Flying the friendly skies has sure gotten a lot more enjoyable with the advent of portable media players, but frequent fliers realize it takes more than a decent MP3 player to deal with nuisance-ridden travel. A good pair of sound-isolating earbuds or noise-canceling headphones can do wonders when it comes to escaping into your own world of personal entertainment. Of course, active noise-canceling sets can cost a pretty penny, which is where the Able Planet Clear Harmony NC200 headphones come in. The pair is sold on Amazon for around $60--a palatable price if we ever saw one. You'll sacrifice top-notch sound and build quality, but the portability and comfort may make it worthwhile for some.
Like any travel-friendly headphones worth their salt, the Able Planet NC200 headphones can be compacted down, measuring roughly the size of a very large fist when completely folded. A soft pouch is included in the package, which can itself fit into just about any bag, thanks to the fact that it is not hard-sided. That said, we've seen better cases, ones that actually offer some protection while still maintaining a compact size. Also, while we appreciate the smooth finish Able Planet added to the headphones' exterior, they still have a decidedly plastic feel. Moreover, the build does not strike us as high-quality for a few other reasons, as well. First, it is extremely difficult to get the battery compartment, which is concealed in the top of the right earcup, completely closed when a battery is inside. The latch that holds it shut is decidedly janky. Also, the bit of silver accenting on the outside of either earcup was scuffed before we even started to use the headphones.
On the plus side, the Able Planet NC200 headphones are plenty comfortable. The leatherette padding on the headband and earcups isn't the cushiest we've come across, but it's sufficiently soft to prevent uncomfortable pressure. Also, the headband is not overly tight, so the earcups do not press uncomfortably against the jaw line. The headphones offer a couple of extras that some users may appreciate. There's a volume knob and shirt clip built into the thick cable, which can be completely removed from the headphones should you desire. Able Planet also throws in a quarter-inch adapter for use with home-audio equipment.
During our testing, we were mostly underwhelmed with the sound quality. First, you can't really use the NC200 headphones without noise cancellation engaged. Sound comes out, but it is very hollow and anemic. This in itself is not a huge negative, as many competing sets must have a battery to work. However, the antinoise created by the cancellation should be largely inaudible, and in the case of the NC200s, we could clearly hear a white noise--almost a background hiss--during silence and quieter parts of songs. Beyond that, music sounded reasonably clear and generally passable. Some songs came through a bit bright for our tastes, but high-end detail was present and there was a bit of bass.