For some, the passive sound isolation provided by many sets of in-ear headphones just doesn't cut it. But active noise cancellation is a bit difficult to find in an ultracompact package, such as that offered by earbuds. In fact, I can only think of two sets off the top of my head: the JVC HA-NCX77 and the Sony MDR-NC22. Now, I can add one more to my memory bank, Audio-Technica's new ATH-ANC3 QuietPoint earbuds. Unlike many noise-canceling headphones that only succeed in blocking out low frequency sound, the ATH-ANC3 uses a patented technology that matches environmental noise with a corresponding cancelling signal. This allows the 'buds to block about 85 percent of outside noise.
The ATH-ANC3 aren't quite as compact as standard earbuds, due to a module attached midway down the cable. This necessary addition takes the single AAA battery that is required for powering the noise-cancellation feature. The module also features a monitor switch that allows the listener to mute playback and hear outside sound. In addition to the headphones, Audio-Technica includes a hard-shell carrying case, an adjustable cable and additional extension cable, an airline adapter for connection to in-flight entertainment systems, a clothing clip, and the AAA battery. The ATH-ANC3 is expected to hit shelves this spring and carries a suggested price of $169.99.