TDK NC-150 noise-cancelling headphones

TDK's budget noise-cancelling headphones have poor fit and construction, and mediocre sound quality

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TDK NC-150
  • TDK NC-150
  • TDK NC-150
  • TDK NC-150
  • Expert Rating

    2.25 / 5

Pros

  • The cheapest active noise cancelling we've seen

Cons

  • Poor comfort and passive noise cancellation, active noise cancellation introduces hissing and rumbling noise, poor sound quality

Bottom Line

TDK's NC-150 portable headphones have poor noise cancellation and are also let down by low quality construction and mediocre sound quality.

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TDK's NC-150 is the cheapest pair of headphones we've come across featuring active noise-cancellation circuitry. We don't believe these headphones do a particularly good job of cancelling out ambient noise, though, with an uncomfortable low-frequency rumbling noise introduced. Fit and overall sound quality are not spectacular either.

The TDK NC-150 headphones are constructed of cheap plastic and with a lot of lateral flex in the headband, and they do not feel sturdy during normal wear. The headband is adjustable and the ear-cups have a large range of vertical motion, but the headphones have a low overall clamping force, so outside noise is still easily audible. The thick, Y-style headphone cord is quite heavy and unwieldy and we would have much preferred a fabric-sheathed cord like that on the TDK EB 900 in-ear headphones. A switch on the right ear-cup activates the internal noise-cancellation circuit, with the system's power supplied by a single AAA battery in the left ear-cup.

With noise cancelling disabled, we think the TDK NC-150 headphones have decidedly mediocre sound quality. Treble notes are muffled and mid-range frequencies are bloated, and the music has a very distant feel with poor levels of detail. Switching on the noise cancellation provides a noticeable boost to treble frequencies, increasing clarity significantly, although it has the downside of also brightening treble which leads to harshness at higher volumes.

The stereo soundstage of the TDK NC-150 headphones is average with noise cancelling disabled, providing a reasonable estimation of positional audio. Activating noise cancelling closes the soundstage in slightly but audio is still distinguishable between channels.

With no music playing, the TDK NC-150 headphones' noise cancellation introduces background hiss and a low-frequency rumble that is disconcerting. Background noises are lessened, but we do not like the side effects at all. While we like the effect the powered noise cancellation has on music playback, the rumbling side effect with no music playing is worse than having no noise cancellation at all.

TDK's NC-150 headphones are well priced — you can find them for under $50 on the street. While they sound reasonable with noise cancellation activated, the negative side effects are detrimental to long-term listening pleasure, and we wouldn't recommend them.

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