Product: Noise canceling headphones
Developer: Able Planet, Inc.
Minimum Requirements: Computer or audio device with 1/8″ or 1/4″ stereo output
Retail Price: $99.99
Availability: Out now
I spend decent money on headphones. I know there are many people out there who are happy with $20 headphones off the rack at the local drugstore, but I’m not one of them. This is mainly because I wear headphones at work, not just on the train, while out for walks or taking flights. I use my headphones every day, so they have to be comfortable, and they have to get good sound.
And yet, this is the first time I’ve tried out noise canceling headphones. I don’t really need noise cancellation in an office setting, so there’s never been a point in paying for technology I’d rarely use. High end active noise canceling headphones can hover around $300 or more, after all. But now, with their $100.00 Clear Harmony Foldable Active Noise Canceling Headphones, however, Able Planet has put this technology with reach.
Before we get to the sound, though, let’s look at the design. The Clear Harmony headphones feature padded material that fits around the ear, helping to block out external noises and keep the fit comfortable. For their size, the headphones are fairly lightweight, but the tight, snug fit makes them a bit uncomfortable for prolonged listening sessions. The padded headband helps, but this is just the nature of ear surrounding headphones.
You’d think that headphones this size wouldn’t be portable, and that’s partly true. They’re certainly not as portable as the Apple earbuds or other in-ear headphones, but the headband of the Clear Harmony headphones does collapse, allowing the headset to be stored in a purse, book bag, or the provided carrying pouch.
Now, regarding sound, the Clear Harmony headphones offer 20Hz – 20,000Hz frequency response, and 110dB and 116dB sensitivity at 1KHz. They also feature LINX AUDIO technology, but do with that what you will. It seems that every headphone manufacturer has some sort of patented technology they like to bandy about. You can learn all you want to know about LINX AUDIO at the Able Planet website, and they’ll do a much better job of explaining it than I could. On my end, it just means that the audio is very clear, both with music and the spoken word. The clarity is actually a bit startling, especially if you’re used to muddy headphones where the sounds all tend to run together in a big noisy mess. Here, you can pick out instruments. You can even pick out individual notes in some instances. It’s pretty cool, but it does have its drawbacks. All this clarity made some of my music sound unnaturally “tinny;” there’s not a lot of bass happening here, so the sound isn’t as full as I would like. It’s still great for music, but felt somewhat empty when playing games or watching movies with a lot of deep sound effects (explosions and such).
The question, though, is how much of this is LINX AUDIO and how much is the active noise cancellation (ANC) technology. It should be made clear, first of all, that noise cancelation doesn’t mean you’re not going to hear outside noise at all. You can hear phones ringing and people talking. In fact, the design of the padded earphones does more to deaden that. Rather, I found that the ANC (at least with these headphones) did a great job of eliminating the noises you may not even know are there. Noises such as the drone of airplane engines or the air conditioner. In my office building, when the air conditioner/heater is turned off at 6:45 each night (don’t ask me why, that’s just the way they do it), it sounds like a turbine being powered down. Noise I’d blocked out all day is suddenly gone, and the difference is huge. The ANC of the Clear Harmony headphones kind of does that for you all day.
An on/off switch on the right cup activates the ANC (a AAA battery is required), and doing so with no audio playing reveals the difference. Although the noises aren’t eliminated entirely, they’re drastically reduced. It’s very cool, and it allows a purer audio signal to come through. Not only is the audio clearer, but you don’t have to turn it up as loudly to be heard, which is better for your ears and better for those around you who may need your attention.
Able Planet states that the Clear Harmony Foldable Active Noise Canceling Headphones offer entry-level noise cancellation. That’s how they’re able to keep the price below $100, I’m guessing. And although the entry-level technology here is good enough to satisfy most who use headphones frequently, it’s left me wanting a bit more. How much better would a set be at $200? $300? Could be that I never find out. I said I spend decent money on headphones, not obscene money.