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The AblePlanet True Fidelity NC200s come entombed in that hard plastic that's impossible to open without a sharp implement. It doesn't matter how strong you think you are, if you don't have scissors, you're not getting the NC200s out.



We used to think our strength knew no bounds, but we were wrong.

We were wrong.


Once you've exhumed the headphones, you'll notice that they look a lot like the QC3s and every other set of on-ear active-cancellers.



Oval ear cups, leather-printed padding, Y-shaped junction between the cups and band...

pretty standard fare.


 

Flip 'em over and you can see the cup padding. Underneath the padding is a thin oval of fabric, which keeps the innards protected from ear projectiles or something.



If your ears are like ours, they aren't constantly jettisoning garbage;

the NC200s' little foam shields are more than enough protection.


 

The active cancellation feature is controlled by a switch on the right ear cup. There's also an LED to let you know the feature is getting power.

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The switch is somewhat small, but it's still easy enough to find by touch.

 

The underside of the left ear cup is where you plug in the cord. In the photo below, you can also see the small hole for the active cancellation's microphone, which is located on the bottom edge of the right ear cup.

 



The plug doesn't quite mesh with teh underside of the headphones. Some of the edges are uneven,

which has the potential to drive you crazy if you're OCD about such things (we are).


 

The cord itself is a good length for a set of headphones like these. They're meant to be portable, and the cord is a manageable length so you won't have a giant coil of cable sticking out of your pocket. The cable also has an in-line volume dial.

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This is the cable, which has an in-line volume changer.

 

plug2.jpg

This plugs into the headphones.

 

 

plug.jpg

This is the end that plugs into an audio source.

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And last but not least, this is the in-line volume dial you've heard so much about.

 

Below are two shots of the headphones on HATS, to give you an idea of what you'd look like while you're wearing the NC200s. Since you (most likely) don't have a head like HATS, we'd

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The NC200s on HATS. You'd also look this dapper with a set of NC200s atop your

featureless, grey skull.

 

In The Box


In the box you'll find the headphones, a cable with a volume dial, a 1/4-inch plug, a battery, and a pouch.

contents.jpg

**Durability**     (*7.25**)*


We don't see any glaring durability issues on the AblePlanetNC200 headphones, though it does have some smaller issues. The band isn't collapsible, which means it runs the risk of breaking if it gets bent the wrong way. The headphones do seem to be well-manufactured, even if their plasticky design doesn't initially inspire much confidence. The pads are covered in a durable, leather-printed material, which means you should be wary of puncture damage; they won't likely succumb to normal wear and tear.

The cable is made of black plastic and seems durable. We pulled at it pretty hard and it didn't feel as though it was going to break. The worst that'll happen is it'll detatch from the headphones.

 

 

**Aesthetics**     (*6.0**)*


The headphones look pretty good overall. They have faux-leather padding along the band and a solid design overall. They actually look suspiciously similar to the Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones. The small area where the NC200s' good looks fall short is around the ear cups, which look pretty plasticky. Overall, though, these headphones look pretty nice.

 

About our testing:

For more information on our tests, read this article.

**Frequency Response**     (3.93*)*


 

What we found:

The AblePlanet True Fidelity NC200's frequency response graph was a bit wonky. The bass starts out within acceptible limits, then steadily increases, hitting its peak towards the lower end of our scoring limits (the dotted black lines). At this point, it's about 10dB too loud, which isn't terrible, but it's an odd frequency to emphasize. After that point, the frequency response takes a dive, then gets a bit scribbly. Those scribbles towards the high end aren't terribly offensive to the ear, but it could cause a slightly unnatural sound. Very nearby frequencies could have about 10dB of difference.

How the AblePlanet True Fidelity NC200 compares:

What is frequency response?

Frequency response referse to the emphasis the headphones put on any given frequency band. Reference headphones will attempt to play back the source material as accurately as possible. Most headphones, however, have dynamic responses, meaning they put extra emphasis or deemphasis on different bands.

How the test works:

For this test, we put the headphones on our head and torso simulator (HATS). Using SoundCheck, we play a frequency sweep through the headphones, which HATS records and relays back. Now we can compare the final waveform to the original to make comparisons. To find out more about this test, check out our How We Test page, here.

**Distortion**     (6.58*)*


 

What we found:

The headphones did well with distortion overall, but there was a bit of noise in the low end. Though it does get a bit distorted in the right channel, it's fleeting and less than 2%. For most people, this level of distortion won't be an issue.

If you're going to be listening to these headphones with the active cancellation feature on, however, that's a whole different story.

How the AblePlanet True Fidelity NC200 compares:

**What is distortion?

*
*Distortion is a fundamental change to the way your music sounds. Most of the distortion you hear in music is intentional, as a filter added to an instrument. It's not a welcome element when your headphones, do it, however.

How the test works:

Once again, we pipe a frequency sweep through the headphones. This time, however, we aren't simply checking decibel levels: we're looking for ways in which the actual waveforms differ. If you want to find out more about this test, this link will help you out.

**Tracking**     (4.69)


 

What we found:

The headphones' tracking was a bit wonky. No matter how much we readjusted the headphones, the left channel was always slightly louder in the low end, and slightly quieter in the high end.

This abnormality aside, we're not talking gigantic decibel swings here. The most it wanders is about 7dB off center, and it's just a blip. Chances are, you won't notice it.

How the AblePlanet True Fidelity NC200 compares:

**What is tracking?

*
*Tracking refers to the relative volume levels between the left and right channels. If the headphones want to tweak the decibel levels of your playback, that's fine, as long as it doesn't result in one channel playing consistently louder than the other. Not only does this create uneven wear in the headphones, it creates uneven wear in your ears or, at the very least, is annoying.

How the test works:

This test is a lot like our frequency response test, only we're measuring the left and right channel against each other. Whenever the line rises above the zero mark, the left channel is louder; when it falls below it, the right channel is louder. To find out more about this test, follow this link.

 

 

**Maximum Usable Volume**     (6.07)


What we found:

We were able to get the AblePlanet True Fidelity NC200s up to about 103dB before it hit 3% distortion. This is pretty decently loud, and should suffice for most users. You really don't want anything louder than 120dB, because that could damage your tender hearing!

**What is maximum usable volume?

*
*Our maximum usable volume test checks to see how loud we can get the headphones before they hit a noticeable 3% distortion. After all, who wants to listen to music so loud it starts sounding like garbage?

How the test works:

To test max usable volume, we run a series of distortion tests at varying distortion levels. This process gradually narrows in on the point at which the headphones are producing their maximum output under a 3% distortion level. For more info on this test, check out this helpful link.

**Isolation**     (*3.91**)*


 

What we found:

Not a lot. These headphones really weren't great in the isolation department, according to our tests. The active noise cancellation feature did block out some bassy ambience, but otherwise the feature offers a negligible improvement over just wearing the headphones with the feature off.

How the AblePlanet True Fidelity NC200 compares:

**What is isolation?

*
*Isolation is the headphones' ability to keep external noise out of your ears. There are two methods of accomplishing this: passive isolation and active cancellation. Passive isolation is the simple approach: plug up your ears. All headphones have some kind of passive isolation, because they're all solid objects; even if they're open-backed, they'll still block out a small amount of noise. Active cancellation uses microphones in the headphones to listen to surrounding sounds. The headphones then play back the inverse wavelength, which neutralizes the incoming sound.

How the test works:

For this test, we first blast HATS with pink noise. We perform this once with no headphones on, to set a baseline, a second time with the headphones on HATS, and a third time with the headphones on HATS and its active cancellation feature (if available) switched on. For more, feel free to read this link.

**Leakage**     (*5.00**)*


What we found:

The headphones suffered from a moderate amount of leakage. Someone sitting next to you would be able to hear your music pretty clearly in a quiet room. They won't be louder than typical street noise, however, so as long as you aren't in a study hall, you shouldn't have to worry about annoying anyone.

What is leakage?

Leakage refers to any sound that escapes the headphones and wafts out into the world around you. Leakage might not be the biggest problem you run into with your headphones, but it's something to be aware of. If you take your headphones into a library or museum, you'll probably want headphones with minimum leakage.

How the test works:

We test for leakage by playing pink noise through the headphones at a set level. We have a microphone placed a set distance from the headphones, which captures any noise escaping the headphones.

 

 

**Short-Term Use**     (7.00)


We think the AblePlanetNC200s were pretty comfortable. The padding along the band was sufficient enough to keep the hard plastic off our sensitive skulls. The cup padding helped mitigate the pressure against the sides of our heads, keeping the headphones fitting snugly, but not uncomfortably so. This being said, if you're exercising, these headphones probably will shift around; we woulnd'trecomment wearing these to the gym.



The pads are reasonably soft, but we weren't awed by how comfortable they were.

**Extended Use**     (*7.00**)*


We thought the headphones wore well over time. The padding was enough that we didn't suffer from that late-onset head fatigue we typically get from heavier headphones like Beyerdynamics.

**Customizability**     (*3.50**)*


There's not a lot you can do to customize these headphones. They don't come with any extras, like in-line accessories or faceplates. The band extends and bends, and the ear cups can tilt; that's about it.

 

 

**Cable Connectivity**     (4.24*)*


 

The NC200s have a four-foot, removeable cord that plugs into the bottom of the left ear cup. The cable itself seems pretty robust, with decent insulation and thick cord guards.

 



This is the part of the plug that hooks up to the headphones. The curved bit at the bottom

is supposed to be flush with the ear cup, but it sticks out a bit, unfortunately.




This is the part that blugs into the audio source. Note the cord guards, because they're pretty meaty.

 

 

The headphones also come with a 1/4-inch adapter.



This is the adapter, which looks like every other

1/4-inch adapter ever.


**Portability**     (*4.50**)*


 

The NC200s are meant to be portable, since outside is where the majority of unwanted noise is. While they're lighter than most on-ear headphones, they're still a lot bigger than a set of in-ears. The ear cups do fold up, but that doesn't improve portability that much: you'll still need a bag or something to carry them in. The headphones come with a pouch, but we doubt anyone will want to tote a tiny, manufacturer-branded pouch.



This looks like it should contain polished gemstones, but no, it's just a sack for your NC200s.

**Maintenance**     (*3.50**)*


 

While you can disassemble the NC200s, you can't get very far. You can take off the ear cups, and a piece of foam underneath them, but at that point you hit a dead end. The headphones also don't come with any cleaning tools.



This is what you'll see once you remove the padding.

 



And this is what's beneath that small foam thing. We didn't have a small enough

screwdriver to continue our journey into the bowels of the NC200s.


 

 

**Other Features**     (*4.00**)*


Battery Dependency

*The AblePlanet True Fidelity NC200s use batteries to power their active noise cancellation feature and also to give the music a bit more kick. You technically *can
use the headphones without battery back-up, but we wouldn't recommend it: they have a weak, hollow sound.

Active Noise Cancellation

The active noise cancellation feature is controlled by a switch on the right ear bud, and has a little red LED to indicate when the feature is active. While we liked the ability to switch the feature off, as mentioned above, the headphones lose a lot of punch without battery power. Also, the active cancellation feature isn't very kind to audio quality. It creates an audible hiss, and doesn't offer much actual cancellation.

Volume Dial

The volume dial is located in-line, a good distance or so away from the ear cups. It functions like you'd assume a volume dial functions. Our only complaint is that the dial feels a bit cheap, like it's on loose.



This is the side of the pendant where all the volume dialing action takes place.



This is the side of the pendant that's boring and no one pays attention to it... until now.

 

**Design**


These two headphones have very different designs. For starters, the HD 650s are over-ear, rather than on-ear (circumaural vs. supra-aural). The HD 650s are also open-backed, so they're not a good pick if you're concerned about isolation.

**Sound Quality**


What the HD650s lack in isolation, they make up for in sound quality. This is a problem we've found with many active-cancellers out there: their cancellation feature often comes at the expense of audio quality.

In terms of frequency response, the NC200 was significantly more erratic than the HD 650s, which had a much more even kiel to its frequency response.

The HD 650 barely had any distortion. It wins by a long shot.

The HD 650 also had much smoother tracking.

**Isolation**


The NC200 isolates much better than the HD 650. The HD 650s are open-backed, though, so if you're looking for isolation, these shouldn't be considered.

**Comfort**


The HD 650s are significantly larger, and have harder pads with coarser padding. The NC200s were slightly more comfortable, unless you're used to a large set of over-ears.

**Verdict**


The HD 650s are significantly better in terms of audio quality, but don't offer the isolation that the NC200s do. The NC200s are also significantly less expensive than the HD 650s.

 

**Design**


The two headphones feature a very similar design. Both look somewhat plasticky and have leather printing on their padding. Both are roughly the same in terms of durability as well. We say this one is a draw.

**Sound Quality**


The NC200s had some issues with some low tones, but the AH-NC732s' response looks like it falls off a mountain towards the high end.

The low end on the NC200s wasn't spectacular. The DenonAH-NC732s, on the other hand, were almost flawless.

Both headphones had some issues with tracking, but the AH-NC732 was a bit more erratic than the NC200s.

**Isolation**


The AH-NC732 has far better isolation than the NC200.

**Comfort**


We thought these two headphones were roughly the same in terms of comfort, with a slight preference for the Denons.

**Verdict**


If you're looking to spend the extra money, the AH-NC732s are simply a step up from the NC200s. If you're not looking to spend the extra money, the NC200s are a nice, inexpensive option.

 

**Design**


The two sets of headphones look pretty similar. They have the same general design to their ear ups, and connect to the band the same way.

**Sound Quality**


The NC200 has its issues, but the QC3s have a disproportionately loud bass compared to the rest of their response.

The NC200s had slightly more distortion in the low end.

The QC3's tracking is slightly more erratic.

**Isolation**


The QC3 beats the active-cancelling pants off the NC200.

**Comfort**


We thought both pairs of headphones were roughly equivalent in terms of comfort. We had no complaints for either one.

**Verdict**


If you're looking for isolation, the QC3s offer significantly more than the NC200s. This being said, the NC200s cost much, much less than the QC3s, and didn't perform that much worse.

 

**Design**


The two headphones have roughly the same design. The NC200s are more collapsible, however.

**Sound Quality**


The NC200s have a more erratic frequency response.

The ANC7s have really low levels of distortion towards the mid and a blip towards the high end. The NC200s have slightly more significant distortion in the bass. Neither was particularly bad, however.

The NC200s' tracking was a bit off, but not by much. The ATH-ANC7 got a bit erratic towards the high end.

**Isolation**


The ATH-ANC7s have far superior active cancellation, especially for bassy sounds.

**Comfort**


We didn't have problems with either set of headphones. Both are about the same in terms of comfort.

**Verdict**


The ATH-ANC7s cost a lot more than the NC200s, but offer much higher quality.

 

 

Meet the tester

Mark Brezinski

Mark Brezinski

Senior Writer

@markbrezinski

Mark Brezinski is a senior writer with seven years of experience reviewing consumer tech and home appliances.

See all of Mark Brezinski's reviews

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