One glance at the available options leads us to an obvious conclusion: we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to Bluetooth headphones. Audio-Technica, no stranger in this sector, offers audio connoisseurs another option vying for your precious dollar with their ATH-ANC900BT QuietPoint Wireless Headphones. The brand and Bluetooth 5 connectivity (and price) scream “premium”, but are these headphones ideal for both audiophiles and office meetings?
The ANC900BT quintessentially follows the Audio-Technice design language – smart and clean with only quality materials used for the best comfort and functionality in mind. Look around and you’ll see a combination of matte plastic on the earcup shells and connecting joints, leatherette earpads and headband, and a appropriately minimal use of gloss plastic accents on the inner earcup. Stylish, indeed.
That sleek minimalism is by design, of course, as all the controls are cleverly hidden on the left cup and accessible only through gesture touches (more on this soon). There are still physical buttons and ports, though. You’ll get a on/off switch, Micro USB charging port, aux jack, and a hear-through button which lets you temporarily listen to outside surroundings via the microphone – useful if you happen to be in a busy area and can’t be bothered to remove the ANC900BT from your head.
But let’s get to the main points of contention for some of the Popzara staff, chiefly the aforementioned gesture controls. Both myself and another editor (Trent) played with the ANC900BT and came away with somewhat different impressions on usefulness. Trent made no secret when expressing his disdain on how unnecessary the touch-based setup is for his liking.
He called it confusing and unintuitive since there are no physical indicators and redundant playback buttons to rely on, and he had trouble adjusting the volume levels in Bluetooth mode. Quite frankly, he doesn’t believe these (or any other headphones like this) should require a learning curve, which is a fair opinion.
His criticisms about the ANC900BT are somewhat valid. Headphones at their core, especially ones with higher price tags, should offer competent sound and be intuitive to use, especially if they rely on touch controls. Nobody wants to gloss over a manual nowadays, but it wouldn’t hurt to read the literature that comes in the box. After getting acquainted with the controls, I found they did work as intended, albeit mildly vague since there are no visual labels or cues on the exterior.
It only takes a few minutes to learn, but it would have been nice had Audio-Technica put contoured indents and raised the center logo top so you’d instinctively learn where to swipe or tap on the earcup with less guesswork.
Beyond that, using the touch controls involves everything from tapping either the top or bottom of the outside cup to increase or decrease the volume, swiping up or down to change music tracks, or touching the center logo to plause/play; or hold it down for 2 seconds to enable speech recognition or receive/hang-up phone calls. That last function is completely dependent on your connected device, so it will operate differently for iOS, Android or PC.
Noise cancelling modes can by switched by holding the palm of your hand over the entire earpiece for a couple seconds, you’ll know the modes have changed because the headset will tell you so (OFF>ON>Hear-Through ON).
As for sound quality, the ANC900BT is generally clean as far as wireless performance goes, thanks largely to its Bluetooth 5 integration. The profile favors balance versus boosted bass, making it a suitable multitasker for both music and calls, if only a bit linear and bright when listening to hip-hop or EDM genres. On the flipside, the ANC900BT excels in the midranges and highs with instrumentals and percussion levels flourished in depth.
Music fans more into classical, pop or various subgenres of rock, however, should know the soundstage felt a bit short on height. What you sacrifice on warmth or punch is made up in clarity, though, and at no time did any genre sound distorted or flat.
Music aside, one area these headphones truly excel is with noise-cancellation, which is among of the most effective implementations of the tech I’ve ever experienced. At 103dB/mW, it’s actually shocking how effectively the outside world can be completely hushed with a mere gesture.
Battery life is another plus since you can get about eight days for casual listening, which is an awfully long time between charges. You’ll almost forgive the archaic use of needing a micro-USB cable when the critical recharge moment eventually happens. As for wired usage, the ANC900BT is surprisingly mediocre via AUX, which was surprising given its a direct connection, so I don’t recommend tethering yourself at home during a Zoom meeting.
Audio-Technica gives you a respectable sound experience – and truly awesome noise-cancelling tech – with the ATH-ANC900BT QuietPoint Wireless Headphones. The main reason you’re looking at these is going to be for the noise cancellation and Bluetooth 5 longevity, with sound clarity being satisfactory across the board. That said, the gesture controls will be hit-or-miss, depending on your expectations on how a premium headset should operate, the layout proficient enough but ultimately coming off too clever for its own good, favoring convoluted style over substance in some case. Despite their steep learning curve, these are still headphones worth considering.