I came to know Fiio several years ago as a manufacturer of cheap yet highly functional headphone amps and digital music players. They were one of the first companies to drop reasonably priced products full of features that young audiophiles craved (and could afford).
They have since branched out into headphones, starting with IEMs, which have gotten better with each release. With the Fiio EH3NC Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones, Fiio moves into the crowded wireless noise-canceling market for the first time.
As usual, Fiio packs in a ton of enthusiast features, like App Control, LDAC, and aptX LL/HD audio for less money than the competition, which makes them an exciting option.
As of this writing, you can pick them up from Amazon for $169.99. Are they a good value? Well read on, and I’ll tell you what I found.
Build And Features
The first thing you notice when opening up the EH3NC is the hard protective case the headphones they pack them in. It’s slim and sturdy, which is what you need when packing your noise-canceling headphones for a trip. It carries the headphones and a few accessories like your charging and audio cables.
When you zip open the case, you get your first glimpse of the headphones neatly folded inside. When I first picked them up, I found the EH3NC to be a little plasticky. When holding them from the top of the headband and giving them a little shake, I found them to be tightly fit together, but there was a bit of creaking.
The exposed screws on the backside of the earcup yolks and fittings (think 1st gen Beats) also provide evidence of some cost-cutting in the design. Still, overall they are handsomely made, with classy chrome and glass accents matched with high-quality faux leather.
Behind the glass panels on the earcups is a carbon fiber-like pattern that I found to be unnecessary, but that’s my personal opinion. YMMV.
Comfort is outstanding due to the cushiony protein leather wrap on the headband and earcups. Their light weight and low clamping force also allow you to wear them for hours without any notion of discomfort.
When it comes to features, as I said before, the EH3NC has tons of em. They even have options not available on headphones costing double the price, like aptX LL for lag-free audio when watching videos.
They also have high-data-rate wireless audio codecs like apt-X HD and LDAC for the highest quality Bluetooth music playback. Speaking of Bluetooth, they use the latest version, BT 5.0, which gives the extended range from the receiver, and extended battery life.
The large 1000mAh battery gives them around 50 hours of playback with noise canceling off and 30 with it on, which is not bad at all. If you take long flights, that will come in handy.
BTW, 10 minutes of charge via the USB-C port will give you about 3 hours of playback so that a quick top-off will put you in good shape.
If you forget to charge them, or just want to plug into an airplane entertainment system, you can plug in the 3.5mm headphone cable and use them passively. You can also use the USB-C charging cable as a digital audio cable, effectively turning the DAC in the EH3NC into a USB DAC.
That’s a cool way to get better sounding digital audio from a laptop. It will blow away the headphone jack on any computer. Higher-priced headphones from competitors like Sony and Bose don’t even offer that right now.
Another excellent option is app control. If you have the Fiio Music APP installed on your Android device, for instance, you can remotely change the EQ along with a ton of other features.
It allows you to customize the headphones. This is something else you only used to see on headphones that cost a lot more.
Speaking of controls, I was impressed with the layout of the EH3NC’s physical controls. All controls are located on the right earcup within easy reach during use. They also use actual buttons, which I prefer over the touch controls you see on other models.
Touch buttons only seem to work about half the time, making you press multiple times before you get the result you want. You have no such issues with physical buttons.
The Active Noise-canceling is decent thanks to circuitry provided by Analog Devices, the same company involved with ANC headphones from expensive brands like Bowers & Wilkins.
Due to the thick earpads, passive noise canceling is pretty good, just putting the headphones on filtered out a good part of high-pitched sounds like voices, etc. Once I turned the ANC switch to on, all low pitched sounds like fans, A/C, etc. were reduced by I would say 75% percent. ANC hiss was also minimal.
However, unlike some other ANC headphones, your Noise Canceling options are limited to on and off. There is no environmental mode that allows you to let in outside noise temporarily without taking the headphones off.
Overall, the ANC doesn’t compete with the performance coming from Sony and Bose’s top models. But they also cost about twice the price, and the Fiio headphones get you about 75% of the way there.
Listening to the EH3NC Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones
For my listening tests, I connected the EH3NC to my LG V60 Thin Q using LDAC, which provided the highest audio transmission data rates available using that combo. Think CD quality sound.
The EH3NC’s sound quality impressed me. I usually use the Bowers & Wilkins PX headphones (currently selling for $230 refurbished) as my ANC headphones, mainly because of their fun, open sound. Their noise-canceling is also excellent.
The EH3NC’s ANC wasn’t quite as good as the PX, but they held their own in the sound department. While the PX’s bass was more profound and more detailed, the EH3NC was more accurate in the mids, just about even with highs, and they sounded even more open.
The Fiio headphones sounded remarkably like an open-backed headphone, with a very airy presentation, due to the sweet midrange. Highs were also quite detailed, providing subtle sparkle to cymbals and horns without being bright. I was surprised at how well they resolved detail for their price.
If there were something that I found lacking, it would be the low end. The bottom lacked a little punch and weight, which took the life out of certain music. You can dial up the bass a little with the EQ on the Fiio Music App, but I still found myself looking for a bit more punch.
That’s not to say the EH3NC doesn’t sound right. With Jazz and Acoustic music, I liked the airy sound of the Fiio over the Bowers & Wilkins. With dance music and hip-hop like the new RTJ4 album from Run The Jewels, I preferred the punchier sound of the PX headphones.
If you spend a little more, you can get a pair of headphones with more robust construction, more noise-canceling modes, and touch controls (if that’s what you want). But for the price, the $169 EH3NC Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones offers a quality level (not the best) of ANC, along with advanced features like a USB DAC option, High-Res Bluetooth Codecs, and App Control.
The sound is airy and detailed, plus comfort is top-notch. That makes these Fiio headphones a solid choice in the Wireless ANC headphone market, especially for bargain-hunting audiophiles.
Where to buy
I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My thirst for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.