Why you can trust Tom's Guide
Getting a pair of wireless, noise-cancelling headphones can easily cut into your budget, but the TaoTronics TT-BH046 delivers great performance for just $99. For a pair of headphones in the double digits, its 40-mm drivers cover a wide range and deliver some bumpin’ bass. On top of that, the device has long battery life, solid noise cancellation and comfortable ear cups.
The TT-BH046 has some drawbacks, including no equalizer options, a tight fit and a subpar microphone that's frustrating to deal with. But overall, it’s hard to deny that the TT-BH046’s features are excellent for the price, which is why it earns a spot on our best noise cancelling headphones list.
The TaoTronics TT-BH046 has a sleek, petite design. The pleather ear cups are held together by a black plastic shell that curves outward into a smaller, matte gray circle that is accompanied by a silver accent and the TaoTronics logo.
There’s a slender gray piece that extends from the side of each cup and makes a quarter-circle that eventually feeds into the top band. This piece adjusts the size of the headband via 11 predetermined notches, and it can swivel up to 90 degrees. The wire that connects the two cups is cleverly hidden under the frame of the thin piece. Meanwhile, the top band itself has a slim black pleather cushion on the bottom and a hard plastic shell on top.
The right cup features the power button, discrete buttons to increase and decrease volume, a 3.5-mm headphone jack, an LED that blinks blue when the headphones are turned on, a tiny hole for the microphone, and a hard switch to activate noise-cancelling mode. The left cup is mostly seamless, save for a micro-USB port to charge the device.
The TT-BH046 comes with a neat carrying case that holds additional room for a micro-USB charging cable, a 3.5-mm aux cord and an adapter for double-pronged inputs that are found on airplanes.
Comfort and Fit
The first thing that I noticed about the TaoTronics TT-BH046 is that the headband feels a little too snug on the top of my head. The biggest issue I have with the comfort and design is that the sides of the band don’t contour with the rest of my head, so I don’t feel the cushion all around; it also looks like I’m wearing a pair of stretched out headphones.
However, the soft, leathery cushions of the ear cups fit comfortably over my ears. I spent roughly 8 hours wearing these headphones without the slightest discomfort – well, after I got used to the headband. The TT-BH046 measures 6.9 x 7.9 x 2.2 inches, so it’s a little short and also kind of wide; it weighs a mere 7.6 ounces.
Controls and Setup
Setting up the Bluetooth on the cans is actually quite simple. While it’s turned off, you have to hold the Power button for about 5 seconds or so until a voice says “pairing.” You can play and pause music, and answer and hang up phone calls, all by clicking the Power button once. You can reject phone calls by holding the button for 3 seconds or redial by pressing it twice.
To go to the next or previous track, you have to hold down the increase or decrease volume button, respectively. You can also mute a call or music by holding down both of the volume buttons at the same time.
Unfortunately, TaoTronics doesn’t have a companion app, so there’s no way to adjust the equalizer; you’re stuck with the sound that you get.
Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling
The TaoTronics TT-BH046 features hybrid active noise cancelling, which is slightly different than your typical ANC headphones. Normally, ANC headphones use a feedforward or feedback mics to detect the noise to cancel out; these mics are located on the outside or inside of the headphones. Hybrid ANC uses mics on both the outside and inside, which is a better, but more expensive, alternative.
I put the noise cancelling to the test, and it successfully muted the air conditioner in our office, suppressed the rattling from the train in the subway, and even drowned out cars driving by me on the street. The feature doesn’t cancel out everything, as I could still hear voices, some sharper noises from the train, and the clicking on my mechanical keyboard, although all of those sounds were muffled – and that was with my music off. When I had my music on full blast, almost everything was quiet; the only thing I could hear was some hissing and screeching from the trains whizzing by.
The TaoTronics TT-BH046’s 40-mm drivers delivers great sound quality for headphones at this price. The vocals in Casey Edward’s “Devil Trigger” and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower” were crisp, and maintained their clarity without getting drowned out by other tracks.
The bass guitar riffs that open NateWantsToBattle’s “StopRewind” and the bass electronic beats in Lil Uzi Vert’s “Xo Tour Llif3” were so heavy that I felt them vibrate my eardrums. There is a flipside to the headphones being a little bass heavy, however, as the low-toned violin in Taylor Davis’ “Brothers” and the horns in Bear McCreary’s “Ashes” matched or overwhelmed the other instruments.
The TT-BH046 did a good job highlighting multiple instruments in Twenty One Pilots’ “Stressed Out” and Amazarashi’s “Sora Ni Utaeba,” bringing out the full sound in each song.
I tested the TT-BH046 in both wired and Bluetooth mode; at first it was difficult to tell the difference between them. However, as I listened closely, wired mode produced slightly richer beats. But overall, you won't lose that much fidelity if you use Bluetooth.
I also discovered that the volume bleeds out a little bit at max volume, so you might want to avoid listening to music at 100% in the workplace.
TaoTronics rates the TT-BH046 for 30 hours of battery life, which is pretty accurate considering I used it on and off for about five days without having to charge it. I noticed that the battery drained much faster when ANC was active after roughly two to three days of casual use.
The best part is that it takes just 45 minutes to fully charge, and TaoTronics even claims that just 5 minutes of charge can keep the headphones going for 2 hours. However, be wary – since the TT-BH046 has a hard switch for ANC, it won’t turn off by itself. I found out about that the hard way, when I left the switch on overnight and it killed the battery, ruining my morning train ride.
Call Quality and Connectivity
For a $99 pair of headphones, I’m just glad that the TaoTronics TT-BH046 even has a microphone. Nevertheless, the call quality isn’t stellar. When I was on the phone with my girlfriend, she complained that I sounded far away and that she could hear a lot of wind as I walked the streets of New York City. While the mic isn't necessarily good, it gets the job done for quick phone calls.
The TaoTronics TT-BH046 is outfitted with Bluetooth 4.2. The connectivity to my computer remained stable for up to 35 feet as I walked away and cooked up a storm in the kitchen while listening to some sick tunes. I was also able to connect the headphones to both my phone and computer, so I could game and listen to music on my PC or make a quick phone call.
I did discover an oddity about these headphones – the device has two separate connections for audio output. On PC, they’re labeled as Stereo and Hands-Free; the only microphone input is also called Hands-Free. However, if I set the output to Stereo while the input is defaulted to Hands-Free, I can’t hear anything.
The issue with switching the output to Hands-Free was that it made everything sound garbled and distant. If there’s no other microphone input on your PC, you’ll have to disconnect Hands-Free completely to listen to music on the Stereo output. A public relations rep at TaoTronics explained that the Stereo output is using a Bluetooth Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), but when you use the microphone, it switches to the Hands-Free profile, which allows you to record and listen to playback at the same time. However, the quality sounds worse as a result.
I tested the same thing with my coworker’s Sony WH-1000XM3; it actually allowed both the Stereo output and Hands-Free input to be enabled at the same time. Despite that, there was a lot of clipping in the audio and in the microphone, so it doesn’t work as properly as it should. It’s very much a “feature not a bug” situation, but it’s pretty ridiculous.
For only $99, it's hard to turn down the TaoTronics TT-BH046's good sound, hybrid active noise cancellation, long battery life and comfortable ear cups. However, the low price has its trade-offs, including a somewhat tight fit, a lack of equalizer options and a poor microphone.
If you’re willing to shell out an extra $50, you can get the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 ($150), which allows you to choose between different ANC settings. These headphones come with a companion app that you can use to customize your sound.
Regardless, the TaoTronics TT-BH046 is a great pair of headphones with premium features, sold at an affordable price.
Credit: Tom's Guide
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.