With a choice of red, green, pink, black, or white plaid-patterned earcups, Able Planet tries to bring some style to noise-canceling headphones. The XNC230 doesn't sound as good as more expensive models, but they get the job done reasonably well for the money--with a couple of nice touches.
The plastic headband on the XNC230 is hinged in the middle, allowing the headphones to fold up very small so you can easily slip them into the included carrying pouch. (Though compact, this bag doesn't provide much protection.)
We found the earpads a bit stiff, but not painful. The pads on the headband gripped our head comfortably and snugly. We needed a break after about an hour, but that shouldn't be a problem for long urban commutes.
The headphones make it easy to get ample volume with a phone or portable music player, though volume is significantly lower with the power turned off. The overall sound on the XNC230 is slightly muffled, with deep but somewhat muddy bass and average detail in the midrange. Hip-hop and rock tracks have plenty of impact, but vocals could be a bit clearer. Active noise cancellation is decent but not great, and the hiss is noticeable during quiet musical passages and silences.
The Able Planet XNC230 boasts a 50-hour battery life, which trumps the rest of the competition in our roundup.
For $149, you could get a really good pair of in-ear headphones that sound far better and block just as much noise as the XNC230. But if you don't want to shell out hundreds of dollars for cans, these are worth a look.