There are a slew of good options for noise-canceling headphones on the market. For many businesses, the biggest challenge is combining high audio quality with noise-cancelling power and other useful features. Some companies, including as Bose and Sony, have nearly nailed the craft, while others are trying to usurp them. A new set of 3D sound settings have been added to Yamaha’s most recent headphones with active noise cancellation, the latest in a long line of challengers (ANC). $499.95 is a lot of money for Yamaha’s latest design and features, but the YH-L700A has a lot of distinctive attributes.
The YH-L700A was designed by Yamaha with a distinct look in mind. Making a stand against the traditional oval earcup form. It doesn’t matter if you like them or not; they’re instantly noticeable. A polished appearance is achieved by combining leather with fabric as well as matte black plastic and silver highlights. Headband attachments were also placed on each earcup rather than in the middle of the earcups by the firm. Even if you don’t see it, the headband sits a little further forward on the top of your head. The YH-earcups L700A’s can be swiveled flat and folded in, making it a good choice for travel.
Yamaha opted for traditional buttons over touch controls in this application. The power and 3D Sound Field buttons are located on the right earcup’s back edge, which doubles as the Bluetooth pairing control and lets you cycle between presets. A small leather-covered panel on the outside of the right earcup contains buttons for volume, track controls, play/pause, and activating a voice assistant. Single and double presses control volume, while pressing both outer arrow buttons at the same time toggles between songs by pressing and holding. To make matters worse, they’re not embossed deeply enough to be felt. A single button on the back edge of the device’s left side toggles the device into noise cancelling mode. ANC, ambient sound, and off can all be selected with a single button click.
Yamaha’s 3D Sound Field function, which includes head tracking, is the YH-key L700A’s selling point. Audio presets for cinema, drama, music videos, concert halls, outdoor performances, and audio rooms are all part of the company’s music library. According to Yamaha, each virtual environment “transforms stereo sound into three-dimensional listening” by altering the parameters for each virtual environment. In addition, head tracking provides an illusion of audio emanating from a fixed point in space as you walk around the room. Although I find it a little strange for music, I think it adds something to more cinematic viewings.
Every setting clearly benefits from 3D Sound Field’s sonic enhancements. As a result of this, the filters all substantially alter the EQ and other characteristics to the point that none of them function well across different genres. If you’ve ever been to a festival, you’ll know what I’m talking about when you hear a band perform outdoors in the open air. Metal and rock may get away with it, but acoustic music suffers as a result. To experience a new genre, you’ll need to alter your presets if you enjoy a wide variety of musical styles. It’s a surprise, but the cinema preset is the finest all-around setting for music. The concert hall preset, for example, benefits from a lot of reverb, but it’s overkill in other settings. It’s just that none of the selections are actually enjoyable to listen to for an entire album’s worth of music.
There is a good selection of films and television shows to choose from, especially in the genres of drama and comedy. Formula 1: Drive to Survive on Netflix is the best example of this skill set in action. If you’re looking for a challenge for your headphones and speakers to handle, this is the album for you. The Dolby Atmos configuration in your living room works best with the YH-three-dimensional L700A’s sound. This album has a big, open sound, and the cars’ directional roars sound great too.
Noise-cancelling headphones that lack 3D Sound Field sound ordinary, and the YH-L700A is no exception. With a full band, the mid-range can be overpowering in terms of clarity and detail. Underoath’s “Damn Excuses” has a good amount of aggressive bass, but a little treble would go a long way here to round out the sound and cut through the mayhem. The absence of highs can produce a murky mess at times. With acoustic music like bluegrass, the upright bass takes precedence over all other strings. Much of Sturgill Simpson’s The Ballad of Dood and Juanita is like that. However, despite Yamaha’s best efforts, the “normal” listening experience is only passable at best.
In addition to active noise suppression, the YH-L700A has an ambient sound mode for tuning in to the sounds around you at any time. In the same vein as Apple and others, Yamaha has equipped its ANC system with technology that can adjust the audio to variations in wear. Measurements are taken every 20 seconds by the so-called Listening Optimizer to detect any changes in seal and air leakage. It is now possible to alter the sound of the headphones to compensate for any difficulties. In spite of the fact that I don’t know how effective this is, I can assure you it does its job. In most cases, it isn’t as powerful as Bose or Sony, but it’s good enough.
Finally, there’s a Listening Care feature that tries to preserve good sound quality even if you’re listening to the music at a low volume. As a rule, headphones sound best when played at medium to high volumes, which is bad for our hearing. Yamaha claims that its Listening Care technology in the YHL700A ensures a wide dynamic range even at low volumes. As background noise fluctuates, it adjusts to provide the greatest possible audio quality no matter how loud it is. Despite the company’s claims to the contrary, rock music has a reasonable frequency range far below 50% volume level. While there is some loss of clarity at these volumes, it is still perfectly listenable.
Using Yamaha’s headphones app, you can turn on or off the marquee functions. Listening Care, Listening Optimizer, and Noise Cancellation are all available options. The auto-off timer can be adjusted (or disabled) as well as your chosen 3D setting from your phone. When you turn on the headphones, the program displays your battery %, so you don’t have to guess what the “battery level high” voice prompt means.
The headphones’ battery life is a serious drawback. Only ten and a half hours were possible with both ANC and 3D sound enabled and head tracking turned off during my initial testing.. According to the company’s 11-hour estimate, it will take 30 minutes longer. However, most high-end noise-cancelling headphones can last for 30 or more hours on a single charge, so that’s not a huge deal. Battery life can be extended by disabling Yamaha’s Sound Field technology to 34 hours. To justify the asking price, the YH-range L700A’s should be at least 15 hours at maximum power. Even when a software update to enhance battery life was published, the results didn’t alter when both ANC and 3D sound were turned on at the same time.
There are a few contenders in the movie and 3D competition. In addition to dynamic head tracking and Dolby Atmos and Atmos Music support, Apple’s AirPods Max provide spatial audio. In the absence of presets, an adaptive EQ ensures that sound quality is maintained even when conditions and external noises vary over time. The transparency option on AirPods Max is the most realistic sounding of any headphones I’ve tried so far. We’ve seen prices as low as $429 for these recently, but they’re still $479.
One of the best options is Sony’s WH-1000XM4. There are a number of useful features in the company’s flagship model, including the ability to automatically modify noise canceling settings based on activity or location. In terms of quality and active noise cancellation (ANC), the 1000XM4 is a standout, with 360 Reality Audio capability via compatible streaming providers rounding out the list of reasons they’re our top pick right now. They don’t have dynamic head tracking, but at the present price of $248 (full price: $350), they’ll save you a lot of money.
The YH-L700A headphones from Yamaha are a novel idea. For those who enjoy watching movies and TV as well as listening to music, the business aimed to please both groups with features that could be used for both. Battery life on a $500 pair of headphones with the most enticing features enabled is underwhelming, and the presets could use some discipline. With a fully programmable equalizer and a boost in battery life, Yamaha has a strong set of headphones, but they require some fine-tuning to justify their high price.