A while back I was impressed by Edifier’s reincarnation of the STAX brand in the form of the Spirit S3 Bluetooth headphones. I still use them regularly for high-quality music on the go and at home when I don’t want the constraint of wires. Those headphones showed me that Bluetooth headphones are a viable option if sound quality is your ultimate concern, and easily best any of the competition I’ve heard from Sony, Bose and others.
Their sound-first design pursuit omits a few convenience features though, most notable ANC (active noise cancellation). Edifier’s new WH950 aims to fill the gap. For around £180GBP retail you won’t get Planar drivers, but you do get a pair of headphones packed with functionality including music, game and theatre modes, ANC, LDAC high-res certification, customisable EQ, Google Fast Pairing, safe volume and dual-device support.
The headphones feature 40 mm “composite titanium film” dynamic drivers enclosed in slim ear cups with a mesh-textured grille on the rear, though the design is closed-back. The headphones are foldable and the cups rotate 90-degrees in either direction to lay flat in the included hard case. Also included are a USB C charging cable, a 3.5 mm audio cable for wired connection and an airplane adapter.
On the right ear cup are four control buttons. Each button serves several functions via single or multiple presses and holds. The basic functions are volume up / track skip forward, pause / power, volume down / track skip back and a multi-function button primarily used as an ANC toggle. Additional functions, including further ANC controls, game mode, EQ switching and your devices assistant (Siri / Google) can be assigned using the Edifier Connect app. A clear American-accented voice indicates the status of each function, along with power and connection status, and various beeps indicate pairing success, full volume and the <85dB safe volume limit which you can disable if you prefer.
Active noise cancellation is extremely impressive. This is Edifier’s best implementation of the technology to date and has several modes of operation. Low or high ANC vary the level accordingly, low ANC cutting out environmental noise but leaving you some awareness, including the ability to hear faint conversation. High ANC cuts out most background noise and is quite a disconcerting experience until you get used to it. There’s ambient noise mode, which allows you to hear everything going on around you without taking the headphones off, and a wind noise reduction mode which does what it says on the tin without reducing other ambient noise to any appreciable degree. You can turn ANC off altogether, if you prefer.
A variant of ANC works during vice calls too. There are four microphones which suppress wind noise and filter other background noise for excellent call quality. I’ve used this extensively and it really works.
ANC does have an impact on battery life, naturally, but a 1.5 hour full charge still gives you 34 hours of play time with ANC on, rising to 55 hours with it off. A 10 minute fast charge gives you 7 hours playback. Playback time varies based on the selected mode and volume level, but based on my testing the quoted figures represent a good average of what you can expect. If your volume level is more conservative, with ANC and game mode switched off and only 1 device connected, I would expect closer to 60 hours from a full charge.
The ear pads are covered in a soft protein leather and are extremely comfortable. The headband is covered in the same material, with plenty of adjustment in the sliding side arms. All-day comfort shouldn’t be a problem with these. The ear cups are deep, so no part of the hard plastic shell or the driver grille ever comes into contact with your ear. For me, they have the edge over the Spirit S3s here. Ten out of ten for comfort.
Build quality is excellent. The folding pivots feel solid, as do the adjustable sliders and the spring-steel headband. Head pressure is just right for my large head, and there is plenty of adjustment to optimise the fit.
Some of the features, including LDAC support and Google Fast Pairing I’m not able to test as I don’t own an Android device. Everything else is supported under iOS however, including the Edifier Connect app. The app gives you complete control over the headphones including control assignments and additional features, and works with many Edifier headphone and earbud models.
The primary screen for the WH950 gives you controls for ANC, safe volume and a battery level.
The second page gives you pre-defined ‘classic’ and ‘dynamic’ EQ modes, the former a flatter response and the latter boosting bass and highs for the typical swept response most people prefer.
You can create customised EQ profiles, including multiple profiles if you wish. You can also share them via messages or using a QR code, which other people can scan into the Edifier Connect app to replicate your EQ settings. The logical progression for this would be an online ‘store’ where users could download EQ profiles for various Edifier models, created and submitted by users.
The third page is for switching modes between ‘music’, ‘game’ and ‘theatre’. Music and Game modes sound similar, though the latter gives you lower latency which I actually prefer in general use too. Theatre mode adds an unpleasant short reverb to the sound that tries to emulate the ambiance of a small room. In reality a good theatre is acoustically treated and sounds nothing like a small room, and the so-called ‘theatre’ mode makes everything sound like you have your head stuck in a plastic container.
Lastly there are several device settings including control assignments for the multi-function button for single and double press actions and a hold. Edifier could go one further here with a triple press action to toggle the EQ mode. There’s a shutdown timer (5, 15, 30, 60, 180 minutes), prompt volume adjustment, dual-device setup, and an online user manual.
Sonically the WH950s are fairly well balanced, leaning towards a mid-heavy presentation. They reminded me a lot of my old Sennheiser HD598s, managing a similar degree of openness despite being a closed-back design. Highs are crisp if a little rolled-back around 10kHz, and bass is excellent especially sub bass, as again there’s a roll off somewhere around 300Hz or so, even with the EQ set flat. It is possible to correct this using the EQ to achieve a more natural presentation. Once corrected, the WH950s are a delight with most music, with only congested, poorly mastered rock tracks presenting them any challenge in terms of detail retrieval.
Idle noise is inaudibly low too which is welcome, rising to just slightly audible at full volume. Latency is manageable but could perhaps be better, though jumping between two devices is a lot more seamless than the Spirit S3s can manage. There is very minimal latency with the wired connection, though there is still some compared against a true wired set of headphones. This is due to the fact that even in wired mode, you’re still using the amplifiers and DSP built into the WH950s, which is the case with any Bluetooth headphone that offers a wired option.
The Edifier WH950s offer you a lot for your money. Make no mistake, they’re not intended to be critical listening headphones. They’re designed for use on the go, when travelling, in the office or around the home where their conveniences and the excellent active noise cancellation implementation come into their own. They’re ideal for a busy digital lifestyle with dual-device functionality switching almost seamlessly, and fully automatically, between a laptop or phone. So while they’re not the last word in sonic fidelity, they do offer everything you might expect from a high-end pair of Bluetooth headphones. They face tough competition from the likes of Sony, Bose and Sennheiser just to name a few, but will more than hold their own and likely oust their competition in performance, head to head.