TL;DR, if the use case does not matter. My initiation of finding a new pair of noise cancelling headphones started with the break-down of my WH-1000XM3 (XM3) since I did not know if Sony would not honor the warranty as they did with my WH-1000XM2 (XM2) (they did for XM3...
TL;DR, if the use case does not matter. My initiation of finding a new pair of noise cancelling headphones started with the break-down of my WH-1000XM3 (XM3) since I did not know if Sony would not honor the warranty as they did with my WH-1000XM2 (XM2) (they did for XM3 this time) and I have been spoiled by the level of noise cancellation the previous two products have provided while maintaining a listenable sound for me unlike Bose QC35 v1, which I bought and returned while feeling torn despite of its excellent noise cancellation, comfort and connectivity, the latter two at which Sony did not excel, especially the connectivity. For reference, in terms of sound quality, the portable headphone/earphone I like most is Sony XBA-Z5+PHA-3 on dual 3.5mm balanced connection, which has punchy yet responsive bass, clear and crisp mid and high and, however, comparatively low smoothness between frequencies compared to larger open-back cans. In terms of places of use, ANC headphones are usually used in the lab, library and flights. In terms of ANC headphones, I need the best possible ANC while the headphone still sounds like one instead of a pair of phone calling headset in the early age.
In terms of connectivity, Bose (and Apple/Beats on devices of their own brands) does the best since its products allow simultaneous connections of two devices and its app makes managements of connections easy if you always keep the connection to one mobile device on(iPhone in my case). In terms of ANC, XM3 does the best. It even blocks voices decently without playing any music at my work place.
(TL;DR, In terms of comfort, it will be up to personal preferences even though the variety of those is less than that of sound. Generally the lighter the better, but it could be a problem even so. For instance, AKG NC700 and B&O H9 3rd hurt my ear and head and cause pain for wear them shortly while some people do not feel so. Some headphones will need to get used to like XM3. I recommend trying each of them exclusively as much as possible before return period ends. In short, the ANC900 falls into the category of comfortable without needing to get used to, while XM3 with needing to do so)
- Sound: For a $300 wireless headphone, ATH-ANC900BT (referred as ANC900 later on) deserves its price tag under aptX connection and with a good source of music like prime music HD. Bass is moderate and accurate (probably a bit lacking for bass heads), mid is near perfect and high is rich for a headphone with dynamic driver while the sound is still smooth and dynamic. A friend of mine said that ANC900 has the typical Audio-Technica Sound after trying out ANC900 on a few tracks on my setup but I have not had any products of it before so I cannot corroborate.
Compared to XM3 whose bass bleeds into mid and its mid and high are muddy and dark at best, ANC900 has less yet proper bass, sounds levels above XM3 at mid and high and connections of frequencies are natural for its price tag. ANC900 is even on par with B&O H9 3rd, the best sounding for an ANC wireless headphone I have tried which suffers from not only not enough ANC (to a less extent) but also discomfort (hurts my ear in less than 30 minutes of wearing) and only falls short at slightly less and muddier bass which is unnoticeable outdoor.
- Comfort is satisfying given that I can wear it for half of a day without fatigue and even longer if I do not have to take it off. The time of use is between January and February in the southeast and the level of comfort is unknown when weather gets hot but it should be alright indoor with AC in summer. Personally I do not use over-ear headphones outdoor at all when highest temperature of a day gets to 80F (27 Celsius, by my inaccurate mind calculation xd) and rarely so even in the winter.
- The weight is light enough even though its about 10 grams heavier than XM3. You wont feel it as long as you dont try your best on that.
- Battery life: Super long battery life even for a wireless headphone without ANC. I was never worried about forgetting to charge it at all. ATH claims ANC900 has 35 hours of wireless playback time when ANC is on.
Neither good nor bad:
- Size: the cans are tall as a pair of open-back and cause the folding size to be a bit large if portability matters the most to you; otherwise non-relevant.
Why did I return it if sound and comfort is so good? Here are the problems:
- THE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR ME, given my use case, ANC really needs improvements. It was not even close to that of my lost QC15. Probably I am a bit harsh on comparing ANC headphones nowadays to a legendary product, but QC15 was released ages ago in terms of lifespan of consumer electronic products. The best ANC on ANC900 can do is to block out some of the noise so that noisy surroundings are not totally pain in my a** but tolerable. On flight, it blocks some noises of plane itself and not much of passengers so good luck if talkative couples and cry babies sit around you. I know ANC is not primarily designed to block voices, and I take extra measures on flights anyway, but ANC900 does not provide enough for its price tag at all. Comparatively, if
- Controls on this headphone really need efforts to get used to; even so, it is still finicky from time to time. I read reviews on this product saying that the control did not work when pressing them; well, this is not entirely untrue. For example, when pairing a new device, I need to touch the control pad on the left ear cup lightly (that I do not activate anything by do so) and then press two fingers on the middle and upper part of the control pad using the upper middle knots of my forefinger and middle finger. Still, pairing a new device did not activate properly occasionally.
- Multi-point, simultaneous connection did not work for me. Had to unpair, made the headphone search for a new device and then connect every time I switched devices. I did not remember the advertisement said ANC900 could do this, but having it would be nice.
- Noise cancelling level cannot be changed without its mobile app, Audio-Technica Connect, which requires extra steps every time the app is open even the connection is maintained on for a mere change of noise-cancellation level.
- At places other than air crafts, the highest level of its active noise cancellation has high sound pressure that causes me discomfort similar to that of ANC headphones in the early age. To be exact, there is excessive pressure to my Eardrums which causes nausea and dizziness after wearing it for a short time. (5 minutes approximately)
In conclusion, if you are in search of a wireless headphone, sound quality matters most, ANC is secondary, most of your operations are done on playing devices, you only connect a wireless headphone to one device at a time and you do not switch playback devices often, ATH-ANC900BT is a go-to choice and deserves to be recommended; otherwise, look elsewhere and save some time.