Delivering sound with plenty of energy and zip, the Ausounds don’t offer as much in the value for money stakes as other models with regards to their feature set, plus build quality is on the creaky side.
- Enjoyable presentation
- Decent noise cancellation
- Comfortable to wear
- Not the most reassuring build quality
- Distracting noise when ANC is enabled
- Plain appearance
- BluetoothSupports up to aptX HD for 24-bit audio streaming
- Battery30 hours without noise cancellation, 14 hours with it switched on
California-based audio brand Ausounds’ rollout of its headphones continues on in the UK with another fresh face in the AU-XT ANC.
These over-ear headphones are predominantly aimed at the lifestyle segment, with their mid-market price and inclusion of noise cancellation looking to scoop up those listeners whose budget falls short of the Bose QuietComfort 45.
The AU-XT ANC are one of the best-sounding efforts among their price bracket, but a few issues spoil the overall performance.
- Plain, simple appearance
- Excellent fit and comfort
- Physical buttons
Black. It’s the only colour in which the AU-XT ANC are available, and that gives these cans a plain appearance. If you like your headphones to be a representation of you, then AU-XT ANC would suggest you’re a discreet person.
But this isn’t something I’d hold against these headphones. Of more concern is the build quality, which is not the most reassuring. The hinges display more creaks than a door in a haunted house; collapsing the headphones to put them in a bag or case produces unnerving cracks every time.
Still, the Ausounds pass the muster for comfort. The memory foam ear pads are nice and soft, the clamping force of the headphones is sufficiently tight to keep them in place, and the adjustable headband provides some leeway for different-shaped heads. The silicone headband eases the pressure on top of the head, too. It’s just a shame that the hard plastic build doesn’t live up to the expectations for a £200 pair of headphones.
There are no touch controls – the AU-XT ANC stick with physical, tactile buttons. You’ll find an ANC switch on the left ear cup, with volume, playback and power on the right (you can also control calls and summon voice assistants, too). There’s a 3.5mm jack for a wired connection, plus a USB-C charging port. There’s a slightly retro and understated look about the AU-XT ANC’s appearance that I like – but those stiff hinges are a slight cause for concern.
- Effective noise cancellation
- Short battery life with ANC mode
- AptX HD Bluetooth support
Like their appearance, the Ausounds AU-XT ANC feature set can be described as sparse. Active noise cancellation is supported, but it’s one size fits all. The features you may expect at this price – such as transparency mode, on-ear detection or an app – aren’t included.
Battery life is a reasonable 30 hours, but with ANC on it falls to a less spectacular 14 hours. Using these headphones over a few weeks, the battery depleted quickly with active noise cancellation engaged and when the low battery notification pops up, the gig is pretty much up. Fourteen hours is a figure that doesn’t compare favourably with the Urbanista Los Angeles’ 50 hours or the Cleer Enduro ANC’s 60 hours. Fast charging is supported, with 15 minutes adding another 90 if you’re in a bind.
Noise cancellation is on a par, if not better than those models. Noises slip through, cars pass by audibly, and the hubbub of train terminals was still apparent; but train journeys were noticeably calmer and voices are ushed – all without having to raise the volume.
However, there was an issue with the ANC – an ever-present electrical buzz. When music was at its loudest it wasn’t noticeable, but in quieter moments it became difficult to ignore. The Ausounds’ noise cancellation is a case of two steps forward and one step back.
The AU-XT ANC support Bluetooth codecs up to aptX HD, which can deliver 24-bit HD audio (if your mobile device supports aptX HD), with Bluetooth 5.0 the tether between the headphones and the source device. There’s an IPX4 rating, and since Ausounds says its wireless headphones are designed to be sweat-proof, you can wear these during workouts.
- Smooth, energetic sound
- Assertive bass
- More focused presentation with noise cancellation on
There’s a Bose-esque quality to the Ausounds performance that makes them one of the more thoroughly enjoyable sets I’ve listened to at this price. Their presentation is crisp in tone, highs and lows land well, and they feature plenty of zip, energy and verve.
At least that’s the case with active noise cancellation on. With it off there’s a looseness to the AU-XT ANC’s delivery that makes them less engaging. In this non-ANC mode, they’re a perfectly fine listen – but switch ANC on and they become more focused, the soundstage is tighter, with detail delivered with more insight.
Listening to Rage Against the Machine’s Bulls on Parade, the difference shows in Zack de la Rocha’s vocals lacking shape, clarity and feeling distant. With ANC on, however, there’s better definition and sharpness to his vocals, as well as more space within the track for his voice to occupy.
Across the frequency range there’s an entertaining sense of tonal balance – the low frequencies hit with weight and authority in Rick James’ Mary Jane; their punchy and assertive in Obongjayar’s Frens. The mid-range is clearly conveyed, filled with enough detail, and granted enough space to effectively convey the tone and texture of instruments and voices.
What the Ausounds headphones don’t display perhaps is clear lines of demarcation in terms of fully separating one instrument in the soundfield from another, as premium priced cans achieve. Nevertheless, the impression the Ausounds leave is one of smooth, controlled and fidelious sound for the money.
Move up the frequency range and there’s a decent amount of brightness and refinement to give the piano notes at the beginning of GoGo Penguin’s Raven some shine and clarity. They’re a good listen, with fewer holes to find in their performance compared to the Urbanista, and more character about them than Cleer’s more neutral Enduro ANC.
It’s a pity, then, that the electrical ‘noise’ when ANC is on serves to undermine their delivery, meshing with tracks in a distracting manner. The Ausounds are one of the better-sounding options I’ve heard at this price, and if they were a bit more affordable and didn’t suffer from a few quality issues, it would be easier to give them an endorsement.
Should you buy it?
Smarts don’t matter much Like other Ausounds headphones, the focus is on sound, and they do deliver on that front with an energetic performance.
You want more reassuring build quality From the creaky hinges to the electrical ‘noise’ when noise cancellation is turned on, the build quality isn’t always the most convincing.
The Ausounds’s audio delivery almost makes up for issues elsewhere. It may just be an issue with this sample, but the electrical ‘noise’ that emerges with ANC playback distracts; the build quality could be better, and in terms of features there isn’t a tremendous amount on offer compared to other efforts.
However, if you’re not interested in smarts and are after a focused audio experience, the Ausounds are worth a look.
How we test
We test every headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested for several weeks
Tested with real world use
Tested with various music streaming services
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No, the noise cancellation can be switched on or off and that’s it.