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The premium ANC headphone market is really heating up… so much so Microsoft jumped in with their new Surface headphones, Jabara announced their new Elite 85H’s at CES 2019, and most recently its rumored that Sonos is even working on their own pair of ANC headphones. But as of right now, I think the Sony 1000XM3’s are currently the best ANC headphones on the market right now.
But I know dropping $350 on a pair of ANC headphones is a lot for some people. So today we’re going to compare my current top 3 favorite sub $200 ANC headphones as of Q1 2019. We have the Sony WH-CH700N, the Sennheiser 4.50 BTNC, and the Audio-Technica ATH-SR50BT or as I call them, the Sir 50’s. Now I like and have no problem recommending either of these headphones but they all have their own pros and cons. But I think this video is going to be pretty interesting cause instead of me crapping on one specific pair of headphones, we’re going to be comparing 3 pairs of headphones that I genuinely like for different reasons.
Like I said, these are my top 3 favorite Sub $200 ANC headphones. The Sennheiser 4.50 BTNC’s have a retail price of $179.99… where as both the Sony WH-CH700N and Audio-Technica ATH-SR50BT have a retail price of $199.99. If you wanna pick either of these headphones up I’ll have links in the description down below and I suggest you check them out cause you never know when they’ll might go on sale. So you’ll might get lucky.
Ok first lets get the simple stuff out the way here and thats included accessories and ports. The Audio-Technica Sir50’s come included with a faux leather carrying pouch that I think looks a little classy. Where as the Sennheiser’s come included with a polyester soft shell carrying case which im not a big fan of but at least they came with something. Cause unfortunately, the Sony WH-CH700N don’t even come included with a carrying pouch or case. But still if you plan on on traveling with either of these headphones I highly recommend you invest in a hardshell carrying case. Cable wise, all of these headphones come included with a micro USB cable for charging. Even though its 2019, if you want USB C charging on your headphones you’re going to have to spring for more expensive headphones like the 1000XM3’s or surface headphones cause USB C still hasn’t made its way down to cheaper headphones just yet. And both the Sir50’s and WH-Ch700N come included with decent 3.5 to 3.5 millimeter audio cables. But just a heads up the Sennheiser’s uses a 2.5 millimeter audio jack.
But now lets talk about build quality, cause its ones of the main reasons I like the Sennheiser’s and Sir50’s so much and its one of the Sony WH-Ch700N’s weak points. Sony has done a great job of packing in a lot of features into the WH-CH700N but I guess they had to compromise on build quality. When even you flex the headband theres a good amount cracking and squeaking. Its not overly excessive like some other sub $200 headphones I’ve tested but I would definitely take it easy with these headphones. I mean, they’re not going to fall apart on you but their build quality pales in comparison to both the Sennheiser’s and Sir50’s. When ever you flex the headband or extend the headband on the sir50’s they’re almost silent. Tolerances on the body panels are very tight and if you squint they even resemble the 1000XM3’s. But what does make the Sir50’s special is that they can either be laid down flat or fold up. Where as the Sony’s can only be laid down flat, and the Sennheiser’s can only be folded up. But I think the best build quality award here has to go to the Sennheiser’s. Just like the Sir50’s if you flex the headband its basically silent and all of the body panels are exactly where they need to be. But what makes the Sennheiser’s stand out here is that they’re built like a tank. If you’re looking for a pair of headphones that you can throw around and not worry about, then the Sennheiser’s are the way to go.
But when it comes to fit, the Sennheiser’s are objectively the least comfortable headphones here. Now all three of these headphones are big head approved but both the Sennheiser’s and Sony’s have a snug fit. They’re not uncomfortable, but you’ll never forget they’re there. But the main reason the Sennheiser’s are the least comfortable headphones is cause of their ear cups. They’re a little cramped compared to the other ear cups here and they’re only suitable for people with smaller flushed ears. Where as the Sony’s have the most spacious ear cups here… they’re actually more spacious than the ear cups on the 1000Xm3. But the most comfortable award here has to go to the Sir50’s. The ear cups on the Sir50’s are almost as spacious as the ear cups on the WH-CH700N, but the main reason the Sir50’s are the most comfortable headphones here is cause they have very little clamping force like the Sony 1000XM3 or Bose QC35. And since the Sir50’s have very little clamping force they’re great for long use sessions and unlike the other headphones here, you’ll forget you even have them on.
Now when it comes to battery life, both the Sennheiser and Sir50’s perform relatively the same. The Sennheiser’s have an advertised battery life of 25 hours and the Sir50’s have an advertised battery life of 28. Over all I’ve found they’re both good for about a week and a half in-between charges for the way that I use them. But the Sony WH-CH700N have an advertised battery life of 35 hours which is way above average and they’re good for about 2 weeks in between charges.
And when it comes to bluetooth connectivity all of these headphones have stable connections that don’t cut out. But unfortunately all of these headphones can only be connected to one device at a time so you cant hot swap from one device to another as seamlessly as AirPods or the surface headphones.
But I also wanted to point out the WH-CH700N do have a bit of latency when watching youtube videos on your iPhone where as the other 2 headphones don’t. But that latency goes away if you’re going to watch Netflix on your iPhone.
Now regarding active noise cancellation on all of these headphones, I just want to set expectations first. No matter what anybody else tells you for right now the active noise cancelation on sub $200 ANC headphones is going to be nowhere near as good as the active noise cancelation found on more premium ANC headphones. And just so you can see for yourself we’re going to jump into an ANC test.
So like I said, the active noise cancelation on these Sub $200 headphones is nowhere near as effective as the ANC on the 1000XM3. And thats perfectly fine. But there are other metrics to consider when judging the ANC on any pair of headphones. For starters all of these headphones have very little cabin pressure when ANC is turned on, which is good to see cause some other headphones out there might cause discomfort on your eardrums. Which honestly is just annoying. And these headphones also have very little hissing with ANC turned on which is a common issue with other headphones with crappy ANC. So over all, even though these headphones don’t block out as much noise a more premium headphones, their ANC can be useful to block out some constant low frequency sounds like road noise, and if youre in an already quite place like an office or library they can block out the constant rumbling of an AC unit or a little bit of chatter. And they do so without causing any added discomfort which is the most important thing to keep in mind.
Now when it comes to sound quality, all of these headphones perform well in the sense that their bass never bottoms out, they have good clarity, and the highs never get tiny. You see, with some other ANC headphones out there, if you use them with their ANC turned on their sound stage gets narrowed and or their bass starts to bottom out more frequently when the bass really gets going. But in general if you want to get the best sound quality out of your ANC headphones its best to use them with ANC turned off. But when it comes to sound signatures, both the Sennheiser’s and Sir50’s have a neutral sound signature, but I do think the Sir50’s have better clarity and detail than the Sennheiser’s. But if you’re looking for a pair of headphones that have more kick in their bass then you’ll want to look into the WH-Ch700N. The WH-CH700N are the only headphones here who’s app allows your to directly adjust their EQ. So you can make them sound how ever you want depending on the type of music you listen to. But no matter how much you play around with the EQ their Clarity and detail isn’t going to be as good as the other two headphones here. So if I have to rank these headphones from best to worst sound quality wise, it would go first place Sir50’s, second goes to the Sennheiser’s, and third would go to the WH-CH700N.
But now lets talk about bonus features, unfortunately the Sennheiser’s are going to have to sit this one out cause besides ANC they don’t have another features to showcase. Besides good build quality, a comfortable fit, and good sound… one of the other reasons the Sir50’s made it onto my current top 3 list is cause they are one of the only sub $200 ANC headphones out there that feature both an ambient more and quick attention mode just like the 1000XM3’s. The Sir50’s have a feature called Hear Through were they’ll pump in some of the ambient sound around you so you can still hear whats going on when you have your headphones on. This feature is useful if you’re walking around in the city or if you work in an office you can still hear when someone calls your name. The Sir50’s also have quick hear through where if you press the only physical button on the left ear cup your headphones will mute your music and pump in all of the ambient sound around you like this.
And I really like when headphones have this feature cause you can talk to someone without having to take off your headphones. But unfortunately, even though the WH-CH700N are the 1000XM3’s little brother they don’t have an ambient or quick attention mode. They do how ever have google assistant integration.
And as voice assistants continue to get better and get integrated into out daily lives, more and more headphones are going to have direct voice assistant integration. So its cool to see that the WH-CH700N already has this.
So we’re now at the tail end of this video and I’m willing to bet that a good chunk of people watching this might be considering getting the Sir50’s. I mean like I said earlier, they have good build quality, they’re very comfortable, they sound great, and they have very useful extra features… but they do have one glaring issue, and thats their touch pad. The Sir50’s have a touch pad on the left ear cup to control your music playback. But unfortunately as a righty this touch pad is very hard to use even after a few weeks and its not the most accurate touch pad out there. So when ever I use the Sir50’s I just find myself using my phone to control my music playback. So the Sir50’s do lose a bit of points when it comes to connivance. Where as both the Sony’s and Sennheiser’s have a dedicated volume rocker and a switch so you can easily scrub through your music all while keeping your phone in your pocket. But I do prefer Sony’s media control buttons over Sennheiser’s cause they’re larger and easy to tell apart.
So overall, like I said at the beginning of this video I like and have no problem recommending either of these headphones. But if it wasn’t for the Sir50’s crappy touch controls on their left ear cup they would be hands down my number one and most recommended sub $200 ANC headphones. So I would only recommend getting the Audio-Technica ATH-SR50BT’s if you’re willing to comprise on those touch controls or learn how to live with them. But other than that I love these $200 headphones. If you’re looking for a pair of headphones with more spacious ear cups or an adjustable EQ then the Sony WH-CH700N are a good option too. And finally theres the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC. Just like the Audio-Technica’s… they sound great. But they’re definitely not for people with larger ears. But if you’re looking for a pair of good looking rugged headphones then they’re a good option too.