Affordable headphones offer premium sound

Fly ANC, the wireless over-ear headphone model of audio company Harman Kardon’s new Fly headphone series, comes with active noise-cancelling (ANC) technology and a sleek, black minimalist design.

It feels premium as well, with a leatherette material covering most of its exterior, including the headband and ear cups.

Its construction is sturdy, though the headband feels tight. Even after I tried stretching it out, the headband firmly retains its shape and clamps my head tightly.

The ear cups are a tad small for me and just about cover my ears. As a result, my ears feel warm after an hour of listening, though this might be a good thing when I can travel to colder countries again.

On the left ear cup is a micro-USB charging port. This is a surprise, as most wireless headphones use the USB-C port for charging. It might also be a hassle for users whose smartphones use USB-C.

All of the controls – volume, playback, Bluetooth, ANC and power – are found on the right ear cup. This makes it quick and easy to change controls, as there are no touch gestures to remember.

You can download the My Harman/Kardon Headphones app (available on Android and iOS) to select Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa as your voice assistant, as well as change or customise the equaliser settings. The app comes with three equaliser presets: Jazz, Bass and Vocal.

Audio quality is impressive, with sparkly highs, smooth mids and punchy bass. Even when you set the equaliser to the Bass setting, vocals are clear and not overpowered by bass. If you love pop songs, the Vocal preset works a treat.

However, in terms of ANC performance, the Fly ANC is probably a notch below genre leaders such as the Sony WH-1000XM3 and the Bose NC Headphones 700. With the ANC turned on, I could still hear the loud music that neighbours in my block were blasting.

But the ANC function could be useful when you can travel again – it effectively blocked out my “re-creation” of the engine hum inside an airplane cabin by turning up the fan of my study’s decade-old air-conditioning unit to the maximum setting.

On the pricing front, the Fly ANC ($349) has a clear edge over the WH-1000XM3 and the NC Headphones 700, both of which cost more than $500.


• Great sound quality

• Premium build and looks

• Decent active noise cancellation

• More affordable than many competitors


• Micro-USB charging port

• Tight headband, small ear cups


PRICE: $349



IMPEDANCE: 32 ohms

CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth 4.2, 3.5mm

WEIGHT: 281g (without cable)








It also comes with a hard case that resembles the one found in the WH-1000XM3. The case holds the headphone, along with cables and the included airplane audio adapter. Many of its competitors either do not have one or offer only a fabric bag.

Battery life is pretty good, at 20 hours with ANC turned on. This is similar to the stamina of the NC Headphones 700, but not as good as WH-1000XM3’s 30-hour battery life.

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