Traveling has been tough this year. Double masking on flights, avoiding people in Airports, and still amazed at how many people still don’t wear masks. According to the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Tracker, where I live, Indiana, only has 42.6% of the people are fully vaccinated. I thought we needed to be at 70% for herd immunity. I find myself spending most of my time with my earbuds taking walks. But I do have a trip coming up and wanted to give a new set from Audio-Technica a closer look.
Having traveled overseas a number of times, my search has let me to find noise cancelling headphones and in-ear headphones that are first of all quiet and then comfortable to wear. That has been a challenge. With a 20 hour travel time to deal with, if it is not comfortable to wear, I cannot deal with the same unit for that length of time. Sitting up with headphones works for a while but if you try to get any sleep in, they get in the way and so then I switch to the in-ear headphones but I don’t want them giving up on me after just a few hours. What I really like about my Edifier headphones are they are not only noise cancelling, but wireless as well as having the wired option to listen to an onboard movie, and while sitting up, that works just fine. When it comes time to try and sleep, they do get in the way.
What impresses me first is that the Quietpoint ATH-ANC300TW comes in a package that you do not need a sharp object to open! Just easily peel off the two attached seals and you are in. I like the size and shape of the charging case that has a USB-C port on it. The top half which easily flips up also has a nice textured feel to it so it will not easily slip out of a pocket. The cover is magnetic so that when you close it after taking the earbuds out, it will stay closed. While it is charging, the tiny LEDs on the front blink.
Like many of the newer in-ear headphones, this has three noise-cancelling modes; and the quick hear through function that also supports Bluetooth 5.0 technology. This allows you to control the microphone for music playback as well as the phone calls and volume without having to dig out the smartphone. They are also IPX2 water-resistant so go ahead and use them in the rain or working out.
There are a number of new features (to me at least) that I needed to look up. It includes Qualcomm TrueWireless™ Stereo Plus which is a special low-latency function, that ensures you can stream the latest releases with no audio disruption and a stable connection. Another feature to look up is Qualcomm cVc™ (Clear Voice Capture) technology that ensures you can have clear, natural-sounding conversations during calls. Besides the four different sizes of ear tips for the units, it comes with a Comply Eartips. Here is how to use them from Comply and a third party review of them here. So you do have a wide range of options to make sure they are comfortable to wear.
The get started guide is pretty good with very clear sections that tell you what is in the box, charging the unit, and pairing with your smartphone. The music and phone options can be a bit confusing especially if you have had another brand of earbuds to work with. In fact, before you go to far, you should download to your Smartphone the App for these in-ear headphones. This will allow you to fine tune the settings. The getting started guide has a QR Code for downloading the full user manual to your smartphone.
The app, Audio-Technica only got 3+ stars on the Google Play Store but was easy to find and install. It walks you through the setup very easily for both pairing it to your smartphone as well as checking for a firmware upgrade which it installed. Installing the firmware update was pretty straight forward as far as the directions go but the problem was doing three taps on the left unit while it was in the case. I had to start the process three different times before it would work. The problem was getting my finger inside so I could tap it three times without moving the unit. Once the left unit is updated, the instructions are a bit off for updating the right unit but that actually updated itself when I put both of them in my ears.
The first thing you notice about these in-ear headphones is the tiny while led lights to let you know they have power. The set I have is a very dark grey, almost black, but they have white lettering on them to tell you which goes in the right ear and which is the left. When you remove them from the charging case, they automatically power up. Using the supplied medium eartips, the first thing I noticed was how comfortable they are in my ears. Playing a Pink Floyd song, I am also impressed with the sound quality. Once in the ears, the buttons to change the settings is at the very top and easy to get to. Unlike a lot of other products, the noise cancelling is a default setting and through a single tap on the left button, you go into their Quick Hear-Through mode that reduces the volume around 75% to allow you to hear what is going on around you. A single tap puts it back in normal volume and noise cancelling mode. To stop the music and put into Hear-Through mode, you need to single tap the button on both units. And tapping them while in the ear was not a problem at all. With the left button, you can put it into Hear-Through mode with a single tap, double tap to increase volume, and triple tap to decrease volume. The right button is used to pause the music or answer a phone call, two taps for skipping to the next track and three taps for skipping back to the previous track.
While the battery might not do for a 14 hour plane ride, they will provide up to 4.5 hours of continuous use meaning playing music. I suspect you will get much more not listening to music with just the noise cancelling on. The charging case gives you an additional 13.5 hours of power which will be enough for nearly any trip. My unit arrived with no charge and it took less than two hours to charge completely. The manual says it could take up to an hour to fully charge the earbuds.
So while I wait for my next plane ride, I have worn them around the house and in the neighborhood and I must say, the noise cancelling works great and the sound is excellent. The acid test will be on the jets. Available directly from Audio-Technica for $199.