As the capitalist bonanza of this festive season is well under way, everyone is eyeing up the extensive ranges of gadgets and gizmos, headphones and headsets will be sitting at the top of many people’s gifting wish lists. Whether you’re gaming, watching, or listening this year, getting a bargain is a primary concern and Soundmagic are doing their best to sew up the sector, adding the P60BT ANC to their budget-focused lineup.
Taking a leaf out of Sony and Bose’s books, the P60BT ANC comes with a chunky hard case to rest in when they’re not on top of your head. This adds to the premium feel of the headset, and despite the budget pricing of just £130, the case is built like a tank so I had no worries about throwing it in the bottom of my rucksack. It’s not small though, and bigger than both the cases for the Bose 700 and the Sony WH-1000XM5, so if portability is a major concern you might want to look elsewhere.
The weird thing is, the P60BT ANC do fold up, so the case could have been considerably smaller, and if you’re not too fussed about them being scratched or bashed, then you’ll be able to squeeze them in on their own in a much smaller package.
The case not only plays host to the headphones themselves, but there’s also a removable Soundmagic soft case to hide things away in, and this is where your 3.5mm cable resides, as well as a USB-C charging cable and a PC audio splitter. It’s nicely put together, and you won’t lose anything when opening and closing it regularly. The headset itself connects wirelessly via Bluetooth 5.2 or 3.5mm wired, and happily works with a host of the most well-used codecs, as well as the high-resolution 24-bit aptX HD, which is perfect if you’re looking for the highest quality delivery of your music.
The P60BT ANC itself is definitely from the Sony WH-1000XM4 school of design, and in its black colour scheme, you might well struggle to see the differences from a distance. Each earcup boasts a plush, leatherette-covered memory foam cushion, and these are very comfortable with no earache through long listening sessions. However, the headband only has a thin layer of firm cushioning, and while it didn’t cause discomfort, I had an awareness that it was there – something which isn’t present in the other headsets I’ve mentioned so far.
It’s well-built though, and there was no creaking from any of the limbs or joints, even after a number of weeks of use, and repeated attempts to push it to its limits by twisting and pulling at it in a thoroughly unkind way.
There’s only one physical button on the P60BT ANC, with the multi-function power/pairing/ANC button on the outside edge of the right earpiece. Everything else is controlled by the touchpad surface on the face of the right earpiece. It’s a reliable and accurate control, with each action accompanied by a somewhat annoying beep to tell you what it’s doing. From here you can change volume, track, and call your digital assistant, so you’re covered for all of the most common tasks.
If you’re looking at the P60BT ANC, it’s presumably because you want to listen to things, rather than use them as an expensive pair of earmuffs – though it is a bit nippy out these dats. Unfortunately, audio is where the P60BT ANC’s budget leanings become apparent, and everything here sounds average rather than exemplary.
That’s not to say you can’t get the best out of the P60BT ANC, but I found myself having to constantly tinker with EQ settings depending on what it was attached to and what I was listening to. Out of the box, the P60BT ANC sounds weak and thin, with very little in the way of bass and an overly emphasised mid-range. They’re labelled as belonging to the ‘Reference Series’ so you have to assume it’s a deliberate choice, and if you’re looking for a vocal-forward headset, this could well be the one for you.
Weirdly, it was the Classical EQ of my iPhone that got the best out of it on the go, while I used Boom on Mac to fix the balance. Once I did that, I had a perfectly enjoyable time listening to the latest Bring Me The Horizon single, with the aggressive vocals standing out above the crunching guitars. It fared even better with the last Beatles’ song, Now and Then, and there’s more than enough width to the soundstage for strings, guitar and vocals to breathe.
Fans of loud and lively bass will want to look elsewhere though, with the P60BT ANC suited far better to lighter, less heavy tones. I found that if I cranked the gain of my EQ too far the P60BT ANC would distort, and even with the best will in the world there’s only so far that it’ll go.
Turning to gaming and it’s a similar story, with the P60BT ANC consistent enough to deliver lighter soundtracks like those of Gravity Rush Remastered, but unable to capture the true bombastic nature of Call of Duty Warzone. I enjoyed my time playing Genshin Impact on mobile too, and it’s perhaps here that I noticed the effectiveness of the noise cancellation of the P60BT ANC.
Both earpieces have a very obvious microphone notch, with each listening to outside noises and responding to them in an effort to keep you isolated from the outside world. This isn’t the strongest ANC headset, but it did do a decent job at keeping out road noise and general household bumps and thumps. I can just about discern the tapping of my keys on my Macbook, so if you’re working from home a lot they might reduce the aural fatigue that comes from the constant tippy-tap of keys, and with a 50-hour battery life you won’t have to think about charging it for a good while.
One nice addition for those looking to use the P60BT for gaming is the inclusion of a dedicated microphone boom arm attached to the 3.5mm cable. It’s perfectly serviceable and my teammates could hear my inane chatter, even if it was a little on the thin side. However, you aren’t able to use the powered functions of the P60BT ANC when it’s connected by 3.5mm so you immediately lose access to one of the headset’s central functions. Not ideal.
We’ve recently looked at the Monoprice NAME, and that was a budget headset that truly punched above its weight, aping Sony’s top-tier offerings with remarkable success. The P60BT ANC certainly looks and feels the part, but it’s let down by its mid-range boosting audio output.