I’m not an audiophile, but I do appreciate a good pair of headphones. As a video editor, my ability to hear those tiny flaws in an audio track is vital to the fine-tuning of a good product. I’ve gone through perhaps a dozen pairs of headphones in the past decade, each bringing something new to the table in terms of sound clarity and comfort.
AblePlanet is a relatively new brand to me. I haven’t had much experience (if any) with its products in the past, and I was cautious about leaping into a purchase when my wife and I visited the Brookstone store at a nearby mall. Facing an active travel regimen over the next few months, I was in the market for a pair of headphones to replace the Bose OE2s that I’ve been using for the past year.
While I’m not entirely a fan of Bose speakers for sound mastering, the headphones have served me quite well in this area. The problem with the ones I’ve been using is that they do not cancel background noise as well as they could. I like to get work done while in the air, and having a good pair of headphones that drowns out the noise of a plane’s engines or the chatter of a noisy terminal makes a big difference.
With this in mind, I decided to give the AblePlanet True Fidelity NC200B Noise Canceling Headphones a try. Switching back and forth between them and a $400 pair of Klipsch headphones, I actually liked what I heard from AblePlanet’s set a lot more. I also compared them to Beats by Dr. Dre (twice as expensive) and a member of the higher-priced AblePlanet line, Clear Harmony. To my surprise, it was this particular set, priced at $99, that sounded the best.
So I left the store with the headphones, a two-year extended accidental damage warranty, and a $20 gift card from the store.
First, let me restate that I am not an audiophile. My ears may be trained to seek out obvious flaws in sound reproduction, but I rarely care about minor nuances in recorded audio while passively listening. I did detect, however, that the bass on these headphones wasn’t as punchy as I’ve found in similarly priced models. The bass is actually somewhat even and slow. Instead of a sudden punch, you hear the deep note as if it were a booming presence in the background. This might be an improvement for some people, but as a listener of double-pedal bass drum tracks, it’s a bit disappointing.
That said, the mids and highs were actually quite good. Listening to a live concert on the NC200B sounded more natural and real than it had on the Bose OE2.
Noise cancellation on the AblePlanet NC200B is, itself, kind of noisy. You should expect some level of a hiss when you activate noise cancellation as it attempts to counter background noises in your environment, but it seemed especially loud on these headphones over others. When the music kicks in, you hardly notice it at all. It’s during the silent spots between notes or during dramatic moments in a movie when you start hearing this hiss.
Background noise remained audible, even with cancellation on. This clears up quite a bit after about 20 minutes of wear as the headphones settle around the ears and adjust to your environment. If you’re going to wear these to drown out background noise, you shouldn’t expect too much from them for the first 20 minutes. After that, the noise cancellation is remarkably good. Perhaps it’s because of a pressurization caused by the resting ear pads, or simply that I’ve gotten used to the background noise still present and have drowned it out.
There was a time when I was typing on my keyboard and could hear the keys clacking away. After a while, I stopped being able to hear this sound through the audio being played.
If you have small ears, these are really comfortable headphones. I have big ears, and the cups don’t exactly go around them. They do, however, feel comfortable enough for long-term listening. A pair of pads along the top of the headband make for a great fit.
The NC200B is less like a vice and more like a classy pair of comfortable headphones. That’s a rare find in the budget category, especially with such an expensive feature as active noise cancellation.
The exterior is a soft, rubberized plastic that feels very good in your hands. In almost every way, this headset feels like one that costs a lot more.
Portability is where the NC200B really shines. You can fold it in every which way you could imagine, including splitting the headband and folding it around the cups. An included cloth carrying bag makes for a classy carrying option for your headphones, cable, and adapters.
An airplane adapter is included along with a 1/4″ adapter for maximum compatibility no matter what you’re plugging the headphones into. The cable is removable, making storage easier.
The NC200B operates just fine with or without noise cancellation turned on. The volume is quite a bit louder with it turned on, but you can still hear what you need to hear should your AAA (included) run down during your project. The battery itself is expected to run for 70+ hours, but it’s good to know a failed AAA won’t leave you without audio.
I’m a big fan of the removable audio cable with in-line volume control. It’s a practical and functional approach for folks who may need to turn the music down for a bit without adjusting the volume on the source. You can also replace this cable with your own audio cable should this one become snagged or otherwise damaged.
There are some reports of the headband hinge being fragile and easily broken. For this reason I’m opting not to fold the headset down every time I travel. It may not be a problem for everyone, but it’s certainly worth noting.
Over all, this is one of the few headphones out there that I would absolutely declare being worth the purchase price. Too many companies are getting away with ripping their customers off in this department. Why would you ever want to pay top dollar for consumer headphones that hiss, neglect key elements, or otherwise fall short in performance and/or comfort? Unless you’re really attached to the brand name, I see no reason to choose these products.
AblePlanet has stepped up to create a fairly good alternative option to the pricier noise canceling headphones out there. This may not be the best set you can get, but it does deliver great sound for the price.
You can grab a pair of AblePlanet NC200B headphones on Amazon right now for about $70. That’s a 30% savings over what I paid for them at a retail store.