Last year, we reviewed the Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC7 noise-canceling headphones, and editor Jasmine France thought they were a good value, offering decent but not great sound for the money. Well, when we heard that Audio-Technica was releasing a new, improved version of these headphones with a "b" tacked on to the model name, we were eager to get our hands on a pair.
What exactly has the company improved? According to the news release, these 'phones are supposed to sound better, offer a more comfortable fit (the earcups have been redesigned), and deliver some additional design tweaks, including an easier-to-access battery bay and two detachable cables of varying lengths: 1.6 meters (5.2 feet) and 1 meter (3.3 feet). Also according to Audio-Technica's release, the ATH-ANC7b headphones deliver "smoother, richer and more natural tonal balance...with impactful bass, a detailed midrange, extended treble and accurate imaging in an immersive soundfield."
All that sounds good and a lot of people have their eyes on the ATH-ANC7b headphones as good alternatives to the Bose QuietComfort 15s and QuietComfort 3s that cost significantly more ($300 and $350, respectively). So we decided to see if the Audio-Technicas measure up to that hype.
Like competing models, these headphones fold flat for storage and come with a protective carrying case (it's good), a full-size phono (6.3-millimeter) adapter, and an airline adapter for connection to in-flight entertainment systems. Another thing these Audio-Technicas have going for them is that they also work when the noise-canceling function is turned off (they operate in a passive mode without batteries). In contrast, Bose models are dead in the water when they're turned off, or when the battery dies. However, the only problem is that they sound muffled when you don't engage noise canceling.
And when we compared them to the QuietComfort 15s, we noticed some discernible differences: