Yamaha YH-E700A

In the face of global lockdown, the headphone market has held up relatively well, and Yamaha has in turn been tweaking its inventory of late. The YH-E700A is a mixture of some fairly commonly seen features combined with some more innovative new thinking. It’s an over-ear, closed-back design built around a pair of 40mm dynamic drivers. If you want, you can plug in a cable with 3.5mm jack for wired use.

Yamaha is expecting you to use the YH-E700A wirelessly, though, and so it’s fitted with Bluetooth supporting both AAC and aptX extended codecs. This is partnered with active noise cancelling that differs noticeably from most rivals. The system combines the data from microphones in and outside the housing and constantly adjusts the processing applied. There is no sliding scale of user adjustment nor is there a voice passthrough option.

What there is, though, is something Yamaha calls Listening Optimizer. This software continuously monitors the performance and adjusts the output to better handle external sources of noise. Yamaha says it makes an adjustment every 20 seconds, which is different again to systems that calibrate once in a single session and apply that setting constantly thereafter. If it sounds a little alarming it can be switched off.

Battery life is quoted at 35 hours with noise cancelling engaged. The 3.5-hour charge time is usefully brief too. Perhaps as a result of this, this is a larger design, making it a stretch to call it handsome. It is, however, seriously comfortable to wear for long periods and very well made. There is a Bluetooth control app for switching the noise cancelling and optimiser on and off and a handy voice prompts to tell you what the headphone is doing at any given time.

Sound quality
Using the YH-E700A via Bluetooth paired to an Oppo Find X2 Neo smartphone quickly reveals a few quirks of performance that might be an issue. If you are sat at home and trying to remove ambient domestic noise, the noise cancelling is effective but almost feels over zealous in its application. Such is the natural isolation of the design that, listening to Steven Wilson’s The Future Bites is most effective with it switched off.

The Listening Optimizer also feels like overkill in quiet situations. It is undoubtedly doing something, but the corrections feel over done and obvious. In terms of use in a house or quiet office, the YH-E700A feels like it’s trying too hard. It’s not that it doesn’t sound good with the processing turned off, it’s just that a similar level of performance is available for less.

If you find a noisy environment to use the YH-E700A in, however, the scope of what it does starts to make much more sense. With both sustained levels and brief dynamic bursts of noise, it does a fine job of keeping music sounding good. The Listening Optimizer also comes into its own too. This will never be the most delicate-sounding piece of software going, but it helps to keep Late Night Final’s A Wonderful Hope sounding potent and invigorating even when there’s a great deal of disturbance going on around you.

What this results in, then, is a seriously accomplished travel headphone that has the slight misfortune of hitting the market at a point where the vast majority of us can’t go anywhere. Obviously, this won’t be forever and when long haul flights or noisy commutes are going to feature in your life again there is very little that can get near the Yamaha’s combination of considerable processing horsepower, very long battery life and excellent comfort levels. This might not be a perfect home-use headphone, but it’s a superlative travel one and well worth seeking out if you need such a thing.. ES    

Product: Yamaha YH-E700A
Type: Over-ear closed-back headphone

● 40mm drivers
● AptX and AAC Bluetooth
● 35 hours battery (Bluetooth and noise cancelling activated)

Read the full review in  Issue 474