Active noise cancelling is a rather magical process once you start reading into the technology a bit.
The idea was developed by one Dr. Lawrence Fogel in the 1950s who proposed using a microphone to monitor ambient noise and then use those frequencies to create a waveform the exact opposite of the ambient noise which effectively cancels out the noise.
The process is of course a lot more complex than that but for the purposes of this review, we’re just touching on the headlines.
As you might expect, this technology costs a pretty penny but in the case of the Taotronics SoundSurge 46 Bluetooth, Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones, the cost is rather low.
However, as we’ve come to learn over the years, lower cost often means lower performance so how well do the Taotronics perform despite costing considerably less than other active noise cancelling headphones?
The SoundSurge 46’s ear cups house a soft, memory foam material that is covered in an even softer faux leather material.
Despite the intense heat we’ve recently been experiencing in Johannesburg this week my ears have remained cool even for long stretches with the cans on.
The headband is covered in the same material but there is a large amount of flex in the band that does worry us about the longevity of the headphones.
The adjustments that can be made as to the size were rather stiff in our review unit which made us have to fuss with the size more often than we’d like. Your mileage may vary but having to put the headphones on and take them off to get a decent fit can become annoying quickly.
The right ear cup features a power button, volume controls, a 3.5mm jack, and the active noise cancelling switch. The left ear cup only features a micro USB charging port.
Overall, the comfort of the SoundSurge 46 is great, especially if you plan on using it for a long time.
A tale of two sound profiles
Thanks to the active noise cancelling, the SoundSurge has two distinctly different sound profiles for when the feature is active and when it isn’t.
With the noise cancelling off the sound is fantastic. The bass thumps and treble notes are crystal clear. Vocals are wonderful and whether you’re listening to metal, classical or hip-hop music the experience will put a smile on your face.
Once active noise cancelling is on however, things take a bit of a turn for the worse.
The balance present in normal operation is gone and most music sounds drowned in bass. Treble can also get a bit out of hand in some music.
This can – thankfully – be corrected with help from an equaliser on your smartphone or computer. It takes a bit of time on your part but if you intend on using these while flying for instance, it’s an exercise worth doing.
The active noise cancelling works fine but cannot touch a brand such as Bose. A lot of ambient noise still gets through the noise cancellation but if you’re a passenger on a noisy train, plane or bus it works well enough for you to at least hear your music without pushing the volume to 11.
Start me up
The battery in the SoundSurge 46 is okay but far from the 30 hours it claims it can hit.
With the active noise cancelling activated the battery lasts just two hours. Thankfully charging up from empty takes just over 45 minutes.
Without noise cancelling active we were able to squeeze 19 hours of listening time from our review unit. Volume was at full but its still a long way away from the claimed 30 hour battery life.
The other major issue we have is that if you forget to flip the active noise cancelling switch to the off position when you’re no longer using the cans, it will continue to drain the battery.
Taotronics does warn users about this but we’d prefer that switching the power off, switched off all power to the SoundSurge 46.
The battery life is impressive despite us not hitting the 30 hour mark and your mileage may vary.
The battery performance is fine, the sound profiles differ substantially and the noise cancelling is not as excellent as it is in other more premium headphones.
Is that a bad thing for under R2 000? I’d argue not really.
As a pair of Bluetooth headphones however, the SoundSurge 46 is good and the active noise cancelling is a decent extra that does feel a bit tacked on.
But even saying that is unfair because the headphones are good. Especially for cans that have active noise cancelling that retail for R1 889 over on Takealot.
The only warning that needs to be made is that if you are looking for good active noise cancelling, these headphones shouldn’t be your first choice.
For good headphones that will block out the droning noise of public transit or air travel, then we recommend the Taotronics.
Disclaimer: The Taotronics SoundSurge 46 were sent to Hypertext by Syntech for the purpose of this review. The headphones will be returned.