The MSR7NC headphones are Audio-Technica’s new active noise-cancelling variant of their MSR7 set of hi-res over-ear headphones. I’ve never had the opportunity to try headphones with active noise cancelling before – to be honest, the whole idea sounded kind of bogus to me. For those not aware of the marketing spiel, the idea is that the headphones use a microphone embedded in the ear cups to pick-up ambient noise and block it with an audio wave signal that is 180 degrees out of phase with the ambient noise. To me it sounds like one of those ideas that works in theory but in practice... not so much.
HOLY MOLY... IT WORKS
After charging the internal battery up for a few hours (via the included micro USB cable), I first tried these while sitting in bed. I didn’t think I’d be able to notice much difference between the active and passive modes in an already, supposedly, silent environment. However, the difference was akin to someone turning off a light – I wasn’t even consciously aware I was hearing sounds before, but all of the low level ambient noise was suddenly silent.
Turning active mode off again, it’s like a slap in the face. How did I live with all this noise? The hum of the nearby freeway, the sound of my own breathing, neighbours squawking at their bratty kids, that faint sea shell-esque phenomenon of resonating frequencies rocking around in the cups over your ears; I turned it back on straight away.
OH YEAH, THEY MAKE SOUND TOO
Noise cancelling aside, with a frequency response of 5hz- 40,000hz, these cans cater for the audiophile hi-res crowd, so time to really get the most from those lossless audio files. Teaming that insane frequency response with noise cancelling makes sense really, without the intrusion of ambient noise, you can truly appreciate the rich tapestry of frequencies in a good quality recording. In my opinion one of the most intensely creative albums ever in terms of sound design is Amon Tobin’s ISAM. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times, but with the FLAC files and silence... it’s truly an experience. To my ears, the sub bass-end of things could maybe do with a slight EQ bump to balance out the wealth of bright frequencies on hand, but really that’s personal preference, otherwise they sound fantastic.
With an incredible battery life of ~30 hours and included airline headphone plug adapter, these cans are clearly aimed at the traveller who values good sound. I wish I had the opportunity to give these a try on a plane, I could imagine myself just wearing them to escape the fatiguing whir of the plane and get some silence. They’re certainly on the pricier side of the headphones market, but these aren’t overpriced trendy plastic poseur cans, you get what you pay for, and sometimes it’s worth the investment. Or as Tom Haverford would say: “treat yo self.”
For more details, head to audio-technica.com.au.
Hits and Misses
Active noise cancelling..it works!
Battery life is bonkers good
Included airline adaptor, case & 2 x cords
Fit might be a smidge tight for big heads/ears