Review – ATH-ANC23 Noise-Cancelling Earphones & ATH-ANC7b Noise-Cancelling Headphones, Plus the Classic ATH-AD900 Open-air Headphones from Audio-Technica

Audio-Technica is one of the most highly respected names in audio, and their line of headphones and earphones is well known. We have reviewed their noise-canceling units in the past, and this year saw revisions to those product lines. We are big fans of in-your-ear-canal earphones; they reduce outside noise, which means you can play at lower levels with better bass and audio response. The newly revised ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint® Active Noise-Cancelling In-Ear Headphones bring increased performance at a lower price. They reduce distracting background noise by up to 90% while offering a solid, neutral sound that makes listening to music in noisy environments much easier. Powered by a single AAA battery, they work well and are comfortable to boot. They work even if the battery is dead which is an important consideration, and the provided tips were comfy and sealed well. We have tested them on planes, trains, and automobiles, and were a pleasure to use with a rich sound that doesn’t exaggerate and proved equally capable no matter the source material.

Not in the mood for in-ear models? Consider the ATH-ANC7b QuietPoint® Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones that fit over your ears. Like the earphones, Audio-Technica claims similar noise-reduction ability, and this model improves upon its predecessor with better noise cancelling, coupled with a better soundstage and improved bass response. They come complete with a carry case, an adapter for those pesky airlines that favor the dual plug-into-one-mini scheme, and a nice build quality. We have tested them as well on even more planes, trains, and automobiles! While they do fold to reduce their size, and the supplied case is quite strong, they require a bit more of a commitment to carry compared to a set of earphones. We found them comfortable without fatigue from extended use. One nice feature is that they will still work if the batteries die, which is not always the case with over-the-ear noise reduction headphones from other manufacturers, and I have found myself thinking I turned off a battery between trips, only to discover a dead one, so it is a feature I’ve had to use before and consider to consider. The noise reduction is quite good, and effectively quieted the ambient noise in a variety of different aircraft. In many ways you could feel the family resemblance to other Audio-Technica products despite the completely different architecture, the handling of audio when switching from earphones to headphones were more similar than not. The soundstage was open and airy, and the bass response didn’t seem muddled or boomy. We did find a sweet spot, which revealed itself at high volume levels where there was a bit of muddling, but back off a tiny bit and it vanishes. Some noise cancellation headphones seem to put the audio performance second to the noise cancellation, but in the ATH-ANC7b the audio quality is excellent that so that wasn’t a concern. They proved even-tempered, and made traveling a lot less stressful.

We also revisited one of their classic models, the ATH-AD900 Audiophile Open-air Dynamic Headphones. Now that many serious listeners - both youths and adults - are into large over-the-ear headphones in contrast to the almost-invisible earbuds that were more popular a few years ago, it seems that full-size headphones are the new black. The ATH-AD900 features large open-air transducers, covering the user’s ears with room to spare. They feature an open-back construction so that the headphones don’t isolate ambient sound but offer open, airy, less-constrained sound. The soundstage is open, without a sense of closeness or overly intrusive or claustrophobic sound that typifies many closed-back designs. The headphones are incredibly comfortable and light, with a unique design that doesn’t allow one to adjust the size of the headphones; instead there are self-adjusting “wings” that position the phones on your head to the proper fit. This works well for the most part, but on small or narrow heads they feel as if they are sliding down too far. After a short while, you get used to the unique design and the slipping feeling disappears. One advantage is that they are very light, and the materials for the ear cups are almost as soft as a down pillow!

Like all open-back designs, these don’t offer complete isolation from outside sound and have a bit of sound leakage. It’s probably not enough to bother most users, but even a little sound escaping from the headphones might not make them the best choice for a library or a monastery! For years, open-air designs were known for great sound at the expense of bass response, but this changed in the late 1970s, with the introduction of new designs. The ATH-AD900s have a rich, tight, melodic bass that doesn’t hint at exaggeration. Compared to other reference headphones they seem neutral, yet musical, and even after listening there was no fatigue. In a time when some audio products have a very short shelf life, a few others stick around longer because they deserve to, which is an apt description of the ATH-AD900 Audiophile Open-air Dynamic Headphones.

The Audio Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint® Active Noise-Cancelling In-Ear Headphones, ATH-ANC7b QuietPoint® Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones, and the ATH-AD900 Audiophile Open-air Dynamic Headphones are all Mac Edition Radio Holiday Picks!

Harris Fogel, posted 12/27/11

For more information on the ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint® Active Noise-Cancelling In-Ear Headphones visit:

For more information on the ATH-ANC7b QuietPoint® Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones visit:

For more information on the ATH-AD900 Audiophile Open-air Dynamic Headphones visit: