TaoTronics is one of those aggressive Shenzhen tech companies looking to break out on Amazon. The company has a range of Bluetooth headphones, among other products, and it just updated one of its most popular pair of headphones for 2019.
The TaoTronics Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones (2019 New Version) does not have a snappy name, but the price more than makes up for that. For $100, you get wireless Bluetooth over-the-ear headphones that last for nearly 30 hours on a single charge and can eliminate the noise of a a Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 jet engine.
But shouldn’t you just get Sony’s H.ear On 2 headphones or Bose’s QuietComfort 35s? Sure. If an extra $200-to-$250 is nothing to you, then do that. But if you want to stay in the $100 range, TaoTronics is delivering solid audio with excellent noise isolation.
What you’ll like
Do you need noise-cancellation?
Before getting into the TT 2019’s active noise cancellation (ANC) performance, let’s talk about ANC as a concept. You probably don’t need active noise cancellation if you are sitting at a desk — especially if you are in your own office.
ANC is great for isolating constant drones. If you fly a lot, you know that hearing music, movies, games, or podcasts with headphones is difficult even with headphones on many planes. Whirring jet engines are loud, but they also make a constant pitch. And that makes it easy for ANC headphones to identify and counter (and it’s also what makes them an occupational hazard).
But ANC struggles with varied sounds like people talking or sudden outbursts. So headphones like the TT 2019’s are ideal for an office that is so noisy that it creates a constant humming. It’s not, however, going to help you shut out your chatty open-office neighbor.
For droning-noise situations, the TT 2019 headphones performs extremely well. I didn’t test on an actual plane, but I sat in a variety of spaces and played external noises equivalent to a jet engine. Anything that stay relatively constant is going to disappear.
But if you get enough variability, some noises will begin to get through. I live next to a busy road, and the pitch of an approaching car is constantly changing due to the Doppler effect. So even though the headphones eliminated the sound of the wind and my PC fans, I could still hear car noises coming in through my window.
This is just the nature of ANC, though. And it’s what you want from this tech. If someone is talking to you, you’re going to want to hear it. And you can. But you just won’t have to deal with constant noise dirtying up your music library or gaming action.
While the ANC is very effective, I’m also generally happy with the audio quality for this price point. Now, I just came off reviewing a $250 Sennheiser gaming headset, which sounds phenomenal. And the TaoTronics 2019 headphones do not compare to that. But I still think that they sound good.
I definitely noticed better bass than most other headphones in this range. It was nearly equivalent to the low-tone reproduction you get from the $200 HyperX Cloud Mix headphones, which I reviewed last year.
But that thumping bass seems to come at the cost of the rest of the audio spectrum.
What you won’t like
While the bass bops, everything else sounds slightly muddy and hollow.
The mid-range comes across as gutted. That makes vocals in music, games, and films feel powerless. To me, it’s a problem when I don’t want to get out of my chair when Clarence Burke, Jr. starts singing “O-O-H Child.” And I don’t really want to get out of my chair when that happens while listening on the TaoTronics headphones.
The problem is that the voices are lifeless and the high-tones don’t do justice to brass instruments. Vocals and instruments end up eating into each other to create a murky quality.
To be fair to the TaoTronics headphones, it still sounds a bit better than a lot of cheaper headphones. But to stay consistent with the comparison, you’ll get a lot better sound from the HyperX Cloud Mix for $100 more — let alone the $300/$350 options from Sony and Bose.
If you have a need for active noise cancellation and more than enough cash, you should probably go with the Sony H.ear On 2 WH-H900N headphones.
But I get it. Spending $300 on headphones might as well be $10,000 for a lot of people, including me. If you don’t want to drop more than $100, and you need that ANC, TaoTronics has an option here that is more than viable. The audio quality is weak in some key spots, but it’s not outright bad. And I could see sacrificing some quality to get really great ANC without emptying your checking account.
And the TaoTronics headphones are pretty comfortable with decent build materials and on-ear controls. If you travel a lot, the TT 2019s are up to the challenge. You can also use it with an including 3.5mm cable to plug into a PC or console that doesn’t support Bluetooth.
The TaoTronics ANC Headphones 2019 are available now for $100. TaoTronics sent GamesBeat a sample unit for the purpose of this review.