Audio-Technica deserves some accolades for managing to combine useful noise cancelation and decent sound into an affordable package.
From an aesthetic and durability standpoint, however, they're a bit on the cheap side. If you do a lot of traveling and you tend to be rough on your cable and connectors, these headphones may not hold up over time—and don't expect a deluxe fit, either.
Cushy, padded cans for the masses
At a $99.99 MSRP, the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC27x are fairly affordable for active noise cancelers. The band material isn't the most comfortable I've ever worn—the downward-facing poisoned spikes made my scalp bleed—but the ear pads at least are very cushy and padded, with lots of give. Unfortunately, they're a little on the small side. Since they don't envelope the entire ear, the ANC27x will probably bother people with sensitive heads.
I'm really shocked by how thin and flimsy this cable feels, too.
There are protective flex points at either end, but the rest feels entirely unprotected. Luckily, the cable is removable, so if it does break you can just replace it. Plug the jack into the left cup and use a twisting motion to lock the cable in. The left ear cup is also where you'll find the "On/Off" switch for the noise cancellation, which requires a single AAA battery. Coincidentally, the other cup houses the battery itself, which makes for an even weight distribution.
One of the best things about the ATH-ANC27x is that they function as both an active noise cancelers and as traditional headphones. There's no need to turn on the noise canceling or even insert a battery if you're not going to use the feature. Even better, the detachable cable means you can use the ANC27x as just sound mufflers, without being tethered by the cable.
These Audio-Technica cans manage a decent degree of flexibility, too. The band expands enough to fit even very large heads, and the cups lay down flat on the clavicles when they're around your neck. Included in the box is a carrying bag, 6.3mm adapter, and an airplane adapter—all of average quality.
Decent overall performance, no major strengths
At $100, the ATH-ANC27x could have provided awesome sound with tacky noise canceling, or stellar noise canceling with low-tier sound. Instead, it strikes a middle ground, providing decent iterations of both.
The active noise canceling works well, though it's nowhere near the best on the market—and some noises break through no matter what. If you're using the ANC27x on a plane or train, turning on the canceling will slightly reduce rumbling, bassy noises like an idling engine and really shut down crying babies and screeching brakes. However, certain high-mid range noises—like the "ding" of the fasten seatbelt indicator or an urgent ringtone–will still be very audible.
Coupling your music with the "I can totally tell it's working" noise cancelation will yield a positive experience, too.
While ANC is on, the 27x offer a balanced sound that many people will enjoy. While it isn't the most bass-heavy profile on the market, the ANC27x still provide solid bass support. Likewise, middle and high range frequencies will be relatively easy to hear. Whether you're listening to Bach, Charles Benson, or Beyoncé, the low-end will hum true beneath clearly discernable mids and trebles.
Unfortunately, this isn't quite the case with ANC turned off. While we don't hear sub-bass elements as well as other elements, they're still integral to a full, fleshed out sound. Turning ANC off drops a lot of sub-bass support, and also disrupts high-mid frequencies—you'll notice a loss of clarity, especially in vocals, cymbal splashes, and melodic guitar lines.
For the sake of audio quality, it's definitely better to keep ANC on when possible—unfortunately, this means you'll need a continuous supply of AAA batteries. Noise cancelation does have a drawback, though: distortion.
Low-end sub-bass and bass frequencies become perceptibly distorted within the right channel while active noise cancelation is on. Audio-Technica remedies this by balancing the tracking primarily to the left channel during the distortion range, so any degradation resulting from turning on active noise canceling is greatly diminished as far as the listener is concerned.
Two part-time jobs
The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC27x (MSRP $99.95) provide an entry-level step for consumers on-the-go who don't want to shell out $300. Masterfully, the ANC27x prove that old adage: You get what you pay for.
Thus, they're a little on the cheap side—both in design materials and actual performance. If you want to look fly while you fly, the ANC27x may not be for you. Further, heavy-handed/negligent use may see the cable wearing out quickly. While the soundscape they provide is decent, the fact that it's notably worse without the battery-powered active noise canceling is a big turn off in terms of everyday use.
For their sale price of $76, however, you could also do much worse. The sound is definitely good enough for most users, as is the noise cancelation. Basically, if you want the "it'll do" of both worlds, keep the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC27x on your radar.
When it comes to pure performance, the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC27x (MSRP $99.95) have nary a flaw. I tested solid overall sound quality, with no major aberrations in emphasis across the entire frequency response. As isolators, the ANC27x aren't quite at the level of Audio-Technica's ANC7b, but still provide respectable quietude.
The ANC27x tested with decent attenuation—the elimination or reduction of outside ambient noise. Without active noise cancelation, these cans don't do much to dampen or reduce the bass range, but they do shut out higher-pitched frequencies. Expect about 10 dB less sound at 1kHz, akin to reducing sounds in that range by 50%, with higher frequencies reduced gradually even further.
With ANC (Active Noise Cancelation) turned on, high-pitched outside noise is again greatly reduced, and bass is powerfully quelled, too. Expect sub-bass and bass frequencies, like horns and rumbling engines, to be reduced by over 50% in volume. Further, high-end noises—crying babies, yowling kitties, and their ilk—are reduced to 1/16th of their original loudness.
While this performance isn't out of this world against the rest of the noise cancelation market, it's decent for $100 headphones.
For this price, I was honestly not expecting much from the ANC27x, but they really deliver. No, this isn't audiophile quality sound, nor is it flat like a studio response, but it's very well-balanced for what you're paying. And though the frequency response does slightly alter when you turn ANC on and off, the differences aren't make-or-break.
Without noise cancelation, the ANC27x represents 1kHz to 10kHz staunchly, roughly following the shape and emphasis of an equal loudness contour. Turning ANC off is the worse choice for the best sound, however, as the entire bass range is boosted, creating an audible loss in emphasis at around 3kHz.
With ANC on, the bass range (20Hz-100Hz) is de-emphasized slightly, but more emphasis is allocated to frequencies around 3kHz in the upper mid range. Overall, the sound profile is better here, as higher frequencies allow the overtones from almost every instrument and sound to resonate longer.
Tracking, or the balance of volume between left and right speakers, is another area where the ANC27x excels. With active noise cancelation off, tracking remains mostly very even between 20Hz and 10kHz, though there is a slight jump from the left channel to the right channel around 700Hz.
With noise canceling on, the tracking result is roughly the same, save for heavy emphasis of the left channel within the sub-bass range. This is like to cover the distortion present in the right channel's sub-bass range with ANC enabled.
THD, or Total Harmonic Distortion, refers to a sum of sound interference. Ideally, we like to see less than 3% THD in both the left and right speaker channels. With ANC off, this is precisely what occurred: the ANC27x tested with a max THD of about 2.5%.
Distortion does ramp up in the sub-bass range when ANC is turned on, but human ears are rather immune to distortion in said range—so this is no big deal.
Meet the testers
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.See all of Lee Neikirk's reviews
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