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Denon Globe Cruiser AH-NCW500 review:

Bluetooth, noise canceling at too high a price

Features and performance
The concept of the Denon Globe Cruiser AH-NCW500 is straightforward. It’s designed to insulate frequent travelers, whether on planes, trains, or in other noisy locations, from distracting background din. As an added convenience, you can link the Globe Cruisers to smartphones via wireless stereo Bluetooth connection. Additionally, the headphones double as a hands-free Bluetooth headset for making and receiving calls on the go.

For audiophiles who shun the compression of Bluetooth audio or in the air when wireless radios are a no no, just plug the bundled audio cable in the Globe Cruiser’s input. Unfortunately don’t expect an incredible audio experience from these headphones. Even through a wired connection, music sounded muffled and overly bass heavy. Highs and mids were also crushed underneath a hefty helping of low-end frequencies.

Each earpiece is housed in a frame that lets it pivot for maximum comfort. Sarah Tew/CNET

I was able to improve things a bit by downloading the Denon Travel app (available for both Android and iOS), which offers many preset equalizer profiles. You can also create your own profiles for personal use or even share them with friends. No matter what tinkering I did, though, I couldn’t create a similarly open and expansive sound field that I enjoyed on competing over-ear headphones. The Parrot Zik sounded particularly impressive, serving up much clearer detailed audio.

Another complaint I have with the Globe Cruiser is its weak, almost ineffective active noise canceling. In fact I had to flip the switch multiple times and strain my ears to tell if the function was on or off.

Flip a switch to activate noise canceling. Sarah Tew/CNET

Two performance bright spots, however, are the Globe Cruiser’s long battery life. Denon rates the headphone to provide up to 10 hours of playback on a single charge. Indeed I repeatedly managed to go about one to two days without needing to hunt down a power source, and that’s with noise canceling activated. The Parrot Zik by contrast manages a shorter 6 hours.

Phone calls I made with the Globe Cruiser were also of higher audio quality than I expected. Callers didn’t immediately complain that I was on a speakerphone, though they did say I sounded farther away than they would prefer. On my end, voices were rich and had a pleasing amount of richness.

I’ve been on a quest for Bluetooth stereo headphones that not only pump out excellent audio but can wrap me in a comfortable cloak of active noise cancellation. Now if this dream device could also handle hands-free calls well, I’d be over the moon. Unfortunately, while the Denon Globe Cruiser AH-NCW500 is comfortable to wear, it just doesn’t offer the other parts of the equation. At its steep $499.99 price especially, its weak noise canceling and muddy audio quality are tough to forgive. A much smarter luxury stereo Bluetooth buy is the $399.99 Parrot Zik. It has better audio quality, stronger noise cancellation, a higher-end design, not to mention intuitive touch-sensitive controls.

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