Shopping for cheap headphones is a balancing act. You want to find something that exceeds your expectations, but you have to avoid products that look too good to be true. The TaoTronics TT-BH085 headphones, which feature active noise-canceling (ANC) technology, seem a little too flashy for their $50 price. But, to my surprise, they’re totally worth the money.
TaoTronics’ TT-BH085 headphones are jam-packed with premium features. ANC is obviously the standout item here, but I’m also surprised to see Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C charging, and replaceable ear cups in such a cheap pair of headphones. Most headphones at this price feel like they’re designed to fall apart, but the TaoTronics ANC headphones are should last a long time if they’re taken care of properly.
But would you use the TaoTronics for a long time? For many people, the answer is probably yes. The TaoTronics TT-BH085s are lightweight and comfortable to wear for extended listening sessions. They feel a bit cheap and plasticy, but they’re collapsible, and they work over Bluetooth or AUX cable. Additionally, the TaoTronics headphones have built-in volume buttons, which allow you to skip tracks when double-pressed. It’s nice to see a fully featured pair of wireless headphones at this price.
In my experience, the TaoTronics headphones have a 20- to 25-hour battery life when ANC and Bluetooth are activated. That’s good enough for most people, but according to TaoTronics, you can push that 20-hour listening time to nearly 40 hours while ANC is turned off. Using ANC over a wired connection will also net you a near 40-hour battery, and the headphones don’t use any battery life if both Bluetooth and ANC are turned off.
But then there’s the sound quality. It’s fine but not impressive. The TaoTronics headphones are a little muddy, but they have decent bass and treble response, and they can get pretty loud. In short, they sound like a $50 pair of headphones. Considering all the features that TaoTronics packed into these affordable cans, I think that the average sound quality is acceptable. Plus, I haven’t noticed any audio lag while watching YouTube or Hulu with the TaoTronics headphones, and the call quality is acceptable for a pair of headphones in this price range.
However, there is one sound quality issue that bugs me. The TaoTronic headphones sound slightly worse when ANC is active. Treble and bass feel less separated, and high frequencies get a little soft. If I had to guess, its because ANC headphones produce a negative tone to cancel out external frequencies, and the cheap speakers in these headphones have trouble producing that negative tone and playing music simultaneously.
Otherwise, the ANC on these headphones is fantastic. Turning on ANC eliminates the sound of my air conditioner, the traffic outside my house, and the familiar conch-shell echo that accompanies over-ear headphones. If you’re in a noisy environment, then you’ll be happy to trade a little sound quality for this level of noise cancellation. I found that it’s especially nice while watching shows or listening to podcasts, where sound quality doesn’t matter so much (at least to me, anyway).
To be honest, I’m surprised that the ANC on these headphones works at all, let alone this well. It doesn’t hold a candle to newer top-shelf ANC headphones, but it’s comparable to older iterations of the Bose QuietComfort series. You know, stuff from the early 2010s. (And, just to be clear, I’m talking about ANC, not audio quality.)
Gotta Have ANC and Bluetooth? Take the Leap.
When it comes to headphones, you usually get what you pay for. But the TaoTronics ANC headphones punch above their weight—sort of. They don’t sound amazing, but their ANC setting is impressive at the price, and it’s nice to see USB-C in such a cheap product. If you need these flashy features and don’t mind $50 sound quality, then the TaoTronics are a steal. Go for it.
But if you’re comfortable trading ANC or Bluetooth features for sound quality, then you should shop around a bit. Sony’s MDRZX110NC ANC headphones are wired, but they sound slightly better than the TaoTronics and sell for nearly the same price. And, if you’re comfortable sacrificing both ANC and Bluetooth, you could always buy the $50 Audio-Technica ATH-M20x wired headphones, which (while bulky and non-collapsible) sound like a pair of $100 cans.
Here’s What We Like
- ANC for $50
- Lightweight, comfortable to wear
- USB-C charging
- Ear pads are removable and replaceable
- Wired or wireless listening
And What We Don't
- ANC mode creates slight drop in sound quality
- Build quality feels cheap