Phitek BlackBox M14 noise-cancelling headphones

These noise-cancelling headphones block out a lot of ambient noise, but sound closed in

Phitek BlackBox M14
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Good active noise cancellation, comfortable, quality finish

Cons

  • Audio feels closed-in, expensive, require AAA batteries

Bottom Line

If you can afford them, BlackBox's M14 noise-cancelling headphones do a good job of blocking out unwanted background sounds. Audio occasionally feels closed-in and not as expansive as we'd hoped, however.

Would you buy this?

The Phitek BlackBox M14 closed headphones deliver active noise cancellation powered by a single AAA battery. They are well constructed and reasonably comfortable for long-term listening sessions, and their sound is versatile enough for a range of musical styles. Audio can feel closed-in at times due to the design, but if you can live with this then you'll be pleased with these headphones.

Phitek is a long-term player in the active noise cancellation market and supplies noise-cancelling headphones to Singapore Airlines' first-class passengers. The BlackBox M14 is one of the company's first consumer-oriented products.

With a combination of rubberised and painted plastic for the ear-cups and soft leatherette for the ear-pads and headband, the BlackBox M14 headphones feel well constructed. The oval-shaped ear-cups take a few seconds to adjust on your ears, but the telescoping headband makes fitting the headphones easy. At 180g these headphones are light enough to wear for long periods, although the leatherette finish does get sweaty after a while — so quick breaks might be required.

Noise cancelling is activated by a switch on the left ear-cup. Phitek claims the headphones offer a reduction of up to 22dB on sub-1kHz frequencies — as with most active noise-cancelling solutions low frequency noise is effectively eliminated but higher frequencies are harder to equalise. The noise cancelling is quite effective, successfully removing the ambient noise in an office environment without adversely affecting audio quality. A very slight high frequency hiss was introduced but it was only audible when no music was playing.

Sound quality from the Phitek BlackBox M14 headphones is good, with bass and higher treble frequencies well covered. These headphones have a lively sound, with mid-range that is slightly recessed in favour of deep bass kicks and clean treble. The soundstage of the headphones is not as expansive as we were hoping. It's common for closed active noise cancelling headphones to exhibit a "canned" sound; while it's more than bearable we would have preferred the BlackBox M14 headphones to have more detailed stereo imaging.

According to Phitek an AAA battery is good for 40 hours of noise cancelling, so you won't be changing batteries daily. You will need to remember to switch them off, however, or replacing batteries could become a costly endeavour.

If you can afford them (and the ongoing running costs), Phitek's BlackBox M14 headphones do a good job of blocking out background noise and provide adequate sound quality.

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