Headphone Review: Able Planet Clear Harmony NC1000CH

The ableplanet Clear Harmony NC1000CH.Whether you travel a lot, love listening to music without interruption, or just need some quiet time, you’ve probably considered a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Bose has long been the mainstay of this category of headphones with their Quiet Comfort series, but others are starting to creep into the market with impressive offerings. I’ve spent the last week with one potential contender, the ableplanet Clear Harmony NC1000CH. With the NC1000CH, ableplanet has put together an exceptional product with all the features you would expect from a quality pair of noise-canceling headphones. The company’s only setback could possibly be the lack of brand recognition to your average consumer.

Appearance/Build Quality
When you spend upwards of $300 for a pair of headphones, you’ll probably want something to show for it. The NC1000CH got high marks here. Upon opening the box I was greeted with a hard-shell neoprene case to protect the new phones. The case opens with a zipper to reveal a beautiful set of headphones. In fact, you could easily mistake these for the Bose Quiet Comfort 2 from a distance.

The earcups and headband are padded with a cushy leather to provide easy pressure against your head. The fit is comfortable, and I have yet to feel like I’m going to lose the phones, even when walking around. The earcups fold flat to rest against a tabletop and for storage in the provided case. The cord, which sports an inline volume control, can be removed from the base of the headphones. This is great for long-term storage so you aren’t kinking your cord. It’s also nice to be able to swap out the cord should you want something shorter or perhaps to get rid of the inline volume. In the case you’ll also find a 1/4″ adapter and a dual-prong airline adapter.

My only gripe with any of the packaging is the molded iPod compartment that rests under the headband in the hard case. The molding was obviously designed around the classic iPod size, meaning it’s just a hair too small for an iPod/iPhone. My guess is this will be updated sometime in the near future.

Sound Quality
This is the real ‘meat and potatoes’ of any headphone review, and truly where ableplanet excels. As noise canceling phones, the NC1000CH are among the very best. The headphones feature passive noise canceling, which isn’t great, but functional if you’re listening to music over some minimal background noise. The active noise-canceling, controlled by a switch on the rear edge of the left earcup, is fantastic, reducing background noise by a whopping 18dB. With active noise canceling switched on (powered by 2 AAAs in the left earcup) very little background noise cuts through, and once you turn on some music, you won’t hear anything but the song that’s playing.

img_0437As for sound, the NC1000CH are actually some of the best I’ve heard. The box claims a 2Hz – 20,000Hz frequency response. It’s not the best in the industry by the numbers, but the sound doesn’t lie. The headphones can be listened to whether powered or not, something the Bose series won’t do. Without power, the headphones sound fine. They’re certainly better than your average pair of headphones, but I would only listen without power in a pinch. The sound tends to feel a little claustrophobic, like the earcups are pressed too closely to the ear.

The headphones feature ableplanet’s trademarked Linx Audio, which turns on when you switch on the active noise canceling. This is where you get your best sound. Not only does Linx Audio do away with the aforementioned claustrophobia, it does an excellent job of enhancing the sound without mutating it (the sound). The highs are crisp and the bass pleasantly thumps, even at the lowest volumes. I listen to a huge range of music, from Mendelssohn to Gojira, and I was surprised to find how balanced it all sounded. I tried, with the help of a few audio synths, to recreate the Linx Sound with my headphones switched off and I couldn’t do it. Whatever ableplanet has done, I love it, and it’s something I can’t recreate oustide the phones.

With active noise canceling and the Linx Audio enabled, I didn’t expect much from battery life. I’ve been pleasantly surprised, though. I’ve probably listened to 24 hours or more, and my batteries are going strong. I’ve seen reported numbers of anywhere from 35-50 hours for battery life. I’ll try to update when mine finally die.

The Verdict
The ableplanet Clear Harmony NC1000CH are an exceptional pair of noise canceling headphones. They top the charts with 18dB noise reduction and produce incredible fidelity at every volume. The real shame I see is that people may be wary of purchasing phones without the brand strength of Bose or Sennheiser. To those folks I say, remember, when your batteries die, so does your music. The NC1000CH’s have you covered until you land and can get your hands on some fresh AAAs.

If you order direct from ableplanet, a pair of NC1000CH’s will run you $299.99. Tiger Direct has them for $249.99.


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