headphones
Expert Score
7.7

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7b Review

Top-notch isolators for less

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The Numbers

The Audio-Technica ANC7b executed impressive noise-blocking, and scored big points with low amounts of distortion. So why the middling score? Time in the lab revealed a lackluster overall soundscape, which we outline for you here on the Science Page.

Attenuation

Far from the maddening crowd

Let's start with the shining points: As intended, the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7b will block unwanted outside noise very effectively. The company promised noise blocking, and that's just what we noted in the lab. Low frequency sounds like deep voices or rumbling lawn mowers can be tough to combat, but these headphones reduce those sounds by as much as 1/4 the original loudness. Chattering neighbors and office clamor stand even less of a chance: The ANC7b reduces those high-frequency disturbances to as much as a whopping 1/16. On average, these bad boys block 14.3dB of unwanted noise.

ATH-ANC7b_att.jpg
The blue line represents attenuation with active noise cancellation, the green without.

Distortion

Taking out the trash

The ANC7b handled distortion trials with ease, too. Unwanted junk and clipped harmonics won't bother you here. Even in the sub-bass range, where distortion often runs amuck, levels are relatively low. These are great results—with and without active noise cancellation.

With cancellation:

ATH-ANC7b_dist_anON.jpg
Distortion with active noise cancellation turned on.

Without:

ATH-ANC7b_dist.jpg
Distortion with active noise cancellation turned off.

Frequency Response

Upper mids take a nasty hit.

Since utilizing active noise cancellation alters the soundscape considerably, I'll present two sets of results: one with active noise cancellation turned on, one with the function turned off.

I'll start with what the frequency response looks like with active noise cancellation turned on. Though the ANC7b doesn't boost the parent signal throughout the bass range, the bass is nevertheless more prominent than it ought to be in relation to everything else. In other words, these headphones don't crank the volume up on bass, but since a drastic 20dB drop occurs in the upper midrange between 2kHz - 5kHz, bass winds up muffling important details, such as upper notes on strings and brass.

ATH-ANC7b_freq_anON.jpg
Frequency response with noise cancellation turned on

When you turn the active noise cancellation off, the same issues remain, and in fact worsen. A similar drop in volume occurs in the same portion of the upper midrange, but this time, bass is also given a significant boost. Thus, when your battery dies, you're stuck with very loud bass that steals the show from high notes on instruments like harps, guitars, French horns, and others.

ATH-ANC7b_freq.jpg
Frequency response with noise cancellation turned off
Looking further...
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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