Taotron­ics TT-BH22

Just $90 for wire­less noise-can­celling head­phones? Can Taotron­ics’ of­fer­ing on Ama­zon be such a bar­gain?

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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

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