Harman Kardon NC Noise-Cancelling Headphones Review

2013 04 02 22 09 10

When shopping for a pair of headphones, it seems that things keep getting harder and harder. After all, in the battle for your ears there are an ever-growing number of headphones vying for attention. Admittedly we haven’t done much of anything to make the task any easier. After all, in just the past few months we’ve reviewed headphones from Phiaton, Monster, AKG and many more. Worse- or better- yet, pretty much all the headphones we have reviewed recently impressed us enough that we would recommend them to a family member looking for some new cans.

Is there room for another pair of headphones in the lineup of “Gear Diary Recommended Headphones”? If that pair of headphones are the Harman Kardon NC over-the-ear noise canceling headphones, then the answer is a loud and confidant, “YES!”. The reason for this is simple — these headphones are amazing.

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We reviewed the Harman Kardon NC over-the-ear headphones last summer. (You can read the review here.) I loved pretty much everything about these high and Bluetooth headphones. I found them to be comfortable, sound great, and run for an acceptable period of time on each charge. Judie found them to be rather interesting, so I sent them down to Texas. They continue to be one of the two pair of headphones she switches between. At the time I expressed interest in the possibility of checking out the noise canceling version of these headphones upon their release. I have had the opportunity to do just that for the past month and a half and, as I mentioned in the introduction, I am thoroughly impressed with these headphones.

I have a pretty complete review of the headphones and my thoughts on them in our video review, so let’s jump into that and then look at a gallery of images.

As you can tell from the video, I’m incredibly impressed with these headphones. Very often noise canceling headphones will sound good with the noise cancellation turned on but not nearly as good when the noise cancellation is turned off. In addition, there are some noise canceling headphones that do a decent job of blocking out and canceling noise but become uncomfortable after a time due to the noise and more pressure created by the noise cancellation process. I found none of that with these headphones. They sound terrific with the noise cancellation turned off and just as good, if not better, when the noise cancellation is turned on. They work as standard headphones when the noise cancellation is turned off or the battery has run down (although with 40 hours of cancellation per charge they will go on and on and on), and they do a great job of delivering your music when used this way.

I find these headphones to be incredibly comfortable, and I didn’t get any sort of ear fatigue even after using them for a significant period of time. Yes, as Elana is fond of saying, they do look a bit like a thick deck of cards, but the design delivers headphones that are just about the most comfortable I have ever used. I even had my father-in-law try them last night, and he was blown away by the comfort, the sound, and the excellent noise cancellation. As a related aside, he suffers from tinnitus, and noise cancellation headphones exacerbate the problem most of the time. Because there is no noise cancellation buzz for pressure, that was not the case here.

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My only complaint about these headphones is the fact that they don’t use a standard micro USB charging cable. I don’t like proprietary or even semi-proprietary cables under any conditions, and that’s even more the case when dealing with an item designed for travel. Imagine losing the cable on the first leg of a month-long trip and, instead of having good noise canceling headphones, you simply had a decent pair of standard ones. Not a great feature, and it’s especially not something I would expect in something as high-end and expenses as these.

Finally, I want to say a word about the included accessories. The bag that included with the Harman Kardon NC noise canceling headphones is terrific. So often companies seem to sit out on offering carrying bags these days, but Harman Kardon didn’t do it here. These headphones are big and bulky even when you rotate the ear cups so they’ll lie flat, and this bag is just about as good as you’re going to get in a soft carrying case. A hard case would certainly have been better, but this is more than adequate.

I also appreciate the company including a second metal headband so that the headphones will fit as many different sizes of head as possible. It does, however, strike me as a bit wasteful. Going into using these headphones you, already know that one of the metal bands will never see any use. Still, it beats the alternative of not having an option for resizing the headphones or needing to purchase a second band if the original one won’t fit.

So are these headphones worth the $299 MSRP? $299 is pretty pricey for any pair of headphones, but it is reasonable for high-end noise canceling headphones. If you are looking for something on a budget, then these might not be the headphones for you. If, however, you are willing to spend a bit because you are in the market for headphones that offer excellent noise cancellation, excellent sound when the noise cancellation is on, excellent sound when the noise cancellation is off, and great comfort, then you’ll find your $300 to be well spent when purchasing these. You can learn more and order yours here on the product page. You can order the Bluetooth version here, through our Amazon Affiliate Store, or you can get the on-ear version here.

MSRP: $299

What I Like: Comfortable; Sounds great with and without noise cancellation, Excellent at blocking off sound both passively and actively; Nice soft case

What Needs Improvement: Non-standard charging cable; Soft rather than hard case

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample

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1 reply

  1. How would you compare the sound like for instance the audio technica ath anb7 noice cancelling or the bose qc15? Thank you