The Taotronics TT-BH040s are just about the most affordable headphones you’ll find that can compete with ultra-desirable pairs like the Sony WH-1000XM3.
The TT-BH040s have full-size cups, part-metal build, great battery life, Bluetooth wireless and active noise cancellation. That all this costs just $54.99 (£54.99) seems flat-out unlikely.
The Taotronics TT-BH040’s value is undeniable, even if we recommend not getting swept away by what they offer. Dig too deep into user reviews online and you could believe they outperform pairs five times the price (they don’t).
But with reasonable sound quality, not-entirely-useless ANC and good wireless stability, the Taotronics TT-BH040 is still a sensible choice for someone on a tight budget.
Design and comfort
Taotronics is a rather localised master of budget audio gear. Where SoundMagic made its name with the classic E10 budget earphones and eventually spread out onto the high street, you are most likely to buy a Taotronics pair from Amazon.
Taotronic’s winning formula is to create cheap products with premium looks, and spend any extra budget where it really counts.
The Taotronics TT-BH040 are intended to look like contemporaries of headphones such as the Sony WH-1000XM3, Beats Studio3 and B&O Play H7. While Taotronics don’t have the brand strength of these competitors, their ‘fake it to make it’ strategy works quite well.
I’ve had a number of real-world compliments about the appearance of these headphones, and Taotronics has made the right basic design choices. The Taotronics TT-BH040 are mostly plastic but have a plate of aluminium over each cup, giving them a more upmarket look and feel than the rival Mixcder E7. The bevelling of the aluminium’s edge, revealing the shiny metal underneath, is a particularly nice touch.
These are still headphones made and sold cheaply, but there are actually no elements that let the Taotronics TT-BH040 down badly. The plastics don’t creak significantly, while the fake leather used in the headband and pads is of decent quality. The comfort is excellent too.
The pad use thick foam and large cut-outs for your ears, and there’s a hefty inch of foam on the headband too. These features may not appeal to those after a particularly slimline pair, but you can wear them all day without discomfort.
The buttons and switches on the cups don’t rattle or feel particularly cheap when pressing, either. You’ll find big, chunky oval buttons on the left cup that alter the volume and let you play/pause tracks, while a slider on the right cup switches the ANC (active noise cancellation) on and off.
There’s even a considerate little blue LED inside the ANC switch to let you know you’ve left the cancellation on. For what some might consider a ‘no brand’ cut-price pair, the Taotronics TT-BH040 have a few nice flourishes.
The Taotronics TT-BH040’s array of features is wide too. There’s Bluetooth for wireless connection to your phone, active noise cancellation, an integrated mic for calls alongside a very good battery life.
You can expect 20-30 hours – depending on the volume, use of ANC and how much you leave the Taotronics TT-BH040 hanging in standby. Stamina like this may be the result of general advances in Bluetooth chips rather than anything specific Taotronics has done, but it still feels like a big upgrade over headphones of a couple of years ago.
There’s no aptX or NFC, used for higher-quality streams and easier pairing (with Android phones), but these do not seem major sacrifices in a pair this affordable.
Active noise cancelling is the lead feature here. It’s nowhere near as effective as Bose and Sony’s headphones ranges, but it’s also not completely useless. They do a good job of blocking out harsher sounds, cafe chatter, or engine noise, making your commute in a busy train carriage a bit less stressful to deal with.
Taotronic’s ANC is just effective enough to stop you needing to do this. It emits a slight hissing sound while it’s working its magic, but this is not really noticeable while music is playing. There’s little difference in sound whether ANC is on or off, either, other than maybe a slight dent in the lower mids.
The Taotronics TT-BH040 have perfectly solid sound quality for a budget headphone. Bass isn’t exactly razor-sharp, but there’s enough there to get a crowd-pleasing sound without overpowering the higher frequencies.
There’s no significant harshness in the upper mids or treble and the mid-range is not a total hollow vacuum, as it is in some lower-cost headphones.
The Taotronics TT-BH040s are an inoffensive listen, and will do the job for all-day listening and blocking out irritating noise from your office or commute.
They aren’t quite as good for more active, critical listening, though. While tonally fine, the Taotronics TT-BH040 are quite flat dynamically, and the central channel vocals can get a bit buried behind the left and right channels.
If you’re not committed to over-ear, the on-ear AKG Y50BT and Urbanista Seattle have a sharper sound that comes across as better-separated. Both offer level up in quality, but finding a wireless over-ear pair at this price, however, with the Taotronics TT-BH040 full-size design, would be difficult.
The Mixcder E7 are a clear rival, and even use some of the same OEM design parts. Their buttons and switches look almost identical to Taotronics’s, and you might expect the sound to be identical too. However, the Taotronics are actually a step ahead, with cleaner, better-controlled bass and low mids.
If you’re searching Amazon for a cheap full-size pair, these still take these edge over Mixcder.
If you’re not wedded to the idea of owning full-size headphones, there’s quite a lot of competition worth considering around this price. The on-ear House of Marley Positive Vibration 2 and Urbanista Seattle Wireless have better-sculpted sound.
However, you can’t argue with the Taotronics TT-BH040s' value. While not packed with character, they carry themselves with a premium look above the affordable price tag, with aluminium touches and a generally pleasant design. From a distance, and even close up, few would guess they are so affordable. Just don’t buy them expecting the same performance as the most desirable pairs from Beats, Sennheiser or Bose.
- Best over-ear headphones 2018: the best over-ear cans out there for any budget