Once a high-end feature exclusive to high-end headphones and earphones, active noise cancellation is now often seen even on affordable wireless audio products. While there is naturally still a significant difference in ANC performance between entry-level headphones and high-end headphones, the fact that you can now get this great technology at such low prices shows just how much the personal audio segment in India and abroad has come up in a few years. Today I am reviewing an affordable wireless headset with active noise cancellation from TCL which is popular for its TVs and smart devices in India.
Priced at Rs. 2299, the TCL ELIT200NC Active Noise Canceling Wireless Headphones has a neckband-style in-ear design. Can these new headphones compete with the recently launched Pro Mi Neckband Bluetooth headphones and claim the title of the best affordable active noise canceling headphones? Find out in this review.
Flexible neck strap, vibration for alerts on the TCL ELIT200NC
The neck strap design for wireless headphones is quite cost effective, so it’s no surprise that TCL is accompanying it for the ELIT200NC, which is touted as a great value offering. The back of the neck is flexible, while the ends are large plastic modules that rest securely on your collarbones. Short cables run from the modules to the plastic ear cups. These have an in-channel fit and appropriately sized silicone tips for noise isolation and comfort.
There is nothing particularly fancy here; The TCL ELIT200NC looks as simple and unobtrusive as you’d expect from an affordable pair of wireless headphones. What catches a bit of attention are the prominent TCL logos – one on the left of the neckband and one each on the outer sides of the ear cups. The module on the right is bare, while the one on the left has all the buttons.
The controls are on the interior side and there is a micro-USB port for charging at the bottom. As I said before, there is no longer an excuse to have Micro-USB charging on anything, and Type-C is expected even on budget headphones.
There is also a 2.5mm audio input for wired connectivity, and you can use the included 2.5mm to 3.5mm stereo cable to connect the ELIT200NC to a source device. A micro-USB cable for charging is included in the box, and you get a total of three pairs of silicone ear tips in different sizes for a customizable fit. Interestingly, the TCL ELIT200NC also has a vibration motor in the neck strap, which allows it to alert you when you receive a call on your paired device and notify you of the status of the headset.
The TCL ELIT200NC uses Bluetooth 4.2 for connectivity, with only support for the SBC Bluetooth codec. Sound is delivered by dynamic 12.5mm drivers, and as previously discussed, there is active noise cancellation as well. Unfortunately, there is no water resistance rating, so you’ll have to be careful with these headphones around water.
The battery life of the TCL ELIT200NC is very ordinary for the form factor. The headphones ran for just over six hours on a single charge, with active noise cancellation. There were frequent ‘low battery’ voice prompts when the battery level dropped below 20%, which I found particularly annoying. These made it very difficult to use the headset, essentially forcing me to charge it even though I had about an hour of listening left. On the plus side, the headset charges quickly and 15 minutes is enough to deliver two claimed hours of listening.
The sound quality of the TCL ELIT200NC is nothing special
While I’ve heard decent-sounding affordable wireless headphones over the past few months, the TCL ELIT200NC doesn’t go quite beyond the basics when it comes to sound quality and active noise-canceling performance. There are no major drawbacks, but there is simply nothing special about the sound of these headphones. Some of the blame can be attributed to the lack of support for the advanced codec, but I felt the real shortcomings were in the tuning.
I have listened to songs from different genres and found the TCL ELIT200NC’s sound signature best suited for electronic music as there is definitely a bias in favor of bass. With Dance Wiv Me by Dizzee Rascal and Calvin Harris, the strong beat was perhaps the only part of the track that sounded somewhat enjoyable, although the mids and highs seemed a bit muffled in comparison.
However, the bass just sounded louder; there wasn’t as much noise, drive, or character as I’ve heard on similar price options like the OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z. 2000 – offer more character than the pure vanilla sound of the TCL ELIT200NC.
While the sound can get loud and the sound signature is largely harmless, the biggest downside to the TCL ELIT200NC is its lack of character. While listening to Fire by Ferry Corsten, the headphones didn’t do much to offer detail or definition in this fast and busy lane. The voice was subdued, while the synth bass sounded a bit raw and raw. The headphones seemed closed and restricted. The soundstage is narrow and only gets about the right stereo separation, with very little direction virtualization beyond that.
Having active noise cancellation on wireless headphones for less than Rs. 3,000 should be considered a success, so I didn’t have too many complaints about the quality of antenatal care performance. With ANC enabled, the TCL ELIT200NC provided a slight reduction in household background noise such as a ceiling fan and air conditioner, which made listening to music or dialogue in videos a little easier. It’s nowhere near the kind of performance you’d expect from high-end active noise-canceling headphones, and likely won’t be very effective in loud environments.
I had no issues with connection stability or voice call performance at home, with the TCL ELIT200NC doing reasonably well in this regard. The vibration function on the neck strap was particularly useful when using the headset for calls; however, the intensity of the vibration was a little too strong for me.
There aren’t too many wireless headphones with active noise cancellation priced below Rs. 3000, so the TCL ELIT200NC has this significant advantage over competing options in the price segment. Other than that, this is a comfortable pair of wireless headphones, and the vibration feature on the neckband sets it apart as well. However, sound quality and battery life are where the TCL ELIT200NC falls a bit short – performance is quite normal in both of these departments.
It might be worth buying this headset purely for its functional and usable ANC. Its stable connectivity and the vibration motor on the neck strap are also assets. However, if you are looking for better sound quality, it is definitely worth considering the Mi Neckband Pro Bluetooth headphones, priced at Rs. 1,799 and sounding just a clue better.
What is the best phone under Rs. 15,000 in India right now? We discussed this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Later (starting at 11:54 PM), we talk to OK Computer creators Neil Pagedar and Pooja Shetty. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and anywhere you get your podcasts.