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Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT QuietPoint ANC Bluetooth Headphone Review

By Christopher Coke on May 16, 2019 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT QuietPoint ANC Bluetooth Headphone Review

Sometimes you just want the world to quiet down. Whether you’re on a bus or a plane, at work with a droning vent, or even at home sitting down for a good game, there are times when you want to press MUTE on all that ambient noise. Today, we’re looking at the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT QuietPoint Bluetooth Headphones. They’re Hi-Res certified, offer 35 hours of battery life, and feature active noise cancelling. Are they worth $299?

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Specification

  • Current Price: $299
  • Type: Active noise-cancelling
  • Driver Diameter: 40 mm
  • Frequency Response: 5 – 40,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 103 dB/mW (when noise-cancellation used), 100 dB/mW (when noise-cancellation not used)
  • Impedance: 35 ohms (when noise-cancellation not used)
  • Maximum Communication Range: Line of sight - approx. 10 m (33')
  • Compatible Bluetooth Profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
  • Support Codec: aptX, AAC, SBC
  • Battery Life: Max. 35 hours (when Bluetooth and noise-cancellation used)
  • Max. 60 hours (when only noise-cancellation used)
  • Charging Time:: Approx. 5.5 hours (for 0-100% charge)
  • Communication System: Bluetooth Version 5.0
  • Cable: Detachable 1.2 m (3.9') cable
  • Connector: 3.5 mm (1/8") stereo mini-plug, L-shaped
  • Accessories Included: 30 cm (1') USB charging cable, airplane adaptor, carrying case
  • Type (Microphone): Condenser
  • Sensitivity (Microphone): -44 dB (1V/Pa at 1 kHz)
  • Frequency Response (Microphone): 50 – 4,000 Hz
  • Polar Pattern (Microphone): Omnidirectional
  • Weight: 263 g (9.3 oz), without cable

We’ve reviewed a number of Audio-Technica headphones over the years but the ANC900BTs are our first pair with active noise cancelling. It’s a great jumping off point, as well, as Audio-Technica claims these offer the highest degree of noise cancellation from all of their QuietPoint models. Having used several other ANC headphones even in the last few months, how well this feature is implemented can vary widely, so I was curious to see just how well Audio-Technica would pull it off, especially on a headphone clearly targeting audio enthusiasts.

What’s included in the package is quite nice. Audio-Technica included a nice hardback travel case, which is a far cry from the usual felt of nylon bag we so often see. You also have a 3.5mm auxiliary cable for your hi-res audio, an airline adapter, and a micro-USB charging cable. I would have liked to have seen USB Type-C on a new product like this but it appears we’ll have to hold out hope for a future model.

The build of the headphones is lightweight but solid. It features an over-ear design with lush leatherette pads. The frame is largely plastic, like most Audio-Technica headphones in this price range, but it’s a rugged plastic with no flex or give. The design is very similar to my beloved M50X headphones which stood up to two years of rough treatment, being thrown in bags for Sunday gigs with my worship team, tossed on desks, hung from boom arms, and everything in between. The durability comes down to a solid design where the most common breakage points reinforced with metal, like the headband, or solidly built hinges, like the yokes.

The design also allows the ANC900BTs to be quite lightweight at only 263g. That actually makes them more lightweight and comfortable than either the M50X or its bluetooth version, the M50XBT by 22g and 47g respectively, though they do have quite a bit more grip for noise isolation without becoming overly tight. I was able to wear these for an entire afternoon without any head or ear soreness whatsoever, though I did have to vent my ears from time to time while I was outside in the sun.

The ear cushions are a plush, half-inch thick memory foam. This allows them to conform to and seal around your ear, boosting the isolation from outside noise. The leatherette also feels a bit more dense and less breathable, amplifying this effect and allowing the headphones to have a bit of extra bass. They’re not replaceable, which makes sense when you consider Audio-Technica probably doesn’t want aftermarket pads negating the noise cancelling qualities they’ve implemented here. 

And I have to say, the noise cancelling as very good. I’m not one who travels by plane very often but, even in my day to day life, I find it extremely useful. Sitting at my PC, these headphones completely eliminate the sound of my PC’s fans - which can get irritating loud once my 2080 Ti Founders Editions spin up. I teach third grade and often wear them in my classroom before the bell rings and students come in. The cacophony of 20 small voices outside my door turns into a white noise of its own before the bell and the ANC900BTs slice through it like butter, cutting it down to the standout voice hear and there. And that noisey vent in the back of my room? Near silent. I even tried them while mowing my lawn the other day. Though I’d like to say that they cut out the sound of my mower, even these headphones can’t do that. Instead, they turned the loud roar of the engine into something closer to a baseball card through bicycle spokes, which is more than any other ANC set I’ve used has been able to do.

They do get a little quirky sometimes. Using them in an already quiet environment sometimes causes a warbling sensation as they try to cancel out such small amounts of white noise. In those cases, the earpads do a better job than even the active noise cancelling since there’s no odd sensation inside the ear cups.

Suffice it to say, QuietPoint is an apt name. Play some music or a game at the same time as any of these or really anything where you have white noise? That’s all you’re hearing. These headphones do their job well. So well, in fact, that Audio-Technica built in a Hear Through function that uses the microphones to send outside audio directly through to your ears. You can access this by pressing the Hear Through button on the left earcup or by holding your palm on the left earcup to cycle modes. Using either method, you can swap from silence to clearly hearing your surrounding environment, which is convenient if other people need your attention and you don’t want to remove your headphones.

I was also pleased to find that the battery life on this pair of headphones is a length 35 hours with ANC on. With ANC off, that jumps to 60 hours. In the few weeks I’ve had them in for testing, I’ve only needed to recharge once, which Audio-Technica quotes at 5.5 hours from 0-100%.

What’s especially nice is that active noise cancelling doesn’t degrade the audio experience of what you’re listening to, though it does seem to add a touch of extra bass. I’ve used headphones where ANC changes the character of the headphone completely and makes songs and soundtracks sound off in a very unappealing way. Here, you can definitely tell when ANC is enabled but it doesn’t make what you’re listening to sound worse.

That said, if you’re an analytical listener or want the best that the ANC900BTs can offer, you’ll definitely want to plug in via the 3.5mm jack. This is actually how I would recommend using them with a PC so you can enjoy your full, uncompressed game audio while being able to turn on noise cancelling. While the headphones sound great wirelessly thanks to AptX and AAC support, the 40mm drivers are opened up to their full potential when connected with a wire.

The black and gold Hi-Res Audio stamp on the box indicates a couple things. The first is that the headphone has undergone a series of tests to verify the fidelity of the drivers. Without being verified, that stamp cannot be placed on a box. Second, it indicates that the drivers are able to produce sound well outside the range of human hearing. While this might seem pointless at first, the idea is sound: drivers often distort when pushed to the limits of what they can produce, so  by ensuring those limits are well outside of what you can hear, everything that you can hear should be clean and distortion free.

The ANC900BTs have a fairly neutral sound profile, which means you’ll be hearing much closer to what the audio engineer intended in the first place. Bass is present and tight but isn’t over emphasized compared to the mids and highs. Compared to the 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones we reviewed yesterday, they’re a distinctly more mellow headphone. The mids, responsible for most vocals, dialog, and in-game callouts, are slightly elevated, drawing them out of the mix. Highs are also accentuated though not so high as to sound sharp. In music, this is great for guitars and high strings. In games, the crack of sniper rifles (middle-highs) is crisp without sounding sharp to the ear. I was able to listen to these for hours without experiencing listening fatigue.

Finally, if you plan to use this for calls or to chat with friends over Discord, you’ll be happy to hear that the microphone is nice and clear. I wouldn’t use it for streaming - it is wireless after all - but for normal conversations, it’s one of the better I’ve heard.

Final Thoughts

We’ve come to a point where PC gamers are looking beyond gaming headphones to fill their audio needs. Many of us would rather have one really good headphone they can use for gaming and on the go and the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT is exactly such a headphone. With both wired and wireless connectivity, it’s versatile enough for any situation you might want to use it for and features some of best noise cancelling I’ve yet heard. At $299, it’s expensive but can easily be your endgame audio solution for anywhere you want a great audio experience.

Pros

  • Lightweight construction while still feeling quite durable
  • Very good noise cancelling without degrading audio
  • Plush padding that aids in noise isolation
  • Hi-Res Certification when wired
  • Excellent battery life
  • Hear Through function is a wise addition and very functional

Cons

  • Memory foam pads aren’t removable, hold heat
  • Touch controls can be finicky
  • Pricey

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

Christopher Coke / Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight