There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing how you want to listen to audio. There are speakers for home, vehicles, and portable use and then there are also more private options like headphones and earbuds. When it comes to choice, it’s entirely up to you and your budget, and the scale can range from the dollar store discard pair to the more upscale and costly units that start in the thousands of dollars.
I’ll be completely honest, I am not a connoisseur of fine audio gear and I am perfectly fine with a majority of earbuds that cost anywhere between $10 to $50. Now, I can definitely hear the difference in audio quality when it comes to this range and even on higher-end models that I have tested in the past. While you could always splurge on a high-end set, it’s always good to keep a look out for an underpriced option that overperforms.
The iDeaUSA V201 is a pair of sub-$100 wireless active noise-cancelling headphones that come in a fairly slim package and has the ability to also utilize a 3.5mm audio jack. Inside the box, the headphones come packaged in a relatively firm protective case. While a more subtle color would have been appreciated, the faux carbon fiber is part of the design of the actual headphone, so it makes sense to continue the motif to the casing. Inside the semi-rigid case, you have the V201 headphones, microUSB cable, 3.5mm headphone cable, and a two prong adapter that can be used during travel on an airplane.
The V201’s are fairly compact in size for an over-ear model and also fairly lightweight weighing in at 7.4oz. The earphone is made of plastic and is finished in a faux carbon fiber pattern on the outside of the earpiece and on top of the headband. On the left ear, you have your microUSB charging port, on/off switch for active noise-cancelling (ANC), and LED indicator for ANC. On the right ear, you get a 3.5mm jack, a power on/off switch that also doubles as a play/pause button, a reverse / volume down button and forward / volume up button, and multi-color LED as a status light.
Each ear cup provides a good amount of padding and feels comfortable during use. There is, however, a small piece of plastic that juts out from the inner part of the ear cup that will most likely cause discomfort for some after listening for a couple hours. The top of the headband is also adequately padded and feels good on the head, with the metal tracks used for expanding the headset size feeling firm when extended. As a forewarning, if you remove the padded cup, you can't easily slip it back on and will need to dismantle the cup to properly secure it back on.
When it comes to noise-cancelling headphones, audio quality usually takes a back seat in favor of its main objective, which is to reduce ambient noise. So it comes as no surprise that the V201’s aren't the most acoustically tuned headphones and can sometimes come off as being a bit flat. What this means is that instruments don't quite pop and the bass isn't as deep and pronounced. Again, to reiterate, the sound isn't rubbish, it just is not as refined and it becomes apparent when you listen to a familiar track that something just isn't right.
If there was one major complaint about the headphones, though, it would be in regards to its ANC. The headphone’s main feature is its noise-cancellation and while the V201 does offer it, it has a very weak effect on a majority of ambient sounds.
While I wasn’t expecting the world from these units, the headphones have a very particular way of filtering noise and most times just isn’t effective. For example, while the headphones did an excellent job of drowning out the sputtering noise from a nearby lawn mower, it didn’t drown out the noise from its constant whirring. There’s also simpler things that I would expect it to cancel out like white noise, light rain, a fan, the distant tide of the ocean, whirring of a heater - these could not be filtered out. These are just small examples, but I hope that it will give anyone who might purchase these a realistic expectation of the unit. While it does offer noise-cancelling properties, it is on a bit of the weak side and very selective.
As for battery life, the headphones take about three hours to fully charge and can get a full 19 hours of battery life with ANC on. You can gain a couple more hours with the ANC feature turned off. When you’re close to depleting the battery, the headphones will start to warn you that the battery is low and will continue to do so every minute for the last 15 minutes of remaining battery life. While I can appreciate a warning, I don’t think anyone wants to spend the last 15 minutes of battery life listening to it minute after minute. Luckily, if you deplete the headphones to zero, you can plug them in to charge and still listen to your tunes at the same time. The Bluetooth range is decent spanning about 10 to 15 feet when in an enclosed area with obstacles like a home with walls and in an open area you can expect to get around 15 to 20 feet of range.
At the end of the day, these are near $100 headphones that offer active noise-cancellation, but its ability to cancel out noise is actually fairly weak, making them not a very good choice if you are purchasing them for that specific reason. The audio quality is "just okay" and the V201’s offer versatility with Bluetooth and 3.5mm audio connections. But these features are not enough to justify the higher price that you’re paying for the device.
So at the end of the day, the IdeaUSA V201 places itself in a bit of a sticky situation because it isn’t great at noise-cancelling, it offers a sufficient sound experience, and its comfort and construction are also average. If you’re looking for ANC capable headphones you’ll want to look elsewhere and if you’re looking for better audio, you’ll also want to do the same.
I'd like to extend a big 'Thank You' to the folks at iDeaUSA who supplied the V201 for this review. If you are interested in purchasing this device, you can pick it up from Amazon. You can also check out more at iDeaUSA's official product page.