That leaves us with the question of value. It’s your money, but at $99 the Audio-Technicas are likely to be a good deal for most buyers, assuming you like their sonic profile. The sound is warm and musical and the noise cancelling circuitry is genuinely useful. You could save a little, but you’d have to skip noise cancelling and for many applications the benefits of an extra $20 or $40 spent on active noise cancellation will reap noticeable rewards.
On Faun Fables “Hibernation Tales” from Light of a Vaster Dark [Drag City], the bass drum has excellent depth and weight with the ANC23, though it might be missing a slight bit of upper bass definition.
On Eliza Gilkyson’s “Borderline” from Paradise Hotel, the vocal is clear but lacks the last bit of air and resonance you’d like to hear to make it seem like she’s singing to a real person in a real place.
On Bettye LaVette’s rendition or “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” from her Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook, the sound is warm and smooth, but maybe slightly too smooth with the result that it sounds a bit dynamically constricted.
Consider this product if: Subtle bass weight, warmth and smoothness are important, of if you want active noise cancellation features because you will use your headphones in environments where noise might otherwise intrude on your music.
Look further if: Treble brilliance and Midrange refinement are essential for you.
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced competition):
• Tonal Balance: 8.5
• Frequency Extremes: 9/8
• Clarity: 8.5
• Dynamics: 8.5
• Comfort/Fit: 9.5
• Sensitivity: 9.5
• Value: 9
Summing Up: The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23s offer a remarkably solid, smooth and musical sound with excellent comfort for an affordable noise-cancelling in-ear headphone.
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 Noise-Cancelling In-Ear Headphones
Accessories: 1 pair of Comply foam ear tips, 3 pairs of rubber ear tips (sizes S, M, and L), carrying pouch, airline adapter
Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20kHz
Weight: 0.9 ounces
Sensitivity: 105 dB (input levels not specified)
Impedance: 32 ohms
Power: single AAA battery (provided)
Warranty: Not specified
Price: $99.95 MSRP, $79.95 MAP
AUDIO-TECHNICA U.S., INC.