Harman Kardon’s ANC headphones sound fantastic for a nice price

The company recently announced it was expanding its range of devices available in Aotearoa, so I was keen to try out their headphones to see if the brand could continue delivering happy memories.

I’ve been using the Harman Kardon FLY ANC (active noise cancelling) headphones for a couple of weeks now and here are my thoughts.

The good
I was really concerned the first time I put the FLY ANCs on. They were a snug fit, for sure, but they were so tight that I feared they were going to get very uncomfortable very quickly.

Thankfully that concern turned out to be misplaced.

Last weekend I went for a monster walk, clocking in nearly 22km around the local area. It was not only a beautiful morning, but I was able to listen to Leviathan Wakes by James S A Corey in complete comfort for around three hours and 20 minutes as I plodded away.

The ear cups are covered with leatherette, didn’t cause any unnecessary sweating and are soft enough that I never felt undue pressure on my head. I was pleasantly surprised.

The company recently announced it was expanding its range of devices available in Aotearoa, so I was keen to try out their headphones to see if the brand could continue delivering happy memories.

I’ve been using the Harman Kardon FLY ANC (active noise cancelling) headphones for a couple of weeks now and here are my thoughts.

The good
I was really concerned the first time I put the FLY ANCs on. They were a snug fit, for sure, but they were so tight that I feared they were going to get very uncomfortable very quickly.

Thankfully that concern turned out to be misplaced.

Last weekend I went for a monster walk, clocking in nearly 22km around the local area. It was not only a beautiful morning, but I was able to listen to Leviathan Wakes by James S A Corey in complete comfort for around three hours and 20 minutes as I plodded away.

The ear cups are covered with leatherette, didn’t cause any unnecessary sweating and are soft enough that I never felt undue pressure on my head. I was pleasantly surprised.

That’s not as important to me given I frequently dress like I put all my clothes on in the dark, but there’s something premium about how they look, with a single silver ring on each ear and the Harman Kardon logo the only things that aren’t pitch black.

Battery life is also pretty good, even if it’s not quite up there with the best. The company says you can expect up to 20 hours of battery life with ANC.

That’s not quite enough to see me back to Scotland, although the 15 minute quick charge offers another two and a half hours of juice, and a lot of planes these days have USB ports so it’s not a major concern.

I can’t swear to 20 hours, but I haven’t had to recharge FLY ANCs yet, and I’m probably up over 16 hours of intermittent usage so far.

These are definitely meant for people on the go – and with the world starting to open back up after the COVID lockdowns, these could come in especially handy now.

The oval carry case takes the folded-down headphones snuggly, while providing a pocket for the charging cable, plane adapter and 3.5mm cable, with room for other cables if you wanted to keep them all in one place.

Finally, there is an app for those who like to ensure the audio is as good as possible.

It’s fairly limited and doesn’t offer the top-rate experience that JBL’s app does, for example.

However it is a good way to know how much charge is left in your headphones and to select from Jazz, Vocal or Bass equaliser settings.

Even better, you can create your own to add to this paltry selection if you really enjoy finessing your sound.

The bad
The biggest downside to the FLY ANCs are the on-headphone controls.

There are a total of six buttons and, if trying to remember which one does what wasn’t bad enough, some are too close together to be truly useful.

I actually liked that the power button has a slide function rather than press – it means it’s much harder to switch off by accident compared to others I’ve tested.

From there it’s downhill.

The skip forward and skip back buttons would be far enough apart if the pause button wasn’t stuck right in the middle of them.

As someone who is very particular about the music he listens to, skipping forward and back is very important. Who knows how many times I might want to listen to The Mountain Goats’ ‘Foreign Object’ back to back on a morning walk?

The biggest issue is with the tiny pause button and where it’s situated, particularly as I’m currently listening to a lot of audio books.

While my fingers aren’t small, I don’t think they’re giant sausages either – but there were a number of times when I skipped ahead a chapter in my book when I was trying to pause it.

That can be incredibly frustrating, particularly when book chapters can last for 30 minutes or more and suddenly you have to try and work out exactly where you were.

The two final buttons are on the front – one triggers Bluetooth pairing and one switches ANC on and off. Again, you’ve got to be very careful which one you press if you don’t want to end up overly annoyed.

The skip forward and skip back buttons would be far enough apart if the pause button wasn’t stuck right in the middle of them.

As someone who is very particular about the music he listens to, skipping forward and back is very important. Who knows how many times I might want to listen to The Mountain Goats’ ‘Foreign Object’ back to back on a morning walk?

The biggest issue is with the tiny pause button and where it’s situated, particularly as I’m currently listening to a lot of audio books.

While my fingers aren’t small, I don’t think they’re giant sausages either – but there were a number of times when I skipped ahead a chapter in my book when I was trying to pause it.

That can be incredibly frustrating, particularly when book chapters can last for 30 minutes or more and suddenly you have to try and work out exactly where you were.

The two final buttons are on the front – one triggers Bluetooth pairing and one switches ANC on and off. Again, you’ve got to be very careful which one you press if you don’t want to end up overly annoyed.

Available for $320 full-price, with deals available online to get them even cheaper, they’re a tremendous mid-range option for those who want quality audio and ANC but without breaking the bank.

My one hope is that these headphones are popular enough that the company brings more products to us and on a more timely basis.

The greater the number of recognised audio brands in the market, the better, as far as I’m concerned. Competition tends to drive prices down and everyone needs affordable, high-quality audio in their lives.

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