Audio-Technica ATH-ANC9

Light noise-cancelling headphones for peace and quiet when travelling

Image: Hugh Threlfall

Noise-cancelling headphones have become a must for me on long-haul business trips. Oddly, I find them more helpful when I’m not listening to anything; music or film dialogue effectively drowns out engine noise, but while you’re reading, eating or sleeping, then noise cancelling really does its bit. I prefer over-ear models from which I can detach the cable and just wear the headphones as ear protectors. Not necessarily a good look, but it makes for more peaceful journeys.

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For a while, I’ve been wearing the Canadian PSB M4U cans (there’s now an M4U2 version) and they are excellent, if a little on the bulky side at 340g. Recently though, I’ve been enjoying this much lighter model from competitor Audio-Technica, which weighs 220g and is slightly more expensive. It’s hard to gauge, but the noise reduction seems as good as the PSBs, and because these headphones are lighter, they’re more comfortable. The audio is good – perhaps a fraction less rich than the PSBs, but in an environment such as an aircraft or a train, it barely matters. And if you leave the ridiculously big case that’s supplied at home, they take up a little less room in your bag. A small drawback: the Audio-Technica lead, which is thin and easily twisted, is less than a joy, even if it keeps overall bulk down slightly.

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