Only few years ago, buying any decent noise-cancelling headphones meant paying over £300/$300, but recently the price of entry has dropped dramatically, and nothing shows this better than the first over-ear headphones with ANC from Ausounds, a US-based headphones maker.
Launching at £199/$199 and available now, the Ausounds AU-XT ANC promise "premium sound", and it's interesting to see just how many features they offer that are similar to what you get from Sony's higher-end ANC models, which have long dominated our list of the best noise cancelling headphones.
That "premium sound" claim, for example, comes from the promise of a 40mm driver (the same size as the Sony WH-1000XM3 and Sony WH-1000XM4) made of graphene. Graphene is both light and stiff, so Ausounds says it will deliver excellent response and low distortion.
That's combined with support for Bluetooth 5.0 and aptX HD, the latter of which is something a lot of these devices lack, including both Sony's models, plus Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and Apple AirPods Max. That means that with music streaming services left, right and centre launching CD-quality support, it's easier to get the benefit here than from most of the Ausounds AU-XT ANC's rivals.
The 30-hour battery life is another shared stat with the Sony headphones… though on Sony cans that's with ANC turned on, whereas activating ANC on the Ausounds will cut you back to 14 hours.
They're slightly lighter than Bose and Sony's headphones at 245g, and use protein-based synthetic leather, which is also pretty typical for their rivals.
They also come with a carry case and include a 3.5mm cable plus an aircraft adapter – again, ticking the same boxes you get with Sony headphones.
Basically, these feel like an attempt to usurp Sony in particular, delivering so many of the same things Sony's WH-1000XM4 flagship does, but at an official price that's a lot less. Their big issue, then, is the existence of the WH-1000XM3, which can now be bought for more like the same price as the Ausounds AU-XT ANC. I look forward to reviewing them to find out whether they can beat the current emperor of noise-cancellation at its own game.