Whether you’re simply looking for some peace and quiet, whether you want to stay in your world tune everything else out or find yourself in a crowded, noisy place while you’re trying to work, one can’t get enough of noise cancellation to keep things flowing and not let the external factors stop you.
Noise cancellation in headphones is a very often misunderstood or misinterpreted concept. More often than you’d think it is mistaken with noise isolation, which albeit isn’t very different, it’s hardly identical. Both concepts have a relatively similar purpose but fulfill it in different ways.
Noise cancellation is s build-oriented method of reducing the outside noise that may hinder your musical or cinematic experience that bases its entire mechanism on capturing and analyzing the incoming noise, then processing it and creating an inverted set of waves being emitted into the headphones in order to cancel out the effect altogether. Naturally, the amount of noise cancellation done is equal to the amount of noise recognized by the microphone; thus, noises such as car engines or drills for example could get blocked out, while things such as a person speaking may not be as effective.
Noise isolation on the other hand is only a physical method of stopping outside noise by simply having the earphones act as a barrier that protects you from outside noise. That basically relies on how well a pair of headphones can cover your ear; in case of overhead headphones they can muffle a great amount of the outside noise while in-ear headphones rely on how well they can seal your ear canal, and that depends on both the build of the headset as well as the shape of your ear. So two different people can find the same pair of headphones to bring good noise isolation while another would not.
Now that we’ve introduced you to the concepts of how you can make listening to music, watching movies or playing video games a truly immersive experience, here’s our very own list of top 10 best noise cancelling headphones we’ve found out on the market, in no particular order to speak of.
- Bose QuietComfort 25
- Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
- Creative Sound Blaster EVO ZxR
- Plantronics BackBeat Pro
- Philips Fidelio NC1
- Parrot Zik 2.0
- Sony MDR-ZX770BN
- PSB M4U 2
- Beats by Dr. Dre Studio
- Definitive Technology Symphony 1
Extra: Bose QuietComfort 20i
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones #1: Bose QuietComfort 25
Bose seems to have established itself as one of the best headphone manufacturers out there and the QuietComfort 25 are probably the epitome of noise cancelling headsets. Coming as an upgrade to the previous QuietComfort 15, the 25 model is also powered by batteries that permit the device to enable a new and improved noise cancelling circuitry in the first place.
The great news is, however, that even without batteries, the headphones will continue to function but without the NC component. Still, even without the noise cancellation, the Bose earphones are particularly amazing in many other aspects; the sound quality has been given a lift too, making the sound a lot more dynamic and clear.
The offside, however – and that is the case with most best noise cancelling headphones – is their spiky price tag: around $300 for a pair.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones #2: Sennheiser Momentum (Wired or Wireless)
Under no circumstance a new addition to the Bluetooth noise cancelling headphone market, but the Sennheiser remains a solid choice in terms of NC headphones even if technology has taken a few more steps and became a little more advanced in the meantime. They come in two variants, wired and wireless, but both models are equipped with noise-cancellation technology.
The only downside of the entire ordeal is that similarly to many other NC headphones, the noise cancellation is there to stay and has no way of being turned off. That is, in case you were expecting to get that amount of freedom. On top of everything, the Sennheiser Momentum is also equipped with integrated dual mics that allow you to use the headphones with your mobile for example.
The price may shock some when they see it on the Sennheiser web page: $500. However, you can find them for around $250 on Amazon.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones #3: Creative Sound Blaster EVO ZxR
As soon as you throw this pair of headphones a glance you’ll be able to tell what the targeted public for this product was: gamers, cinephiles, young and dynamic individuals. Regardless, the Creative Sound Blaster EVO ZxR pair of headphones is more so advertised to be proficient when it comes to music. With an outstanding design to speak of, they’re NFC and Bluetooth capable, meaning you can use them wirelessly with a number of devices.
On top of that you can connect them to your computer or music player of choice through either the 3.5 mm jack or the microUSB cable. Unlike the Sennheiser Momentum, the noise cancelling option can be temporarily paused, lowering the volume of your music and letting sounds from the outside go through so you don’t have to take off the headset if you’re trying to talk to someone.
The default retail price you can get the Creative Sound Blaster EVO ZxR for is $299. However, if you purchase them through creative.com, you can grab yourself a pair for $185.99 only.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones #4: Plantronics Backbeat Pro
Coming as a complete opposite to the youthful design of the Creative Sound B laster EVO ZxR, the Plantronics Backbeat Pro attempt to be as minimal and quietly elegant as they can. Designed mostly for office use, the BackBeat Pro are not particularly warm weather friendly; but pack an immense amount of features in them to make up for it. The design is clever, incorporating track control and volume in elements of the headphones you wouldn’t even think were hiding utility controls.
There is an inbuilt microphone that will allow you to use the headphones for taking calls as well and they’re smart enough to know that you’ve put them down – this will pause the music until you put them back on your head. The Plantronics Backbeat Pro also have the OpenMic mode that pushes the music into the background and pauses noise cancellation in order for you to not have to take the headset off.
The price tag on them is still relatively high, but you’re probably used to it by now: you can get the Plantronics Backbeat Pro for $249.99.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones #5: Philips Fidelio NC1
What was once one of the most renowned electronics company in the world still makes high quality devices and equipment. The Philips Fidelio NC1 is a great example of on-ear headphones that employ the noise cancelling technology, even if it’s far from the proficiency of the NC you can find on the Bose QuietComfort 25. Designed to be sturdy without adding all the bulk that some headsets end up displaying, the Philips Fidelio NC1 are easily foldable and even come with their own secure case for you to pack them in.
The headphones will continue working after you’ve run out of battery, but will have its noise cancellation system turned off instead. The sound they provide is amazingly bright and clear – this will make a great impression on short term, but may become tiring after a while. The Philiphs Fidelio NC1 feature a microphone too, so your usage of the pair can extend outside of just listening to music, especially given the 30 hours of guaranteed playback battery life.
You can purchase the Philips Fidelio NC1 for $300 directly from the manufacturer’s website or in various retail electronics store.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones #6: Parrot Zik 2.0
We continue our list of the best noise cancelling headphones of this year with something that stands out. The playful Parrot Zik 2.0 active noise cancelling headphones come with a number of great features and a very eye-catching design. And color palette. A definite upgrade over their predecessors, the Parrot Zik 2.0 headphones have gone through an intense process of improving more than just its capability of cancelling out outside noise.
There are many ways and reasons for which this pair of headphones is outstanding; the wireless audio streaming capability is one of them for example. More or less related to the way they were designed, but I found that the touch-sensitive controls placed on the right ear piece made things especially nifty and easy to handle. As a note, this is one of the very few pairs of headphones that still allow manual battery replacing; most don’t even include a removable battery pack so we can conclude that that’s a relative plus. Especially given the fact that the battery life is not as impressive to begin with.
The price of the Parrot Zik 2.0 noise cancelling headphones however is what most individuals will find to be a worrisome con: no less than $400 for one pair.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones #7: Sony MDR-ZX770BN
Unlike so many other models of the Sony headphones, we finally have here a model that doesn’t need 3 different iterations to cover great audio playback, Bluetooth and noise cancelling such as the previously reviewed Sony MDR-1R. Together with few other models from the Sony MDR family, the Sony MDR-ZX770BN noise cancelling headphones make up the entry-level and midrange Sony headphone list. As a plus, the headphones can be used both wirelessly and through Bluetooth, meaning that you won’t be hindered from making use of them on your flights – where Bluetooth is not allowed.
You can’t and shouldn’t expect the same level of quality that you find in the best noise cancelling headphones, but this model still manages to handle itself well. For some, the design may feel a little bland and unsatisfactory given all the more aesthetically pleasing models out there that manage to pull off a more premium feel. The most important downside of the Sony MDR-ZX770BN is most likely the battery life – it can only last for as long as 13 hours of playback time with noise cancelling and Bluetooth turned on.
The price is a little lower than the ones listed on here so far: $230. However, there are many online retailers that offer a considerable discount on the pair, giving you the chance to grab a pair for as low as $150.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones #8: PSB M4U 2
The PSB M4U 2 headphones are a real looker; at least in my opinion, someone else could be feeling the exact opposite simply because while they are pretty different in design, they may seem rigid and stiff for other people. This pair of noise cancelling headphones could be listed towards the top of the list when it comes to NC alone. But on top of that, you’ll be finding an outstanding sound quality packed in them as well: anything regarding instrumental separation, detail and dynamics of sound is solid. Though they may not look like it, they actually offer a great deal of comfort thanks to the surprisingly light build and the gyro suspension system that was used in the frame.
Thanks to it, you can swivel the ear cups in basically any direction until you get your perfect fit on. There’s also a great number of features packed into these headphones – some hold real utility while others are more “fun” than anything else. For example, the noise cancelling button found on the side of one of the ear cups allows you to turn NC on, off or to play the exact sounds that would be cancelled by the noise cancellation, were it turned on. I don’t see any reason I would ever use that other than being in awe at how amazing the noise cancellation technology is.
The PSB M4U2 headphones fall into the average to high price category as they will cost you $299 from most retailers.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones #9: Beats by Dr. Dre Studio 2.0
Don’t be fooled by the fact that the Beats headphones are listed 9th in our list as it’s in no way representative of what the set can achieve. The extremely popular Beats headphones have been around for a pretty long time and yet still manage to hold their weight in face of newer models altogether. After all, they’re popular for a reason. They feature a 20-hour lifetime rechargeable battery that won’t give you too much trouble.
In terms of design, this is probably one of the best choices you could ever make as the headphones display an outstanding collection of smooth surfaces and pleasing curves; together with the 3 colors that they come in (black, white and red), they are really something that you can show off. The Beats feature dual-mode Adaptive Noise Cancelling technology (the original Beats were one of the first pairs of headphones to employ it while we’re on the subject) that can be turned on and off manually and works when both wired or not.
The second version of the Beats by Dr. Dre Studio (2.0) will cost you $299, directly from the manufacturer. If you feel like that is too much to spend on a pair of noise cancelling headphones, however, you can still refer to the original version of the Beats – currently priced at $179.99 instead.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones #10: Definitive Technology Symphony 1
While it would be a blatant lie to say that the Definitive Technology Symphony 1 headphones don’t come with an absolutely elegant design, it would also be an overstatement that everyone would like them. This particular pair of noise cancelling headphones looks a tiny bit too bulky from the front, but otherwise inspire sturdiness and an extremely solid design.
The controls and plug sockets are all neatly tucked and hidden from view underneath and on the back of the right ear; that accounts for volume and track control, pairing, power, a microUSB and everything else you would ever wish for are found here. The active noise cancellation technology employed in the Definitive Technology Symphony 1 headphones is not absolute top notch, but it will help you tune out most of the outside noises whether you use them wirelessly or not. The sound quality is excellent, at least when it comes to lows and mids – the highs suffer the tiniest amount.
The price matches the quality in them, however. The manufacturer lists these noise cancelling headphones at the price of $399.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones Extra Mention: Bose QuietComfort 20i
Considering we’ve only covered circumaural (over the head) headphones throughout our entire list, I thought to offer at least 1 option for those who prefer earbuds instead. With very little room for doubt, one – if not the best noise cancelling headphones that come in the shape of earbuds we’ve found are the Bose QuietComfort 20i. That may, however, have something to do with the fact that you can’t find that many companies who have adopted the noise cancellation technology in in-ear headphones.
In the absence of a larger battery slot that would normally keep the headphones and the ANC system up and running, the Bose QuietComfort 20i battery is hidden into a slim add-on placed on the wire, accompanied by a small on/off button. They are also gifted with an on-wire remote control with 3 buttons that will work with most iOS and Android devices and their very own microphone.
The price that they come at is particularly spicy, especially when it comes to in-ear headphones; at $400, they even exceed most of the over the head pairs we’ve listen in here.