I’d promised, before Christmas, a review of a new bargain-priced set of noise cancelling headphones from Wyze. They’ve been hard to obtain, but now seem to have reasonable availability on the Wyze website and sometimes from Amazon, so it is appropriate to write about them now.
A word about Amazon’s price. Wyze clearly shows the price as $59.99 on their website; Amazon has them for mid/high $60s, with Wyze as the seller via Amazon. It seems the reason for the higher price is that the “free shipping” cost is added to the list price. At least, if you’re a Prime member, while paying the higher price, the free shipping is faster than the extra-cost shipping that is added on Wyze’s own website. If you’re not a Prime member, maybe it is still a good idea to buy from Amazon due to their easier return policy.
The appeal of these headphones is simple. They are priced at $60. Most other “full featured” (which is a polite way of saying “ridiculously overcomplicated and over-featured”) noise-cancelling headphones are priced the high side of $100, and the really good ones are $300 or more.
The Wyze headphones have outstanding noise-cancelling, on a par with most of the $300+ headphones, and so are a standout value compared to overpriced products from Bose and Sony and assorted other less-well-known but also-overpriced brands.
So, does that make them a slam-dunk easy choice to buy? Or is there something missing compared to the best of Bose and Sony?
Let’s talk about what they have in common, then move to what is different.
Excellent Noise Cancelling
First, the noise cancelling. In careful testing, I judged the Wyze to be almost as good as the Bose NC700 headphones (reviewed here) and which list on Amazon for $379. The Wyze headphones cut out a bit more of the lower frequencies, the Bose cut out a bit more in the higher frequencies.
They are probably the equal and possibly better than the Bose QC35 II headphones ($299 on Amazon) and start to more clearly pull ahead when compared to the Bose QC25 headphones (no longer a current model but reviewed here).
As also mentioned in the Bose NC700 review, the Anker Soundcore headphones, priced from $50 for the slightly older Q20 model up to $90 for the new Q30 model, came last in these comparisons of the five different products. But even that is still a good score, there are other product out there that don’t perform nearly as well.
If the most important feature to you is noise cancelling, you can buy the Wyze headphones with confidence and delight at saving yourself $240 or more, maybe much more. It is truly astonishing how they cause background noises to fade away to nothingness – although note, like all noise-cancelling headphones, the band of frequencies they cancel is reasonably narrow, and you can still hear some ambient sounds – in particular, voices. Indeed, the cancelling of some of the “masking” sounds that otherwise interferes with hearing unwanted conversations can sometimes have the effect of making voices more penetrating and distracting, rather than less.
Switching the noise canceling on or off is slow, because first you have a voice unnecessarily saying either “noise canceling on” or “transparency mode” before the noise canceling goes on or off. Does Wyze have so little confidence in its noise canceling that it thinks you need to be told if it is on or off? Having an annoying voice tell you this is 100% unnecessary and just another pinprick of “featuritis” – adding unnecessary features just because they can be added, rather than because they are needed.
How about instead of an unlabeled press button on the headphones and voice responses, there is a labeled slide button marked “noise canceling” with “on” on one side and “off” on the other side?
The sound quality doesn’t seem to change at all between noise canceling on and off, which is good.
Similar Bluetooth Connectivity
I abhor Bluetooth for anything and everything, so I’ll simply note that these headphones support Bluetooth 5.0 and can connect to two devices simultaneously if you should so wish. They have both SBC and AAC codecs – AAC is thought to be slightly better.
If there’s a way to switch your music player to send via AAC, you might get slightly better audio. But don’t go to a lot of bother trying to figure out how to do this, because the difference is subtle rather than strong.
They will also play music through a good old-fashioned stereo audio cable, too, with regular 1/8th inch jacks. Most of us will do this and forget about the abomination of Bluetooth. A cable is provided.
Similar Rechargeable Battery
Like most other headphones these days, they have a built-in rechargeable Li-ion battery. It has a claimed 20 hour battery life, and happily, will still play music through a wired connection even if the battery is dead.
A full charge takes about two hours, but a fast 10 minute “quick charge” will add up to four hours of playback time if the battery is dead.
The headphones have a modern USB-C type connector on the left earcup for a charging cable. A short charging cable is provided, but no charger. However, the charging cable terminates in a regular type USB connector, and so any USB charger you have would work.
The headphones are designed with round rather than oval ear-cups, and fit around the ear rather than on or in the ear. The circular design is unnecessarily bulky, and perhaps also contributes to the slightly greater weight of the headphones – 10.1 ounces compared to 8.3 ounces for the Bose QC35 II (and 7.3 oz for the QC25). Two ounces isn’t really a great deal of difference, but it is almost 25% heavier and there’s a slightly greater awareness of weight on one’s head compared to the Bose headphones.
The headphones don’t fold up so compactly for travel purposes. They don’t fold as far as you’d expect them too, and result in an awkward shape that feels vulnerable to damage, and rises up as high as 3″ in places, compared to always less than 2″ with the much better designed Bose headphones. If you pack them with no “fold flat” attempt for the ear cups, they rise 4″ high.
This is a huge negative factor and an inexplicable design blunder by Wyze, because headphone design and use issues is surely well known by now and has long since been optimized. None of us have space to spare in our carry-on, and so a more fragile set of headphones that require about 50% more space, and which we need to be more protective of, is a major negative.
Talking about being protective, Bose headphones (and many other brands too) come with a nice hard-sided carry case. The Wyze headphones come with just a soft fabric pouch – so the headphones need more protection, but don’t come with a protective case – I guess because a case design would have further accentuated the oversize nature of the headphones when folded for travel.
The headphones themselves have an astonishingly neutral design. Wyze did not brand them at all – they are simply solid black all over. That seems a strange oversight – why not get some free advertising by showing the Wyze brand name on them? Imagine if Bose or Beats were also plain and unbranded.
Similarly, the buttons on the sides of the headphones (four on the right side, one on the left side) have no labels, either. There is also a light that can show red, blue or green, or a combination of colors, or no color at all, and either steady or flashing. What does it all mean? Good question…..
The headphones did come with a short quick start guide. If you’re like me, you quickly lose that! But if you’re also like me, you don’t worry, because you download PDF copies of all related manuals from the manufacturer and keep those on your hard drive.
Unfortunately, and inexplicably, Wyze do not provide any PDF documentation at all. Instead, they idiotically say “it is all on our website online”, even when I point out that I want to be able to have offline copies of documentation in case I’m, for example, on an airplane and not connected to the internet. Apparently they’ve never thought their headphones might be used on an airplane.
There is some sort of app you can add to your smartphone for “extra features”, but I don’t want extra features. Happily it is not necessary to add this. In my case, I just want music playback and noise cancelling, and I’d love to know what all the buttons do. Apparently I’m out of luck, I’ve roamed around their website for too long trying to see any sort of information and failed.
Oh, and as for their support – increasingly essential when you start selling devices with multiple unlabeled buttons – forget about speaking to someone on the phone. You’re stuck with sending emails and waiting for replies that seldom answer your question the first time.
As we always state, noise-canceling headphones seldom offer high-end sound quality, and Bluetooth headphones suffer from another hit to their sound quality potential. Sound quality is not really one of the most important features to look for with noise cancelling headphones.
However, we did some careful listening through them, and compared them to an inexpensive set of generic good quality (but not esoteric high end) headphones – the classic Sony MDR-7506 regular (ie not noise-cancelling) headphones (reviewed here).
On first hearing, the Wyze headphones sounded lush and warm, with slightly extra prominence in the bass and rich mid-tones. We liked the sound for a quick listen. We then swapped to the Sony headphones, which sounded thin and tinny by comparison.
But first experiences are often deceiving and extended listening put the two different sound styles into clearer context. The reality is better expressed as the Wyze headphones are slightly over-boosted in the bass and muffled in the treble. For some reason, unrealistic bass boost seems much favored these days, and if you like a bit of extra bass, you’ll like the sound of the Wyze headphones. But if you want your music chain to be “transparent” and simply to give you as close to an “in person” experience as possible, you’ll soon tire of the Wyze headphones and prefer the very flat and uncolored tonal quality of the Sony headphones.
The Wyze sound quality is not objectionable, and perfectly good for casual listening purposes.
Excellent world-class noise canceling. Works easily with a regular wired connection and doesn’t demand you use an app or divulge personal information, unlike the shameful Bose NC700 headphones. Average/ordinary scores for most other features, apart from ease of packing/folding into a compact and robust travel package. And a truly outstanding value at $70.
There’s a lot to like about these headphones, and as long as you don’t mind a slightly bulkier and more fragile set of headphones to travel with, there’s an excellent first choice, better than many of their $300 brethren.