If you’ve ever flown American Airlines you likely would have seen Bose’s marketing genius at work. Starting with Bose’s Quiet Comfort headphones in the 1990s, First Class passengers were loaned a pair to use for the flight. This continues today with the current QC2 and QC3 models as loaners in the first class cabin. Additionally, their in flight magazine has many Bose ads. The combination of trial in-plane and good advertising has turned them into a powerhouse claiming their “Better Sound through Research” philosophy brought riches to the company. The truth is Bose products sound pretty good, have decent science behind them, but are very very expensive.
More recent innovation in the headphone industry has led to cheaper active noise canceling headphones such as those from Panasonic, Creative, and several other consumer brands. It has also led to the development of other high-end brands such as Monster Cable’s Beats by Dre line of ANC (Active Noise Canceling) headphones. Still, when you get a cheaper product you are often plagued with issues regarding circuit whine which creates a high pitched annoying sound with the noise cancelation turned on, odd harmonics and unbalanced sound output, or lack of comfort. The expensive products are of course very expensive with Monster’s Beats by Dre at almost $300. There really is not much in the middle of the pack in terms of cost. Below $100 and above $200 is where most of the popular products lie. That’s where Able Planet’s line of headphones come in.
At a MSRP of $149 and a street cost of below $120, the Able Planet True Fidelity headphones are definitely much more affordable than the Bose Quiet Comfort series and Beats by Dre. Still, the True Fidelity headphones advertise many of the same features including a replaceable cable, carrying case, airline adapter, and highly efficient circuitry requiring one battery despite a long runtime. And Able Planet won several CES Design and Innovation rewards throughout their short history showing that they have the skill to make a competing product.
Upon listening to the True Fidelity I was instantly surprised. It exhibited a very clear tone with a strong bass presence with the ANC off. With it on, it did what most ANC headphones do and boosted the whole range quite a bit as if you plugged it into a headphone amplifier. This isn’t really a problem but if you have the headphones set loud before and flip them on, it might hurt a bit with the increased volume. And while the True Fidelity headphones won’t win any awards for audiophile sound quality, they were definitely more than good and aligned with most customer’s demands for extra bass.
Thankfully, the day after I received the headphones I was flying to California to visit Ultimate Ears, NZXT, and iBuyPower. I used the True Fidelity through the entire flight and to my extreme pleasure, they did a fantastic job. Not only did they do a very competent job of removing the plane’s engine noise almost completely, but they also allowed me to fall asleep in flight which is something that’s very difficult for me to do. Not only that, but they were comfortable the entire time.
So, the sound quality is very good and the ANC is just about as good as active cancelation gets. Does it really stack up to the two expensive competitors? The answer to that question is a definite yes. In fact, I prefer the Able Planet True Fidelity headphones over the grossly expensive and over hyped Beats Studio by Dr. Dre. The True Fidelity headphones exhibit a similar sound character to the Beats by Dre while allowing for a less recessed treble and midrange. In addition to that the noise cancelation is even better. Compared to the Bose Quiet Comfort 2, they are roughly the same in performance. What it comes down to here is the price. There is no way in my mind that I would ever choose the Bose over the Able Planet. You can literally buy three sets of the True Fidelity on Amazon for the cost of one Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones. That’s just silly. If you want a set of really good active noise canceling headphones, my recommendation is to stick with the Able Planet True Fidelity. Of course I haven’t tested any of Able Planets other headphones, so it’s possible that they beat their own product. Still, you can’t go wrong here.