I recently found out about a headphone brand called Able Planet, they specialize in noise cancellation headphones that rival the likes of the Bose QC 15 and Bose QC 3. In fact, anyone researching into buying one of the Bose QC range will probably bump into these, they even look pretty similar to the QC 15!
Upon receiving the product my first thoughts was that the packaging looked ok, nothing special, just very simple packaging. In the box however, you are greeted with the carry case, inside that carry case you get the headphones cleanly folded flat, plus in-line 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable, which has volume control. You also get a removable pocket (lined with Velcro so it sticks to the carry case), and in that pocket you will find an airplane adapter and a ¼ inch adapter. Just to note, the box is fairly large, so it can be a nightmare to store!
Design and build quality
I will be completely honest, you either love the design of these headphones or you hate the design. I personally I’m not the biggest fan of the design of these headphones, I think they are a bit thick for modern headphones, and some people would go so far to say that these are ugly, as they seem to make your head look huge…
I have however heard about horror stories about these being easy to break, have a look on amazon, but the fact of the matter is that these feel fine, I mean sure, they are not going to be the world’s most tough headphones, but they will stretch out to very wide angles- trust me I have tried! The other thing I love is the fact that you can put in any earphone cable in, meaning you can replace the free one that is provided for free here, however, if they were to break, or you wanted a nicer looking cable, then you can just buy it and it will work!
Being a portable headphone, or at least marketed for that, I have to measure a few extra factors beyond good audio reproduction. Does it carry well? Is it light? Does it seal and isolate? Well there is good news; yes, these are light (due to the fact that they are made out of plastic!), and they are very comfortable and they even come with a great carry case. However, there are a few more things to note, the sound isolation is pretty amazing, noise cancelling headphones differ from “normal” headphones in the way they treat ambient noise. Where others block it out physically, by creating a wall between your ear canal and the environment, headphones like the Able Planet Clear Harmony NC1150 actively combat noise by pumping extra sound waves through the speakers to cancel out unwanted sound.
Obviously the most important aspect of headphones (in my mind) is the sound, so do they sound good?
Out of the box I tried these on, and I was highly impressed, although one of the first things that I noticed, is although these will work without battery’s installed, with the noise cancellation turned off it’s extremely dull, sounding as though someone’s put a pair of earmuffs over the speaker. Volume also diminishes significantly without the power of the AAA batteries to work with. However, turn the noise cancellation on and the NC1150 come to life tons more. Volume and clarity increase hugely, resulting in a sound that’s lively and dynamic. Top-end punch and presence is particularly impressive, making the Bose QC 15 sound a little flat in comparison. This energetic treble also avoids sibilance and harshness that bright headphones often suffer from. Before I give an overall decision on these headphones I would just like to show you all the main good and bad things about these headphones.
· Great sound
· Very comfy
· Easy to carry and store
· Replaceable cable
· Great carry case
· Pretty good noise cancellation
· Look and feel a tiny bit cheap
· Bass could be improved
· Below par cable- feels very cheap
Overall- can I recommend them?
Well, in a word… Maybe- you just need to think about what you need. If I just compare these to its main rival, the Bose QC 15, now the first thing- the sound is better than the Bose, however, I am not entirely sold that the noise cancellation and comfort is quite as good as the Bose.
I would personally go on what you need, if you use your headphones on the train or bus, or at work all day, and don’t mind that the sound may not be as good as the NC1150, then go for the Bose, however if you want all of the above features, but care more about the sound then go for these, but finally, what I always say to people is if you don’t need the noise cancellation, then look elsewhere, as there is better sounding headphones for a cheaper price (just without the noise cancellation).