Noise Canceling Earphones with Rock Cred Get Apple $149: Hands-on

If you are looking for a pair of True wireless noise canceling headphonesIf you don’t want to pay $200 or more for something like the Apple AirPods Pro, you might be interested in AXS Audio Professional Earbuds. The AXS earbuds cost $149, in either satin white or satin black, and come from the same guy who brought us the Riva Audio Arena smart speaker, live music veteran Rikki Farr. I just got a pair of buds and they’ve gone for the ears.

Farr is counting on 60 years in the music industry — from the Isle of Wight Festival to live shows like Guns N’ Roses — to bring in what he says are the most value-for-money range of ANC earbuds. He claims the company tuned it to “every machine they could think of”.

“I can’t believe our price level…I don’t think there’s really a competitor,” Farr told me, but then revisited his answer to “Maybe Sony.”

AXS Buds feature hypoallergenic tips.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The headphones promise 25dB noise reduction — which could mean the difference between loud traffic and the rustle of leaves — and they feature Bluetooth LE 5.2 Technology for faster and higher quality connection.

AXS Audio Professional Buds feature up to 10 hours of battery life in the ear and up to 38 hours with the charging case. Farr says the company won’t get “enormous affluence” from the earbuds as it has had to develop its own battery, which hasn’t been mass-produced.

The design of the professional buds is unmistakably inspired by Apple AirPods With the long legs and color scheme—so much so that my 9-year-old son asked if he could “get a pair of those AirPods too.” The stems come with capacitive pads for volume, playback and ANC control. Meanwhile, the ear buds are hypoallergenic and the headphone is IPX4 certified for sweat resistance.

How do they look?

axs vs airpods vs sony

AXS Audio Professional Earbuds vs Sony WF-1000XM3 vs Apple AirPods 3rd Generation

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I’ve compared the AXS Buds against the now-discounted Sony WF-1000XM3 that has been discontinued ($130 at Target) because they offer a similar feature set. I’ve listened to a bunch of different music from ambient vocals to rock, pop and online video, as well as rated it for call quality. Regardless of music style, I found that the Sony earbuds were warmer and instantly heard, while the AXS buds had a more open response, which was also more open.

The AXS headphones were clean and offered an amazing amount of bass, although I would have preferred the “high-end” sound of Sony. I’m not sure if it’s related to the newer Bluetooth app, but when using the Samsung Galaxy S20 I found that it took a few minutes in one listening session for the song to snap into stereo focus, but Sony had an accurate shot from the start. During one track, AXS’s sound sounded scrambled at the beginning of the song with no stereo separation, but it was merged into the middle of the piece.

The buds also delivered more bass than I’ve heard from another set of headphones that also have music industry credibility – $179 for the Marshall Method II. However, the fit on the AXS headphones is more comfortable, results in better noise isolation, and provides the ANC that Marshall lacks.

AXS carry bag on a purple background

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

There were still some random issues that came up in my review set. For example, at one stage there was a low-grade hissing in the buds, and the operation of the ANC made it even more noticeable. This happened whether the earbuds were plugged in or not but it only happened once, while Sony did not suffer from this problem. Moreover, when compared with each other, the level of noise reduction was almost the same. The only other odd thing was that the headphones increased the volume one time randomly on their own, and while the company couldn’t explain why, it was a hot day and I think sweat could have been a factor.

call quality? Surprisingly it was in favor of AXS – Sony can have a noticeable whistle on your voice that the other party can’t hear. Meanwhile, my voice on AXS sounded normal, and while the other person said both calls were of similar quality, the other end sounded slightly worse on AXS.

Finally, unlike Sonys, which have a very “one-way” design, I also found it easy to put the AXS in the wrong ear by accident and that meant the controls obviously didn’t work as you’d expect.


As Farr himself said, there are plenty of in-ear headphones, but there are fewer with any degree of credibility in the industry. I enjoyed my time with the AXS earbuds, and found that they offered useful features and sound quality that stood out from the pack. While I’d still prefer getting to Sony at the sale price of $130, the downside is that the 1000XM3’s carrying case is larger and has a slightly shorter overall battery life of 32 hours. If you’re looking for a headphone with a great fit, clean sound, and decent call quality, then AXS Audio Professional Audio is well worth considering.

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