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Last update on 2020-10-20 / Affiliate links / Images, Product Titles, and Product Highlights from Amazon Product Advertising API
Background noises can prevent you from enjoying your music or concentrating on your doing. This is especially true when you’re commuting in the public transportation or working at an open-concert office. A good noise cancelling headphone is a lifesaver in these situations. The best noise cancelling headphones help you enjoy your music to the fullest without background noises interfering.
Whether you’re working from home or going around in public places, you’d want to have a little peace of mind. Noise cancelling headphones are great for just that and more. However, choosing the best noise cancelling headphones is no easy task. There’s a variety of models and features to choose from. For that reason, we’ve put together a buying guide to help make your decision making process easier:
Not all headphones achieve noise cancelling in the same way. The goal is universal, blocking external noises, but there are three main routes that a headphone can take:
Passive noise cancellation
This route is often known as noise isolation. This is the simplest form of noise cancellation: physically blocking all sounds through the use of a barrier or material. In other words, passive noise cancelling headphones block out sounds by the physical features of the headphone. There’s no technology involved in passive noise cancellation so there’s no battery drain. The downside is that headphones of this type tend to be heavy and bulky.
For instance, some over-ear headphones such as Bose QuietComfort 35 II or Koss QZ-99 cover your ears entirely. Thus minimizing the amount of noises that could potentially get into your ears. Similarly, passive cancelling in-ear headphones work by fitting into your ear canal and seal it tightly.
Active noise cancellation
The most common type of noise cancellation. How it works is pretty complicated. An active noise cancellation (ANC) headphones first picks up external sounds through the built-in microphones. Then the noise cancelling circuitry will produce an inverse wave to cancel the ambient noise. This whole process requires power hence ANC headphones drain more battery than passive noise cancelling headphones. Furthermore, it also puts more pressure on your ears and affects the music quality.
Adaptive noise cancellation
This type of noise cancellation is similar to the above one. The big difference is the “adaptive” part. Adaptive technology uses microphones and algorithms to adjust noise cancellation level based on the intensity and type of noises. For instance, an adaptive noise cancelling headphone will let you hear announcements or your colleagues’ voices while blocking out other sounds.
The only disadvantage is that their prices tend to be on the expensive side. After all, you’re paying more for the best sound and noise cancellation quality possible. Some great models include Sennheiser PXC 550-II and Bowers & Wilkins PX7.
Noise cancelling headphones are more on the expensive side. A typically quality pair costs you around $300 or more. Some of the best noise cancelling headphones can top $400.
Between $200-300 mark, in-ear headphones such as Apple AirPods Pro are the better choices in terms of price value. You can still find decent noise-canceling performance at below $200 price range. The $150 is the sweet spot between performance and affordability. Check out this Sennheiser HD 4.50 which won’t cost you an arm and a leg for the best sound quality possible.
Comfort is another factor you’ll need to keep in mind to be able to choose the best noise cancelling headphones. You should try them out before buying. Check the headband and ear cups for comfortability. Make sure the whole thing doesn’t stay too tight or too loose on your head. Check to see if the headphone applies any kind pressure, if any. And whether it’s pressuring you too much or not.
Another thing you need to take into consideration is the form factor. There’s a variety of form factors and their comfortability also differ: In-ear, over-ear and on-ear. Just make sure to know research beforehand to know which type makes the best noise cancelling headphones for your needs.
All in all, there’s no right answer. Some noise cancelling headphones would feel more comfortable for a person than others. The best thing to do is just go to your local stores and try it on yourself. Here are some headphones which are best known for being extra comfortable: Bose QuietComfort 35 II, COWIN E7 PRO, Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8.
Noise cancellation has an audio processor, and this device needs power, thus it drains battery faster. Therefore, you should keep battery life in mind when looking for the best noise cancelling headphones. A long battery life helps you avoid the hassle of having to charge your noise cancelling headphones too often. Plus, you also get to enjoy your listening on a more extended session without interruptions.
Noise cancelling headphones typically offers anywhere between 4 and 30 hours of battery life. A noise cancelling pair with 15-hour+ of battery life is enough to last you a long flight or long working day.
You may want to get a headphone like Anker Soundcore Life Q20 which features up to 30-hour of continuous use. Sony WF-1000XM3 offers only 6 hours of battery life but this number can be doubled thanks to the included charging case.
Another feature you want to look out for is the fast charging. It helps you change your headset as much as possible within a short amount of time. You will feel grateful having a noise cancelling headphone pair with fast charging when you’re in a pinch. For instance, this VANKYO C751 offers 1-2 hours of listening with a quick 10-minutes charge.
Noise cancelling headphones definitely worth the price, and here’s why:
Blocking annoying noises: As the name implies, they can help you escape from all the noises around you. Be it the roaring engine, traffic sounds, etc.
Helping you concentrate better: As you are free from all the distractions, you can pay more attention to what you’re doing better.
Protecting your hearing: You don’t have to put the music to high volume to reduce external noises anymore. Thus your hearing won’t be impacted in the long run.
However, like any other audio devices, noise cancelling headphones also have their own shortcomings:
Price: An average noise cancelling headphones cost more than any average pair of headphones. This is due to the sophisticated nature of their design, feature and structure.
Heavy design: Due to the need to house all the necessary components, noise cancelling headphones tend to be on the heavy side.
Power-dependent: Even wired noise cancelling headphones require charging. This is because the cancellation technology needs power to operate properly.
Sound quality: Suppressing external sounds come at the cost of compromising the sound quality. This is not a deal breaker as most people won’t notice it but still an issue to some people.
Most noise cancelling headphones are best at blocking constant noises, such as engine jet, blowing fans, etc. Active noise cancelling headphones are not great for blocking voices or unpredictable sounds. They are more suited for mid to high frequency sounds. Passive noise cancelling headphones are more adept at filtering out human voices and low frequency sounds. If you want the best noise cancellation for any situation, you should choose adaptive noise cancelling headphones.
Yes, noise cancelling headphones are great for having a good night rest. Remember to choose wireless headphones so as not to get entangled with the cables in the middle of the night. A small compact form factor would also be great for sleeping.
For best comfort, pay attention to the form factor of headphones of your choice.
Over-ear or on-ear headphones: Maybe are not the best option as they are big and bulky. However, they are still decent for people who sleep on their backs.
In-ear and earbud headphones: These are great choices for both back and side sleepers. Another note is you need to take hygiene into consideration.
Another great type of headphones for sleeping is Headband phones. They are typically made of comfortable material. Their design allows you to toss and turn in your sleep to your heart’s content.
The best noise cancelling headphones are for everyone. They bring every person who just wants some quiet time a peace of mind in noisy environments. Thanks to being wireless and portable, you can use them almost everywhere at any time. You can even use them without music if you just want to concentrate on your work. You could use a pair of noise cancelling headphone while:
Meditation in the park
Work in silence
Working out at the gym
Commuting using public transportations
Sleeping at night
Waiting at the airport
Yes, there are. There exists plenty of additional gear you can buy to protect your headphones or enhance the listening experience. Some of them include:
Headphone cases: These will protect your headphones from shock, water, dust, etc. any external harms that could make your precious headphones malfunction.
Power banks: Pick one of these and your headphone’s battery life will be extended significantly.
Cushion kits: If your ear pads are dirty or damaged, you can easily pick up a replacement ear cushion.
The best overall noise cancelling headphone pair is Sony WH-1000XM4. This premium boasts supreme comfortably and helpful features. The built-in Speak-to-chat technology allows you to chat with your friends or colleagues while listening to music seamlessly. Compared to the previous XM3 model, the XM4 features took the overall sound quality up a notch. If you are willing to pay a pretty penny for the best of the best, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is worth it.
Another great option is the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. This fantastic pair of headphones is the best choice for business users. It features 11 levels of noise cancelling control and the best in-line call quality. The design is sleek and solid; the Bose 700 adds a nice touch with its whole stainless-steel-like build quality.
Noise cancelling technology still has some limitations. At this point in time they can’t block all kinds of external noises. What’s important is that you are aware of what every noise cancellation type has to offer and choose accordingly. There’s no right or wrong choice, only the best noise cancelling headphones that suit you the most.
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