With headphone jacks dropping off cellphones left and right, people are looking for more features in their headphones than just “plays music.” If you’re going to throw in a battery and a Bluetooth connector, why not do some other stuff? Read me my notifications. Call my parents. Make me pancakes. Among the most popular of these features is active noise-canceling. Despite being popular though, it’s a tough nut to crack because of that first word – active. That means it’s good in high-end headphones, where companies like Sony and Bose can afford to put good NC processors in place, but the quality of noise-canceling varies more and more wildly the lower the price tag gets.
With the HUM 1000 headphones, Wicked Audio is looking to get that price tag down to $100. Traditionally that’s the cost of starter audiophile headphones or some unimpressive noise-canceling. Can Wicked break the trend? Let’s dive in.
Build and Style
For the HUM 1000s, Wicked went with a soft-touch style coating over the mostly-plastic headphones. It feels nice to touch, but it picks up fingerprints easily and shows them clearly. Not great for something you’ll be handling a lot. The only glossy part of the headphones is on the headband, which has the words “WICKED AUDIO” emblazoned in big capital letters. I’m not a fan of that particular styling.
The hardware linking the band to the ear cups is metal, but that seems to be about it. Otherwise, they’re plastic all the way through. That means they’re pretty light-weight, but they feel cheap. The plastic doesn’t feel like it’s going to crack, but when you compare these to a more expensive set, the difference is immediately apparent in how solid they feel.
One of the weirdest decisions Wicked Audio made with these is that while they can rotate 90 degrees to lie flat, they canceling upward. That is to say, the left cup rotates counter-clockwise while the right canceling rotates clockwise, and if you put them on your shoulders, they would be facing upward, firing audio into the air instead of your shoulders.
That they fold flat at all is appreciated, though, and they fit nicely into the included semi-rigid case, which is emblazoned with Wicked’s pitchfork-shaped logo. This is just a personal preference thing, but I like a more subtle look for that stuff. Even Sony’s headphone cases don’t say “SONY” on them in big letters – only on the zipper or something like that.
While Wicked didn’t make the mistake of going with any touch controls for these relatively cheap headphones (cheap for noise-canceling, at least), the onboard controls feel pretty cheap. They’re simple, at least. There’s a pairing/play button and volume/track control buttons on the left ear, while the right ear has a physical switch to turn the noise-canceling on and off, and that noise-canceling can be turned on independent of the Bluetooth.
The box does include a USB Micro charging cable as well as a 3.5mm audio cable, so you can use these in wired mode if you forgot to charge them (and have access to a headphone jack).
These are pretty feature-lite headphones. The battery life, which Wicked says provides 13.5 hours of life with ANC turned on and closer to 20 with it turned on. In my experience, this feels pretty accurate. I ran these through about two full charges in testing and those numbers held up.
The more interesting feature is definitely going to be the noise-canceling aspect, especially on a cheaper set like these. And I’m disappointed to say that the noise-canceling isn’t very good. I was never very impressed with noise-canceling until I tried on Sony’s 1000xm3 headphones (review forthcoming!). The noise-canceling is noticeable, but it doesn’t cancel out anything except the lowest hum of sound.
I wouldn’t expect the HUM 1000s to stack up – they’re just a third of the price of Sony’s flagship cans – but if that’s the case I’d rather the money used to put ANC into the headphones be spent on giving them a better audio seal, because that’s something definitely lacking here. When the headphones are on with noise-canceling turned off and no audio playing, it feels like there’s just a piece of plastic between you and the outside world. Headphones are supposed to act as a barrier, and these do not.
Of course, a lot of that is moot if they sound good, right? Well, I’m sad to say it’s not even a little moot. The HUM 1000s sound okay, but at this price, I’d definitely consider a different audio source. They feel like “the only affordable noise-canceling headphones in the machine at the airport.”
The headphones distort pretty heavily at higher volumes, and the bass starts to overpower the lyrics in tracks like Eric B & Rakim’s “Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em,” while the bass is so heavy that I hear it rattling in El Huervo’s “Daisuke.” That’s apart from the distortion built into the song. The headphones actually vibrate on my head during that track.
When the ANC is turned on, the audio brightens to a frustrating degree. I think some people might like it, but to me, it felt like it was hurting the overall sound of the headphones.
The Wicked HUM 1000s aren’t the worst headphones I’ve put on my head, but they’re a reminder of one of the tenets I apply to every interaction I have with electronics: You get what you pay for. $99 for headphones with wireless and noise-canceling isn’t enough money to get a product that does both justice. If you’re using these for the most casual listening or want something that you won’t be super mad at for breaking, they might be a good fit. But if you want noise-canceling, I strongly recommend saving up – or go for some earbuds with a good seal instead.
Disclaimer: We received a review unit from the manufacturer and used it for two full battery cycles before writing this review.