Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Able Planet's True Fidelity Headphones - Review

To kick off our "Portable Audio Showdown" we delve into the "Noise Cancelling Headphone" category.  What truly sets these apart from the rest of the pack is the technology implemented to reduce ambient noise.   When shopping this segment, the range available is overwhelmingly huge.  From Wal-Mart specials for $30 up to audiophile versions that will set you back upwards of $500.  Finding a balance between performance and cost is definitely a matter of personal preference, but I think we have found a true value.

The True Fidelity series from Able Planet are, in our opinion, a great bang for the buck.  Able Planet has a huge range of products, from Headphones to Hearing Aids.  It is the underlying technology, their LINX AUDIO(r), that is the foundation of most of their Noise Cancelling products.  I am by no means an electrical engineer nor do I have any formal training in hearing sciences, so I'll let them explain it to you... Honestly, the tech is over my head, but the outcome is unmistakable.  What I do know is that it works.

What We Liked:
We tested the True Fidelity NC350BCST's, which are said to be designed to reproduce a true "live music" sound.  This is perfect for me as a fan of recorded live shows like The Grateful Dead, Trampled by Turtles and Led Zeppelin.  Straight out of the box, these feel like quality headphones.  The materials used all appear to be solid.  The construction of the shell is a hard black plastic with a few chrome accents, nothing flashy just an understated style.  The pads for the over-the-ear style cans and the headband are soft and squishy, providing ample cushion for a comfortable fit.

The sound was surprisingly clear.  A little switch activates the battery powered active noise cancellation tech.  With it in the "off" position, the sound is clear and precise.  The over-the-ear design does a good job of passive noise reduction, while the drivers produce a crisp sound from deep bass notes to ripping guitar solos.  Find yourself with a seat over the wing, and a screaming  kid in the seat behind you, flip the switch to "on" and it's like hitting a "Mute Button" on the rest of the world.  I found myself flipping it off and on, just to soak in the difference it makes.  It seems to really shine when eliminating constant noise (think engine noise or the hum of a large crowd), while still doing a good job with intermittent sounds (like a crying baby or the varied noise of a TV in the background).  Plugged into my iPad, the rest of the world seemed to disappear once I hit play on a movie, surrounded by 100+ chatting strangers on a 4 hour flight.  These things can get loud too. I have been accused of listening to my music far louder than is healthy, but even I can't crank these up to the max without fear of blowing out an ear drum.
They come with all the goodies you'd expect from a premium headphone as well; a large hard-shell case to keep them safe when not in use, in-line volume controls with mic and even various adapters so you can plug into all kinds of audio sources.

What We Didn't Like:
If we have to find flaws in these phones, it would have to be in the weight and long-term wearability.  They are a bit on the heavy side, compared to some of the other noise cancelling phones we are testing.  The headband is a bit small for my head, causing them to pinch a bit.  After about 2 hours I needed to take them off for a while to give my head a break. The case is rugged and will protect these headphones through some pretty serious abuse, but it's size gobbles up the bulk of a normal carry-on bag, so plan accordingly.

Final Thoughts:
For the money, these are a great bargain.  At $140 MSRP and available all over the web for about $80, there isn't much that is comparable for the price.  I would be interested in trying a couple of Able Planets similar models, as the fit issues for me may be resolved.  If you are looking to foray into the world of audiophile headphones, but you don't want to have to sell a kidney to do it, these would be a great place to start.

  • Featuring Award-Winning Patented LINX AUDIO® a Hear the Difference® technology
  • In-Line Volume Control for Easy Adjustment to Safe Listening Levels
  • Lightweight and Comfortable fit
  • State-of-the-art active noise cancellation (ANC)
  • Superior comfort

  • Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20,000Hz
  • Sensitivity at 1 kHz: 115 dB (Off); 121 dB (On)


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  2. The same buttons also act as the track forward and backward button so simply pressing them would change the song on me. wireless earbuds with mic

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