The ATH-ANC33iS active noise cancelling earphones as the name suggests, are active noise cancelling earphones which basically means they need a battery to work. Active more accurately means that they actually use a microphone to take input from the surrounding area and use that to inverse the outside noise against what you’re listening to on your headphones.
These are probably the most affordable active noise cancelling earphones on the market at the moment and can be picked up on Amazon for only $78 or the older version for $49. I picked mine up on ebay in Australia on sale for AUD$75 which is a fairly reasonable price especially within Australia.
Audio Technica claims that these particular earphones ‘reduce environmental noise by up to 90%’ however I don’t think that is the case. I would say that they reduce low and constant noises by around 70-80% but you still get spikes of noise coming through when people cough or sometimes beeping from the train doors closing. The difference is noticeable when switching between passive and active noise cancellation though. Passive noise cancellation is when the power is turned off and the noise is only being reduced by the seal of the earbuds themselves.
That said, I did find them quite acceptable and blocked out the sound to a level that made everything sound very ‘far away’. The noise cancelling provided by these is definitely good enough to be able to comfortably sleep. I think these perform very well, especially given the price. In terms of sound and audio quality, I found these to be pretty good. I didn’t find them to be too bassy or tinny, they felt about in the middle.
Speaking of the earbuds, they include 2 rubber tips in large and small. They also include some more premium feeling ‘comply foam tips’ which are made of a kind of memory foam that comfortably fits to your ear. Out of the 3 types of tips I found the ‘comply foam’ tips the most comfortable especially for longer use. I couldn’t tell much of a difference in noise cancellation between the rubber and the foam, both did an equally good job. Some other things they include in the box are a battery and an airline plug adapter. They also included a felt pouch to store it all in.
The overall design of the earphones are comfortable to use although the battery compartment is a little awkward and heavy. Luckily it does have a clip on the back so you can clip it to your shirt or belt to keep it from moving around. The controls are minimal. There’s only a volume wheel and an on off switch on the main battery compartment. There is however a single button and microphone on the left side earphone cable. This comes in handy for skipping songs (by double clicking on android) and for answering calls.
Overall I think these are probably the best noise cancelling travel earphones under $100 and I would highly recommend them to anyone in the market for some affordable entry level noise cancelling earphones that won’t break the bank.