Smaller headphone companies are beginning to compete with major brands by trying to offer higher quality sound at more affordable prices. Strauss & Wagner is one such brand. Their noise-cancelling, SW-ANCBT501 is selling at $129. Can it compete with pricier heavy hitters? And what can you expect in terms of sound and design? Let’s take a look in this Strauss & Wagner SW-ANCBT501 Review.
Strauss & Wagner SW-ANCBT501 Review
IN the BOX
No problems for me here. The headphones are relatively light. And the clamping force, while firm enough to provide good sound isolation, avoid feeling too tight on the head. And while the earpads don’t smell like fancy leather (listen, I like smelling earpads), they are soft and pudgy.
Controls and Functionality
Using the three buttons on the side of the earcup, you can activate all the standard functions, including play/pause, track skipping, volume control and call answering/ending. The noise-cancellation button is situated on the other earcup, which you can read about below. I ran into no issues with the controls. Easy to access and easy to navigate.
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)
The ANC may not drown out the sound of your pain in the ass boss. But it will kill the drone of your air conditioner, for example. And in general, it does a decent job of eliminating the hum of low-frequencies. So, don’t expect absolute silence. It certainly can’t compete with a $350 Sony ANC model. But it’s decent. And t he SW-ANCBT501 also offers a transparent hearing mode, which lets in sound from your surrounding environment.
Battery Life and Charging
Offering a whopping 40 hours of battery life, the SW-ANCBT501 beats almost every other major brand in this price range. And because of the USB-C connection, these cans charge quickly as well. And 5 minutes of charging should give you 5 hours of juice.
When you finally do run out of battery life, you can always listen to them in passive mode, using the included cable as your backup. The cable connects to the USB-C input on the earcup and has a 3.5mm termination to hook up to your mobile device or computer. However, one thing to note is that when the headphones are turned on, and you have them connected via cable, the ANC will not work. Bummer.
The call clarity isn’t terrible. That is, I was able to carry out an comprehensible conversation. But I wasn’t hearing any crackles or nuances in the caller’s voice, and it sounded slightly muffled. So, it may not be the best choice for business conferences. But if all you need to do is run through the shopping list with your spouse, it will get the job done.
The bass has a tasteful amount of presence; it neither feels overblown or too stingy. Pop, for example, has a satisfying level of punch. But at the same time, those with bass anxiety won’t feel overwhelmed by the balance here. The bass also feels reasonably tight and controlled for a wireless headphone at this price point. And though the low-end provides a nice amount of warmth to rock tracks, the overall profile remains clean. Listening to strings in this range, you will hear a solid level of detail. But at the same time, the instruments convey a pleasing fluidity, which lends itself well to classical music in general.
You’ll hear a well-balanced midrange. The upper mids avoid emphasis. So, you won’t experience any harshness in the higher frequencies. And vocals don’t feel artificially forward in the mix. The low-mids also get some love too, giving body and expansiveness to rock and pop-rock tracks. So it seems that Strauss & Wagner has gone for an inoffensive and easy listening balance with these cans. At the same time, rock and funk tracks reveal a lively feel. Snares have energetic impact, while electric guitars sound tight and well-defined. So again, the separation is impressively tidy for the price.
The highs aren’t super sparkly or crisp. So, if you like a sound that leans on the brighter side, you should keep looking. That being said, it doesn’t have a blunted or dull feel. And vocals, while not particularly airy or buoyant, still have an enjoyable, smooth and velvety quality. So again, I think S&W has gone for the least fatiguing sound signature possible.
Not too bad at all. Don’t expect extremely precise imaging. But do expect some feeling of depth and width. It’s not thoroughly holographic. But you will get a sense of dimension to some extent.
PROS and CONS
Pros: Impressive sound quality for the price; versatile and easy listening sound signature; long battery life.
Cons: ANC only works via wireless connection.
In terms of sound, I have no complaints. In fact, I think the balance and sound signature is more enjoyable than a pricier Sennheiser wireless ANC headphone. And the crazy long battery life is a plus too. My only grievance is that the ANC won’t work when the connection is wired. The weak noise-cancellation should also be noted. But to be honest, I’ve never heard a noise-cancelling headphone that cuts out all outside sound, especially at this price point. And if all you’re looking to do is kill the hum of an airplane or air-conditioner, these cans will get the job done. Anyway, my main priority is always good sound quality. And for the sound performance alone, I think that the SW-ANCBT501 is a solid deal.
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