The Edifier W860NB Noise Cancellation Performance
Active Noise Cancellation
Active noise cancellation is conceptually simple. One or more microphones pick up ambient noise, which is used to generate opposing sound waves that cancel out the noise before it reaches the user’s ears. However, it has not been easy or cheap to implement.
For one thing – noise detection and the generation of its opposing sound waves happens in real-time. It is complicated by the need to mix the noise-cancelling sound waves with the actual audio output (of your song or movie).
The Edifier W860NB (US | Lazada MY | Shopee MY) is one of the few affordable wireless headphones to boast active noise cancellation. It has an ANC microphone at the side of each ear cup, pointing backwards.
From what we can tell, the W860NB uses analogue negative feedback circuitry to generate up to 97 dB of noise cancelling sound waves. Analogue noise cancellation is simpler and cheaper to implement, but limits its active noise cancellation to the lower frequencies.
For active noise cancellation of higher frequencies, they would need to add a fast digital signal processor to handle the complex noise cancellation algorithms.
Its Noise Cancelling Performance
We tested the Edifier W860NB (US | Lazada MY | Shopee MY) on eight flights, and many road trips. We tried to record the effect of its noise cancellation capability using a cardioid microphone, the best examples of which you can see in this video.
Before you watch it, please keep in mind that it was quite impossible to fully isolate our microphone in the ear cup. So the actual effect is more pronounced than what you’ll hear in this video.
In the airplane cabin clip, you can distinctly hear how the W860NB cuts out the low-frequency rumble, but the higher-frequency sound of the air-conditioning is still audible.
In the car cabin clip, when active noise cancellation is turned on, the low-frequency road noise is cut out. But you can still hear the higher-frequency wind noise, and even the radio music in the background.
Turning on active noise cancellation will markedly reduce low-frequency noise. This gives you a better appreciation of whatever you are listening to. However, this includes voices of people around you. In fact, airline announcements were clearer with ANC turned on, than turned off.
Edifier W860NB vs. Sony WH-1000XM2
This is a grossly unfair comparison, to be sure. But this is something quite a few of our readers will want to know – how does the W860NB (US | Lazada MY | Shopee MY) compare against a premium ANC wireless headphone that costs 3X as much – the much vaunted Sony 1000XM2 (US | UK | MY)?
- about 80% as good in the lower frequencies, and
- about 50% as good in the higher frequencies.
This is very good performance. Impressive actually, when you consider their large price difference.
Qualcomm aptX Support
The Edifier W860NB (US | Lazada MY | Shopee MY) supports the proprietary Qualcomm aptX audio codec. When used with smartphones, music players and other devices that support aptX, it can deliver lower latencies and better audio quality.
The aptX audio codec is more efficient than the default SBC (Sub-Band Coding) Bluetooth audio codec, delivering a higher bit rate with lower latency. The lower latency is especially important when you watch a movie with wireless headphones, because nothing is more distracting than a movie with unsynchronised audio!
However, make sure you enable aptX on your smartphone or player, or you will end up using SBC. Most smartphones, for example, default to SBC, even if they officially support aptX. In fact, you may need to make the change in Developer Options.
The W860NB does not support the newer and more advanced aptX-HD, which delivers HD Audio over Bluetooth; or aptX Low Latency, which promises a very low latency for better video and gaming performance. This is something for Edifier to look into adding into the next version.
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