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Edifier W860NB Active Noise Cancelling Headphones Review!

Edifier W860NB Active Noise Cancelling Headphones Review!

Are you looking for an affordable pair of active noise cancelling Bluetooth headphones? The Edifier W860NB might just be what you are looking for.

It is one of the few Bluetooth headphones in the market that offers active noise cancellation capabilities at an affordable price point.

Read our in-depth review of the W860NB active noise cancelling Bluetooth headphones, and find out why we gave it our Reviewer’s Choice Award!

Updated @ 2019-01-02 : Updated the review with additional points and information. Corrected several minor mistakes.

Originally posted @ 2018-12-02

 

Why Active Noise Cancellation?

One of the most important gadgets any frequent traveller must have is a good pair of headphones with active noise cancellation (ANC) capability.

Whether you want a good night’s sleep, listen to music or watch a movie during a flight or a road trip, active noise cancellation is the way to go.

Passive noise cancellation using over-ear headphones or in-canal earphones may be sufficient for use in an office, but is quite useless onboard a flight. You can turn up the volume to hear through the noise, but that could damage your hearing.

The best way to listen to music or a conversation in a movie is to use active noise cancellation to literally “erase” the ambient noise. Then you can hear without actually turning up the volume!

 

Edifier W860NB Specifications

Let’s kick this review off with a quick look at its key specifications :

SpecificationsEdifier W860NB
TypeOver-Ear Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones
Ergonomic FeaturesAdjustable headband (up to 6 cm longer)
Padded headband and ear cups, with faux leather covers
Noise CancellationYes, Active Noise Cancellation
Connectivity OptionsWireless : Bluetooth 4.1
Wired : 3.5 mm audio cable
Touch ControlsSkip Forward / Backwards
Volume Increase / Decrease
Pause / Resume Track or Call
NFC SupportYes
Bluetooth CapabilitiesBluetooth v4.1 with support for :
- Qualcomm aptX
- A2DP SBC (sub-band coding)
Bluetooth Range10 meters / 30 feet
Audio Drivers40 mm Neodymium Driver
Frequency Response20 Hz ~ 20 kHz
Sensitivity97 dB
Battery1,400 mAh lithium-ion battery
Rated Battery LifeStandby : 1,500 Hours
Music Without ANC : 45 Hours
Music With ANC : 25 Hours
Rated Charging Time4 Hours (5 V @ 1 A)
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Edifier W860NB Price + Availability

The W860NB has a recommended retail price of US$ 119.99 in the US, and RM 499 here in Malaysia. Here are some direct purchase links for your convenience :

 

Unboxing The Edifier W860NB

The Edifier W860NB (US | UK | AU | SG | MY) comes in a large premium cardboard box. Let’s unbox it and see what we find inside!

Once you fully unbox it, this is what you will find inside :

  • One pair of W860NB active noise cancelling headphones
  • Storage case and usual manual
  • USB Type A to micro-USB 2.0 charging cable
  • 3.5 mm audio cable with aircraft plug adaptor

Next Page > The Edifier W860NB Up Close + Key Features

 

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The Edifier W860NB Up Close!

The W860NB (US | UK | AU | SG | MY) is an elegant-looking pair of wireless headphones.

We like how Edifier chose to use a very nice smooth matte surface that is fingerprint smear resistant.

The W860NB is also very well-built, with a good blend of quality plastics, metal and faux leather. It has a good heft, and feels like a premium pair of cans.

Nestled in both ear cups are 40 mm neodymium drivers with titanium dome diaphragms, designed to deliver strong bass with a wide soundstage.

Despite its modest price point, the W860NB boasts touch controls, as well as a very nice storage case and all the accessories you’ll ever need.

Overall – this is a nice hassle-free buy-and-enjoy package, but let’s delve deeper and see what we find, shall we?

 

Touch Control + Buttons

The W860NB (US | UK | AU | SG | MY) has two Power buttons on the right ear cup.

The Power button turns on its Bluetooth connectivity and touch controls, while the ANC switch turns on its active noise cancellation circuitry.

Note that they work independently of each other. You can actually turn on the active noise cancellation capability without “turning on” the W860NB.

In fact, you can also listen to music using the 3.5 mm audio cable without, yes, “turning it on” using the Power button.

The W860NB has Bluetooth touch controls on the right ear cup as well. They only work when you are connected to your smartphone or music player using Bluetooth.

The touch controls allow you to change tracks and volume, or accept and end calls, without touching your smartphone or music player.

Just swipe right or left to skip ahead or backwards, and swipe up and down to control the volume. Tapping the centre twice pauses and resumes your music, or accepts and ends a phone call.

 

Audio + Charging Ports

On the left ear cup, you will find the 3.5 mm audio port. It allows you to connect the W860NB directly to your smartphone or music player, or the airline’s audio jack, using the provided aircraft port adaptor.

Hidden under a rubber cover is a micro-USB port that serves as a charging port. Edifier did not include a USB charger, only a USB cable which you can connect to your computer, your smartphone’s USB charger or even a power bank.

They quote a charging time of 4 hours with a 5 watt charger or USB 3.0 port. If you are recharging it using an older USB 2.0 port though, it should take twice as long.

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How Comfortable Is The W860NB?

The W860NB (US | UK | AU | SG | MY) has an adjustable headband that is padded at the top, and wrapped in soft faux leather.

The headband can be extended by 3 cm on each side, in 9 steps. When fully retracted, it is small enough to fit a child of about 8-9 years of age.

Its ear cups are also padded and covered in faux leather. Being designed for travel, the ear cups are on the small side. They hug your ears, preventing slippage even when you shake your head to the music.

On the other hand, faux leather does not breathe like real leather. So it will get humid inside the smaller space pretty quickly if you are wearing them in warmer weather.

Incidentally, the ear cups can be folded inwards, for a more compact form factor. It won’t fit the provided storage case, but it will be easier to store in your bag!

Next Page > Noise Cancellation Performance | Qualcomm aptX

 

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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 W860NB (US | UK | AU | SG | 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.

 

Noise Cancelling Performance

We tested the W860NB (US | UK | AU | SG | 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.

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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 | UK | AU | SG | MY) compare against a premium ANC wireless headphone that costs 3X as much – the much vaunted Sony 1000XM2 (US | UK | MY)?

Based on our subjective tests using the awesome Sony ZX300 Walkman (US | UK | MY), here is how the W860NB compares in active noise cancellation performance to the Sony 1000XM2, in our opinion :

  • 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 W860NB (US | UK | AU | SG | 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.

Next Page > Our Verdict + Award | Where To Buy?

 

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Edifier W860NB : Our Verdict + Award

Anyone who has ever tried using headphones with active noise cancellation on a flight will appreciate what a difference they make.

They will also realise just how useful noise cancellation can be in other applications – better audio clarity at lower volumes, concentrating better in a noisy office, sleeping better, etc.

The key impediment for the widespread adoption of active noise cancellation can be summed in one word – COST.

Headphones with active noise cancellation are generally much more expensive than regular headphones, and some are prohibitively so.

That is how the W860NB stands out above its competitors. Its affordable price point allows you to literally equip a family of three with W860NB wireless headphones for the same price you would pay for a single pair of Sony 1000XM3 (US | UK | MY) headphones!

But just how effective is its noise cancellation capabilities?

The W860NB (US | UK | AU | SG | MY) is best at cancelling out low-frequency noise. At higher frequencies, it is limited to passive noise reduction courtesy of its over-ear design and padding.

That means it will effectively cut out most of the annoying rumble of jet engines and road noise; leaving voices quite audible.

If you really need to cut out the higher frequencies, then you need to splurge on headphones that perform digital noise cancellation like the Sony WH-1000XM2 (US | UK | MY) or the latest Sony 1000XM3 (US | UK | MY) headphones.

The ability to block voices may or may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view. It may be nice to cut out annoying chatter and crying babies, but that may mean you won’t be able to hear important announcements or alerts

The W860NB also impressed us in other ways. it has very useful touch controls on its right ear cup, and a large battery with enough battery life to last even the longest flight and then some. We also like its classy matte finish, and excellent build quality.

Overall, the W860NB (US | UK | AU | SG | MY) offers a great combination of features, at a great price point. It really punches above its weight.

We are so impressive with its value proposition, we gladly award it our Reviewer’s Choice Award! Great job, Edifier!

 

Where To Buy The W860NB?

The W860NB has a recommended retail price of US$ 119.99 in the US, and RM 499 here in Malaysia. Here are some direct purchase links for your convenience :

 

Recommended Reading

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The 2017 Sony 1000X Series Noise Cancelling Headphones!

Sony just launched three new Sony 1000X series wireless headphones with industry-leading noise cancellation technology! They are the improved WH-1000XM2 headphones, the around-the-neck WI-1000X, and the WF-1000X ear buds. Check them out below!

 

Introducing The 2017 Sony 1000X Series Headphones!

The 2017 Sony 1000X series delivers industry-leading noise cancellation in three headphone styles – the WH-1000XM2 (Price Check) headband headphone, the around-the-neck WI-1000X (Price Check) earphones, and the WF-1000X (Price Check) ear buds.

They also introduce the world’s first companion app, with Adaptive Sound Control that detects your activity and automatically switches to your preferred noise cancellation profile. This is made possible by the Sony SENSE ENGINE integrated into the 2017 Sony 1000X series headphones.

In addition, the WH-1000XM2 and WI-1000X (Price Check) come with the world’s first Atmospheric Pressure Optimising feature. It uses sensors and the Sony SENSE ENGINE to monitor the atmospheric pressure to optimise their noise cancelling performance.

 

The Sony WF-1000X Wireless Ear Buds

The star of the show is the truly wireless style WF-1000X (Price Check) , completely free of wires and fitting snugly in your ear while incorporating industry-leading noise cancelling technology.

With a 6mm driver, the sound from the WF-1000X (Price Check) earphones is dynamic despite their miniscule size. As soon as you take them out of the case these headphones automatically power on and connect to the last device they were paired with – pop them in your ears and you are ready to go.

Charge the WF-1000X (Price Check) in the sleekly designed charging case for up to 9 hours of usage.

 

The Sony WI-1000X Around-The-Neck Earphones

The around-the-neck style WI-1000X (Price Check) is designed for the commuter who wants to add some sophistication and efficiency to their daily commute and business trips with up to 10 hours of battery life (with wireless noise cancelling turned on).

With the world’s first Atmospheric Pressure Optimising feature, this pair is perfect for enjoying in-flight entertainment systems via a wired audio connection. the WI-1000X (Price Check) also has a zip-style cable management and vibration alerts for incoming calls.

The hybrid driver unit with BA and 9mm dynamic driver brings the best sound quality to your ears with a multitude of other sound features such as High Resolution Audio, LDAC, DSEE HX and S-Master HX.

 

The WH-1000XM2 Wireless Headphones

The WH-1000XM2 (Price Check) are the improved headband-style premium noise-cancelling headphones, offering multiple new features and exceptional battery life, for a deeper, longer listening experience and more options to tailor the sound to your environment.

It boasts the unique Ambient Sound mode, Personal Noise Cancellation Optimiser and Quick Attention mode in this around-ear style. If you are a frequent flyer, then you will notice improved noise cancellation performance with the new Atmospheric Pressure Optimising feature that analyses your surrounding atmospheric pressure.

Enhanced to last 40 hours with an audio cable, or 30 hours wirelessly, the Quick Charge function gains 70 mins of battery life with just 10 minutes of charging, so you can use your 1000XM2 (Price Check) wherever you are, whether that be flying across the sky or on your commute to work.

 

The Sony Headphones Connect App

For the 1000X family, the companion Sony Headphones Connect app is packed full of features for adaptable listening, utilising your mobile device’s accelerometer sensor to detect your activity and adjust music and sound settings to best suit your environment.

 

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The 2017 Sony 1000X Series Price & Availability

The 2017 Sony 1000X series headphones will have the following recommended retail prices :

The Sony WI-1000X and Sony WH-1000XM2 are available right now, while the Sony WF-1000X will be available from 19 November 2017 onwards.

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