I'll get straight to the point: these $60 wireless headphones with ANC, multipoint connectivity and aptX are unbelievable. On paper at least, Monoprice has just nailed wireless over-ear headphones for 2022 and we can all go home. Our job here is done – particularly mine, as an audio specialist.
The headphones in question are Monoprice's SYNC-ANC Bluetooth headphones with active noise canceling and aptX Low Latency. And just look at them!
Where have we seen that new hook-like headband accent in some of the best over-ear headphones before? Oh, I know, the Sony WH-1000XM5 ($399 / £380 / AU$649), the new Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless (accidentally launched and then un-launched with a price-tag of $449.95 CAD, which is $350 / £290 / AU$500) or the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 ($399 / £379 / approx AU$575).
You don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that the models listed above are all premium, (almost, in the case of B&W) flagship over-ear designs. And yet here's Monoprice, a company founded in 2002 and operating out of Rancho Cucamonga, about 37 miles east of Downtown Los Angeles, casually rolling out a competing set for a sixth of the price, to aim straight at our guide to the best cheap headphones.
In Holmes' inimitable style then, let's examine the evidence: Monoprice's SYNC-ANC feature a Bluetooth 5.0 Qualcomm QCC3005 chipset with support for Qualcomm aptX and Qualcomm aptX Low Latency audio codecs (to clarify: aptX allows higher-quality Bluetooth streaming; aptX Low Latency ensures a more synchronized, lag‑free audio for video transmissions), hybrid active noise canceling plus Qualcomm cVc echo canceling and noise suppression mics for noise-free voice in phone calls. Multipoint pairing, meanwhile, should allow you to pair two source devices for seamless switching between sources. This is nothing short of outstanding at this level.
And Monoprice is not backwards about coming forwards when it comes to connectivity and stamina claims either. The promise is about 20 hours at 50% volume with ANC off and Bluetooth on (you can switch off Bluetooth and listen using the bundled unbalanced 3.5mm headphone jack too, and it looks as if USB-C and USB-A cables are also supplied), or about 10 hours at 50% volume with ANC on. Go wired, and your battery life should be about 14 hours with ANC on.
Opinion: however Monoprice achieved its singular price, I'm interested
As I see it, the only major omission you'll have to deal with here is the potential for Auracast audio-sharing, which we've been told will require the newer Bluetooth 5.2. This aside, there's very little to complain about – and really, for $60 it would be churlish to quibble anyway.
At 269g, they're actually 19g heavier than the Sony XM5s, but the difference is negligible, and the Monoprice cans look well padded on the headband and ear cups.
Anyone who's used it before knows that multipoint connectivity is a game-changer, allowing you to watch Netflix on your laptop through your headphones, then take a phone-call, all without having to worry about missing anything. And although the Sony WH-1000XM5 claim a slight improvement in terms of stamina – 40 hours with noise cancelling switched off – aka a two-hour improvement over the WH-1000XM4s – our tests couldn't quite reach the advertised 30 hours with ANC switched on.
I don't see wearer-detection auto-off listed on the spec-sheet, but I don't tend to miss it when it's not there. What could be a game-changer, when I listen to them (which I truly hope will happen soon) is the sound quality. Monoprice hasn't listed the driver type or size, but given that Sony actually downsized from the 40mm drivers found in the XM4 to 30mm speakers in the XM5, it's important to remember that bigger doesn't necessarily mean better.
Will Monoprice's SYNC-ANC (opens in new tab) reveal themselves to be some of the best noise-cancelling headphones on the market, and thus change the game entirely – in the same way JLab's Go Air Pop has done for the best true wireless earbuds designs? Time will tell.
Ultimately, when audio specialists with 20 years of experience can offer this level of finish and higher-resolution codec support, all for the price of a nice lunch, it's a great time to be alive.