Monoprice SYNC-ANC Bluetooth Headphones: Great sound, ANC isn’t great

Monoprice SYNC-ANC headphones on a light blue background.

The leather covered headband is comfortable and fits a wide range of sizes.

Michael Griveaux / ZDNET

Full-size Bluetooth headphones with Active Noise Canceling (ANC) have been a ticket staple for years now. Dominate models like Sony recently released the WH-1000XM5 or the Older WH-1000XM4 Designas well as entrants like Bose’s Quiet Comfort line. Unfortunately, most of these premium pairs sell for over $300.

So, it might sound too good to be true when Monoprice comes with bluetooth headphones which claims to provide ANC for only $60. While this suspicion turned out to be well grounded during testing, I still found the Monoprice SYNC-ANC Bluetooth headphones to have a lot to do with it, especially with the vibrating ANC disabled.

I will not bury the dead. The ANC on these headphones is not very good. When used while listening to audio, it reduces the volume of the content and creates a muffled sound reminiscent of a worn out cassette tape (if you’re old enough to get this reference). Even if you just want to use it to block out background noise for a quieter environment, it still feels more like a quiet white noise machine than the near-silence provided by the functional ANC I used. Simply put, you shouldn’t buy these for ANC.

also: 5 Best Noise Canceling Earphones: Shut Down The World

Now, with that out of the way, let’s discuss how these headphones still manage to make me think they’re worth their $60 price tag.

Monoprice SYNC ANC headphones are foldable.

Warning Warning: The back panels of the ear cups are fingerprint magnets. These smudges were the result of dealing with just a few minutes during this photo session.

Michael Griveaux / ZDNET

First, the construction is very durable for the price. The metal hinges swivel and stretch to provide a wide range of sizes, and the many folded configurations make it easier to squeeze into your bag.

Monoprice SYNC-ANC headphones with inner cups showing.

It is unlikely that you will put it in the back.

Michael Griveaux / ZDNET

While the smudge-prone ear cups are too small to be called over-the-ear headphones, the Monoprice SYNC-ANC headphones are among the most comfortable and budget-friendly models I’ve used on the ear. I was also surprised by how tightly the leather ear cushions were when worn. In fact, I found that the passive seal provided by them was more effective at blocking external noise than the problematic ANC.

The sound quality of the headphones was also surprisingly good for $60, much better than most similar prices Bluetooth headphones that do not offer ANC. Acoustic separation, instrumentation, and acoustic separation were well above average for Bluetooth, and the bass and treble maintained excellent clarity, even at higher volume levels. Speaking of which, these get much louder than you’re used to if you were coming from in-ear headphones. This is great for people who like to blow their tracks, but probably not so great for their ear health in the long run.

also: 5 tips to prevent hearing loss caused by headphones

Monoprice SYNC ANC Headphones Charging and Control Port.

Don’t expect super-fast charging from the Micro-USB port.

Michael Griveaux / ZDNET

Of course, you can’t have everything, especially not for a little money. So Monoprice had to cut corners somewhere. Among what seemed like cost-cutting measures was the decision to use an outdated Micro-USB charging port and the primary buttons and switches that give the device an almost antique feel. That said, the controls work well and have a nice touch, and the included battery provides 20 hours of playback (generally accurate in my testing) per charge. Therefore, you may be able to go several days between refills.

Monoprice's SYNC ANC Headphones Controls

The 3.5mm analog port for wired listening is a nice plus.

Michael Griveaux / ZDNET

Connection stability was excellent in my testing, with very infrequent interruptions for a second or two that even the most expensive Bluetooth headphones I’ve tested tend to try once in a while.

The 3.5mm aux plug option was also a nice touch, meaning older gear and anything with a 3.5mm jack (even without Bluetooth support) can benefit from surprisingly great sound.

The cables included in the SYNC ANC headphones from Monoprice.

Charging and aux cables included.

Michael Griveaux / ZDNET

What may not be immediately obvious is the fact that SYNC-ANC headphones actually make a great headphone as well. The callers I spoke to while on my phone were unable to tell that I was using an external microphone, and the video chat participants I used with them reported hearing my voice loud and clear.

also: AirPods Pro 2 vs AirPods Pro: Was it worth the wait?

I wish Monoprice would simply remove the “ANC” part of the name and delete the ANC key from the device itself. If I buy these totally passive headphones with these features and that sound for $60, I’ll be happy. As it stands, the poor performance of the ANC is bound to leave a bad taste in the mouth of any buyer who has purchased this feature.

If you can overlook that shortfall, or never bother with ANC to begin with, the $60 price tag at Monoprice online store will get you a great first pair of Bluetooth headphones for a younger user, or a cheaper secondary pair you don’t have to be afraid to knock In your bag on the long commute.

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