Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT headphones review: Impressive sound quality but hard-to-use controls

Posted: 13 January 2020 10:41 am
News

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT headphones

Audio-Technica's ATH-ANC900BT headphones offer clear audio, exceptional battery life and three different levels of noise cancellation, but fall short with the touch controls.

Price: SRP $499
Where to buy them: Amazon

The good

  • Excellent audio quality
  • Three noise cancellation levels
  • Exceptional battery life
  • Can be used wirelessly or wired

The bad

  • Touch and swipe controls hard to use
  • High price tag
  • Fit not comfortable for small heads
  • Uses Micro USB charging

Audio-Technica's newest active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones launched last year. The Japanese brand was the Finder Retail Awards winner for the best headphone brand as chosen by actual customers, so it's no surprise that the ATH-ANC900BT headphones are impressive.

An update on the ATH-ANC700BT, the new headphones offer a longer battery life, better noise cancellation and better sound quality, but they also have a higher price tag.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT headphones

Design

  • Can be used wirelessly or wired
  • Touch controls are difficult to use
  • Zippered carry case
  • Includes an aeroplane adapter
  • Not as comfortable for smaller heads

The ANC900BT headphones are lightweight and made of a combination of plastic and aluminium with poly-leather padding for the earpads and top of the headband.

Comfort is critical when it comes to headphones, and the memory-foam earpads are designed to be worn for long flights. I have a relatively small head and even on the tightest setting, the headphones didn't fit as snugly as I would have liked, which meant most of the weight was being held up by the headband.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT headphones

The headphones were initially comfortable, but the pressure on my ears and the top of my head gave me a headache if I wore them for long periods.

The earcups were also smaller than I would have liked and pressed into my ears unless they were perfectly in place. If I tried to move the headband slightly back or forward on my head to relieve pressure, the earpads would then sit on my ears and cause discomfort.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT headphones

There are controls on the left earpad that allow you to do the following:

  • Tap on the top to raise the volume.
  • Tap on the bottom to lower the volume.
  • Tap on the middle circle to play or pause.
  • Hold down the middle circle to activate Google Assistant.
  • Swipe up to play the next track.
  • Swipe down to play the previous track.

When the headphones are in your hands and you can see the left earpad, the controls are easy to use. However, as soon as you put the headphones on, it's almost impossible to touch the right part of the earpad on the first try.

I had to tap several times to locate the correct part of the earpad, and my touch didn't always register. The swipe motions were particularly challenging and I was only able to successfully swipe a handful of times during weeks of testing.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT headphones

You can charge the headphones with a Micro USB cable and they come with a 3.5mm auxiliary cable so you can use them wirelessly or wired.

The box also includes a hard, zippered carrying case and an aeroplane adapter. You can fold the headphones or swivel the left and right sides to lay the headphones flat in the case.

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Performance

  • Clear and well-balanced audio
  • Has three levels of active noise cancellation
  • The Connect app is easy to use
  • Omnidirectional microphone for phone calls

Audio quality is where the ATH-ANC900BT headphones excel with exceptional clarity from lows to highs, with balanced sounds and a strong bass.

There are three different options for active noise cancellation: Airplane, On The Go and Office/Study. As with other noise-cancelling headphones, you can opt to have the ANC on or off, but Audio-Technica has also added a third option: Hear-Through.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT headphones

This setting allows you to choose between three levels of noise cancellation so that you can hear some of the ambient noise in your environment. Unless I was on a flight, I found the full noise-cancellation to be almost too powerful, so the Hear-Through setting came in handy. It was also helpful to use during in-flight announcements.

All of these features can be adjusted using the Connect app. You can pair it with your phone using Bluetooth 5 to connect wirelessly.

I made several calls while wearing the ATH-ANC900BT headphones and the microphone quality was clear.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT headphones

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Battery

  • Exceptional battery life
  • Micro USB charging

Audio-Technica built the ATH-ANC900BT headphones with an exceptional battery life. You can get 35 hours of wireless listening while using Bluetooth. If you use the included auxiliary cable and noise-cancelling mode, for example, when on a plane, the battery lasts for up to 60 hours.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT headphones

The battery life is long enough to cover even the longest international flights.

The headphones take around five and a half hours to fully charge using the included Micro USB cable.

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Should you buy them?

  • Excellent audio quality
  • Long-lasting battery life
  • High price tag

When it comes to audio and battery life, the ATH-ANC900BT headphones deliver the quality we expect from Audio-Technica.

Unfortunately, the headphones fall short when it comes to the touch controls. Being able to access volume, noise-cancelling and playback settings on a single earpad is a big selling point, but Audio-Technica doesn't deliver on this promise. The controls, especially the swipe controls, are more frustrating than helpful.

Another thing to consider before buying is comfort. For some people, the ATH-ANC900BT headphones will be the perfect fit. However, if you have a smaller head and are sensitive to pressure, make sure you can try them on for at least 10-20 minutes before you buy them.

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Specifications

Product name
ATH-ANC900BT
Connectivity
Bluetooth 5.0
Battery Life using Bluetooth and noise-cancellation (wireless)
Up to 35 hours
Battery Life using noise-cancellation (wired)
Up to 60 hours
Charging time
Approx. 5.5 hours for a full charge
Weight
263g, without cable
Cable length
1.2m
Accessories
30cm USB charging cable, aeroplane adaptor, carrying case
Driver diameter
40 mm
Microphone
Omnidirectional, condenser microphone
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Images: Sarah Brandon

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