Just $90 for wireless noise-cancelling headphones? Can Taotronics’ offering on Amazon be such a bargain?
The arrival of Amazon in Australia may not have shaken up the audio retail sector quite as some had predicted (yet, anyway), but it has given more direct market access to brands hitherto unknown in Australia. We were contacted by Taotronics, which is based in Shenzen (though the company website shows German and US addresses). We know little about them, but accepted these active noise-cancelling headphones for review on good faith, curious to see how such a budget pair — just $90 — of active noise-cancellers would perform.
There are a few things to betray their price physically — the buttonry is very basic and clicky, and a bit confusing. We had thought the slide switch on the left headshell was turning them off, but in fact it only turns off the noise cancellation, with a long press of the third clicky button required to power them down, so it’s easy to leave them on by mistake. But the overall headphone build is solid, with an adjustable steel headband, soft enough leatherette earpads to make a comfortable seal, even the ability to hinge up neatly for storage, and a case is provided. They are light and reasonably comfortable to wear.
Normally we’re fans of using NC only when required but here you’ll want to leave it on, since turning it off had a large and deleterious effect on sound, shutting down the midrange, softening and dulling the sound while tilting things towards the upper bass — a fail for musicality whether cabled or playing via Bluetooth. But with NC on, with either Bluetooth or cabled NC playback, these headphones sounded full and well balanced through most of their frequency range. There’s a strong push right at the lower end, especially in cabled use, so that Leonard Cohen’s vocal on Going Home was dominated by its depth, while other male vocals could sound a little thin on lower midrange. Towards the top of their playback level they lacked finesse against their more expensive competitors.
Nor is the noise cancelling class-leading, and in particular it left external voices quite strongly audible. On one bus journey full of chatty teens the chat seemed even more intrusive with the bus rumble removed by NC than it had been without headphones.
But it’s what the TT-BH2 headphones can do which is remarkable at the price — they’re enjoyably musical, they deliver plenty of level, and they genuinely surprised us with their level of quality at the price. We can’t speak to longevity in our reviews, of course, and we say again we know little about the brand, or how the warranty works (18 months on registration), getting spare pads in the future — even whether the headphones you receive from Amazon will be exactly the same thing we’ve reviewed here. But giving them the benefit of the doubt, the TT-BH22 headphones do seem quite the bargain. JF