The Harman / Kardon NC is one of those over-ear headphones that comes with a premium build and design, can deliver great sound quality, partnered with an impressive proprietary noise-cancelling technology. However, such combination of features surely do not come cheap. Is the Harman / Kardon NC worth considering then? Find out by reading our review below.
Design and Build
Nowadays, when we come to describe a gadget that is “premium” the first thing that would come to mind is that it is clad in metal. Well that’s exactly what the Harman Kardon NC can boast about when it comes to this department thanks to its sandblasted steel frame. It’s cold to the touch, industrial-looking yet elegant at the same time.
THe H/K NC features a dual-band design with the inner part, which rests on your head, is covered in leather. The inner part of the housings are also covered in leather while the exterior is made of plastic with a matte finish. The squarish housings are connected to the main steel frame through a special hinge which allows it to swivel in place.
Found at the bottom of the left cup is the illuminated switch for the noise-cancelling feature, charging notifications light, and the charging port which also doubles as the 2.5mm input to accommodate the removable 1.4m cable which features the in-line remote and microphone.
Unlike most over-ear headphones, the H/K NC’s housings doesn’t extend or retract to perfectly fit the head. Instead, the H/K NC comes with an extra steel band (a Large-sized one) while the inner band stretches for a snug fit.
At this point, we can say that the H/K NC is one of the most comfortable pair of cans we’ve used. It snugs well on the head without squeezing in too tight. We can still bob our heads to the music without the fear of sliding off and use it for prolonged periods without leaving reddish marks on our ears.
On the downside, it’s a bit bulky for a headphone. The steel band’s design won’t allow you to bend it much and make it more portable. To compensate, the H/K NC comes with a carrying case so you can store it safely. It’s convenient, yes, but still takes a decent amount of space whether in a backpack or a briefcase.
As its name suggests, the H/K NC features what the company calls its “proprietary closed-loop, active digital noise-cancellation technology developed by HARMAN for luxury automobile sound installations.” While we won’t go on detail at the mentioned technology we can attest that it works and it works very well.
Activating noise-cancelling on the H/K NC is just a switch away. Even when you’re not playing any tunes, you’ll definitely notice when the NC kicks in. One moment you’re hearing a lot of ambient noises then suddenly it feels like someone sealed you inside a plastic bag and sucked all the air out.
Like most NC-equipped headphones, the H/K NC’s noise-cancelling tech is powered by a rechargeable battery which, according to Harman, can last for up to 40 hours. When the battery’s out you can still listen to your tunes with the H/K NC through what it calls the “passive playback mode” but without the noise-cancelling feature, of course. To recharge the H/K NC just use the USB cord that comes with the package. Just make sure you don’t lose it or you’ll end up not being able to use the NC unless you find a replacement right away.
Another feature of the H/K NC is the in-line remote and microphone which lets you remotely adjust the volume, control playback, and take calls with the headphones on. Harman mentions that it is compatible with iOS and Android devices, however, we found out that it is more Apple-friendly and doesn’t work on all Android smartphones.
With all the fancy features and technicalities, how does the H/K NC performs when it comes to sound quality? Here are our observations:
• Mids and Highs are great. Sounds on the mid to high range of the spectrum are clear and detailed that you can hear the faintest echoes. This also makes the H/K NC good for Skype calls.
• Vocals are emphasized as well without becoming sibilant. If you like listening to tracks of acoustic or live performances, the H/K NC can certainly deliver. The same goes for Rock and Jazz music.
• Bass is full and clean. Lows are also great on the H/K NC granted that you have noise-cancelling on. Sounds become louder and richer without becoming boomy or bloated.
• Turn the NC off and the quality degrades a bit especially at the lower parts of the spectrum. The Mids and Highs are mostly retained but the Lows sounds average. We highly suggest that you utilize NC especially when listening to Hip-hop, club, and party music.
Author’s note: Sound quality was tested using MP3 tracks with 320kbps bitrate played on an iPhone 4S and Xiaomi Mi 3 using built-in players with sound enhancements off.
The Harman / Kardon NC can certainly deliver what it promises – a pair headphones made of high-quality materials with exceptional acoustic performance. The premium build, impressive noise-cancelling technology and passive playback mode are great features that are well implemented. In terms of sound quality and usability, it is one of most enjoyable over-ear headphones we’ve used so far.
There are limitations of course, like the noticeable drop in Bass quality when the noise-cancelling is off, the not-so-Android-friendly in-line remote, and there’s the hefty price tag. At Php15,590, it’s not exactly cheap. But if this is the level of quality and sound performance you’re looking for in a pair of cans, then the Harman / Kardon NC is definitely worth considering at this price range.
Harman / Kardon NC features:
Active closed-loop noise-cancelling technology
Matte black housing with steel rim
Apple three-button (MiFi remote)
Frequency response: 16Hz – 20kHz
1-9/16″ (40mm) driver
1.4m detachable cable
2-D folding mechanism
User-exchangeable metal headbands (2 included)
Premium carrying pouch
What we liked about it:
* Premium build
* Great sound quality
* Great noise-cancelling technology
* Passive playback
* Comfortable to use
* Detachable cable
* Apple three-button in-line remote & mic
* Comes with a pouch
What we didn’t like:
* Slightly bulky (can’t be folded)
* Heavily dependent on noise-cancelling
The Harman / Kardon NC is available at the following JBL stores:
* JBL Sound Gallery, B3 Bonifacio High Street – 799-9344
* JBL Acoustical Space, 4th F, Cyberzone, SM North Annex – 919-6012
* JBL Digital Dreams, 4th F Cyberzone, SM Megamall Bldg. B – 738-2554