Noise-canceling headphones are essential for any frequent traveler, with their ability to block out the annoying sounds of rumbling train carriages, thunderous airplane cabins, and noisy commuters.
However, that tech often comes at a cost, with noise-canceling headphones often costing upwards of $200.
That's something TCL seeks to change with its latest model, the TCL MTRO200NC noise-canceling headphones. Roughly less than $80 (£60 / AU$110), they're certainly cheap, but can they truly compete with their more expensive rivals? We tried the headphones on for size at IFA 2019 in Berlin.
Price and availability
TCL says that the MTRO200NC headphones will be available to buy in "Q4 of 2019", which could be any time between October and December this year.
These noise-canceling cans will set you back €69.99, which works out at around $75 / £60 / AU$110; this is incredibly cheap for over-ear headphones with noise cancelation, which you can rarely find for less than $100.
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Coming in burgundy, navy, black, and white, these over-ear headphones sport a fun, vibrant design.
The outer-housings and headband appear to be made of plastic, which looks and feels a little flimsy compared to higher-end headphones. The cost-cutting measure of using inexpensive materials is clear as day and TCL isn't trying to hide it.
On the outside of one of the earcups you'll find buttons to control your music playback, a Bluetooth pairing button, a micro-USB charging port, and 3.5mm jack for times when you'd prefer to listen over a wired connection.
When we tried them on for size, the TCL MTRO200NC felt comfortable enough, but the lack of padding on the headband means that they could feel a little Spartan during long listening sessions.
Features and battery life
In terms of connectivity, you have two options; you can either listen wirelessly over Bluetooth or plug in a 3.5mm audio cable for a wired connection to your smartphone, portable music player, laptop, or tablet.
Judging from the specs, battery life is pretty good at 20 hours with noise cancellation turned off, and 17 hours with it turned on. That's similar to the battery life offered by the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, which bodes well.
A built-in microphone means that these over-ear headphones can be used for taking calls, but there's no inbuilt support for voice assistants – still, at this price, we wouldn't particular expect the convenience of Google Assistant or Siri at the touch of a button.
Noise-cancellation and sound performance
We had the chance to listen to these headphones briefly during an IFA demonstration, and we found they generally provided an enjoyable listening experience, if not audiophile sound quality.
TCL says that these headphones use 32mm drivers to deliver an "immersive listening experience with any kind of music" – and while we wouldn't exactly call our time with them immersive, they're just about passable for casual listening.
As we listened to Mark Ronson's Late Night Feelings, we were pleasantly surprised by the warmth of the bass frequencies as they thumped throughout the mix.
The TCL MTRO200NC's treatment of treble frequencies were less impressive, sounding slightly tinny and distorted, particularly when listening at higher volumes.
You don't get the precise rhythmic accuracy of premium noise-canceling headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM3, or anywhere near the same level of noise cancellation.
These cans block out some environmental noise, but they won't leave you in total silent seclusion like models from better known brands like Sony and Bose.
While we only spent a short amount of time with the TCL MTRONC 200 noise-canceling headphones, it's fairly clear that you get what you pay for: sound quality is okay, the noise cancelation is functional, and the build feels cheap.
We liked the look of the headphones though, particularly the vibrant colors and lightweight build, and battery life also appears to be pretty good... although we weren't able to test this fully. That's something we'll need to investigate further when we carry out our full review.
Overall, these headphones could be a good, budget-friendly model for commuters who don't want to take their precious Bose or Sony headphones out on the town.