updated 09:30 pm EDT, Fri April 1, 2011
Each offers serious sound with different options
Two different companies have announced new high-end earbud-style headphones that offer excellent sound at reasonable prices. Audio-Technica are now shipping their in-ear ATH-ANC23 active noise-cancelling headphones that claim to offer 90% noise-cancelling performance while preserving 20-20,000 Hz performance, while Brainwavz have brought out dual-balanced armature earphones they call their highest-end yet, the Brainwavz B2 which will be shipping in late April.
The Audio-Technica earphones feature Comply "memory-foam-style" foam tips for extra comfort as well as an in-line volume control. The ATH-ANC23 uses QuietPoint technology involving miniature microphones to sample the environmental noise and supply a customized, corresponding noise-cancelling signal that functions even if no music is being listened to, and the headphones continue to work as normal headphones even if the batteries run out (they are rated for up to 60 hours on a single alkaline AAA battery). The company says the foam tips are 30 times softer than standard ear buds, and the kit comes with three sets for large, medium or small ears. They retail for $100
Brainwavz' B2 headphones ($170) don't feature noise cancellation technology, instead preferring to focus on sound. They've been given strong reviews and compared very favorably to the Ultimate Ears' UE-700 headphones. They are also rated 20-20,000 Hz with a higher impedence than the Audio-Technicas (40 vs. 32 Ohms) and higher sensitivity (110dB vs. 105dB). The dual-amature design keeps highs and lows cleanly separated, and the company takes great pride in their twisted Cu-Ag alloy cord which is built for durability.
The ATH-ANC23s are available now directly from Audio-Technica and their various resellers. The Brainwavz B2 headphones ship late next month and can be pre-ordered from the company or on Amazon.com (and Amazon.co.uk) among other places.