A cheap but effective noise cancelling solution
- Small size, light
- Cheap construction, poor noise cancelling
TDK's NC-100 headphones offer a convenient portable profile, but their pleasant sound is hampered by poor noise cancelling.
Price$ 49.95 (AUD)
As the less expensive brother of the TDK NC-200, the NC-100 offers the same noise cancelling technology, but in a smaller, more portable build. The sound quality is decent and is a step up from the stock earbuds of your favourite MP3 player, but the noise cancelling system introduces a lot of background hiss into the audio.
The NC-100 looks very similar to TDK's standard ST-100 portable model. The ear-cups swivel up and the headband is hinged in the middle, allowing for the headphones to be folded into a smaller size. They're slightly too large to fit into a pocket, but the package includes a soft carry pouch for them to be stored in.
They're comfortable to wear, with only a small amount of clamping force and an adjustable headband. The headphones are also very light and don't become heavy during long listening sessions; the trade-off for this is the noticeably flimsy build quality.
The sound isn't audiophile-quality by any stretch, but it is better than what you'll get out of the standard earphones bundled with an MP3 player. Audio is relatively neutral throughout the frequency range, with a slight emphasis on the mid-bass range.
Treble is even and it doesn't sound harsh until high volumes. However, it was a little muffled and lacked clarity, which gave the music in our tests a quality as if we were listening to it in a tunnel, with an echoey and distant effect. The mid-range was balanced and not bloated, though vocals were a little pronounced compared to the instrumental tracks in the same piece. There was a nice amount of bass, giving the music a smooth sound without overpowering any of the instruments.
Surprisingly for a budget pair of headphones, the NC-100s have an impressive soundstage. Positional audio is created well; when listening to live music there is distinct separation and noticeable three-dimensional staging.
The noise cancelling feature of the headphones produced both negative and positive results for the sound quality. We found that once the noise cancelling was activated, the music sounded richer and fuller. It's common for noise-cancelling headphones to sound veiled and distant when the noise cancelling is deactivated and this model was no exception, so it's recommended to keep the noise cancellation feature activated. We've had the noise cancellation active on these headphones for over 24 hours with music playing, so battery life will be more than sufficient for casual users.
The downside of the noise cancelling feature is that, especially during quiet periods of music, a large amount of background hissing could be heard. This was very noticeable, and was significantly worse than with the powered noise cancelling off. Despite this issue, the active cancelling does a passable job at reducing the volume of background noise.
With the addition of sound-enhancing noise cancellation over the ST-100s, the NC-100 headphones from TDK are a solid option at a competitive price.
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