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Yamaha YH-L700A review

3D sound for less than the AirPods Max

The Yamaha YH-L700A headphones resting on a bed of green leaves
(Image: © Regan Coule/Future)

Our Verdict

Despite its large form and price point, the $499 Yamaha YH-L700A is a worthy spatial audio competitor to the AirPods Max.

For

  • Excellent spatial audio performance
  • Great sound quality for music and calls
  • Sharp-looking design
  • Respectable ANC
  • Excellent connectivity

Against

  • Huge and heavy
  • Uneven battery life
  • Expensive

The Yamaha YH-L700A is the latest pair of noise-cancelling headphones to enter the 3D audio market at a luxury price point. So, what does $499 get you? Spatial audio, active noise cancellation, aptX Adaptive support, companion app access with multiple listening modes, and head tracking, all in a sleek, ultramodern package.

Yamaha YH-L700A specs

Colors: Black

Battery life (rated): 11 hours (with ANC and 3D Sound Field on), 34 hours (with ANC on and 3D Sound Field off)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0

Processor: Not stated

Size: 3.5 x 8 x 10.5 inches

Weight: 11.64 ounces

Sound quality is elite, thanks to a wide soundstage and special features that augment the listening experience in unique ways. You’ll also get serviceable call quality, controls, and noise neutralization out of these cans. 

On the flipside, the design is huge, which won't be to everyone's tastes. There's also a notable disparity in playtimes depending on the listening mode. 

These flaws aside, though, the Yamaha YH-L700A gives you 3D sound that’s just as good as the AirPods Max, and for a lower price. It's a worthy contender for both our best headphones and best noise-cancelling headphones pages.

Is it good enough to truly challenge the Apple AirPods Max? Find out in our full Yamaha YH-L700A review.

Yamaha YH-L700A review: Price and availability

You can purchase the Yamaha YH-L700A for $499 directly from Yamaha. It is only sold in one color: Black. Bundled with the purchase are a hard carrying case, USB-C charging cable, audio cable, and flight adapter.

By comparison, this model comes in cheaper than the AirPods Max ($549), but is more expensive than ANC savants like the Bose 700 ($379), Sony WH-1000XM4 ($349), and Bowers & Wilkins PX7 ($399).

For all of the latest sales, bookmark our best headphones deals page.

Yamaha YH-L700A review: Design and comfort

Build quality is what you would expect from a pair of $500 headphones: superb. The combination of mesh materials and leather parts coated with soft urethane gives the YH-L700A a luxe, yet ruggedly handsome appearance. Tiny details like the leather buttons and embossed aluminum logo at the top of each ear cup add to its distinctiveness. But all eyes are on the forward-tilted headband, which Yamaha purposely designed to sit right at the center of your head.

The Yamaha YH-L700A headphones resting on a turntable

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

At 11.64 ounces, these headphones are not lightweight. Their large form also makes them less than ideal for commuting. They do fold inward and rotate at 90 degrees to properly fit inside the case, which stores other accessories, but you’re still dealing with a heavy carry. The extra weight also affects comfort, with the headband applying unwanted pressure on top of the skull. This becomes unpleasant after about two hours of use. Thankfully, the thick, soft, and cushiony earcups provide some relief for your ears, though they can become hot after a few hours.

A side on show of the reviewer wearing the Yamaha YH-L700A

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Fit-wise, you won’t have to worry about the YH-L700A slipping off; a common issue for most large wireless headphones. The tilted headband is positioned perfectly to maintain stability and keep the cans from feeling loose, and you can adjust the extenders to a proper length setting to enhance the fit.

Yamaha YH-L700A review: Controls and digital assistant

The YH-L700A has a full suite of physical controls including buttons for playback, call management, volume, digital assistance, power/pairing, and listening mode activation.

On the rear of the right earcup is the ANC/Ambient Sound button, while the rear of the left earcup has the 3D Sound Field and Power/Pairing buttons. The front of the right earcup also has three buttons covered in leather, each of which has slits so they can be easily identified by touch alone. 

The Yamaha YH-L700A headphones, resting on wooden boards

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The middle button/slit will operate play/pause/answer call/end call (1x press) and the digital assistant (2x press), whereas the left and right slits raise/lower volume (1x press) or play next/previous track (hold down). This isn’t my favorite control scheme, but at least the buttons produce great tactility to ensure commands are being met with every press.

On-ear detection to auto-pause when taking off the headphones is not available.

Google Assistant, Siri, and Bixby are all compatible with the YH-L700A. The mics pick up vocals well and each digital assistant responds to commands as quickly as it receives them. I will warn you that enabling Google Assistant and Siri can be finicky at times. There is lag and performing follow-up voice commands can be a process; you’ll have to close it manually or wait for the feature to time out to use it again.

Yamaha YH-L700A review: Sound quality

There’s a lot to unpack here, so I’ll start with the YH-L700A’s default sound signature. It’s spacious and has full bass presence, delivering strong, rich lows that don’t compromise the palpable mids or crisp highs. These headphones also receive a boost in streaming quality via aptX Adaptive for hi-res audio over Bluetooth connection.

Hearing the snares sound so prominent on The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” was enjoyable, but the YH-L700A’s reproduction capabilities are what blew me away. Instruments and individual voices were distinguishable over the cheery chorus, and the little intricacies sprinkled throughout the recording were evoking. The seashore wave effects, clanking bottles, and bubble blowing had me engrossed in the nautical atmosphere.

The Yamaha YH-L700A headphones on a vinyl copy of The Beatles' Revolver album. A phone next to the headphones is playing the same album from Spotify

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Switching over to more contemporary selections, I pulled up Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” and let the funky, impactful bassline whip my head back and forth in a rhythmic manner. Even acapellas had a liveliness to them. Reference DMX’s “Skyscrapers” feat. Bono, which captured the rapper’s passion and grittiness superbly, along with the U2 singer’s fantastic range.  

Onto the YH-L700A’s killer feature: spatial audio. Yamaha’s version is called 3D Sound Field, and unlike the AirPods Max, this is compatible with any stereo audio content from “virtually any source.” The feature works in tandem with head-tracking technology and Cinema DSP processing to identify where sound is coming from and adjust what you hear on the fly for a more immersive listening experience. It also has seven different 3D modes: Audio Room, Background Music, Cinema, Drama, Music Video, Outdoor Live, and Concert Hall.

Background Music and Audio bring a vividness to songs, emphasizing instruments and vocals to make the listener feel like they’re in the same recording session as the artist. Outdoor Live and Concert Hall do a solid job of recreating the atmosphere of live performances; revisiting Verzuz battles and Whitney Houston’s iconic “Star Spangled Banner” rendition at Super Bowl XXV placed me front row at these events.

A phone showing Yamaha's 3D Sound Field mode being set up in the Yamaha Headphone Controller app.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The real treats are the video content modes — Background Music, Drama, and Music Video, all three of which serve a great use for their intended media. 

Hearing Han Zimmer’s Inception score while watching the film was surreal. The opening to Saving Private Ryan was even more intense, as the YH-L700A’s stellar headtracking provided the sensations of loud explosions and flying bullets surrounding me, no matter which way my head was turned.

There are two more listening settings that can be paired with 3D Sound Field. The first is Listening Optimizer, which is designed to adjust sound in real-time by adapting to your ambient environment and listening behavior. Listening Care is the second, and it intelligently tweaks sound frequencies to enjoy full-range sound at lower listening volumes. All you need to know is sound remains consistent and energetic with either mode or both enabled at the same time.

Most over-ear headphones tend to leak sound at a high level, and the YH-L700A is no different. Blasting music in the same room with my wife drew a “please lower that because I’m on a professional call” stare.

Yamaha YH-L700A review: Active noise cancellation

Yamaha’s noise-cancelling technology won’t outperform the big dogs (e.g., Bose, Sony, Bowers & Wilkins), but it is satisfying enough to keep listeners focused on their playlists. According to the company, these headphones employ internal mics that collect ambient noises and calculate what should be removed from the playback music signal through an algorithm. This is meant to keep sound quality pure.

ANC mode tames rumbly sounds very well; rolling thunder and any noises coming from the laundry room went unnoticed. I also liked how well the YH-L700A performed with mid frequencies, minimizing the loud chatter coming from a Zoom baby shower that took place just two rooms away from my workspace.

The Yamaha YH-L700A pictured from behind on the reviewer's head

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

High frequencies are a struggle for the YH-L700A. Chirping birds and my infant boy crying caught my attention at times, along with ambulance sirens and whistles. Raising the volume made these noises less disruptive. Also, you can hear some hissing when the feature is turned on.

Ambient Sound mode will increase awareness of surroundings by using the headphone’s built-in mics to capture incidental sounds. I was able to monitor traffic and hear the landscaping work that was transpiring next door, while also having my ears open when the missus needed help feeding the baby. Being able to speak with people in the house without having to mute or take off the headphones was sweet, too.

Yamaha YH-L700A review: App and special features

A companion app called Yamaha Headphone Controller is available for download to enable functions directly from your smartphone screen. These include the aforementioned 3D Sound Field, Surround Mode, Head Tracking, Listening Care, Listening Optimizer, and Noise Cancelling/Ambient Sound. 

Anything else the app offers? Yes, but let me warn you that extra perks are scarce. The rest consists of a battery level indicator, firmware updates, and an auto power-off timer. 

The Yamaha Headphone Controller app on a smartphone screen against a wooden fence.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Popular features such as a customizable EQ with presets, control customization or a Find My Headphones setting seemed like a given for headphones this expensive. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for them to arrive in a future update, if they ever do.

Yamaha YH-L700A review: Battery life

Playtime on the YH-L700A is lopsided. Using the headphones with just ANC on gets you 34 hours of use, which is not only terrific for a pair of noise-cancellers, but also better battery life than ANC giants like the Bose 700 (20 hours) and Sony WH-1000XM4 (30 hours). 

Turn on 3D Sound Field at the same time and that playtime drops to 11 hours. That’s pretty bad. Keep in mind, too, that high volume and streaming drop playtimes all around by about 1 to 2 hours.

The Yamaha YH-L700A headphones being charged

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Quick charging is available on these headphones. According to Yamaha, 10 minutes of charging is good for approximately 2 hours of playtime with ANC on, while the same charge time gets you 45 minutes of use with ANC and 3D Sound Field on.

Yamaha YH-L700A review: Call quality and connectivity

Whether for quick check-ins with my wife or client calls on Google Meets, the YH-L700A was a quality calling headset. Most of the feedback I received was positive, with a few callers pointing out how clear and loud my voice sounded during video chats. 

My wife shared the same thoughts when taking her calls inside, though outside was hit or miss. The YH-L700A struggled in gusty conditions, making it hard to speak over rumbling wind effects. Besides that, I would consider it for inclusion on our best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls list.

The reviewer wearing the Yamaha YH-L700A headphones and looking at a smartphone. In the background are a swimming pool and palm trees.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

The YH-L700A can hold connections well. Advertised range is at 32.8 feet, which is accurate and feasible for walking from room to room, but it can extend up to 40 feet when walking in open areas.

For powerful headphones, I figured features like Google Fast Pair and multipoint technology to connect to two devices simultaneously would be an ideal fit. Yamaha didn’t think so. It’s no major loss, since the YH-L700A automatically pops up on the available devices list when in pairing mode and auto-connects instantly with recognized devices.

Yamaha YH-L700A review: Verdict

The Yamaha YH-L700A is an audiophile headphone for both music and cinematic lovers. It’s loaded with features that elevate the listening experience to another level, powered by 3D Sound, head tracking, hi-res audio, and real-time listening modes that all deliver. ANC is solid, connectivity is strong, and the design is well made — although it’s also super bulky.

All that functionality doesn’t come cheap, and $499 is a lot for any pair of headphones. That doesn’t mean the LH-L700A isn’t worth it, because it is, based on audio performance alone. My only major complaint is the short battery life when listening with multiple features turned on at the same time, but 11 hours still seems sufficient for casual listening at home or in flight.

If you want spatial audio headphones with more 3D listening modes than the AirPods Max, and for slightly less, then consider splurging on the YH-L700A.

Alex Bracetti

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.