Noise pollution is distracting and unpleasant. Fortunately, good noise cancelling headphones can dampen the noise and keep your tunes crystal clear. We’ve tracked down the best of the bunch to make your next flight or commute more pleasant.
Not all noise cancelling headphones are created equal. Some companies call their product “noise cancelling” but really their headphones are just very well insulated. This passive noise reduction is akin to putting on the earmuffs we recommended in our roundup of hearing protection for kids. It doesn’t actually “cancel” out anything it just muffles external noises.
All the headphones below are actual active noise canceling headphones that have small external microphones and advanced circuitry to actively listen to the noise in the environment and creates a matched “anti-noise” wave to cancel out the external noise. It’s pretty neat stuff and if you’re deathly curious how it works this short but informative YouTube clip from SciShow does a great job explaining it:
We’ve focused on active noise cancellation methods which typically require separate batteries or to be charged via USB. While that means there’s a little more upkeep involved and you want to keep them powered at all times, it also means you’re protected from unwelcome noise far more effectively.
One thing worth noting: while the majority of people absolutely rave about their noise cancelling headphones (especially business travelers that spend a lot of time in airplane cabins) some people need time to get used to the headphones. Not everyone is affected by it, but some people report that the noise cancellation technology creates an odd sensation of pressure in their ears that goes away after a few days of using the headphones (but in some cases people don’t adapt to it at all). It’s not a common experience but should you purchase a pair and find them uncomfortable for a reason you can’t quite put your finger on, we’d prefer that you’re well informed.
For today’s roundup we’ve focused solely at over-ear solutions. These are generally more effective than in-ear options as there is more space to pack in the circuitry and a larger battery. Here are our top picks.
Bose QuietComfort 35 ($350)
Bose is a well established name in the headphone and speakers field, so it’s little surprise they’ve got a great pair of noise-cancelling headphones on the market. The QuietComfort 35 are a premium set of cans, with plenty of options. Crucially, you can adjust the level of noise cancellation to suit your environment. You need different settings depending on if you’re on a busy commuter train or just taking a quiet walk, after all.
Music is played at a consistently appropriate level thanks to volume-optimized EQ. There’s also a dual-microphone system so you can enjoy clear phone calls, as well as control your phone and music via services like Siri.
The headphones promise up to 20…
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