Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 QuietPoint Noise-Canceling Headphones Page 2

Unlike the QC 3s, the ANC7s do not include a battery charger. No harm done - you don't need one: The phones run on a single AAA battery that loads into a clever pop-up drawer on top of the right earcup. This design means there's no lid to fumble with or drop under the seat of the commuter in front of you on your morning bus ride. Battery life is claimed to be up to 40 hours, and a replacement, should you need one, is as close as the next convenience store.

Also unlike the Bose models - including both the QC 3 and its predecessor, the QC 2 - the headphones still work when the noise-canceling circuitry is turned off. You won't get any noise cancellation, and you'll find the sound a couple of dB lower in volume, but you will get sound. That can make a huge difference midway through a transatlantic flight when your battery unexpectedly gives out.

Another critical difference is that these are around-ear headphones vs. the QC 3s' previously noted on-ear design. Frankly, I was a bit skeptical about their long-term comfort when I first put them on, but they proved to be light enough in their pressure fit and soft enough in their padding not to be bothersome over some pretty good hauls. Ultimately, though, they are both larger and heavier than the QC 3s and don't quite share the featherweight, forget-they're-there quotient that the QC 3s enjoy. (I can't say how they compare directly with the QC 2s, which also have an over-ear design.)

PERFORMANCE The most immediate and obvious sonic trait I heard when I first put on the ANC7s was their outstanding midrange and, especially, high-frequency detail. No matter what I listened to - rock, pop, jazz, country, classical - it was like a veil had been lifted from the music compared with the sound on my reference QC 3s. On the delightfully delicate rendition of "The Girl from Ipanema" by Rosa Passos and Ron Carter on Chesky's compilation of The World's Greatest Audiophile Vocal Recordings, the fine brushwork on the cymbals was reproduced with their metallic shimmer intact, something that was crushed and compressed on the QC 3s. The A-Ts also reproduced this track, and others on this well-recorded CD, with a bit more air and spaciousness than the Bose phones did.