The Best Noise Cancelling (ANC) Bluetooth Headphones "discussion and comparison" Thread
Apr 7, 2015 at 4:32 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 110

Giogio

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Hello guys,

in my Huge Comparison thread (see my signature) and in n00b2's High End BT Headphones thread we (I mean WE ALL Head-Fi'ers) compare and discuss the Best Bluetooth Headphones. Also the ANC ones.
But some people only look for the ANC ones and asked me (or asked generally) for a dedicated thread.

So, here we go.

As already true for the Huge Comparison, this thread is NOT meant to be "my work" but OUR work. A collective place, made by all of us.
Not only because I do not have the time for taking care of two threads (I opened this just because asked to), but because I strongly believe in the concept of collective team work.
I am just me. We are, more than me :D
The more we are, the more objective (and funny) all this will be.

So, you are welcome to post here your thought and opinions about the ANC Bluetooth Headphones you've tried, or your speculations and questions about those you are interested in.

In case you want to compare some headphones, please try to be a bit methodic and as much objective as possible, and avoid simplistic ratings like "good-bad, better-worse", specially when talking of the sound (which is quite more subjective than the ANC).
Have a look at the first post of my other thread, where I explain a possible methodology of testing, and how to separate the subjective from the objective.

Now, let's start with a list of what's out there. For convenience I will divide the Over Ear, On Ear, and In Ear models (something which since a while I wanted to do in my other thread too, but was too lazy :p).
The list in Alphabetical order (the only way Beats can get to the first place on a list I make). A list in "order of excellence" will eventually come later, if we all find it needed.
Near each headphone I will link, with a number, the most relevant posts about that headphone.

@Everybody: please suggest whatever is missing! I may be ignoring or forgetting the existence of some models...

Around the Ear:
Beats Studio Wireless
Definitive Technology Symphony 1
Logitech UE9000
Parrot Zik
Parrot Zik 2.0
Plantronics Backbeat Pro
Samsung Level Over
Sennheiser MM550-X
Sennheiser Momentum Around the Ear Wireless (M2 AEBT)
Sony MDR-ZX770BN: 1

On Ear:
Astro Gaming A38
Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H8
Phiaton Chord MS530
Sennheiser MM450-X
Sennheiser Momentum On Ear Wireless (M2 OEBT)
Sony MDR-ZX550BN
Sony MDR-ZX750BN / MDR-ZX750DC

In-Ear:
?

Coming soon:
Denon AH-GC20



So, let's start the discussion :wink:
I will link in this first post the most interesting reviews, discussions and comparisons which you will post over time in this thread.
 
Apr 7, 2015 at 6:07 PM Post #3 of 110

Giogio

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Are you sure that's needed?
It seems to me that it would be a bit dispersive.
I think it's enough to have the on ear and over ear and in ear categories separated but in one thread.
Also because some people do not have a preference for on or over ear, and would just like to know which one has got better anc.
 
Apr 7, 2015 at 8:00 PM Post #4 of 110

Deckardk

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^ Needed? Splitting the old thread isn't needed. Whether or not it's wanted will depend on who you ask.

For me, if I'm interested in ANC then they must also be over ear for passive NC. Some might not see it that way since over ears are uncomfortable for them. Perhaps there should simply be a oddball shaped ear thread? :p
 
Apr 8, 2015 at 8:44 AM Post #6 of 110

n00b2

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I find it quite ironic that in the category "Around The Ear" you have listed the model known as the Momentum "On Ear" Wireless.
tongue.gif
 
 
Edit: Fixed slyly I see. Nice.
 
Apr 9, 2015 at 12:48 AM Post #7 of 110

Giogio

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Yeah, thanks, you were right, my mistake.
I've also added the old Sennheiser. Although old, their sound signature is very different from the new ones (much colder) and the noisegard seems to be the same or almost.
Some people will prefer them.
And the 450 is still one of the most portable ever...
 
Apr 18, 2015 at 4:12 PM Post #8 of 110

turbobb

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SONY MDR-ZX770BN (user manual)
 
Just got this in and here are my initial impressions (on iPod 5G with dedicated playlist with most material 320kbps or above in AAC or Apple lossless), will flesh this out over time:
 
COMFORT
These are by far THE most comfortable headphones I've tried to date;
  1. not as light as the Bose AE2w but the cushions are deeper so my ear lobe doesn't touch the insides of the cups
  2. TRULY circumaural, I don't think I have large ears but I do have lobes and the pads can completely encircle them comfortably; inner dimensions are: length = 64.5mm (2.53") and width =43mm (1.69") at the widest point (near center, it tapers narrower towards the bottom where the lobes would be)
  3. there is sufficient cushioning beneath the headband but could have benefited from just a little more
  4. clamping force is ever so slightly on the firm side but nothing that causes me discomfort - it's sufficient enough so that when I tilt my head fore/aft the headphone stays in place securely
 
ANC
The ZX770BN offers three different modes of ANC: Air Travel, Ambient Noise (think restaurant, coffee shop or bar) and Ground Travel (bus/subway, etc). I've only tested this at a restaurant right now and it does a decent job in that setting; by comparison, it's not as good (based on memory) as say a Bose QC15 or even the Parrot Zik. One inherent problem with this headphone is the passive noise isolation which is better on the right side; the left-side lets more ambient noise in. I thought it was the seal of the ear pads so I flipped it around and sure enough, the left side still lets in more ambient noise. Not sure if it's specific to my unit but I recall another headset (can't remember which) that also had this problem.
 
UPDATE: 4/24 - Used these on the way to work and the ANC makes an appreciable difference in dulling low frequencies. While waiting for the bus, the rumble of traffic passing by was cut down to nearly 30% and likewise about the same for the train. Within the train itself, with ANC turned on, it cut down the rumble so much so that I could just make out the conversations around me. In the office, it did a great job of subduing the ventilation system as well as ambient sounds of the city emanating through the windows which I sit right next to. Please be realistic about how ANC works, it's tuned to cancel mostly low frequencies so don't think that it'll be 100% dead silent. No ANC headphones (the highly vaunted QC25's included) can do that currently. Who knows, maybe in the future, technology will progress where it can completely cancel all noise frequencies but for now, let's say I'm very satisfied with the ANC on this set. Will try to borrow my friend's QC15 and Zik for a direct comparo in the future.
 
Of note though is that with ANC on, since the mic's are constantly active and given their placement towards the front edge of each cup, it picks up a bit of wind noise and feeds that back into the headphone so in effect negating whatever benefits ANC produces. Not a big deal but something to keep in mind since these occurs with even mild breezes.
 
 
SOUND
(NOTE: Please read my updates in EDIT section) I'm not an audiophile by any stretch of the imagination but I have reasonably good hearing even if not the most trained and if it makes a reference point, I've been singing the praises of the AF62's before Tyll placed them on IF's WOF. Anyways, here are my initial impressions: the ZX770BN features solid bass with decent punch (if a little loose), lush mids without being over-bearing (which I can't stand) but the treble is the Achilles heels of this set. I used to think that the ATH-M50 offered a clinical listening experience but now I realize, it was merely sibilant and bright, whereas this is truly a clinical listening experience. It makes the music sound a little cold and the treble seems "artificial". 
 
EDIT: I had not read the manual nor had the most extensive listening session before posting my initial impressions and thus didn't know that the ZX770BN has three sound quality modes as follows:
 

“Priority on sound quality” mode: 3 times

SBC (high quality), AAC, or aptX is selected automatically.

 

“Standard” mode: 2 times

SBC (high quality)

 

“Priority on stable connection” mode: 1 time

SBC

 
It's supposed to ship in the Standard mode but I'm reasonably certain that mine shipped with "Priority on stable connection" thus my complaint about the Treble (I should've taken a hint when I connected to my PC and didn't get the aptX indicator). Anyways I flipped it to Standard mode and it was much better! Then I flipped to "Priority on sound quality" and wow, I'm in LOVE! These cans sound great! Whatever gripes I had with the treble that made it sound artificial/clinical (same experience I had with the original Parrot Zik with none of the EQ or sound processing applied) is now resolved and the bass has tightened up slightly (though still just a tad loose).
 
Is it ready to replace my current favs (AF62 / S1+), maybe not just yet but that pecking order will need to sort itself out eventually. For now, suffice to say, I am TREMENDOUSLY pleased by this purchase and really couldn't be happier. I can listen to these straight up without any EQ as the sound profile suits my taste just fine.
 
CONTROLS/PORTS/LED's
The buttons are well placed and thought out. They are all located around the bottom rim of each cup:
  1. left side features (from back to front when worn): BT/power LED, large power button, micro-USB port, headphone jack, ANC LED, NC button, MIC, Reset button
  2. right side has (from back to front when worn): fantastic combo control switch (push down to play, pause, answer/hang-up calls | slide up for Rew or down to Fwd tracks (it'll seek/scrub when held), vol +/- button
  3. the LED's are just bright enough to be seen (even in direct sunlight) without being overly intrusive (need to verify this at night later)
 
ACCESSORIES
There's a headphone cable, micro-USB charging cable and a cloth carrying case. As I like to point out, if the FSL 360 can come with a nice hard shell case @ it's original price point of ~$70 (now ~$40), all mfg should take note and be able to include one at these prices as well. 
 
Overall I'm pretty happy with it especially at price paid (wouldn't have jumped on it at standard MSRP).  EDIT: After I changed the audio quality mode, and knowing what I know now of the sound, there's a very good chance I would've shelled out MSRP for these.
 
More to come...
 
Apr 18, 2015 at 5:29 PM Post #9 of 110

Giogio

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  SONY MDR-ZX770BN
More to come...

Linked in the first post, thanks, interesting report. Let us know how things evolve, and, if possible, how much can the sound be improved with EQ.
 
Apr 19, 2015 at 7:41 PM Post #10 of 110

turbobb

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Was in a bit of a rush yesterday as I had to leave for an appt before posting my impressions but after spending some extra time with these and reading the manual, I discovered that the ZX770BN features three different audio quality modes. It's supposed to ship in Standard (SBC high quality) but I strongly feel that mine were in the lowest mode. Flipped it to the best mode and WOW! I am seriously impressed! These rank up there along with the S1+/AF62 as my current fav BT cans. Really couldn't be happier with these! 
L3000.gif
 
 
Have updated my initial impressions above and well try to turn into full review over the coming weeks.
 
Apr 20, 2015 at 8:39 PM Post #11 of 110

hp79

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Did you buy the Sony for a bit over $120? I just bought mine too, hehe.
I tried on the Sony and it sounds a little weak on the active noise canceling.
 
In the past, I tried Bose QC20 in-ear $300 ones for just one day, and I thought those did a really great job at noise cancelling. Now I don't actually remember now how much better those were :frowning2:
 
Can anyone comment on the noise canceling ability for the Sony?
 
Also, where's that sound mode switch? I better read the manual.
What do you guys do if you want no music, but just the noise canceling? Do you plug a dummy 2.5mm earphone jack? Mine just keeps turning off if I don't play any music through BT and just try using noise canceling.
 
Apr 24, 2015 at 5:32 PM Post #12 of 110

turbobb

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  Did you buy the Sony for a bit over $120? I just bought mine too, hehe.
I tried on the Sony and it sounds a little weak on the active noise canceling.
 
In the past, I tried Bose QC20 in-ear $300 ones for just one day, and I thought those did a really great job at noise cancelling. Now I don't actually remember now how much better those were :frowning2:
 
Can anyone comment on the noise canceling ability for the Sony?
 
Also, where's that sound mode switch? I better read the manual.
What do you guys do if you want no music, but just the noise canceling? Do you plug a dummy 2.5mm earphone jack? Mine just keeps turning off if I don't play any music through BT and just try using noise canceling.

 
@hp79 - yup, got these for around the price you mentioned. I also updated my review above with add'l thoughts on the ANC after traveling to work and using them on the bus, train and in the office (search UPDATE: 4/24).
 
Sound mode switch is activated with the headphone off and holding the + (or -) button while powering on (link to manual is also above).
 
As for just using ANC, just keep it connected to a BT source. Mine hasn't shut off if I don't play music (but is actively connected to BT source).
 
Apr 24, 2015 at 6:40 PM Post #13 of 110

hp79

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I found that I can leave it connected as a Headset for the phone (for phone calls) and then just use noise canceling. I can also have music stream from any other source too. One thing it can't do is to automatically connect to two sources at the same time for music. My Moto bluetooth receiver can do this which is pretty neat feature. You have to manually disconnect / connect if you switch between two music sources.
 
Enabling APT-X you hold the VOL+ button while powering on, and after two times you don't have to do this any more. It's not even written in the manual. The manual only gives you a link to an online manual where then you can find this feature. I have no clue why Sony didn't just list it in the printed manual in the first place.
 
My ears gets a bit warm since it wraps around the whole ear. It also picks up grease/oil from my face and the leather starts to get shinny. I hope it doesn't get too gross. This is one reason why I wanted to get Bose QC20 in-ear ones. Those were really comfortable and noise canceling was excellent too. I think this Sony does about 70% of what Bose QC20 does. It's not bad.
 
I tried it in Starbucks and it cuts out a lot of ambient noise, but I could hear other people talking now and also the music playing in the store comes through. I then tried wearing a cheap in-ear for some music and then put this Sony over it. That even helped a lot. So if you want real quietness, I think sponge ear plugs or in-ear earphones plus this Sony would do a good job combined.
 
Apr 25, 2015 at 6:06 PM Post #14 of 110

Giogio

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I can also have music stream from any other source too. One thing it can't do is to automatically connect to two sources at the same time for music. My Moto bluetooth receiver can do this which is pretty neat feature. You have to manually disconnect / connect if you switch between two music sources.

What do you mean with "stream music from any other source"?
I would also like to understand better what your moto can do. Do you mean that it can play two different songs at SAME TIME from two different devices? Or dou you mean that it can stay connected at same time with two different devices, but you can only play music from one device at a time?
About the first option I am not aware of anything which can do that. I am only aware of the Avantree Priva which is a BT transmitter which has got Dual Link and you can connect two BT headphones to it and it will send the same music to both headphones. Which means, you connect it to one source (with a 3.5 adapter) and it will send the music played by that source to 2 headphones at same time. People use it often to watch TV together.
The second option is called "multipoint". If you need this, you will have to buy other headphones.
The Definitive Technology Symphony 1, the Sennheiser Momentum Over Ear and On Ear Wireless, and the B&O BeoPlay H8 are the only 3 which I am aware of, which have both Multipoint and ANC.
I have tested the H8 and they are ok, but unless you really need that kind of look, I find their price to be not proportioned with what they offer.
I will test the two Momentum next week.
And in May it should be launched the new Denon AH-GC20, which will also be Multipoint and have ANC.
 
Apr 25, 2015 at 7:28 PM Post #15 of 110

hp79

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  What do you mean with "stream music from any other source"?
I would also like to understand better what your moto can do. Do you mean that it can play two different songs at SAME TIME from two different devices? Or dou you mean that it can stay connected at same time with two different devices, but you can only play music from one device at a time?
About the first option I am not aware of anything which can do that. I am only aware of the Avantree Priva which is a BT transmitter which has got Dual Link and you can connect two BT headphones to it and it will send the same music to both headphones. Which means, you connect it to one source (with a 3.5 adapter) and it will send the music played by that source to 2 headphones at same time. People use it often to watch TV together.
The second option is called "multipoint". If you need this, you will have to buy other headphones.
The Definitive Technology Symphony 1, the Sennheiser Momentum Over Ear and On Ear Wireless, and the B&O BeoPlay H8 are the only 3 which I am aware of, which have both Multipoint and ANC.
I have tested the H8 and they are ok, but unless you really need that kind of look, I find their price to be not proportioned with what they offer.
I will test the two Momentum next week.
And in May it should be launched the new Denon AH-GC20, which will also be Multipoint and have ANC.

No, I didn't mean playing two streams at the same time. With Moto Stream, it can connect from multiple bluetooth sources but plays from only one at a time. They call it "heist" feature, where whoever plays a song takes over the stream. For example, I'm streaming music from my laptop over bluetooth while my phone is also connected to Moto Stream. When I play music from my phone in the middle, it takes over and pauses the song from the laptop and plays the song from my phone's bluetooth stream.
I thought something like this would be possible with Sony but it's not. It's one-to-one connection. If I want to switch sources, I have to disconnect from one source first, then take over from another.
 

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