly easy to find a good fit with these earphones using the medium-sized tips included in the assortment of silicone rubber ear tips.  If I had any real quibble with the overall design it would be that the QuietPoint feature (which has a belt-clip on it for easy travel) is just a bit too close to where the cable terminates to make clipping it to my belt or pocket as comfortable as it should be.  I wish perhaps the cable were just one foot longer for this reason, but others may not share this experience since I’m a tall oneJ [/size]
 
[size=small] [/size]
[size=small]SOUND – THE IMPORTANT STUFF![/size]
[size=small][/size]
[size=small]I listened to these directly out of an iPod Classic 5G.  The sound was truly impressive.  The first thing I noticed was that the sound of the ANC23 felt more outside the head than many IEMs.  One way in which I test to see how the sound envelops the head is to use a mono recording and take note of the shape and size of the overall sound.  I found the ANC23 to present sound in a rounded and in-front-of-you manner.  Listening to Duke Ellington’s “Take The ‘A’ Train”, I felt as though I was seated before the band rather than having the band play inside my head.[/size]
[size=small]At its price-point, the ATH-ANC23 is the best sounding earphone I have yet to hear!  While I will further scrutinize the sound reproduction, my overall impression of the sound was that in terms of overall transparency and detail.  The tonal balance I found to be a touch on the warm side, but the bass showed to be fairly tight.  In some orchestral music I found the bass a little under-controlled, however the spatial presentation of these earphones still allowed for plenty of detail to make its way through.  I found the midrange to be fairly flat, but it did present some etch up in the upper spectrum of the midrange.  The highs feel extended if just slightly rolled off for a nice non-fatiguing experience.  I felt I was capable of listening for hours without breaking, using these!  I don’t like sibilance from my headphone (the harsh sound of the letter S) and I am very pleased with the fact that these earphones are some of the least sibilant which I’ve tried.  Listening to Eminem’s “My Name Is” I was impressed to hear the subtle percussion elements in the left channel be perfectly audible.  Guitars are rendered well.  Listening to “My Michelle” by Guns N’ Roses, it was very easy to focus on the left and right guitar tracks independently and differentiate them.  Perhaps a little of bit of details in the highs were just slightly lacking here, but the detail presented here is the best I have heard at this price-point.[/size]
[size=small] [/size]
[size=small]RECOMMENDED FOR….[/size]
[size=small]I recommend these for any commuter looking to have a quiet ride with their portable player while enjoying a variety of music.  I thought these were fantastic with most of the genres I threw at it (rock, pop, rap, reggae, jazz, electronic) For classical I thought these were good but I would recommend a earphone which was slightly flatter.[/size]
 
[size=small]LAST WORD[/size]
[size=small]The ANC23 is a very affordable and comfortable earphone with an excellent active noise cancellation feature and slightly warm tonal balance, perfect for the commute and long listening sessions.  These were perhaps the best earphones I have tried thus far for under $100![/size]
[size=small][/size]
[size=small] [/size]
 
EDIT: I've added a chart which breaks down my ratings with more precision for head-fiers
 
Bass Extension
7
Bass Impact
7
Bass Quality
8
Mids
7
Highs
7
Detail
7
Transparency
6
Handling of Sibilance
8
Isolation
9
Comfort
8.5
Microphonics
6
Does it need an amp?
No
Portability
10
Look & Feel
8
Accessories
8
Excels @
Most music genres
Performs poorly with
Critical listening
Recommended uses
Directly out of portable player; Commuting; Exercising
Overall value at $80 price point
10
 
 
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DaBomb77766

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Hey, nice review!  Never knew there were any ANC headphones under $100, let alone IEMs.
 
You need pictures though!  Pictures help a lot with reviews, I think!
 
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DavidMahler

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Quote:
Hey, nice review!  Never knew there were any ANC headphones under $100, let alone IEMs.
 
You need pictures though!  Pictures help a lot with reviews, I think!


Your request has been answered:)

Thanks!
 
 
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DavidMahler

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I received a PM asking for a more specific rating scale.  I've added this to the OP and will be adding them to all future headphone reviews.  
 
Keep the suggestions coming!

Thanks:)
 
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DaBomb77766

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That's a great score chart, though do you have a point of reference for it?
 
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DavidMahler

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Quote:
That's a great score chart, though do you have a point of reference for it?

Thank you! Yes I think if I could clarify the number meanings it would be helpful.  I will create something very concrete which I will be include in my profile or as a wiki perhaps.  Until this is created I will clarify a few less-than obvious things:
 
In bass impact the higher number means more bass slam, 10 would mean extreme subwoofer boom, while 1 would be the equivalent of a transistor radio
 
In bass quality this is more subjective.  I like a flat to slightly warm bass response depending on the music.

The isolation ranking I have not tested scientifically.  A lot of it has to do with the ways in which the headphones/earphones fit my ears.  To test them I use them in various commuter and office noisy environments.  The best isolation I have ever heard for your reference is when I use standard size comply foam tips with my Westones or Shures.  That, for me, is the most noise isolation, based on how they fit me.
 
In the upcoming days I will create a chart of some kind so that the numbers will be fully explained and tangible.
 
I appreciate the request!
 
Quote:
Would be good to know what other under-$100 IEMs you have heard, to give the review some context. Otherwise, the reader doesn't have any idea, especially if they own a well-regarded pair of IEMs under that price point.


Yes that would be helpful.
 
In the under $100 price range, I have used the:
 
Apple In Ear
Audeo PFE012
Beats By Dre iBeats
Etymotic ER6i
Etymotic MC5
Shure SE115
ThinkSound Rain
ThinkSound TS01
ThinkSound TS02
 
 
I hope this helps!
 
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DavidMahler

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Quote:
And you rate the ATs higher than all those phones, some of which are very good for the money? Nice. If I had not just purchased the AT CKM99s, another winner from AT in my view (but at $179), I might have taken a look at these. Could be a good gift for a traveler.


The ANC23 were really a very intriguing listen for me.  Since joining Headphones.com. I'm having the chance to audition many cheaper models which I normally wouldn't.  The ANC23 in sound remind me quite a bit of the Sony Ex700LP which I don't believe is still in production, but when I bought them they were like $300.  The detail (which a ranking of 7 for $80 is quite high by my standards) is what really was impressive to me.  They were the most detailed I have heard at the price point.  While certainly not as good as the Sennheiser IE8 which is one of my favorite IEMs, they share some of the same characteristics in terms of detail.  More on that when I do an IE8 review:)  The noise cancelling feature is really a cool addition too.  It freaked my girlfriend out.  I had her listen to a song asking her what she thought.  I had her do this without the Active Noise Control turned on.  When it was over, I flipped the noise control switch on without her knowing and she heard a thump and then everything sounded really far away and she freaked out for about 5 seconds thinking I blew out her ears.  LOL
 
Good times!:)
 
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jjmai

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Any idea how these compare with other noise canceling IEMs like sony mdr-nc33 and phiaton ps20nc?
 
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DavidMahler

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Quote:
Any idea how these compare with other noise canceling IEMs like sony mdr-nc33 and phiaton ps20nc?


Unfortunately I haven't heard the two you mention. :frowning2:
 
 
 
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bought this ATH-ANC23 yesterday.  sounds great, and the noise canceling really works.
the only thing i need to get used with its sound signature is the less roominess, less environment, or simply less soundstage.
it being fully closed/sealed is the cause.
 
well i'm coming from sennheiser PX100 (upgraded to PX100-II) so comes my bias.
however those leak noise, and not as portable.
 
anyways, each have their own purpose.
 
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I know that this thread has been inactive for a while, but I need some help with my ANC23. I can't seem to get a good fit no matter what I do. I can't figure out if it's a problem with fit or with isolation. I've tried every tip I have, including some very expensive and fantastic ones that I have never had any issues with in the past such as the JVC spiral dot tips. Nothing seem to work as I can still hear noise around me clearly. I am starting to think that maybe the microphone ports are letting sound in and have tried turning on the NC circuitry to see if it helps. No good. So people here who would rate these highly in fit and isolation; have you noticed any sound with these jammed into your ears but without the NC function turned on? Would you describe the isolation then as being as good as any other earphones? As I've said, I can't for the life in me figure out why I can still hear outside noise (without NC) no matter the ear tips. That includes comply foam, ones supplied and even ones that are not. TX400, UE comply foams... still no good. 
 
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apaar123

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Can anyone compare these to hifiman re400 or fiio ex1?
 
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slowpickr

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Can anyone compare these to hifiman re400 or fiio ex1?
 
You get the "bump an old thread" award for the day ha, ha.  I've actually been using the ATH-ANC23s on flights lately.  Paid like $26 for it.  They work pretty well and sound good.  I've not tried the RE400 but I used to have the Titan 1 which I believe is the same as EX1.  You''re talking 2 different signatures with those.  I sold the Titan 1 due to hot treble (at least to my ear).  The ANC23 is more bass heavy and has a more polite treble.  With ANC off on the 23, they isolate about the same which isn't much.  If ANC is important, obviously the 23 is the one to get.  For sound quality, the EX1 would be more open, balanced and detailed if you can handle the treble.
 
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