Sometimes when we listen to music we seek to isolate ourselves from the world around us. To do this, it is best to get headphones with built-in noise cancellation.
You will find noise canceling headphones available with very different features, different models, sizes and same price. Additionally, noise cancellation is a feature that more and more new headphones are including.
Bose and Sony are well known for this, but there are several alternatives. Also, you might want to know what best headphones in general (whether or not they have noise cancellation) or best budget headphones.
They may sound almost identical to the previous version and have the same sound quality, but Sony continues to take its flagship headphones to a new level.
In some ways, the already top-notch noise cancellation is even better. So much so that sometimes they are a bit strange.
The company has added a suite of unique AI smart technologies that will come in handy. This includes Adaptive Sound Control, DSEE Extreme, and the weird talk to chat.
There is almost nothing to dislike about this model other than, perhaps, the WH-1000XM3s are still excellent and available for much less.
Read our full review of the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones.
Bose QC 35 II
These second-generation headphones from Bose are nearly perfect and are some of the most comfortable we’ve tested, making them a great choice for long trips and flights.
The noise cancellation is excellent including three levels to choose from, the sound quality is crisp and crisp, even with the option to use the wired headphones if you want. Battery life is slightly less than Sony’s at 20 hours (wireless) and the QC35 II uses the older micro-USB port.
They include NFC for easy setup and an active digital equalizer so you can adjust the sound.
Opus represents a new direction for Razer, a company focused only on gaming peripherals until now, and the company has done very well.
While some of the ANC headphones in our catalog are pricey, the Razer Opus offers impressive noise canceling technology at an affordable price, even if they simply turn on or off.
Combine that with the sleek monochrome finish, with silver accents, and handy features like auto-pause technology and THX certification and you’ve got a phenomenal pair of cans that can handle music, TV, movies, and more.
They are also super comfortable.
NuraLoop manages to condense the magic of custom audio tuning found in the company’s first product and deliver an in-ear alternative that’s hard to beat in terms of sound quality.
They’re also very comfortable, have decent noise cancellation, and have a long battery life.
Better yet, they lower the price of Apple’s AirPods Pro and provide a better overall audio experience. Just keep in mind that it does not support virtual assistants and relies on proprietary components that can cost a bit more to replace.
Marshall monitor ii
If noise cancellation is your top priority, Marshall is a bit behind its rivals in this area, but the Monitor II’s ANC headphones have a lot to offer.
For starters, they are more affordable (RRP) and offer one of the most compact and comfortable models for a pair of in-ear headphones. They also sound great.
We also like the useful buttons, the long battery life, and the way the app lets you customize various things.
True wireless noise canceling headphones are a rarity and these are the ones that should be surpassed by anyone trying.
Still under the clunky model name, this third-gen edition has improved noise cancellation as you would expect from Sony, along with helpful touch controls and excellent sound quality.
A charging case can charge the headphones three times, giving them a duration of 24 hours. They are a bit thick compared to rivals, but they are very light so that’s not too bad.
They can be pricey for wireless headphones, but in the noise canceling world, they’re pretty affordable.
Bose QC Headphones
The QuietComfort headphones can’t quite match Sony’s for price or battery life, but they’re still brilliant wireless headphones with top-notch ANC.
They are bulkier and dated, but lightweight and secure. The main reason to buy them is the degree of control you have over noise cancellation.
In the app, you can choose 11 different levels and set three favorites that can be browsed through the touch control on the left ear cup. Ideal if you want to customize the ANC for different situations such as exercise, work and travel.
Apple AirPods Pro
Noise cancellation is one of the main new features of AirPods Pro and these wireless headphones do a great job of taking the hassle out of traffic, trains, and home appliances. They’re not as good at high frequencies as screaming kids, but it’s hard for any hearing aid.
You cannot manually adjust the intensity of the noise cancellation, but the automatic adjustment works fine. There is also a transparency mode that can be toggled with a simple press of the wand, allowing sound from the outside world to be introduced to have a conversation or listen to dangers. This is one of the best we have tried.
These are great noise canceling wireless headphones if you can afford them.
Sennheiser HD 450BT
The Sennheiser HD 450BT delivers rich sound. The accompaniment app lets you equalize the bass and treble to get the right sound, whether you prefer the bass bass or the clear midrange and treble for vocals and podcasts.
They might not be technically cheap, but they’re one of the cheapest noise-canceling headphones we’ve tested and are half the price of many competitors. The ANC is also pretty decent.
The headband and ear pads don’t snag over your head, so you can expect a comfortable fit, useful if you want to wear them for a few hours. The combination of features makes it a particularly attractive option for students.
AKG has taken what made the original N700NC headphones so great and refined it.
The sound quality is superb, with an excellent midrange complemented by balanced highs and lows. There is even the option to customize it to your liking through the companion app.
There is a great virtual assistant implementation and we had the option to choose between Google, Alexa, or Bixby (if using a Samsung phone). The battery life is also fantastic.
However, these headphones are a worthy rival to the Sony and Bose offerings, although they fall short when it comes to noise cancellation and sound isolation.
What are noise canceling headphones used for?
Noise cancellation should not be confused with sound insulation. The latter is simply how putting on headphones, regardless of the type, creates a physical barrier and blocks some of the sound around you.
Wearing earplugs when sleeping is an example of sound insulation. You can see it described as “passive noise cancellation” in headphones.
Noise-canceling headphones, on the other hand, do more than just look good. They digitally reproduce the sound in your ears – apart from the music or audiobook you are listening to – to cancel the sound around you.
This is called “active noise cancellation” (often abbreviated as ANC) and it is the thing to consider when purchasing a suitable noise canceling headset.
Headphones listen to the world around you with microphones and reproduce an inverted waveform of what they hear. So if the ambient sound is a number, say 5, the headphones play -5 for you equal to 0.
This is all done and processed in real time, so you get the effect of not hearing things around you.
Find out how we do Comments audio products.
In practice, you’ll never get 0 at all, and some headphones offer better noise cancellation than others. Either way, it makes listening to audio or speech a lot easier, as you don’t need to pump up the volume to counter the sound around you.
Nowadays, many noise canceling headphones are more advanced than just turning the feature on or off. Some will let you control the level of noise cancellation so that you can adjust it depending on where you are. This helps battery life as you can save power when you are in a less demanding place like an office.
Some also have modes that help you listen to announcements so you don’t miss something important like a knock on the airport door or a conversation with someone without taking your headphones off. This feature has many names, such as “conscious mode” and “social mode”.
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