Wireless noise cancelling headphones are a hot commodity. It seems we’ll do anything to drown out strangers’ excessive chatter during our pre-coffee morning commutes. While the cream of the crop are Sony and Bose’s flagships, Edifier’s ready to duke it out with the best of them for half the price. Let’s see what makes the Edifier W860NB worth your money.
Editor’s note: this list Edifier W860NB review was updated on November 30, 2021, to expand the list of buying options, add context to the sound quality section, add a contents menu, and update the scoring.
Who is the Edifier W860NB for?
The Edifier W860NB is for anyone interested in affordable, yet effective noise cancelling headphones. The inclusion of a clamshell case and airplane adapter reinforces that these are designed for traveling and commuting, too. The neutral-leaning sound is great and makes the Edifier W860NB a versatile set of cans that can accurately reproduce nearly any genre of music.
What is the Edifier W860NB like?
The plastic construction feels tenuous and the headset is riddled with vulnerable, ill-reinforced points including the ear cup rotators and yokes. Fortunately, the metal headband should prevent breakage, but I don’t feel comfortable enough to test that as I do with the V-MODA Crossfade Wireless II Codex.
Edifier uses a combination of touch and physical controls to decorate the headphones. The former spans the entire plane of the right ear cup panel, while the latter is found on the edge of each ear cup. Although touch controls are, well, a nice touch, they’re not the most reliable. Oftentimes, I must continuously tap to pause or resume media playback. That said, the physical buttons are fine; although the next generation may benefit from a more pronounced multifunction button.
Like the Audio-Technica ATH-M40X, the Edifier W860NB uses large 40mm dynamic drivers to push soundwaves into your ears. The ear cups are spacious and deep enough that the driver grills don’t brush up against the ears. What’s more, the synthetic leather easily molds around glasses arms, making W860NB one of the more delightful over-ear options for those of us who are visually impaired.
How good is the Edifier W860NB’s battery life?
Battery life is excellent. According to our objective testing, when subjected to a constant 75dB(SPL) output, the headphones lasted 31 hours, 36 minutes with noise cancelling turned on. What’s more, Edifier states the headset provides up to 800 hours of standby time. Meanwhile, a full charge cycle takes three hours to complete via the included microUSB cable, which isn’t bad considering you get more than a full day’s listening out of it.
How does the Edifier W860NB connect to your phone?
Connecting to the headphones is a bit of a choose your own adventure scenario: NFC, Bluetooth, and the good 3.5mm plug are all viable options. Seeing as this is billed as a pair of wireless noise cancelling headphones, most will probably forgo the included aux cable. In that case, the streaming quality is good thanks to the aptX codec support.
You can use Bluetooth multipoint to connect the W860NB to two devices simultaneously. This means you can alternate between which device is the primary source by simply pausing on one and playing on the other.
Related: Why I’m sticking to wired headphones
How does the Edifier W860NB sound?
The Edifier W860NB has a relatively neutral frequency response with some audible midrange emphasis. On the whole, though, this headset handles all genres well and avoids auditory masking that often occurs with bass-heavy responses like the one heard with the JBL Live 650BTNC. Additionally, noise cancelling is quite good for the price. Low noises like A/C units and traffic are effectively filtered out by the W860NB.
Lows, mids, and highs
The neutral-leaning frequency response bodes well for Anderson Paak’s song The Chase. Cabasa and chimes underscore Kadhja Bonet’s opening vocals 18 seconds into the song. The midrange and treble elements all come through clearly.
Bass response is excellent, too. First impressions from the above frequency response chart may lead you to believe that it’s underwhelming. However, the kick drum stressing Paaks’ rhythmic, multisyllabic lyrics can still be felt. This may be attributed to the sub-bass boost from 20-80Hz. Now, if you’re someone who likes how Beats sound, you may find the low-end to be underwhelming. In that case, there are plenty of viable, affordable Beats alternatives out there.
How good is the Edifier W860NB’s microphone?
Despite having a slightly under-emphasized low-end response, the microphone clearly relays my voice and friends say I sound just slightly muffled. This makes sense seeing as my vocal fundamental frequency ranges from 160-240Hz, which receives less emphasis than the 400-500Hz range. If Chris Thomas were to speak with these headphones, though, his voice would probably sound markedly distorted.
Of course, microphones aren’t just for taking calls, they help facilitate virtual assistance commands. Google Assistant access is snappy and consistent. The microphone was repeatedly able to register my commands and responded within moments.
Should you buy the Edifier W860NB?
Yes, the Edifier W860NB is a great pair of ANC headphones for the price. Although this headset lacks that sought-after premium build quality, it makes up for it with accurate audio quality. If you’re concerned about the durability, the company’s one-year warranty should quell your anxieties.
Again, I do wish the touch controls and construction were better for the price, but where the company appears to have cut corners, they’ve reallocated efforts toward sound quality. Ultimately, these are headphones first and a great pair at that.