Comparing the TaoTronics Soundsurge 55 and Monoprice BT-600ANC Bluetooth Noise-cancelling headphones
I needed headphones for use at work. The primary goals, in order of importance:
- Comfortable for extended use.
- Quality of microphone for use during meetings.
- (active) noise cancelling (ANC) or isolation.
- wireless for easy use with both phone (music) and work laptop (meetings).
I narrowed my search down to fairly inexpensive bluetooth headphones with ANC and, critically, cVc 8.0 for better isolation of my own voice during meetings. I tried:
- TaoTronics SoundSurge 55
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Both models use USB-C and have a 3.5mm stereo input jack for wired audio. Both arrived with nice zippered cases, with the Monoprice being smaller.
TaoTronics Soundsurge 55
My first pick was the TaoTronics Soundsurge 55. Overall, these seemed like a good choice. They paired easily, buttons felt good, sound quality was acceptable. I used them for several days, but the comfort was not there, at least for my head and ear shape. I got hot spots after several hours, and the horizontal pressure was quite high. I think the cavity for ears is just a few millimeters too small, probably in the vertical direction, and perhaps depth, too. This could also be due to the lack of a “horizontal axis” of rotation for each ear cup – they are fixed, and only rotate around the “vertical axis” when pressing into the head.
I would rate the noise cancelling quite good. It doesn’t block human voices totally, but mutes most any other sounds.
Build quality felt decent. I love the tactile button feel. However, I always pushed buttons when grabbing the headphones to remove or reposition – they felt placed a bit wrong for my habits.
My second try was the Monoprice BT-600ANC. Monoprice is a long-time player in home audio equipment, even though they are not extremely well-known outside of some internet circles. The BT-600ANC seems relatively new, and I couldn’t find reviews about it. Nevertheless, I took the chance.
These were immensely more comfortable on my noggin. My ears felt much happier!
Certain aspects of the build quality seemed better, such as a headband that is wrapped in (faux) gray leather all the way around, as are the earcup externals. The 3-axis pivot mechanisms for the earcup a help comfort, but I do worry about their strength. The buttons are not as pleasing to push, to me, as the Taotronics, although there are only three.
Annoyingly, a very loud voice announces changes in ANC modes. It is such a bad design decision! Toggling from full ANC to zero ANC requires two presses of the button, and waiting through both announcements - quickly pressing twice doesn’t seem to work.
Volume and audio controls are done through a touch pad on the right earcup. Swipe up for louder, forward for next track, etc. Pausing and resuming music is done with a double tap in the center. If the tapping is not centered, the wearer must try again. Tap tap. Tap tap. It can be annoying versus a physical button.
A pretty interesting feature is a quick “listen” mode to mute audio and stop ANC, which is done by holding one’s hand over the earcup sensor.
I had trouble adjusting volume in Zoom meetings via the headphone touchpad. I had to do it on the computer settings. This may be an issue with Zoom and not the headphones, though.
Music audio quality is excellent through the APT-X HD codec. I’m not an audiophile, and won’t give a full rundown of it’s frequency response, but it sounded better than the Taotronics Soundsurge 55. Crisper is perhaps the right word.
The pressure from the Monoprice BT-600ANC headband is less than the Soundsurge, which made it more comfortable, but it may have slightly less noise cancelling and isolation as a result.
Sadly, after a day of use, the right headphone started cracking and popping when ANC was turned on. I have made an RMA for a replacement, and will update this article as needed. I may just be unlucky, and can’t extrapolate quality issues from this datapoint-of-one. Update (1/16/2021): the replacement seems to be working well!
Based on my selection criteria, I am apt to choose the Monoprice (pending successful replacement of the defective copy I got) due to the increased comfort. I actually prefer the physical buttons of the Taotronics and its ANC implementation. The improved sound quality of the Monoprice BT-600ANC is nice, as well. I’ll just have to live with its annoying touch-control features.
Meeting audio quality from my voice seemed great on both. Battery life seemed similar for both.