Edifier W860NB Wireless ANC On-ear Headphone Review - Tier 1 ANC Ability, Improvements Still Needed
Author:Soomal
Source:eng.soomal.com

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W860NB is the latest and highest-performance Active Noise Canceling headphone of Edifier, which is also supportive to bluetooth wireless mode. It uses a new microphone to pick up noise outside, matching with another one to pick up feedback inside, and its full-sized, over-ear and steady appearance can easily remind us of competitive models of Sony, Bose, FIIL and so on. So, what are its noise canceling effect and experience like? How does it perform in general? Edifier W860NB's appearance is relatively traditional and low-key, belonging to the style of business application products in Bose QC series and Sony 1000X headphone series. It supports the unit's 90 degree turning as well as inward folding, ensuring the same tiny and thin included size as Bose and Sony 1000X theoretically. However, its case only takes an advantage of the thinness of 90 degree's turning, ignoring the other function of the unit's inward folding, which also deprives the case's minimum and optimized volume.

W860NB's appearance is designed to be quite simple. The fixed unit's holder is decorated by mental-textured lacquer, and the plastic skin for the whole headphone also has a good texture. On the lateral-down side of the right part are the two controlling switches. The ANC switch is for turning on and off adaptive noise canceling, while the power switch is for turning on or matching the Bluetooth wireless mode and activating the functions such as answering calls when in use. On the lateral down side of the left part are the headphone jack for 3.5mm wired mode cable and Micro USB port for chargning. The outside of the left part is NFC logo, for fast matching with Android smart phones or NFC-supported personal stereo equipment. Moreover, touch control can be carried out on the surface of the right part. Tap twice to pause and resume a single track. Swipe up and down for volume and swipe left and right to change tracks. The respond is not very fast, perhaps for avoiding mistakes, but steady and accurate.

Here's something to note. The ANC and Bluetooth switches are completely independent, namely that the ANC can be activating without turning on Bluetooth. This is rarely seen in similar products, so users need to be accustomed to it. It doesn't appear to be inconvenient after gotten used to. Nevertheless, if you only turn off Bluetooth and forget the ANC, the power will keep being consumed.

In our using experience, W860NB cannot catch up the latest products of FIIL, Sony and Bose in details. For instance, FIIL has voice prompts in matching up and app support, and wearing condition auto identify; Sony 1000X series has voice prompts and its new model has the app support; Bose also has voice prompts, and can support the device name prompt for a large amount of devices. W860NB, however, only beeps several times when Bluetooth pairing , and there is even no prompt for using noise canceling modes. ANC's on-off state can only be indicated by the green sign below its switch. Honestly, every time we finish using it, we are afraid of whether it is off.

Edifier official claims that W860NB runs with a battery life of 25 hours of ANC on and 45 hours of wireless only playback, and the practical use with ANC opened appears almost the same with it. What needs to be complained about is that, the battery indicator is made as 20% per bar, and it's inaccurate. For example, if the remaining capacity shows as 60%, use it for an additional hour, and then it will be 80% left after re-started, then after a half-hour use may not make it down back to 60%. Moreover, if the capacity is between 60% and 80%, after turning it on and off for several times and using it for 1 or 2 hours more, the indicator will still show as 80% after re-starting up, and will not drop off to 60% soon. This is really inconvenient for users to estimate remaining capacity. So far, the smallest power unit of Sony 1000X is only 10%, but do not wrongly displayed; Apple's Beats is quite awesome in this term, the battery capacity displays as percentage.

Generally speaking, W860NB wears comfortable. Comparing to 1000X and Bose QC series, its headband's pressure is a little higher. The texture of ear cushion is soft and delicate, but the internal sponge is a bit harder. On the whole, its wearing comfort level falls behind Bose QC35, and slightly behind Sony 1000X, while being a bit better than FIIL Diva. Although the over-ear design deploys a favorable cushion surface material, the arrived summer may not be the best environment to use it.

Adaptive Noise Canceling experience: For this part, we only refer to the noise canceling effect with ANC on. That is to say, we experience the effect of audio world under ANC mode without playing music. This can be a wonderful experience with the newest general's adaptive noise canceling headphones in recent years, and there's no doubt that W860NB can reach at this level as well. W860NB's adaptive noise canceling ability is quite powerful, except for being only a little bit weaker than Sony MDR-1000X. From the perspective of subjective experience, the gap lies in the noise canceling strength in bass as well as the range and strength in mid-range and mid-to-high range. When 200 meters away from a busy road, for example, noises in bass produced by a heavy vehicle can be completely filtered by 1000X, which can almost be accomplished by W860NB as well. But when it comes to the noise canceling of road and wind noises in mid frequency, MDR1000X slightly better. As for cars passing by, for bass noises, 1000X blocks absolutely while W860NB leaks out a little. Nevertheless, in general, W860NB's noise canceling ability is almost the same with FIIL Diva. But since Diva is an on-ear headphone, its passive noise canceling is different from W860NB's, making it difficult to exactly compare them. Yet it can be certain that they are at the same level.

Why does W860NB fall behind the current top-level Sony 1000X, and also Bose QC35, on the over-all noise canceling ability? The answer can be concluded by those headphones' noise canceling principle and the environment optimizing analyzing function recommended to get used before noise canceling by headphones like 1000X. It can be seen that, at present, headphones, including W860NB, all adopt the noise canceling mode of an outside pickup microphone along with an inside pickup microphone to feedback, while W860NB has no environment detecting ability. Does this ability make any impact on the noise canceling ? We have mentioned in the review of Sony MDR1000X, the impact is fairly great, which is also verified in this test and comparison. After 1000X completes the optimizing on one user, then user change. How big is the difference before and after this change? The difference is definitely possible to exceed that between W860NB and a 1000X in the best calibrating condition. In other words, the gap between the noise canceling effects of a wrongly calibrating 1000X and a best performing one, may be bigger than the gap between the effects of W860NB and a best performing 1000X.

Hence, a headphone adopting the mode of outside noise pickup and inside feedback pickup must run an active calibration program. As is remembered, the adaptive noise canceling mentioned in Beats Studio3's review may be a similar function. Beats Studio3 does not run such process as frequency scanning to test signal and calibrate, but it need 2 to 3 seconds to enter the best condition. We assume that, if W860NB owns this active calibrating function, its groove will then be improved.

Overall, W860NB has a great ability of noise canceling, with a big canceling rate for strong bass, and a relatively wide canceling range in mid-to-high frequency. For whatever reason, nevertheless, it is still not as good as the top-level products Sony 1000X and Bose QC35, yet the gap is not big.

Sound quality performance: W860NB's sound style is close to American style like headphones of Beats and Bose and different with Sony 1000X. But if we make further comparison, we'll find it more like Beats instead of Bose. The frequency point of Beats headphones for increasing abundance in bass is relatively higher, making the whole mid-range seem thick, the transiency slow, and the sound soft or even a bit loose. In application of movies or games, its sound in bass has a strong atmosphere but a relatively weak resolution and transient control. Yet Bose, in seek of a steady and loose mid-range sound, has a less thick bass and obvious restrained treble, giving way to a good mid-range dynamic. W860NB's performance in bass, if with Beats style taken as the standard, can be considered as pretty good. When going with popular music, its dynamic and abundance in bass are both sufficient, and its amplifier's output power is satisfactory.

Comparing with Sony 1000X and Beats Studio3, W860NB has less sense of layers in mid-to-high range and treble, making human voices sound a bit rigid. Additionally, the sound's density as well as resolution in treble are also one level worse than the two headphones.

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Summary

Edifier W860NB active noise canceling bluetooth headphone performs quite satisfying actually, except for its independent ANC switch confusing. Although its general effect is not so good as the highest top-level products, it still reaches at the higher top level, and we think it can certainly be improved. In sound quality, with Bluetooth and ANC, in the 1000 yuan (about $170) level, Chinese branded headphones finally get rid of comparing with monsters like AKG K701, moreover, the built-in amp and DSP tuning helps it in sound adaptability. When compared with the best-known models in the market, W860NB is deficient in the texture and details in treble. Whereas, in terms of thickness in mid-range and abundance in bass, there is no problem of its general style and sound dynamic. Certainly, in the comparison with FIIL Diva, which is from China as well, Edifier W860NB is much worse in function design details, and it's also a bit worse than WH-1000XM2 and Bose QC35.

W860NB's official price of RMB899 yuan (about $140) accords with the market price for users preferring noise canceling effect experience, for it unlike Sony 1000X, Bose QC series and FIIL Diva, lacks innovative function details leading in technological and fashionable experience. Of course, it is known that audio products of headphone, stereo speakers, etc. will finally be sold at much more favorable prices due to various promotion and purchasing platforms. Edifier W860NB must have an advantage on its price, but can this price advantage at last be accepted widely like Edifier speakers? We believe that its cost performance will surely fall behind that of the speakers. W860NB is a good start, with great noise canceling performances, yet it still needs more innovation and bigger improvements in details.

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