Harman / Kardon NC Noise-Canceling Headphones Review
Harman / Kardon has a line of headphones and what we have here is the NC or noise cancelling variant. We’re here to see how the Harman / Kardon NC over ear headphones performs from an average Juan’s perspective.
Design and Features
One look at this pair of headphones, you will immediately notice the square earcup design. Once you get past that, you’ll find that the earcups are matte black and that the headbands are made from steel with a nice brushed finish. Overall it feels very robust but not as heavy as some over ear headphones.
The padding on the earcups looks to be made of memory foam and is covered by super soft leather like material. The earcups shape covers the ear very well and the padding is very comfortable.
Other things you can find in the box include two cables, an airplane adapter, an extra headband, and a black leather travel case. Yes, you read it correctly, there is an extra headband. The Harman / Kardon NC’s headband can be changed depending on your head size because it does employ an adjustable headband. The one that’s attached to the earcups upon opening the box is the small headband while the extra headband is labeled large.
Switching headbands is a fairly easy task. A visual guide is included in the box to help you along. Basically, to change the headband, you’ll remove the inner headband first, then twist the earcups backward, and then pull them away from the headband. Attaching the other headband is just as simple, you’ll just have to go through the process in reverse minus the twisting of the earcups.
The connecting points in the headband and the earcups are all made from steel and they look really tough. So I wouldn’t worry about breaking the pegs with normal use. Also, you can’t interchange the earcups from left to right so we won’t have to worry about accidentally mixing up them up.
The two cables included in the box are used to connect to an audio device or charge the headphones. The cable used for audio includes a remote and mic that works on iOS devices. The remote will not work perfectly or at all for some Android devices though. The remote looks very nice and doesn’t feel cheap at all. I just wish that the little notch on the center button was a little more pronounced to make it easier to feel. The cable doesn’t have that tangle free flat design but simple care while storing the cable should do just fine.
The other cable is used for charging the batteries on the Harman / Kardon NC headphones. It took me about 3 hours to fully charge the built-in lithium-ion batteries and noise cancelling will last 40 hours based on Harman’s claims. Do note that leaving noise cancelling on will continue to use up the battery regardless if you are using the headphones or not and even if you’re not listening anything with it.
Both cables connect to a single 2.5mm port on the left earcup. You might think that this is an unusual option for charging…I agree, but it does minimize the number of holes on the headphones and makes it more aesthetically pleasing. Beside the 2.5mm port, we have the noise cancelling toggle switch that lights up while it’s on, if it doesn’t light up that means the batteries need to be recharged. And on the other side of the port, we have a small red LED that lights up while it is charging and switches off once charging is done.
The Harman / Kardon NC headphones can be folded flat but can’t be folded inward. That’s why the traveling case is pretty wide. The headphones fits the travel case perfectly and there a division where you can slip in the cables, adapters, and other small documents.
The noise canceling technology designed by Harman works really well on this pair of headphones. Upon turning the noise canceling on, you’ll notice an immediate drop in ambient noise making whatever I was listening more emphasized. Murmurs from people close by and the hum of air conditioning are easily cancelled out, but people talking loudly are still a audible and are reduced to a murmur. The most striking experience and the ultimate proof of effectiveness is when I removed the Harman / Kardon NC after a few hours of tuning in…I was surprised by how noisy my spot was.
A side effect of the emphasized sound is getting a richer and deeper sound experience. This side effect makes it seem like bass is enhanced and the vocals really feel like it’s live. One thing I like a lot about Harman’s noise cancelling feature is that I was still able to use it as a normal headphone without noise canceling when the batteries died. I just had to turn off the noise cancelling to get back to enjoying my music.
The Harman / Kardon NC headphones have a fairly balanced and fairly accurate sound profile. I say this because bass seems slightly enhanced. Also, while using noise canceling, the headphones really bring the music at the forefront making it much clearer and richer at the same time. Whether or not noise canceling is on, the bass never overwhelmed the highs and mids. The highs and mids were both very clear and crisp and the highs never felt sharp to the ear.
For progressive house tracks like Swedish House Mafia’s Don’t You Worry Child, it sounds great. If anything though, I wish there was a little more bass to give that extra oomph. For tracks like Mirror by JT, you really get to appreciate his vocal performance especially with noise cancelling on.
Kicking it old school with Hotel California by the Eagles, man that guitar intro sounds amazing. Lauren Hill’s Doo Wop (That Thing) track got some trumpets, strings and pianos going along with the heavy beats that sounds really well…all the elements were clear and easy to distinguish. Then I listened to some MJ…the sound of finger snapping on his Remember the Time track were so crisp.
You will remember that we’ve had our time to use the Sennheiser On-ear Momentum before. Although the Harman / Kardon NC is an over-ear headphone, the sound profile of this Harman / Kardon headphone is a little bass heavier compared to the Sennheiser On-ear Momentum when noise canceling is on. This might have to do with the better coverage of the ears coupled with the closed back design and the sound emitted to cancel out noise. By my recollection, the Sennheiser On-ear Momentum delivered crisper highs than the Harman / Kardon NC.
Despite the difference in sound quality between the two, the Harman / Kardon NC headphones trumps the Sennheiser On-ear Momentum because it has a noise canceling feature that works really well. With their price gap being close, a little extra dough can get you this Harman / Kardon NC that has a great sound profile with noise cancelling.
Design wise, there are clear differences in design and material choices from these two makers, but both hit the mark in terms of getting that feeling of luxury. So you really can’t go wrong in this department for both headphones.
The Harman / Kardon NC is available for PHP 15,590 at the following JBL stores:
JBL Sound Gallery, B3 Bonifacio High Street – 856-5041
JBL Acoustical Space, 4th Floor SM Megamall, Cyberzone Bldg. B – 919-6012
JBL Digital Dreams, 4th Floor, SM North Annex Cyberzone – 856-5041
An average Juan like me will have a challenging time saving up for these. But if you are looking for a great sounding sturdy pair of headphones with noise cancelling, then saving up for the Harman / Kardon NC is worth every peso.