Any headphones can claim to have noise cancellation circuitry, but only a few are really effective.
The ultimate stress test for any pair of headphones claiming to block out the world outside is definitely a party, and even harsher if it is for kids under the age of five. I have tried the ANC9 from Audio-Technica for about two weeks up until this point in various conditions. From the office with the occasional phone ringing, colleagues talking and constant hum of fans and computers to the calm home environment with just the odd noise of a cat yawning. But now I am in the middle of the final test. One of my daughters is having a birthday party on the floor below with about seven kids, and four adults. There is music in the background, kids running about and adults talking. Without the headphones it is really evident that there is a party going on, and I can easily hear the conversations going on. Once I pop the ANC9 on my noggin the party dies out. I can still hear distant voices of the adults, and even make out some of what is being said. The music, and kids are gone completely. That is without any sound source for me, and when I push play on some soft piano music by Greg Haines I am all alone in the house.
With three different modes of operation the ANC9 gives you the choice of active noise cancellation. Airplane, office and study cater to different environments. With a push of a button you can change mode, and the number of beeps and colour of indicator on the headphones tell you what mode you are in. To me airplane and office are quite similar offering the most usable noise reductions. Any of these work in a crowded space, or when mowing the lawn. The study mode is more for the quieter moments when you just want that extra piece and quiet. Actually you can just turn off the noise cancellation when you manage to find such an already calm time, and place.
Most active noise cancellation headphones tend to give an almost underwater experience. That is true for Bose QC15, and the earlier Audio-Technica ANC7. The ANC9 handles it much better, and if you get the sense that your ears are underwater simply change the mode. It can happen in the bass reduced airplane mode, but is less likely in the mid-range office mode.
The sound quality of the ANC9 is clear, but still allows for a quite nice warm bass. If I were to compare them yet again to the QC15 I must say that they kick Bose in the behind for both depth, and width of sound. When it comes to dedicated noise cancellation headphones the ANC9 is the best option for great sound. If you can sacrifice the noise cancellation technology from 95% to say 70% the Ultimate Ears UE 9000 gives a much more fun sound, but not that great noise cancellation.
For design, and style the ANC9 is made to blend in rather than stick out. You can tell it is a high-end tech set of headphones, but as such they don’t look that fun.
The ANC9 comes with two cords, and one of these features a microphone for use with an iPhone. I don’t understand the lack of volume controls considering all competitors have them. Furthermore the cords are rather thin, and flimsy. I would have liked a more heavy-duty cord at a longer length for use with say a television alongside a shorter microphone cord.
If you are in the market for the best noise cancellation product on the market the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC9 is it. 95% reduction, three modes and no underwater submarine sensation are great features. Also having a great sound, and comfortable design makes it a great option for longer sessions.