REVIEW: AUDIO-TECHNICA ATH-ANC700BT WIRELESS NOISE CANCELLING HEADPHONES
Audio-Technica's ATH-ANC700BT sells in Australia for just shy of $350. This over-ear release is locking horns with the likes of the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC, Sony's WH-H900N and the Bose QC25. How does it stack up?
Wireless Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
My past few Audio-Technica reviews have spoiled me; the flagship ATH-ADX5000 was a luxurious treat, and the wireless ATH-DSR9BT was a technical masterpiece. Both of these top-of-the-range headphones paid a fitting tribute to the decades of experience and research invested in the Audio-Technica brand.
So now, let’s change gear and look at something a little more affordable: The new ATH-ANC700BT. Coming in just shy of $350 in Australia, this over-ear release is locking horns with the likes of the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC ($329), the Sony WH-H900N ($399) and the Bose QC25 ($299).
The wireless noise cancelling market is now a fiercly contested section of the headphone marketplace, with some big players and worthy contenders all trying to stand out from the crowd.
Has Audio-Technica done enough to step up to the competition with this new model? Let’s find out.
I’m always a sucker for matte-black finish headphones, and the ATH-ANC700BT nails this aesthetic perfectly. The shade of black used here is much slicker and more understated than the silver and black trim used on the ATH-M50X.
The usual trimmings and ports can be found on the left earpiece: Micro USB charging port, on/off switch, and a 3.5mm headphone jack for regular listening. It’s worth mentioning that the wireless flagship Audio-Technica DSR9BT didn’t have a headphone jack, so I’m glad to see it return.
The entire assembly is produced from a sturdy plastic, which feels durable to the touch. Weighing 250 grams makes these 50 grams heavier than the Bose QC25ii, and 20 grams heavier than the Sennheiser HD 4.50.
For an over-ear headphone, these are better at folding than a gymnast. Generally speaking, some portable headphones fold inwards or even have a collapsible yolk. However, these not only do both but also have rotatable cups. Long story short: these can fold very well, which enable them to take up a very compact footprint inside a bag.
Inside the headphone
The drivers inside the ATH-ANC700BT are 40mm and don’t feature the same Pure Digital Drive technology as the ATH-DSR7BT and ATH-DSR9BT headphones.
To handle noise cancelling, Audio-Technica has equipped the outside cup of the headphone with four microphones, placed cleverly and deliberately in locations that avoid a feedback loop with the drivers inside.
There is no NFC chip inside the headphone but using the traditional Bluetooth pairing methods with my smartphone was very quick and easy. I didn’t have any issues at all pairing to my Galaxy Note 8.
The battery life is rated to 25 hours with ANC and Bluetooth on. This is an impressive claim and considering that I’ve already used these on several 8- hour flights without depleting the batteries, I’m inclined to believe it. They take around 5-hours to fully charge.
The team at Audio-Technica have thankfully included support for AptX, making this pair of headphones a worthy adversary to the Sennheiser HD 4.50 in the codec department. In this reviewer's opinion, AptX is crucial for a Bluetooth headphone that takes itself seriously. Thankfully, the ATH-ANC700BT also supports SBC, and AAC for iPhone users, and a whole host of Bluetooth profile support (including A2DP, AVRCP, HFP and HSP).
Using the headphone
Switching the headphone on greets you with a series of beeps which also act as status indicators. From there, the ANC700BT will cheerfully chirp and beep you through the pairing process and will indicate when the touch controls have been used to adjust volume, change tracks or disable noise cancelling.
Placing them on my head, I realised that these headphones don’t have the same firm clamp as the B&W's PX or the Sennheiser PXC 550, but were still firm enough to leave me feeling confident that they won’t fall off too easily. The memory foam pads do a great job of giving just enough pressure to give a solid seal, without being uncomfortable.
The learning curve of the touch control is quite steep. I struggled to get every one of my attempted taps and swipes to register, and it wasn’t entirely intuitive to determine precisely where on the cup I needed to be tapping. Some of my attempts to adjust the volume often resulted in track skipping, and when it was time to skip to the next song, occasionally I would pause the music completely.
Some controls are easier to learn than others (for example, it’s easy to remember that placing your entire hand over the left earcup will turn on/off the noise cancelling), but overall, I found myself always needing to look up online how to do certain gestures.
It’s also worth noting that when these are charging, you can only use them with a 3.5mm cable (not Bluetooth).
On a long flight, I was happy to wear these for several hours without needing a break. Kudos to Audio-Technica, as this is not an easy task to achieve with noise-cancelling headphones.
I’m glad to report that the famous Audio-Technica house sound has made a return here, in portable noise cancelling form.
Listening to tracks such as Huldra - other version by Gidge, I'm reminded of the Audio-Technica ATH-DSR7BT and ATH-DSR9BT (which were released at the same time as the ANC700BT). The soft piano samples don’t quite have the same crisp nuance as the DSR series, but the 700BT still maintains a gentle, warm and faithful reproduction. With noise cancelling turned off, the grungy, driving sub-bass delivers with more power, and the midbass gains some momentum, leading to some great “toe-tapping” moments.
Switching over to something a little more low-key, I tested the ANC700BT against the subtle details of the song Avril 14th by Murcof and Vanessa Wagner. This song is deceptively complex and is jam-packed full of huge dynamic range, tiny nuanced details and unusual stereo placement. Listening to this tune with the ANC700BT (with noise cancelling switched off) delivers an engaging experience, with no smaller element or detail of the song being missed. The sharp bass stabs and layered sampling isn’t muddy or smeared at all, and there are more than a few moments here that the ANC700BT shows off its imaging prowess.
For a real challenge, I pitted the ANC700BT against the aggressive midrange and thundering bass of Valhalla by RL Grime. This song is often a favourite of mine when testing out larger concert or stadium sound systems (the day job). It showcased the very impressive midbass capability of these headphones, but also demonstrated some limitations in the overall soundstage reach and size. Nevertheless, a very fun listen either way, with some deep and rumbling bass blasting away.
The noise cancelling ability of the ANC700BT is very capable and roughly on-par with its Sennheiser HD 4.50 counterpart. Going head-to-head, the ANC of the Audio-Technica headphones slaughters the AKG 490, but stops short of beating the class-leading Bowers & Wilkins PX, or Bose QC35-ii. If you are going to take these on long flights, or train rides, you will easily be able to defeat low-droning engine noise with these.
With noise cancelling switched off, these are quite a fun headphone with plenty of bottom end to keep bassheads happy and an equally capable midrange. With noise cancelling switched on, they can become a little lean and thin but will do an adequate job of delivering a reduction of background noise when travelling.
The ATH-ANC700BT is a very solid contender for this fiercely busy price bracket. With some excellent bass levels, flexible storage options and ridiculously long battery life, you should consider these as a budget-friendly companion for your next flight or daily public transport commute.
For more information visit Audio-Technica.
- Type: Active noise-cancelling
- Driver Diameter: 40 mm
- Frequency Response: 5 – 40,000 Hz
- Maximum Input Power: 1,000 mW (for wired connection)
- Sensitivity: 98 dB/mW (when noise-cancellation used)*, 95 dB/mW (when noise-cancellation not used)*
- Impedance: 150 ohms (when noise-cancellation used)*, 35 ohms (when noise-cancellation not used)*
- Battery: DC3.7 V lithium polymer rechargeable battery
- Battery Life: Max. 25 hours (when Bluetooth and noise-cancellation used)**
- Max. 30 hours (when only Bluetooth used)**
- Max. 45 hours (when only noise-cancellation used)**
- Max. 1,000 hours (standby)**
- Charging Time: Approx. 5 hours (for 0-100% charge)
- Weight: 250 g (8.8 oz), without cable
- Cable: Detachable 1.2 m (3.9') cable
- Connector: 3.5 mm (1/8”) stereo mini-plug, L-shaped
- Accessories Included: 30 cm (1') USB charging cable, protective pouch
- Type (Microphone): Condenser
- Sensitivity (Microphone): -44 dB (1V/Pa at 1 kHz)
- Frequency Response (Microphone): 50 – 4,000 Hz
- Polar Pattern (Microphone): Omnidirectional
Constantly keeping himself busy, Matthew is a production manager, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, Head-Fi fanatic, coffee enthusiast and all-round cool Dad.