Once upon a time, noise-canceling headphones were manufactured and marketed by only a couple of companies.
Those companies were mainly concerned with the quality of the active noise canceling, putting sound quality second, regardless of claims otherwise.
It was only a matter of time before bonafide hi-fi companies would get into the act, releasing headphones that place audiophile values on the same level as noise-canceling, sometimes above.
I own and enjoy one of them. They are the Bowers & Wilkins PX headphones, which have great active noise canceling abilities. However, the ANC is probably a step behind what you get on mass-market headphones from Bose and Sony.
On the other hand, to me, the sound quality on the PX is head and shoulders above the mass-market models, with an openness and depth that mimics listening to speakers.
For me, the tradeoff of slightly (I mean ever so slight) less effective noise cancellation for superior sound is worth it. If this sounds like you, then you want to know about the subject of this review.
That brings me to the headphones I’m looking at today, the $449 NAD VISO HP70 Wireless, the company’s first Bluetooth ANC model. It’s another product developed to combine audiophile-grade sound and high-quality noise-canceling.
NAD is a company primarily known for value-priced hi-fi components, but in recent years they have had success marketing wired headphones like the VISO HP50.
Those headphones were built based on tuning and technology developed by master speaker designer Paul Barton. He’s the man behind sister company PSB Speakers.
So it should come as no surprise the HP70 is also based on tech from PSB’s headphones, primarily PSB’s RoomFeel EQ, which claims to reproduce the experience of listening to speakers.
However, the NAD model has enough design flourishes to set it apart, and it’s quite a striking headphone to have come from a company known for applying a plain jane, minimalist approach to its components.
Build and Features
I find the NAD HP70 to have a sleeker, more modern design than their PSB counterparts, with a slick PU leather headband and adjustable tapered chrome arms.
They cover the squarish ear cups in soft-touch matte black plastic, and they have plush removable PU leather earpads. The soft-touch plastic picked up a lot of smudges, which I wasn’t crazy about, but it wasn’t anything a microfiber cloth couldn’t fix.
Inside of each cup is a large “L” and “R” to designate which side is which.
As far as the fit was concerned, I found them to be a little small for my large head and large ears. The clamp was a little tighter than I would’ve liked, and the earpads, while they did go around my ears, the openings just barely fit them.
So if you have a 7 7/8 hat size as I do, that is something to keep in mind.
Despite the small openings, the earpads were comfortable, as was the padded headband that made contact with the top of my head.
The controls are well placed on the rear of the right earcup, with toggles for volume, track/playback control, and ANC activation within easy reach.
On the right earcup, you also have a micro-USB port for charging, a 3.5mm input jack for wired operation, along with a button for Bluetooth pairing. I would’ve loved to see USB-C quick charging, but it’s not a deal-breaker for me.
The VISO HP70 supports the aptX HD codec for better than CD-Quality music streaming, and they also have NFC for quick pairing.
There are four modes of usage, which are passive using the wire, wireless without NC, wireless with Noise Cancelling, plus you can also make a digital connection with your PC using the USB cable. You get 15 hours of battery life in the wireless modes.
Like all wireless ANC headphones, you can also make phone calls with the HP70. I made a few calls with them, and the quality was good. There were no issues with intelligibility on either side of the conversation.
Noise-canceling is very effective. The earcups on their block a considerable amount of noise, and the active noise canceling blocks both general background noise and low rumble sounds as you find on trains and planes. It’s also notable that the ANC doesn’t affect the sound quality that much. The sound quality is similar
The ANC was on par with my B&W PX headphones, which I also consider to be very good. However, there was a slight background hiss on the HP70 that I didn’t pick up on the PX.
To temporarily disable noise cancellation, you can press the volume switch in, and it will quickly turn off the music and ANC so you can hear what is going on around you.
My PX headphones have a similar feature, and I find it very helpful when I need to pick up an announcement during a Plane ride.
In the box, along with the headphones, you get the USB charging cable, a 3.5mm cable for wired operation, a 3.5” to 1/4” adaptor, an Airline adaptor to tap into plane audio systems, a carabineer, and a nice looking soft-sided carrying pouch. All of them are useful inclusions.
Listening to the VISO HP70 Wireless
For testing purposes, I connected the VISO HP70 to my LG V40 smartphone via Bluetooth. I used the aptX HD codec to get the highest quality stream.
I listened to 24/96 FLAC files of Jon Batiste’s “Anatomy Of Angels: Live At The Village Vanguard,” and while I found the top end to be a little bright, the sound was natural and they did an excellent job of bringing out the feeling of a live performance.
I liked the natural timbre of the horns; you could hear the definition of each note as it came out. I also liked the weightiness of the upright bass; those low notes were also well defined. The piano strikes were recreated with nice accuracy, even though the piano as a whole seemed a little subdued within the mix.
My only issue with the sound was that it sounded a little closed-in to me. When I compared the HP70 to my Bowers & Wilkins PX headphones, the PX had a more open, spacious sound, that was more out of your head.
With the NAD headphones, everything was more in between the earcups. That being said, the HP70 was more detailed overall, resulting in instruments that were more fleshed out and more engaging vocals.
I still preferred the more open, warmer sound of the PX, but I can see others liking the deeper bass and sparkle of the HP70.
I do want to note that I also listened to the HP70 connected with the included headphone cable, and they did sound a little more open that way, but it was still more closed in than the PX.
The VISO HP70 is probably the most detailed and accurate sounding noise-canceling headphone I’ve heard so far. However, I found the soundstage to be a little too restricted for my taste.
The clamp was also a little too tight for me, but as I said before, I have a big head, so YMMV. The earpads are very comfortable, however. Overall build quality is solid, Noise Cancelling is very effective, phone calls are superb, and the headphones are very easy to operate.
I do wish they had USB-C charging though.
If you find that other ANC headphones don’t provide the level of musical detail you want, then you should check the VISO HP70 Wireless out. They may provide the refinement you’re looking for.