We've made no secret of our love for Audio-Technica's ATH-MSR7 over-ear headphones, going so far as to name them our top headphone pick in our 2015 Best of Year Awards. Not one to rest on its laurels, Audio-Technica came to CES 2016 with the latest iteration of what are already a seriously impressive set of cans.
The ATH-MSR7NC (MSRP $299.95) are similar to last year's model, with one key difference: active noise cancellation. While a bustling show floor is no place to assess how well a pair of headphones perform, it's the perfect spot to put ANC through its paces.
We can't say anything definitively without getting them into our lab, but all the early indications suggest Audio-Technica has another hit on its hands.
If it ain't broke, why fix it? That seems to be the thinking behind the MSR7NCs. Aesthetically speaking, there isn't too much that's different in the new model. They still have the same clean lines and precision design that we admired in the MSR7s, and enough plush memory foam padding to make them feel like a dream.
Other than a comfortable fit, one of the most important things for a pair of over-ears is the depth of the chamber over your ear. Too small, and your ears can be pressed uncomfortably against the side of your head, leading to overheating and a lot of pain.
Audio-Technica has this covered: Even my (slightly) oversized ears fit comfortably inside the cups without pressing against the drivers inside.
Trying to determine how good or bad headphones are at a trade show is a lesson in folly. There's just way too much ambient noise to get an accurate sense of how the music sounds.
But when we tested last year's MSR7s, we found a frequency response that landed somewhere between a flat studio response and the equal-loudness contour popular with consumers. Unfortunately for fans of booming bass, the MSR7s downplay sub-bass and bass sounds to help highlight some of the higher notes.
The MSR7NCs aren't a complete rehash: They pack new 45mm True Motion Drivers and of course the active noise cancellation. With 360-degree omnidirectional active noise-cancelling features and new venting technologies, the MSR7NCs are able to reduce ambient noise by an impressive margin. Their ANC was able to mute the chatter on the busy trade show floor to the point that I could enjoy the subtleties of a classical orchestra.
Audio-Technica also claims that a single four-hour charge will net you an impressive 30 hours of battery life. If those numbers pan out, these cans could be a serious competitor for next year's headphone title, and we're only a few days into the new year.
In addition to the new tech packed into these headphones, Audio-Technica will also include a few cool accessories including a USB charging cable, a carrying pouch, an airline armrest adapter, and two 4-foot detachable cables (one of which has an in-line remote and mic).
Whether you're a daily commuter dealing with noisy subways, working in an office full of chatterboxes, or a frequent flyer, active noise cancellation is a life-saver.
You'll have to wait for our full review to find out if these cans are your silver bullet, but Audio-Technica has a proven track record that's hard to ignore.