Home Sound Do you really need expensive ANC headphones? – MBReviews
Sound

Do you really need expensive ANC headphones? – MBReviews

The Haylou S35 marks the manufacturer’s first entrance into the over-ears ANC headphone market and, despite being a very budget-friendly device, it’s quite an ambitious pair of headphones backed by some bold claims, such as the 42dB noise reduction and the 60-hour battery life.

Not that it’s impossible to have a well-performing pair of ANC headphones under $100 (Tronsmart Apollo Q10 would like a word), it’s just that the Haylou S35 is even cheaper at the moment (of writing). The Sony WH-1000XM3 could manage a noise reduction of a bit over 30dB, so it’s going to be impressive to see a similar performance at less than a quarter of its price just a few years after its release. Obviously, there is more to a good pair of headphones, the sound quality also needs to be at least above average.

haylou-s35-anc-headphones
Haylou S35 ANC headphones.

Haylou does say that the 40mm dynamic driver is capable of Hi-Res audio and they also rely on ENC (not to be mistaken for ANC) for a better call quality. Haylou has been on a roll lately and I was impressed by their bone conduction headphone (the BC01) which could rival the Shokz headsets, which is quite the feat. Even so, the Haylou S35 does have far more competitors in its current price range, so let’s put it to the test and see if it can outdo them.

Build Quality and Design

If you got the colorful Haylou S35, with that blue and red, it’s not going to occur to you just how similar they look to the Sony WH-1000XM3. But if you got the black version, it’s going to be immediately clear that Haylou really liked Sony’s design approach and why not? It’s a great minimalist approach, I just hope they didn’t get inspired by the built quality as well. But they kind of did. The headphones are all plastic with metallic sliders, the usual.

haylou-s35-anc-headphones-size haylou-s35-anc-headphones-size
The size of the Haylou S35.

The arms and the hinges are very similar to the Sony headphones which I already broke them in the same place twice now (the WH-1000XM3), so will the same happen with the Haylou S35? Maybe, since they went the same route. But they do look good with the all-black matte finish, no logo, so it’s very easy to mistake them for a far more expensive device. I think that the headband is more flexible than on the Sony headphones and after all, these may hold better than the $350 ANC headset.

Even the cushion feels strangely similar to the WH-1000XM3, but the plastic pieces in between do protrude more and make it so you may feel them pushing on your head after wearing the headphones for a longer period of time. I mean, the Sony’s would also push at the top of the head, but the discomfort appeared later (let’s not forget that I am actually comparing a premium pair of headphones with an entry-level one – it’s insane what Haylou has managed to accomplish). The earcups are also similarly sized to the WH-1000XM3, but the cushions are different.

The-cushions The-cushions
Haylou S35 soft cushions.

I mean, they’re soft and all, but slightly narrower on the ear – it is entirely possible that the cushion will give in and will become more comfortable after wearing the headphones for a few weeks or more. And yes, you can detach and change them for newer pieces when they get too damaged. I suppose one complaint would be that the L and R aren’t very visible (they used dark gray letters), so it’s very easy to put the headphones on the wrong ears. That is until you memorize where the controls are. All are positioned on the right earcup, along the side, near the cushion.

There’s an ANC button clearly labeled as so, followed by the volume rocker which is a bit small, so it’s easy to misclick on the wrong button. Next to the volume controller, there’s the Power button, the Power LED and the 3.5mm jack. Further down, we can see the USB-C port for recharging the inner battery and the ENC microphone (that helps focus on your voice during calls). I suppose I should also mention that the hinge-pieces that attach to the earcups are also made of plastic (just like on the Sony – broken record, I know). Before moving forward, just how comfortable are the Haylou S35 and can you use them while working out?

haylou-s35-anc-headphones-controls haylou-s35-anc-headphones-controls
Haylou S35 controls.

The earcups do hug the ears tightly and I was left with two choices, either loosen up the slider and put a bit more pressure on the jaw or let the plastic piece in between the headrest push at the top of my head. It’s a bit of an exaggeration, but after a few minutes of listening to music, you’re going to become aware of the headphones. So I think I needed a break before the 1-hour mark. I know that headphones do tend to loosen up, especially the plastic ones, but at least at the beginning, if you have a big head (as I do), you’re going to feel some pressure points.

As for workout sessions, you can wear them, but your ears are going to get sweaty – I suppose the TWS earbuds may be better when working out. I forgot to mention that the right earcup does have a touch-sensitive area (the left one does not) and the only functions it has it to enable the Gaming mode (double-tap), to temporarily enable the Transparent mode (press and hold) and to activate the voice assistant (triple tap). I guess this is the only element that gives away that we are dealing with an inexpensive device.

Internal Hardware and Connectivity

The Haylou S35 uses 40mm dynamic drivers which is fairly common for over ears headphones and you’ll be able to drive them with pretty much any device.

haylou-s35-anc-headphones-hardware haylou-s35-anc-headphones-hardware
Haylou S35 underneath the cushions.

The manufacturer says that the impedance is 32Ohm+/-15% which is similar to the OneOdio A10 (another pair of inexpensive ANC headphones), and I connected the headphones to my smartphones and it worked just fine (using the provided cable, not Bluetooth). As for the Bluetooth version, the Haylou S35 uses the Bluetooth v5.2 which supports a large variety of codecs and it can reach up to about 30 feet without line of sight (same as all the versions down to v4.0).

The S35 doesn’t use any the fancier codecs, such as aptX, but it does support AAC and SBC. Furthermore, there is support for Bluetooth Multipoint which is still very rare in the more expensive brands, let alone in the same price range as the Haylou S35 – then again, I did see it in action on the OneOdio A10 as well.

The Haylou S35 has Bluetooth Multipoint?

Indeed it does and it works well with two audio sources. The pairing process is very similar to the one on the OneOdio A10 – you first pair the Haylou S35 to one source (in my case, it was a PC), then it’s necessary to turn off Bluetooth on that device.

haylou-s35-anc-headphones-multipoint haylou-s35-anc-headphones-multipoint
Haylou S35 Bluetooth Multipoint.

Afterwards, pair the headphones to the secondary device (I used a phone) and then you can turn on the Bluetooth once again. As anticipated, it’s not possible to play music from both sources at the same time, they will take turns based on the given priority. For example, if you’re listening to music from the PC and then you get a call from the phone, it will switch to the latter device. Furthermore, I played a song on one device, paused it and then immediately played a song on the secondary device.

The switching between sources takes a couple of seconds, but it has never failed so far. It’s rare to see Bluetooth Multipoint on devices under $100, so I am surprised that the manufacturer managed to include it on an even cheaper pair of headphones. And it works well too. Kudos to Haylou.

The ANC Performance

I know I have compared the Haylou S35 to the Sony WH-1000XM3 from the design point of view, but is the S35 able to offer a similar ANC performance with some of the best in the market? The Sony’s are something else.

haylou-s35-anc-headphones-anc haylou-s35-anc-headphones-anc
Haylou S35 headphones.

If you never wore a pair, imagine being outdoors and sounds coming from cars, dogs, people on their phones – you put the headphones one and silence, only the higher frequency sounds which are usually near you remain audible. The Haylou S35 are not there yet, so I think it would be more fair to compare them to the OneOdio A10 and the Tronsmart Apollo. After turning the Haylou S35 headphones on and putting them over my ears, I do think that the performance is better than both the A10 and the Apollo. The droning sounds were canceled completely (fans, car engines and the such) and I did noticed that some higher frequency sounds were better covered as well.

Better than the Sony headphones. While wearing the WH-1000XM3, I could still hear running water clearly, while the Haylou S35 managed to cut a few dBs. But I could also hear a noticeable hiss – the developers have added some white noise trickery to cut a bit more from the droning sounds. And I can’t say that it didn’t work because it did, it’s just that the music will not sound as clean due to this approach. I should also mention the passive sealing which helps a lot at keeping unwanted noise reaching your ears. Also, I didn’t experience the dreaded pressure in my ears while using ANC and it happens with some other inexpensive ANC headphones.

The Sound Quality

haylou-s35-anc-headphones-hardware haylou-s35-anc-headphones-hardware
Haylou S35 inner hardware. Source: Haylou official website.

Before playing some tracks, I decided to check some more technical aspects of the Haylou S35, so I ran a driver quality and a driver matching test. The former plays a sweeping tone and, ideally, you shouldn’t hear any buzzing. After listening to the sound, it was very clean with very little buzzing at the lower frequencies. Moving forward, I checked if the drivers are matching properly and the sound seemed like it was in the middle of my head and didn’t deviate. Furthermore, I decided to listen to a binaural recording so I get a better idea about the Haylou S35’s audio performance and sound signature. With ANC on, the song was detailed and the imaging was well done.

I suppose that the sound is more intimate (like I was sitting in front of the singers), while the staging is a bit narrow (not that anything is wrong with that). With ANC off, I noticed that the sound stage gets a tiny bit wider and it gained perhaps about 5% more detail (if this can be quantified). Besides this, the ANC doesn’t seem to have a negative impact on the sound quality. I also enabled the Transparency mode and some outside noise is being played back at you while listening to music – I think it was slightly more subtle than on the Sony’s. Moving forward, I decided to check a bass-focused song, Zhu – Faded and, with ANC enabled, the sound was clear and detailed, but, while the low bass had a noticeable presence, it could have been a bit fuller.

haylou-s35-music haylou-s35-music
I used Amazon Music for a better quality sound.

The rest of the song was really well reproduced – colorful and fun. With ANC off, the bass does get gain a bit more substance, but other than that there are no noticeable changes. Next, I switched to a mid-bass song, the Morph The Cat by Donald Fagan and, with ANC on, the song was nicely detailed, but the voice seemed a bit recessed. With ANC off, a bit more detail is brought forward, the voice seems slightly more livelier and closer to the ear. Next, I played System Of A Down – Mr Jack which is a very busy song and, with ANC on, I noticed a similar performance to the Faded by Zhu: the bass is decent, but can get more full with ANC off.

Other than that it did seem a bit muddy when all the instruments and voices play at the same time. With ANC off, it actually does not sound that much different. Next, I decided to check those cool beats from Déjà Vu Affair by Sofi Tukker and, with ANC off, those beats sound really well and the female voice is fairly balanced (doesn’t interfere with the instruments). With ANC on, the beats lose a bit of their potency. Afterwards, I played ‘She Burns by Vance’, a mid-focus song and it was detailed, fairly well reproduced, although the male voice is a bit muted. As with other songs, the ANC mode only cuts a bit from the potency of the bass. I also wanted to check ‘Breathin by Ariana Grande’ and it confirmed that the female voice is better reproduced than the male one – turn the ANC off to get a fuller bass and a tad more detail.

more more
One more photo of the S35.

Lastly, I played a treble-focused song, Guns n Roses – Sweet Child o Mine and it was actually fairly balanced. I don’t think it will lead to fatigue since it’s not overly colorful and Axl’s voice doesn’t sound deafening.

There’s an App?

Yes, you can install the Haylou Sound app and do be aware that there is some data collection (network info, location and so on). You also need to create an account which I am not sure it was necessary considering that we’re dealing with headphones and the data that needs to be applied may as well be stored locally. Not everything needs to be on the Cloud, you know.

You will need to pair the Haylou S35 – it should be automatically detected via Bluetooth. And then you will be able to see the Status window, where you can change the mode – ANC on or off and the Transparency mode. The Sound section offers a few preset Sound profiles and apparently there will also be Sound Market effects available in the near future. Lastly, there’s the option to enable the Low Latency Mode (for Gaming) and you can also start the Find my earphone feature which will play a sound to help you find the S35. But there is no EQ, so I don’t really see a reason to use this app for now.

haylou-s35-anc-headphones-app haylou-s35-anc-headphones-app
The mobile application.

The Call Quality

Haylou has put some thought into developing a good microphone technology and not just for the ANC (the larger ones on the outer side of the earcups), but ENC as well (handled by the mics at the bottom of the earcups, closer to your mouth). And they work decently well because the caller said that he could hear my voice clearly if there was little background noise. Even if it was a bit more noisy (such as in a coffee shop), my voice would still remain in focus, but there would be an impact on the sound quality. From my side, the ANC is more powerful than on other inexpensive headphones and it even rivals some more expensive ones, so I could hear the caller clearly even in a noisy environment.

The Battery Life

The manufacturer says that the Haylou S35 should be able to offer up to 60 hours of continuous music playback and the capacity seems to be 600mAh. That is with ANC off, while with ANC on, it should arrive to 40 hours. During my tests, it didn’t really arrive to 40 hours, but I suppose it got somewhat close to that value with ANC on – it was about 34 hours. With ANC off, it’s realistic to expect about 10 hours more.

The Conclusion

I was very skeptical about ANC on inexpensive headphones, but the last year has shown that it is very much possible to have a decent implementation at a lower cost. And the Haylou S35 takes it to another level. The sound quality is good, comparable to headphones twice the price tag and the ANC is actually better than on pretty much all under $100 headsets out there. The battery life is good as well and I guess the decision to take inspiration from the Sony flagships has payed off, although I would be careful with the build quality. The app and the earcup touch-sensitive area could be better, but at the current price tag of the Haylou S35, I really can’t complain about them.

Haylou S35

haylou-s35-anc-headphones haylou-s35-anc-headphones

Pros

  • ANC works very well
  • Good sound quality especially for the price tag of the device
  • Wired and Bluetooth connection available
  • Decent call quality
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • The app lacks an EQ
  • The touch-sensitive area functions are very limited

Author

Silence Dogood

Leave a Reply