TaoTronic’s BH046 headphones are their latest over ear Bluetooth headphones with new improved hybrid active noise cancelling. They have 30 hours of battery life, support fast charging, and have a built in mic for hands free calls.
They’re around a fifth of the price of equivalent models from Bose and Sony at around £60 or $80. But are they any good?
The headphones come in a smart hard case, which has space for the supplied accessories which include a brief instruction manual, a 3.5mm audio cable for a wired connection, a non-branded micro-USB cable, and an airline headphone adapter.
The headphones themselves are held securely with an elasticated strap with their cups rotated flat, but these headphones aren’t foldable which makes the case quite large at 200mm by 225mm by 63mm.
First impressions of the headphones are good. They feel more premium than their price would suggest with their aluminium and plastic mix, and adjusting the head band has nice positive clicks. The head band needs to be in its smallest position to fit back into the case.
They have quite subtle TaoTronics branding which appears to be in the process of a redesign according to their website so may well change shortly.
They’re not too heavy at 290g and the overall size of the headphones isn’t massive for over-ear headphones although the ear cups are quite thick at around 55mm including the cushions.
They feel quite sturdy and look like they could take a bit of abuse. There’s a little but of creaking as you handle the headphones, but not anything I’d be concerned with. They don’t have any IPX rating for water resistance so aren’t really suitable for outdoors – not in the climate we have here in the UK at least.
The cups rotate just over 90 degrees from flat. The left cup just has a micro-USB charging port with a status LED that lights red when charging and turns off when fully charged. There’s no cover for any of the ports highlighting their lack of weatherproofing.
It’s disappointing for wireless headphones released in 2019 to still be using micro-USB, rather than the more robust USB-C, but at least the headphones support charging at a very decent 1.2A input. I measured around 0.9A which is still good. TaoTronics claim a five minute charge provides two hours of play time which should be a very convenient feature. A complete charge takes around 45 minutes, and should provide up to 30 hours of battery life which would be impressive. I’ll come back to battery life shortly.
The right cup has all the controls. Pressing and holding the power button turns the headphones on and off, with an audible prompt. A long five second press of the power button with the power off initiates pairing. You’ll first hear the power on prompt and then a few seconds later the power LED will flash blue and red and there’s another audible prompt that the headphones are in pairing mode. Tap “TaoTronics TT-BH046” to connect. The power LED then flashes blue every few seconds, which is the only way to tell if the headphones are on or not. The remaining battery life is visible on iOS at least by swiping right from the home screen.
I was pleased to see these headphones support pairing to two devices simultaneously. Turn them off and then press and hold the power button again for 5 seconds to re-enter pairing mode and pair to another device. If you play music say from one device and then pause, you should be able to then play on your second device without having to mess with Bluetooth settings. This works ok, but sometimes you still have to manually connect the second device. And after turning the headphones off and on again, I still had to manually connect to the second device.
To connect to further devices you just repeat this last procedure. If you want to factory reset the headphones and clear all pairing records, you need to be disconnected from any devices and in pairing mode with the power led flashing blue and red. Then press and hold volume down and the power button until the status led flashes purple and the headphones beep twice.
Fit and controls
The headphones are very comfortable with soft synthetic ear pads that fit well around my ears. They don’t appear to be replaceable. The headband is quite a tight fit compared to other headphones I’ve tried but I still found them comfortable even for extended periods. The tight fit does provide quite good sound isolation even without any active noise cancellation switched on. You could wear them in the gym or even for running – they’re just about light enough. I tried them on the cycling turbo trainer, but I found them uncomfortably hot.
Down from the power button already discussed there’s volume up and down, a line in port, the power | Bluetooth LED and the microphone.
As well as powering on and Bluetooth pairing, the power button will also pause and play music, videos and podcasts and answer phone calls. And a double tap of the power button will redial the last number you called.
Holding the volume up and down plays next and previous tracks respectively. The manual describes holding down the volume up and down button together will mute the headphones, but on my pair it initiates your voice assistant which is more useful. So you can hold the centre of the volume button, wait for the confirmation beep and say, what’s the weather in London?
On the opposite side of the power button is the active noise cancellation or ANC switch. When turned on, a faint green lit LED is revealed. This can be switched on with or without the headphones turned on which is useful if you want to save battery and just want the quietness of ANC. But it’s also very easy to leave switched on and drain the battery completely, which I’ve already done a couple of times.
You can connect with the supplied 3.5mm audio cable if you want to save battery or if the battery is dead. This will automatically disconnect any Bluetooth connection. You can charge the headphones while they’re connected with this cable, but you can’t use the Bluetooth connection whilst they are charging.
It’s tricky feeling for the small controls with your right hand, but it can be done with a bit of practice. Touch controls would have been nice, but I wouldn’t expect them at this price.
Performance, ANC and sound quality
The headphones use Bluetooth 4.2, not the more recent 5.0, which is odd since their previous incarnation; the BH060, uses the later standard. But range was still good and about the same as I’ve got with Bluetooth 5.0 earphones – to the next room around 10 metres away. I also found pairing was very quick, both initial pairing and reconnecting to an already paired device after switching on.
Audio sync was good and I experienced barely perceptible delays even with YouTube on iOS which is notoriously bad.
They don’t have support for the aptX codec with its supposed better audio quality over Bluetooth.
Battery life was very good. Out of the box they came with 80% charge which lasted a week of initial testing with ANC mainly on at around 70% volume, still with battery remaining. Being able to give them a quick five minute charge for two hours of usage is a handy feature, so long as you have a charging cable with you. I gave them a five minute charge from completely flat and iOS reported they then has 60% charge – which was perhaps a bit optimistic!
The headphones uses a noise cancelling microphone with Clear Voice Capture or cVc technology for supposedly clearer phone calls. I did find phone calls sounded good on both ends of the call.
I was pleasantly surprised by the active noise cancellation on the TaoTronics. TaoTronics don’t explicitly state what they mean by hybrid ANC, but typically hybrid ANC uses mics on both the inside and outside of the headphones to capture and cancel out noise, rather than just one or the other.
Even without playing any music, switching on ANC drowns out any low frequency sounds and makes my home office with computer hums and a dehumidifier running, eerily silent. There is a small amount of hiss but that disappears when you play music at almost any volume.
They noise cancelling is not as good as Bose’s QC35 ii’s or Sony’s 1000XM3s, but it’s not a million miles off either for a fraction of the price. And it’s a lot better than ANC on the Mpow H5s I’ll be reviewing shortly.
ANC is no good for higher frequency sounds like nearby conversations or me clicking away on my keyboard, but their closed back and tight seal means they have quite good passive noise reduction, even without turning ANC on. In a noisy coffee shop, they were by no means silent, but did a good job of bringing the sound levels right down. I’ve not been able to use them on a flight, but they should cope with the background low frequency hum of the plane well – that’s originally what ANC headphones were designed for.
When it comes to audio quality, the 40mm drivers deliver good sound although they are quite bassy and the mids can sound a little muddy. At higher volumes, above around 70% typically, the bass does tend to distort. They are much better with ANC on and at lower volumes. It’s a shame there’s no app to adjust EQ settings. On iOS if you’re using the Music app you can adjust the EQ settings which I found improves things further – the Bass Reducer preset was quite effective and made vocals a bit clearer. If there’s a similar easy way to do this on Android please let me know down in the comments.
I actually found the sound quality of the cheaper Mpow H5’s a little more pleasing overall.
They aren’t the loudest headphones I’ve tried but with the noise cancelling I doubt you’d need them much louder.
I think for the price, the sound quality is good. Depending on your personal tastes and what you listen to, you might want to find a way to reduce the bass a bit if you find it overpowering the mids and treble.
The TaoTronics BH046s offer a reasonably priced entry into Active Noise Cancelling headphones. The ANC was better than I was expecting, with no strange quirks. It’s not going to eliminate all sounds, but they also offer decent passive noise reduction from their good fit.
Some might find them a little tight, but the ear pads are soft and comfortable. The battery life is good and the fast charging is a bonus. For headphones released in 2019, it’s disappointing there’s no USB-C or Bluetooth 5.0, and the multi-function buttons are a bit fiddly to use but none of these minor concerns affected the overall experience.
The sound quality is good considering the price. I would have liked a little more clarity in the mids and an app to control the EQ settings would be welcome.
But overall, if you’re after comfortable over ear wireless headphones with ANC that actually works pretty well, has decent sound and actually look quite good too, I don’t think you’d be disappointed with the BH046s.
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TaoTronics TT-BH046 ANC Bluetooth Headphones: https://amzn.to/31Ahc4j