Reviewed on Mar 07, 2016

Harman/Kardon NC Noise-Cancelling HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.0
Mixed Usage
Critical Listening
Home Theater
Type : Over-ear
Enclosure : Closed-Back
Wireless : No
Noise-Cancelling : Yes
Mic : Yes
Transducer : Dynamic

The Harman/Kardon NC are well-crafted, well-rounded headphones that sound great, deliver decent noise isolation in noisy environments and are comfortable enough to have on the head for hours. They will not disappoint, even though they struggle a little with treble reproduction.

Test Results
Design 7.0
Sound 7.2
Isolation 7.7
Active Features 4.8
  • Above average audio reproduction.
  • Sturdy metal build.
  • Very comfortable design.
  • Sub-par treble reproduction.
  • Large ear cups susceptible to damage.
  1. Update 8/10/2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.0. Learn more about our new versioned test bench system here.

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The Harman/Kardon are stylish and very comfortable headphones. The square over-ear design of the ear cups is well-padded and molds well around the ears of most listeners. The interchangeable, metal headband is sturdy and the self-adjusting padding delivers a tension free, stable fit. The housing of the ear cup might be the one weak point in their build quality, but it is nothing to be worried about.


The Harman/Kardon are an eye-catching set of headphones. The square design of the ear cups is unique and looks great and the metal headband and joints look premium. The matte black finish on the ear cup housing, as well as the black reto-design padding on the headband, complete the two-tone color scheme and the old school esthetic.

7.0 Comfort
Weight : 0 lbs
Clamping Force
1.52 lbs

The Harmon/Kardon are a pleasure to have on the head. The square over-ear cups fully encompass the ear and are very well padded, making them comfortable to wear for hours. The interchangeable headband design delivers a tight, painless fit that does not need to be adjusted between listening sessions, which is a definite plus.

6.7 Controls
Ease of use : Above-average
Feedback : Average
Call/Music Control : Yes
Volume Control : Yes
Noise Canceling Control : No
Talk-Through : No
Additional Buttons : No

Simple and efficient button layout. The inline controls of the cable are well designed and provide good tactile feedback for the call/music and volume buttons. There is a noise cancelling switch on the ear cup. However, it is a little difficult to reach at times, reducing its ease of use.

8.0 Stability

The Harman/Kardon NC are incredibly stable for over-ear headphones. The large square ear cups are broad enough to apply even pressure around the ear, preventing them from swaying when running. The headband has the right amount of tension and keeps the headphones in place during casual listening sessions or high-intensity activities. The audio cable will also detach if it gets hooked on something and won't pull the headphones of your head. Sadly, they're not designed for sports and might feel a little too bulky and heavy for some.

6.1 Portability
L : 7.87 "
W : 7.68 "
H : 1.57 "
Volume : 95.17 Cu. Inches
Stand required : N/A

The Harman/Kardon NC are on the larger side for over ear headphones. The broad earcups lay flat to take up less space making these headphones somewhat portable. Unfortunately, they don't fold up into a more compact format and will occupy a decent amount of space in a backpack. They won't comfortably fit in a handbag and are far too big to fit in a pocket, even larger jacket pockets.

6.0 Case
Type : Pouch

Comes with a soft, leather pouch that will shield the headphones from scratches and mild water damage. It also doesn't add much bulk to the headphones. Sadly the soft bag will not protect the headphones from hard falls, which is slightly disappointing given the Harman/Kardon's premium appeal.

7.5 Build Quality

Solid build quality throughout. The metal frame of the headband feels sturdy and durable. The joints are also made of metal, which makes them less susceptible to regular wear and tear. The ear cups are held in place by the solid frame and the padding used is soft. However, the housing of the ear cups is made of plastic and could crack if enough pressure is applied.

6.2 Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference : 6.3 C

Detachable : Yes
Length : 0 ft
Connection : 1/8" TRRS

Comes with one 1/8"TRRS-1/16"TRRS cable with in-line mic, call/music control and volume up/down.



8.8 Bass
Std. Err.
1.72 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
10 Hz
2.64 dB
1.37 dB
1.74 dB

8.3 Mid
Std. Err.
2.28 dB
0.91 dB
-0.76 dB
-2.71 dB

7.3 Treble
Std. Err.
4.08 dB
-1.89 dB
-3.25 dB
0.92 dB

6.8 Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
0.68 dB

4.5 Soundstage
PRTF Error
6.13 dB
Acoustic Space Excitation
Correlated Crosstalk
-0.52 dB

7.8 Imaging
Phase Error
27.08 °
Driver Mismatch (Amplitude)
0.9 dB
Driver Mismatch (Frequency)
2.33 dB
Driver Mismatch (Phase)
30.18 °

7.1 Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 90
Weighted THD @ 100



The Harman Kardon Noise Cancelling headphones have great noise isolation performance. They deliver strong, active noise cancellation that can handle the ambient noise of a regular commute quite well. The superb seal from the plush ear pads also provides above-average passive isolation that leaks very little sound. Some high-frequency sounds may escape the headphones at high volumes, but it's nothing to be worried about.

7.5 Noise Isolation
Overall Attenuation
-21.02 dB
-10.39 dB
-16.85 dB
-38.34 dB
16.95 dB

Good performance. Isolation in the bass region is average, but the mid and treble performance are very good. The treble isolation remains unchanged even with ANC off.

8.0 Leakage
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
34.15 dB

Good leakage performance. The profile is quite narrow too, from 2.5KHz-5KHz, which covers the higher harmonics of vocals/lead instruments and cymbals.


Active Features

The  Harman/Kardon NC only have noise canceling as an active feature. This makes them less versatile for other use cases except as noise canceling headphones, as they lack both wireless or an app, to enhance and customize their sound. On the upside, the rechargeable battery delivers a good 41 hours of continuous playback, but have no power saving features and take quite a bit time to charge.

0 Wireless
Obstructed Range
Line of Sight Range

10 Latency
Base Latency
0 ms
aptX Latency
aptX(LL) Latency

6.8 Battery
Battery Type
Battery Life
41 hrs
Charge Time
3 hrs
Audio while charging
Passive Playback

The Harman/Kardon have a good battery life but take a bit long to charge fully. They last around 41 hours which makes them good headphones to use on a long flight or a road trip. Unfortunately, if you leave them on they will run out of battery because there is no auto-off timer and you can't use them while they're charging as the power and audio cables share the same port.

0 App Support

No compatible app.

In the box

  • Harman/Kardon NC headphones
  • Extra interchangeable headband
  • Audio cable
  • Airline adapter
  • Carrying case
  • USB Cable

6.8 Mixed Usage

The Harman/Kardon NC make for good everyday headphones. They have a good design, they isolate well and have an above-average audio reproduction. They handle most use cases and environments well enough to be versatile.

7.2 Critical Listening

Above-average for critical listening. They have a good sound quality but poor soundstage due to their design.

6.8 Commute/Travel

Decent for commuting. Noise isolation is good enough for moderately noisy commutes. They're comfortable and have a decent control scheme.

6.6 Sports/Fitness

Above-average for sports use. They're comfortable and remarkably stable for an over-ear design. They also have a good controls scheme. However, they're a bit bulky.

6.8 Office

Suitable for office use. Noise isolation is enough to cancel the chatter of a busy office, and they don't leak too much.

6.9 Home Theater

Above-average for home theater use. They have no latency but a relatively short audio cable. They would be a good option for watching movies on a tablet or PC but won't have the range to watch TV from your couch unless you have an extension cord for the audio cable.

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