Nowadays, noise cancelling technology is the norm for over-ear headphones. Everyone whose anyone has a pair, and major brands from Sony to Bose to Beats are hyping their noise cancellation tech.
If you’re like me, you don’t have $350- $500 to splash on headphones but need a sturdy pair of headphones that can survive daily use. While offering this tech. And looking good. At a decent price. Sounds impossible, right?
When I saw that TaoTronics were releasing low budget headphones ($99!) with all the tech of a $350+ pair, I knew I had to try them out. Read on to see if the new TT-BH046 Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones could meet all my expectations.
When I was handed the box I was pleasantly surprised by how little it weighed. For an over-ear pair of headphones the TT-BH046 seemed exceptionally light, and TaoTronics have gone for a minimalist look to the box that I really like. So far, so good!
What’s in the Box?
I opened the box to find my TaoTronics HANC Bluetooth Headphones (excellent start!). They were held in place by a velcro strip, which was secure even if it didn’t look too great. Included was an aux cable, a USB charging cable, and a user guide.
An airplane adapter is also provided, which lets you connect your headphones to in-flight entertainment systems equipped with dual or single output 3.5 mm jacks. Admittedly, this isn’t the first thing I look for in a pair of headphones. But it’s a welcome bonus, and something I wouldn’t have thought to buy for myself.
The lightweight carrying case looks and feels great. It’s large but you could easily fit it in carry-on luggage or in a backpack.
It’s pretty easy to set up these headphones without the user manual: there’s an on/off button, volume buttons, Micro USB charging port etc etc. There’s not really anything else to report apart from they felt incredibly comfortable when I handled them.
The ‘five minute charge for two hours of playback’ feature really came into its own here. I couldn’t wait to get started using them, so only having to wait five minutes was a huge bonus (spoiler alert: they lasted the full two hours).
Connecting was quick and simple. You just make sure the headphones are turned on, scan on your phone for Bluetooth devices and connect to TT-BH046. Quick tip: if your music seems quiet to begin with you’ll need to turn up the volume on the headphones themselves.
I listen to music and podcasts pretty much all day. My favorites help me through my commute and keep me concentrating at work, so I rate sound quality highly when choosing headphones.
Ranging from Lily Allen to Travis Scott to a bit of classical music, I put the headphones through their paces. First thing to note is that the sound balance is great – no need to switch to mono here. There’s no tinny noises and the tinkling classical piano was crisp and clear, making it an incredibly enjoyable listening experience.
They sound particularly great listening – believe it or not – to drum and bass. Particularly when I put them on in my apartment and blocked out the sound of the neighbors; it was like my own private rave. In fact, for anyone living in an apartment block or anyone who needs to block out their roommates from time to time, these are perfect. But there is arguably room for audio soundstage improvement. When you don’t have the noise cancelling mode on, it can be hard to match the sound quality.
The Bluetooth connection was steady as well, which helped when I took a call at work. The clarity of voice calls was a welcome surprise, although the noise cancellation means that you have to be careful not to shout…
Design and Wearability
One reason I wanted to test these headphones so badly is their aesthetics. I love their classic colour scheme and how their shape is a modern twist on retro vibes.
TT-BH046 look fantastic, and feel even better. The protein ear pads really are soft, meaning my head didn’t ever feel ‘pinched’ or pressured. This is also thanks to the headband, the padding and clean adjustment meaning you barely notice it.
The longest I wore them for was two hours (I’d recommend breaking up your listening like this, as it can be strange coming back to real world noises after the noise cancelling tech). They stayed put during this time, covering my ears without constant adjustment. They even fit snugly with my hair up and wearing earrings!
I was genuinely excited to try these headphones, my first foray into the world of Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling (HANC) technology. HANC certainly sounds impressive. It takes advantage of both feed forward and feed backward noise cancelling mics, meaning background noises will be cancelled quickly and more precisely across a broad range of frequencies.
TaoTronics claim that their HANC tech “significantly reduces low-frequency sound by up to 96%“. While I can’t attest to the exact percentage (let me know if you get them and you can!) the background noise reduction was so significant I believe their figures. In fact, it was eerie – put on the headphones and everything sounds like its happening in the distance, if you hear it at all! Definitely a good shout to drown out office chatter and the tapping of keyboards.
Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling (HANC) technology
Interested in TT-BH046 Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones? Learn more about Noise Cancelling technology here.
The noise cancelling wasn’t all encompassing – really loud and excessively high pitched noises obviously still get through. This doesn’t matter so much when you’re listening to music as the music gives you an added layer of protection from outside noise. Eliminating the low frequency background noise also means you can listen at a lower volume. I found this a welcome relief.
I found they really improved my subway commute. Being able to shut yourself off isn’t fantastic for walking on busy streets, however. I’d recommend waiting until you’re on the bus or subway to get your music started.
I was incredibly impressed with the TT-B046’s fast charge feature. 5 minutes charging for two hours playback is a great feature, especially for someone like me who always forgets to charge electronics until the last minute. They really did last two hours on a five minute charge; I also noted that on a full charge the headphones lasted for four days of heavy wear (about six hours a day) before needing to be re-charged.
Ultimately, I was impressed with TT-BH046. Not only did they look great, but they offer excellent sound quality, comfort and noise cancelling tech. HANC tech is at the forefront of headphone innovation and often comes with the price tag to reflect that. Compared to makers such as BOSE, who sell similar headphones for $350, they are an absolute bargain.
I wouldn’t want to wear them to the gym, but that isn’t what they’re built for; they’re for commuters, office workers and for day-to-day wear. If that’s what you’re looking for, I highly recommend these headphones.
This is the first in our series of Editor’s Picks, where we bring you exciting new launches and information about products that you’ll love. Want to be first to know when we post a new blog? Sign up to our mailing list below!