Noise Cancellation Peformance
The Tivoli Radio Silenz battery compartment may be annoying at times, but it does provide the headphones with great stamina. A single battery lasts for up to fifty hours, and you can play music without having ANC enabled - many sets cut out the signal completely as soon as it's turned off.
Performance of cancellation is poor, though. Like any active set worth consideration, it removes low-end hums, but it actually seems to increase mid-range and top-end noise. Across the board, the Radio Silenz do not come close to matching the best of Bose - the class leaders in terms of noise cancellation performance - and there is some hiss audible when cancellation is on.
On the train, we found that they made for a more pleasurable listen with cancellation turned off, and that the noise created by the ANC was actually more noticeable than the natural ambient sound you have to deal with when it's off. It makes the clacking of keyboard keys much more noticeable, for example.
Headphones with active noise cancellation rarely escape without feeling compromised on sound quality and, unfortunately, the same is true here.
With noise cancellation turned off, the sound is reasonably well-balanced and neutral. We're generally fans of this sort of signature, but some will hanker after more bass. Insight and detailing are unimpressive at the price. There's a definite top-end roll off that leaves music sounding boxed-in, and vocals disappointingly low-fi and reined-in.
The soundstage is fairly small too, with a narrowing effect. Turning the noise cancellation on doesn't help, either. It has a deleterious effect on the mid-range, giving it a strained edge that's not too easy on the ear at higher volumes - as if it has been squeezed up against a sieve and started falling apart.
With ANC turned on, the sound isn't too smooth or natural - which is it, relatively speaking, when turned off. The at-times alarming difference between in tonal quality in cancelling headphones is one of the reasons why some only output sound when cancellation is turned on. Here, it's a difference that seems to alter depending on how hard the noise cancelling "brain" has to work. In the relatively quiet Trusted towers, the difference was small, but was much more prominent on public transport.
We have a lot of time for Tivoli and its charming radios, but the Radio Silenz headphones prove that even within the world of audio you can't simply saunter onto someone else's patch and become king. A combination of poor noise cancelling performance, comfort that's a way off several key rivals and sound quality that just make the grade at £120 ensure this pair doesn't quite perform well enough to earn a recommendation.
We found the similarly-priced closed-back non-noise-cancelling GermanMaestro GMP 8.35 D and Philips Fidelio M1 were both much more comfortable, more successful at isolating you from the outside world, and able to supply better sound quality.
UK radio maestro Tivoli's first try at noise cancelling headphones is not a great success. The Tivoli Radio Silenz's wood finish is welcome change from the norm, but noise cancelling performance, sound quality and comfort do not particularly impress. A trio of so-so- showings does not add up to £160 worth of headphone. And for that reason, we're out.