I have a question:
Have you ever noticed that the noise of everyday life can affect your concentration?
A plane flight turns into an exercise in frustration as the engine noise hums, babies cry, people argue… The chatter of your coworkers makes it impossible to get anything done at work…
How do you make all of those noises and distractions go away? Noise cancelling headphones, that’s how. Read on for in-depth reviews of the best noise cancelling headphones for every budget.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Noise Cancelling Headphones 2017
- 2 Bose QuietComfort 25 – Editor’s Choice #1
- 3 Sennheiser HD 280 Pro
- 4 BÖHM Wireless – Editor’s Choice #2
- 5 Sony MDR-ZX110NC Noise Cancelling
- 6 Phiaton BT 220 NC Wireless Earphones
- 7 Samsung Level On Wireless
- 8 Bose QuietControl 30 Wireless Earbuds
- 9 Plantronics BackBeat PRO Hi-Fi
- 10 Sony MDR-1000X/B – Top Of The Line
- 11 Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless
- 12 Noise Cancelling Headphones Buyer’s Guide
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones 2017
|Noise Cancelling Headphones||Type||Wireless||Price||Rating||Availability|
|Bose QuietComfort 25|
(Editor's Choice #1)
|Sennheiser HD 280 Pro||Over-Ear||No||$$||Check Price|
(Editor's Choice #2)
|Sony MDR-ZX110NC||On-Ear||No||$||Check Price|
|Phiaton BT 220 NC||Ear Bud||Yes||$$||Check Price|
|Samsung Level On||On-Ear||Yes||$$||Check Price|
|Bose QuietControl 30||Ear Bud||Yes||$$$||Check Price|
|Plantronics BackBeat Pro||On-Ear||Yes||$$||Check Price|
|Sony MDR-1000X/B||Over-Ear||Yes||$$$||Check Price|
|Bose QuietComfort 35||Over-Ear||Yes||$$$||Check Price|
Bose QuietComfort 25 – Editor’s Choice #1
Many years ago I bought my first pair of noise cancelling headphones because I was living in an apartment next to astoundingly noisy neighbors that had a habit of fighting with remarkable frequency.
I worked two jobs at that time, one of which was from home so I picked up a pair of Bose, not knowing that I was actually buying the best noise cancelling headphones on the market and was able to enjoy the bliss of quiet while at my computer.
Since that time noise cancelling technology has come a long way and the QuietComfort 25 is one of the latest models in this field of audio bliss from Bose, one of the most venerated companies in the field. Included in the box you’ll find:
- Your QuietComfort 25 headphones
- A 56 inch cable and remote
- An airline adapter
- A soft carrying case
- One AAA battery
You can choose between the black or white design, and after having seen both I really like the white design, though if you’re not a fan of standing out in any way once you’ve put your headphones on you should go with the black (the white look killer and I’ve actually started more than a few conversations based on them, so single guys and girls might want to give them a try).
These are around-ear headphones, meaning they will swallow up your lovely ears, a design style that makes them far more effective at cancelling noise, though for those of us with larger than normal ears it can lead to a touch of discomfort because they’re pretty tight.
Cancelling Noise Has Never Felt So Good
Here are some of the noises I cancelled using these Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones:
- Ambient noise on a plane.
- Couple fighting in a park (not quite as noisy as my former neighbors, but still pretty loud).
- Baby crying like crazy at the DMV (what a terrible day that was).
- Father in law snoring while in his recliner.
- Same father in law putting his TV at a deafening level because he can’t hear anything.
The headphones handled all of it with ease, leaving me to calmly and quietly go about my business. One of my favorite features is that you can simply put on the headphones, turn on the noise cancelling feature, and not have anything playing in your ears but still experience relative quiet.
Excellent Sound Quality Too
Bose has a well-deserved reputation for excellent sound quality thanks to years of tireless research and development and that continues with the QuietComfort 25 headphones. They’re far superior to a pair of ear buds, even those produced by Bose, with better bass and a wider range of sounds pumping into your ears.
I listen to a wide variety of music, including classical when I’m trying to get work done, like when I was flying with these and was putting together a laptop review. When I hit play I was astounded at how good Bach’s Cello Suite No. 5 sounded in my ears (I know, it’s a pretty basic choice, but nothing helps me focus quite like that piece of music).
The price is probably the biggest drawback to the Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones, but you knew coming into this review they were going to be expensive (I hope). There are a few other small (and I emphasize small) complaints too:
- I mentioned this above, but they did cause some discomfort mostly due to my big ears.
- The construction is a little bit cheaper than previous versions, potentially leading to quicker degradation.
- Ear cushions will wear out in 1-2 years with consistent use.
Bose has long maintained its position at the top of the market in the world of high-end headphones, and with good reason. They produce exceptionally high quality products with great sound and their QuietComfort 25 Noise Cancelling Headphones are another victory for them. The price is steep, but there’s lots of technology at work under the hood here and you’re most certainly getting what you pay for.
- Excellent noise cancelling ensures quiet time whenever you need it.
- Sound is terrific.
- Comfortable and cool looking, especially if you go with the white headphones.
- Long battery life and you can still play your music when it dies, you just can’t use the noise cancelling feature.
- The price.
- They skimped just a little bit on some of the construction, giving it a slightly cheaper feel.
My quest to find the best headphones has led me to the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro and they’re selling really cheap, so what might seem like a dream is indeed a reality.
Noise Suppression from Sennheiser
Technically these are not active noise cancelling headphones since they don’t feature the technology to do so (read the buyer’s guide to find out what noise cancelling headphones actually do).
Instead, these would best be described as noise suppression or noise isolating headphones that manage to block out or dampen most noise with 32dB of sound attenuation that’s more than enough to spare your ears from most annoying sounds and keep the price exceptionally cheap compared to competitors.
Sennheiser Sound & Design Are Top Notch
Those of you even mildly familiar with headphones will know the name Sennheiser as they’ve earned a well-deserved reputation for crafting high quality products. Here are some of the things I loved about these headphones:
- The sound is exceptional in a way that was genuinely stunning the first time I wore them. I encourage you to use a pair of cheap earbuds or headphones and then put these on. Even if you’re listening to the same song it will feel like a whole new type of music playing in your ears.
- Earpads, audio cord, and headband padding can all be replaced, leading to a longer life.
- Durable enough to withstand a few drops and some unintentional abuse on my part. Reviews I’ve combed through online speak to the same thing.
- They’re compatible with everything I used. I primarily listen to music on my phone and of course there was no issue there, but I tried them with my laptop, tablet, and even an old MP3 player I still have laying around and they worked perfectly.
- The collapsible design makes them much easier to transport. This was helpful for the few plane trips I took while reviewing these as they took up less space in my bag.
Excellent Warranty and Durability
Durability is a constant issue with headphones if you use them as often as I do (5-8 hours a day, on average), so it’s heartening that Sennheiser has crafted these to last, which some manufacturers refuse to do (they call it planned obsolescence and it sucks). In addition to being exceptionally durable the HD 280 Pro Headphones come with a 2 year warranty that includes replacing any parts that break due to manufacturer failure.
Old Model Means a Great Price
Typically, a pair of headphones of this quality will cost you in the neighborhood of $300, so it’s rather remarkable that the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones are currently retailing for much less. The chief reason for this is that they’re fairly old, having been released nearly a decade ago, but they still produce incredible sound and when you consider the price you’d be foolish not to at least consider these.
Commonly Reported Issues
There’s no such thing as a perfect pair of headphones, of course, and the HD 280 Pros have a few issues that are widely reported in user reviews:
- For those with big heads, these can apparently be a little too small. Oddly, it seems that Sennheiser has continuous issues in this department where sometimes the ear phones simply don’t come down far enough if you’re blessed (or cursed?) with a particularly large head.
- Because they’re noise suppressing headphones instead of true noise cancelling it means the ear cups need to fit a little tighter to do the job. This can lead to discomfort for some people as their ears get squeezed (as a guy with big ears I noticed a little of this, though it went away as my head got used to the headphones).
Those of you shopping with a small budget should be drooling at the idea of getting to buy the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones. The design and quality of sound usually retail for a far higher price, but the number of newer models means these have reached a discount place in the retail cycle and it’s time to jump if you’re looking for a mind blowing deal on a great pair of headphones.
- Truly unbeatable price.
- Great sound.
- Exceptional 2 year warranty.
- Impressive outside sound suppression.
- The ear pads fit can be a little tight.
- If you have a big head they might not fit.
BÖHM Wireless – Editor’s Choice #2
Any search for noise cancelling headphones needs to include those at the lower end of the price spectrum, and the BÖHM Wireless Bluetooth Headphones certainly qualify. They offer active noise cancelling technology, a cool-looking retro design, a rechargeable battery, and that great price, among other things. So, let’s take a deeper look.
A Lot to Like About These Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
They’ve done a good job with these BÖHM wireless headphones, considering the price point they were trying to hit. Here’s what I really like about them:
- The design is amazing. They’ve gone with a very distinct, almost retro look for these, and it’s fantastic. I prefer the look of the black and silver since the gold is actually a little closer to rose-colored in person, but both sets look great and I actually got a few compliments while wearing them in a coffee shop.
- The rechargeable battery takes only three hours to fill for roughly 16 hours of listening time. That amount can range and it seems like having the active noise cancelling on shortens the battery life.
- The bass is fantastic. If you’re keen on a pair of headphones that provide pumping bass in your ears, the BÖHM headphones are a good choice. I love that deep sound, especially since it allows me to completely disappear into the music and whatever I’m doing when I feel like it.
- They arrived at a comfort level that’s just right for me. With noise cancelling on-ear headphones it can be difficult to find the right balance between tightness and comfort. BÖHM did a great job in this regard as they felt comfortable over many hours of use and they provided both noise dampening and noise cancelling when I had the feature turned on.
- That price can’t be beat. I’m going to hit this one more time because it’s pretty compelling. It’s hard to find a pair of headphones with active noise cancelling in this price range, so it’s really impressive that they were able to pull it off.
Low Cost Headphones Have Some Issues
Not surprisingly, when you aim for the lower end of the price spectrum you have to compromise on a few things and the BÖHM headphones are not immune to having to make those choices. A few issues that are worth noting:
- In the documentation they make a point of saying that “severe manipulation of the headphones” can lead to damage, which is a way of letting you know that you can’t get too rough with them or they’ll break (which has happened to many users).
- The active noise cancelling technology here simply isn’t as good as the more expensive headphones. This is not surprising as you can’t expect to get the same level of quality for one third of the price.
- The sound quality tends to degrade the further you get from the source of music. If you’ve got your phone or MP3 player in your pocket all the time it won’t be an issue, but if you’re leaving it charging or don’t want to carry it while you move around the house/office, you will notice some sound degradation.
The BÖHM Wireless Bluetooth Headphones with Noise Cancelling technology are all about buying on a budget. You’re not going to get a much lower price on headphones with genuine active noise cancelling (the others in this price range tend to feature noise dampening through design, not technology) and that alone is a good reason to consider them if you’re on a budget. They deliver good sound, they’re long lasting as long as you treat them gently, and they look fantastically cool.
- Unbelievably good price.
- Fantastic design looks amazing.
- Good sound quality.
- Easy Bluetooth pairing.
- Noise cancelling technology could be better.
- Require gentle use or the headband might break.
- Need to stay close to your music source when going wireless.
Sony MDR-ZX110NC Noise Cancelling
Let’s be honest here: you’re not going to get the best headphones for a handful of dollars, no matter how hopeful you might be or how positive some of the user reviews are.
You’d be a bit nuts if you thought such a thing was possible, but chances are good you’re here looking to see if the Sony MDR-ZX110NC Noise Cancelling Headphones are any good at all because you don’t want to shell out $300 for the latest and greatest pair on the market.
The Sony MDR-ZX110NC are designed as a low cost option for those of you shopping on a budget and it’s honestly a tremendous accomplishment on the part of the venerable Japanese company to have produced them at this price. These are not for the audiophiles out there, but they do their job exceptionally well.
A typical buyer for these noise cancelling headphones wants them largely for their ability to block basic noise, not produce stunning sound and complete silence. Here are some examples of people that have expressed delight with the headphones:
- Office workers looking to drown out the sound of their coworkers in cubicles, printers, etc.
- People riding the bus/train every morning to work and looking to quiet the various noises of fellow passengers, the rumble of the engine, etc.
- Frequent flyers looking to buy an airplane noise reducing set of headphones for a low cost.
- Those looking to cancel the noise of a chaotic home while still being able to hear if they’re needed.
Are the Sony MDR-ZX110NC Headphones Comfortable?
Sony has always done a good job designing for functionality and the MDR-ZX110NC headphones are exceptionally comfortable. They’re an over-ear design with soft, plastic covered foam ear pads and a plastic headband. If you have an unusually large head the headband might be uncomfortable if it’s pressing tightly against your noggin. My big ears were comfortable because the fit wasn’t too tight, though this does sometimes cause a bit of sound leakage.
What You Get for Your Money
Not surprisingly, the package is pretty bare bones here, but that’s okay.
- The headphones, obviously, are included. The cord is attached and not replaceable by any sort of easy means, so if it breaks you’re likely just going to replace the headphones.
- They feature a 30mm neodymium driver.
- The included battery provides somewhere between 40-80 hours of life.
- There is no carrying case, but these are meant to be durable so they can withstand a fair amount of punishment in your bag.
- A 1 year limited warranty that covers product failure but not any damage you’ve done to them.
A top of the line pair of noise cancelling headphones costs 10 times what you’ll pay for the Sony MDR-ZX110NC model and they’re not 10 times better, which means you’re getting a pretty good deal with these. They’re not top of the line by any means, but they will serve your needs of cancelling a certain amount of noise and providing a good sound experience. They’re certainly recommended if you want a basic pair of headphones with decent noise cancelling.
- An astoundingly low price.
- Effective noise cancelling.
- Good warranty.
- Long battery life.
- Noise cancelling isn’t as good as the high end headphones.
- Sound leaves something to be desired.
- Head strap can be a little uncomfortable if you’re blessed with a big head.
Phiaton BT 220 NC Wireless Earphones
It shouldn’t surprise me that noise cancelling technology exists in ear bud form, but I was a little surprised when I received the Phiaton BT 220 NC noise cancelling earphones and found they were of the ear bud design.
They’re focused on cancelling ambient noise (car and bus engines, the din of an office, etc) and they actually work exceptionally well, making them one of the best options if you don’t want the over ear design.
What is Phiaton?
You’re not alone if you’ve never heard of Phiaton, the maker of these headphones, because I’d never heard of them before prepping for this review.
Phiaton is a division of Cresyn Co., Ltd., created in 2008 and headquartered in Irvine, CA with the purpose of establishing a foothold in the high-end headphone market in the United States and around the world. They’ve established a good reputation, and while they’re not nearly as successful as some of the bigger companies in the market they have garnered largely positive reviews from their customers.
In Love the Ear Bud Design
I’ve always felt a touch awkward wearing over-ear headphones in public because I end up feeling like everyone is looking at me (which sometimes they are) because they stand out so significantly, but that problem is solved by the Phiaton BT 220 NC. Here are a few other things I like about them:
- The limited noise cancellation is handier than I thought it would have been in certain circumstances. With over-ear headphones I often can’t hear anything, which makes it difficult to know if someone is talking to me, forcing them to tap my shoulder. That’s not a problem here.
- The sound is fantastic. For a pair of headphones in this price range it needs to be excellent and they’ve nailed it.
- They were exceptionally comfortable. Sometimes ear buds are uncomfortable or they keep slipping out, but these are really well designed to the point that I barely even feel them.
- I typically get 12 hours of use out of the battery before it needs to be recharged. This is with the noise cancelling feature on; if that’s turned off they’ll last a little bit longer.
- If the battery runs out I can simply plug the headphones into my device and keep listening, though obviously the noise cancelling feature will stop working at that point.
- The microphone is quite sensitive, which is a positive and a negative. If you’re making a call in an area with a lot of ambient noise the person you’re talking to is going to hear most of it. That’s a pain, but if you’re making that call in a quiet place the sound will be crystal clear in a way most microphones don’t provide.
A Few Issues
Perfection doesn’t really exist in noise cancelling headphones, and the Phiaton’s are no exception. A few things I’m not thrilled with:
- There is no visual battery indicator. Instead, you have to push the power button twice to get an audio read out of how much battery life you have left.
- Sometimes Bluetooth just isn’t great. This has nothing to do with Phiaton, but is instead an issue that comes up with almost every pair of wireless headphones and can lead to sound delay and a less crisp than would be perfect sound quality.
- Their noise cancelling technology doesn’t handle wind as well as it could, leading to issues on days where it’s blowing hard.
The Phiaton BT 220 NC Wireless Active Noise Cancelling Earphones offered an impressive listening experience for me and if you’re looking for an ear bud style design I would thoroughly recommend them. The drawbacks are minimal and the sound quality and noise cancelling technology are near the top of the market while the price isn’t. With a long battery life, the ability to go wired if the battery runs out, and a top notch microphone in addition to the great sound they should provide everything you need.
- Excellent ambient noise cancelling technology.
- Great sound quality.
- Comfortable for long term use.
- Sensitive microphone makes for great sound on calls.
- No visual battery life indicator.
- Issues with wind being too loud.
- Sensitive microphone means most ambient noise is picked up for phone calls.
Samsung Level On Wireless
Don’t worry, your Samsung Level On Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones won’t explode like their recent smartphones were prone to doing.
Instead, this technologically impressive device aims to offer best sound along with exciting advancements that improve your listening experience.
Technology Enhances the Headphone Experience
Usually, technological advancements mean better noise cancelling or higher quality sound (think DJ headphones) for the same price, but in the case of the Samsun Level On Headphones it means touch controls and an app that syncs with them.
- The Samsung Level App is available only for Android devices (like the ones Samsung sells that don’t have problems with exploding) and is used to control advanced settings for your headphones. These settings include a volume monitor designed to protect your hearing, the battery status of your headphones, and changing the Samsung SoundAlive settings.
- The Samsung SoundAlive Equalizer can be controlled from the aforementioned app and it lets you customize your listening experience.
- The headphones feature touch controls instead of clumsy buttons, letting you simply tap the side to control volume, track skipping, play/pause, and S Voice mode.
Excellent Sound to Go with Technological Wizardry
Of course, none of that would matter if the headphones sounded terrible, so it’s nice to know that they produce top quality sound for music lovers. The 40mm drivers mean crystal clear sound over a full range and bass that will blow your mind.
I love a nice, loud bass and it sounded amazing on all my favorite songs. The active noise cancellation is excellent with these, blocking out a considerable percentage of ambient noise (95% is the typical claim for headphones of this type, but that seems awfully hard to prove).
They’re Soft and Comfortable
The design is fairly simple, so if you’re looking for something flashy and sexy looking the Samsung Level On Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones won’t be for you. They’re remarkably comfortable though and that’s really all I care about.
They’re on-ear headphones and they achieve the right level of tightness to spare my ears too much pain but still prevent sound leakage (which is no small feat as many headphone manufacturers can’t manage it. The headband is nicely padded but not bulky.
Issues with Construction
- There are enough complaints in the user reviews about the headphones breaking too soon that they can’t be ignored. You should keep in mind that you’ll need to be gentle with them, so if you drop your headphones a lot or hold them in a bag that tends to be beat up it’s probably not the best purchase for you.
- There have also been a smaller number of complaints about the touch controls being less responsive than would be ideal, and in some cases being unresponsive. This is not surprising and if you run into such issues you’ll wonder why they chose them over simple buttons that rarely end up defective.
At the most basic level the Samsung Level On Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones are an excellent choice that provide premium sound and the ability to enjoy it without outside interference. The addition of an app that pairs with them (as long as you’re using an Android phone) and touch controls make it feel like you’re getting even more for your money, with minor caveats about the need to be gentle with them since they’re more prone to from mild abuse.
- Great sound.
- Noise cancelling is excellent.
- App that pairs with the phone allows for deep customization of your sound.
- Priced to offer a bargain.
- Many users have reported the headphones are fragile.
- Touch controls don’t always function properly.
Bose QuietControl 30 Wireless Earbuds
I prefer over-ear or on-ear headphones most of the time, but they’re not always the right choice, especially for working out or when my (admittedly large) ears need a break from the pressure placed on them by padded ear cup headphones.
That’s where a set like the Bose QuietControl 30 comes in as they attempt to harness the best noise cancelling technology in the world and put it into a pair of ear buds.
So Much More than Ear Buds
These are not like the pair of ear buds you get with your iPhone or you pick up for $10 at the store. They cost a lot more and they’re loaded with the sort of technology that has made Bose so famous.
Here’s a quick overview of what makes these headphones stand out from others in the ear bud style:
- The comfort is exceptional and they come with three sizes of ear tips to give you a proper selection of options that will ensure they fit perfectly in your ear.
- The sound is as good as it gets with an ear bud design and doesn’t require you to completely fill your ear canal to get it.
- Noise cancellation minimizes outside distraction while not requiring sometimes cumbersome and too tight over the ear headphones.
- Wireless listening for up to 10 hours with a lithium ion battery charge.
- Simple and responsive controls let you skip tracks, change the volume, and pause with ease.
Noise Cancellation Is Good but Not Great
The most significant drawback of the headphone style Bose has gone with here is that the noise cancelling isn’t as good as their over and on ear designs. I experience issues and numerous users have complained about the same things in their reviews online.
- The wind seems to wreak havoc, which is true of almost every set of ear bud style headphones. Since it doesn’t necessarily create ambient noise except when hitting your ears it might be next to impossible for ear buds to eliminate it.
- Lower register sounds were cancelled fairly well (things like the drone of an engine, a vacuum, etc) but I noticed higher register sounds were still coming through (people talking, yelling, crying baby, etc).
Clear Calls with a Dual Microphone System
Modern headphones almost always include a microphone so you can make phone calls since we almost all listen to music on our phones. Those headsets also struggle with offering microphones that don’t suffer greatly due to ambient noise, making it hard for the person on the other end of the line to hear you.
Bose uses a dual microphone system that, through the magic of technology, works to eliminate most ambient noise. Calls become much clearer, even on a windy day that would wreak havoc with most microphones, and the person on the other end of the line will thank you for it.
Though Bose is known for their over-ear and on-ear headphones, they’ve long produced earbud style headphones as well and their latest model, the Bose QuietControl 30 is an excellent choice for a high end shopper. Their noise cancelling technology is good, the sound is top of the line, and thanks to smart design with their microphones you can make crystal clear calls with plenty of ambient noise and wind that won’t come through.
- Great sound for listening to music and entertainment.
- Noise cancelling is effective.
- Most comfortable ear buds in the industry.
- Easy Bluetooth paring to up to two devices.
- 10 hours of wireless listening on a lithium ion battery.
- Headphones do not work while the battery is charging.
- Noise cancelling is not quite as good as over ear headphones.
- Neckband tends to move and twist during a jog.
Plantronics BackBeat PRO Hi-Fi
I can’t help but appreciate a pair of headphones that wants to provide literally everything you could possibly want, like the Plantronics BackBeat PRO headphones do.
The question is, do they manage to achieve their goals and come close to being the best noise cancelling pair of headphones at their price range?
What Do These Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones Do?
Here’s what you’re getting when you purchase these headphones:
- A comfortable pair of headphones with soft ear cups and a padded headband that fit well on heads of all sizes.
- Noise cancelling technology that skillfully blocks out background noise, including the sometimes deafeningly loud noise of airplane engines, making them excellent for flying.
- Bluetooth connectivity lets you wirelessly connect to up to two devices, letting you effortlessly listen to music and answer calls at your leisure.
- Dual built-in microphones that pick up your voice very well and offer clear sound when you’re on the phone, making it simple to leave your headphones on and enjoy a conversation.
- Battery life that promises up to 24 hours of listening and a promised wireless range of up to 330 feet (it’s a lot less than that if the signal is having to go through walls, so don’t roam too far).
- Effortless controls with the volume on the right ear cup and the track control on the right ear cup. One tap pauses the music and another tap starts it up again.
I Love the Noise Cancelling Technology
Here’s how I tested the noise cancelling technology on the Plantronics Backbeat Pro: I’d take them around to various noisy places, get comfortable, and then turn on the noise cancelling to see if it got the job done. Let’s see how they did:
- On the train. The noisiest part of the train is the other people and I was pleased that the headphones were able to cancel out everything except for a particularly loud gentleman sitting two seats down from me.
- In a loud coffee shop. Most coffee shops are pretty quiet as everyone is busy working, but this particular shop is known for people loudly talking, mostly blowing hard about their brilliant business ideas. Couple that with the sounds of baristas pulling shots and you’ve got a perfect environment for cancelling noise. I can report the headphones worked perfectly.
- In an office. The desire to drown out the din of an office is one of the primary reasons people buy noise cancelling headphones. Those of you shopping for that reason will find the BackBeat Pro an excellent choice.
- On an airplane. After a few hours I tend to go a little crazy listening to the loud drone of the plane engine. Thankfully, these headphones cancelled that noise with ease and left me to enjoy the movie I was watching on my tablet.
- At a family dinner. Just kidding. As much as I’d like to drown out my family sometimes, my mother would never approve.
Mild Concerns with Durability
When reviewing a wide selection of headphones it’s difficult to get a grasp on how durable they are because you need to use them for more than a year to have a true judgment of that. For that reason, the user reviews are the best place to get a sense of how long they’re going to last.
The Plantronics BackBeat PRO have garnered a small but concerning number of complaints about durability issues, most notably with the ear cups breaking in the 12-24 month range. It’s worth considering that most headphones run into this issue though, so it’s not a standout problem. The warranty lasts a year and they’ll replace any broken parts during that period (unless you broke them, of course).
I applaud Plantronics for aiming high and congratulate them for achieving excellence with their BackBeat PRO headphones. The noise cancelling is top notch, the sound is great, they’re comfortable, and the battery life is impressive even if it’s not quite as long as they promise (it never is). These are well worth a purchase.
- Great noise cancelling technology.
- Sound is terrific with great bass.
- On ear controls are intuitive and responsive.
- Good price.
- Some durability issues.
- Headphones don’t fold up, making them take up more space for storage.
Sony MDR-1000X/B – Top Of The Line
Now we’ve graduated to the big leagues with this pair of headphones that are absolutely worth every penny for the incredible noise cancelling technology and top notch sound they deliver. These might actually be the best noise cancelling pair of headphones on the market today and if you can stomach the asking price you’re not likely to be disappointed.
Top of the Line Noise Cancelling Technology
When it comes to noise cancelling headphones you essentially get what you pay for. The more expensive the headphones, the better the noise cancelling is going to be and that’s pretty much how it is across the board, so let’s go over what makes Sony MDR-1000X/B better:
- Most importantly, the noise cancelling technology is simply more effective than most other headphones in this category. There’s no noticeable, white noise style hum, but instead you hear almost nothing at all when you’ve activated it.
- Adaptable technology means that it’s equipped to cancel noise in a wide variety of environments and can do so quickly and efficiently.
- One of my favorite things is the various noise cancellation settings it offers, like the ability to filter out ambient noise but not voices. That lets you hear announcements at the airport or on planes or even your significant other when he/she calls for you while you’re listening to music or a podcast.
- In consideration of your safety they’ve created a mode that lets you hear sounds like traffic to make sure you’re not walking down the street completely deaf to the outside world.
The Sound Is Excellent Too
Of course, none of that would amount to a hill of beans if the sound was rubbish, but Sony hasn’t skimped a bit on that (they really couldn’t have when you consider the asking price for these). Instead, you get top of the line sound that still surprises me every time I put the headphones on (one of my favorite things about them, to be honest).
It’s so clear, so crisp, and so wide-ranging that I smile when I first hit play on my favorite song or fire up a TV show or streaming movie. It’s akin to a fantastic surround sound system in a movie theater, only I can replicate it whenever I want by simply putting on my headphones.
They’ve Got the Basics Covered Too
A few other things you should know about the Sony MDR-1000X/B:
- The rechargeable battery offers up to 20 hours of listening time and it’s been pretty accurate so far.
- Bluetooth connectivity is offered and pairing is fairly easy, though it can be a little bit of a hassle sometimes.
- The warranty offers an exchange/repair of defective headphone for 90 days and exchange of damaged parts for one year.
- A hard carrying case that effortlessly protects your headphones from damage.
- Touch controls on the ear phones let you play/pause, skip tracks, and change the volume.
- An integrated microphone makes it easy to take phone calls and it provides clear audio to the person on the other end.
Life is good when you’re at the top of the headphone market and can buy the Sony MDR-1000X/B. You’re not going to find better noise cancelling technology and when combined with the excellent sound provided it’s a near flawless experience as long as you can afford it.
- Unparalleled noise cancelling technology.
- Great sound.
- Long lasting rechargeable battery.
- Comes with a hard carrying case to protect your headphones.
- Different noise cancelling modes are an impressive addition.
- Bluetooth connectivity is sometimes a pain.
Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless
Chances are good you’ve heard of Bose, one of the world’s foremost manufacturers of headphones and speakers and a well-respected company that’s always been at the forefront of high quality sound. They want to be known as the makers of the best headphones with noise cancelling technology as well, so let’s see if they’ve met their goal.
Wireless Makes Life Easier
For some reason I resisted changing over to wireless headphones for the longest time. I think it’s because early on the Bluetooth technology used to do so was faulty at times, leading to bad sound and sync issues if I was watching anything on my phone or tablet.
That time has passed though and I’m a full convert to the wireless lifestyle, which is one of the reasons I loved the QuietComfort 35 headphones. They pair with up to two devices at the same time, and though I’ve had strange issues trying to get my TV paired they’ve worked perfectly with everything else (which is primarily my laptop and my phone).
Excellent Noise Cancellation Technology
At their asking price, the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones need to be excellent because they’re near the top of the market in terms of cost. Thankfully, years of research and development have produced excellent technology that offers noise cancelling I found to be just right.
I like that the QuietComfort 35s combine excellent noise insulation (that’s the basic design of the headphones preventing outside noise from seeping in) along with technological noise cancellation. No matter what situation you’re wearing these in you should be okay, like these:
- Somehow I didn’t notice that I was sitting next to a woman with a wailing baby on a recent train ride. The noise cancelling was effective enough that I couldn’t hear the baby or her efforts to calm him down, which she eventually did.
- The plane trip I took last week was bliss thanks to my headphones. They come with an adapter to let me plug them into a plane entertainment system with two outputs, offering optimal sound.
- I purposefully went into the noisiest restaurant in my neighborhood, placed my order, and then put on my headphones to see how it would sound. It was a little trippy to know how overwhelmingly loud it was in there and only be able to hear a tiny fraction of the noise thanks to the headphones.
Bose Does Beautiful Sound
While Bose is a nearly unquestioned leader in the field of noise cancellation it shouldn’t be overlooked that they do great sound too. The QuietComfort 35 Headphones make listening to music or watching TV and movies on my devices a genuine pleasure. Some of the things I like include:
- They call it volume-optimized EQ, which means the headphones automatically optimize the sound to preserve its natural quality no matter how loud you turn up the music.
- I love the bass on these bad boys.
- The sound is a little better if you plug them in, but the Bluetooth sound is better than any headphones I’ve used.
- The dual-microphone system they’ve developed makes it so outside noise is mostly canceled out when you’re making phone calls, which is a welcome treat for the people on the other end.
Sealed Battery Can Be Costly
Bose has chosen to seal off the rechargeable battery in these headphones, which means if it dies your only option is to buy a new pair if you want to keep using the noise cancelling feature. They offer a 1 year warranty in which you’ll get a new pair of free, but after that it’s up to you to purchase the new pair and while very few people have reported their battery dying early, it’s a mild irritant that it’s even possible you’d have to get new headphones because of one part failing.
In the field of noise cancelling headphones no brand has yet been able to topple Bose and their QuietComfort 35 headphones are among their finest offerings. They’re expensive, but you absolutely get your money’s worth with high quality sound, exceptional comfort, and the best noise cancelling money can buy.
- Best noise cancelling technology in the business.
- Exceptionally comfortable ear cups and headband.
- Great sound that Bose is known for.
- Your voice will be clearer on calls thanks to the dual microphone system.
- Nice carrying case included.
- Sealed battery means if it dies you need to replace the whole headset.
- Price is high even if they’re a great buy.
Noise Cancelling Headphones Buyer’s Guide
Noise Isolating is Not Noise Cancelling.
Before we get into the buyer’s guide it’s important to remember that there’s a big different between noise isolating headphones and noise cancelling headphones.
The former block out noise physically, usually with a tighter-fitting pad around your ears.
Noise cancelling headphones, on the other hand, use digital signal processing technology to block outside noise. These headphones listen to the noises around you and the processor plays a noise into your ears that “cancels” it out, effectively blocking most of what is likely to distract you. It’s almost never perfect, but it’s superior to noise isolating headphones. Of course, you typically have to pay for that difference.
How to Shop for Noise Cancelling Headphones
In many ways, you get what you pay for. Generally, the more expensive they are the better the noise cancelling features will be. However, there are many variables that go into making the right choice for you and it’s not entirely about the noise. Here are some tips to ensure you have a good buying experience.
- Decide on a budget. It’s better to know what you’re willing to pay going in than to be tempted into spending more than you can really afford because you want the latest and greatest. Like I said above, the more you pay the better the experience is going to be, but it’s not necessarily worth an extra $100 to get a small upgrade in quality.
- Know what style of headphones you’re looking for. Do you want earbuds (which are tough to get in a true noise cancelling style), ear pads that rest on your ears, or full-on around the ear headphones that surround your ears (my ears are actually a little too big for most versions of those, which could be a problem for some of you)? If you know what you like, and chances are good you will if you have experience with headphones, it will help narrow your choices.
- Consider going to a store to try on headphones. You’re always going to get a better deal shopping online, but it might be worth a trip to the store just to sample the headphones to see how they feel on your head. Go back home to shop because you’ll save money (potentially a lot of money) but it’s really helpful to know what you find comfortable.
- Know how you’re going to treat your headphones. Some people are exceedingly careful with an expensive pair of headphones while others can be abusive. Be honest with yourself about how you tend to treat a purchase like this and then cater your search based on that. If you bend them, twist them, or drop them frequently then you’ll need a pair known for durability.
- Investigate warranties. Most companies we’ve reviewed offer good warranties, but before you make a big purchase like this be sure to do a thorough investigation of the warranty to make sure you have a strong option to return. If a company believes in its products they’ll offer a good warranty.
Noise Cancelling Headphones for All Budgets
There’s a pair of noise cancelling headphones for you no matter what your budget is. However, it’s important to keep in mind that with this sort of technology that you get what you pay for, at least to a certain degree.
Low Cost Options
- Sony MDR-ZX110NC – These are the most basic pair of noise cancelling headphones you’ll find on the market. It’s a bare bones item you’re picking up here, but they get the job done if you’re looking for something basic. The sound is decent and the same can be said for their ability to cancel the noises that might bother you. These are ideal for someone looking for a little peace and quiet on their morning commute or in the office.
- BÖHM Wireless Headphones – While BÖHM is not a particularly well-known manufacturer of headphones they have managed to produce a high quality pair that look exceptionally good. The design is among the best of all the headphones I’ve reviewed, particularly if you like a retro look. Their noise cancelling feature is decent and the sound is actually better than you’d expect for headphones that retail for this price-point.
- Sennheiser HD 280 Pro – These Sennheisers make the list because they’re such a bargain. They’re not technically noise cancelling since they don’t feature active technology, but they do a remarkable job of isolating noise. In fact, you won’t hear much of anything from the outside world when you have them on. Because they’re an older model they currently retail for less than you might think, which is a really difficult price to find when you’re looking at high quality pairs of headphones, making it worthy of inclusion on our list.
Mid Range Cost Options
- Plantronics BackBeat PRO – Plantronics gets in on the wireless noise cancelling headphones market with this fantastic entry that features a stylish look, comfortable ear cups and headband, and terrific sound. You can pair them with two devices at once, switching easily between your tablet and phone if you like. They provide up to 24 hours of wireless music and the noise cancelling is good enough that you won’t notice most of what’s going on in the world around you if you choose.
- Phiaton BT 220 NC – Step up just a little in price and you find the Phiaton BT 220 NC headphones. They’re wireless ear buds, actually, and the quality of the noise cancelling technology is fairly remarkable. They have to work harder because they don’t have the advantage of an over-ear design to drown out some of the sound and they do a fantastic job. With the buds in your ear and the small unit in a pocket or clipped to your shirt, you’re ready to listen to music and take phone calls wherever you go, including a fairly good distance away from your phone thanks to the Bluetooth connectivity.
- Samsung Level On – With their entry into world of wireless headphones Samsung has done some pretty cool stuff. I like the simple design for its exceptional comfort and the high quality sound they’re able to deliver. They’ve also developed an app that pairs with the headphones to help you customize your listening experience (it can also manage your volume levels to protect your hearing). The touch controls are nice as well.
High End Options
- Bose QuietComfort 25 – Bose invests heavily in their noise cancelling features and with the QuietComfort 25 headphones you can see the benefits of spending more money for a better experience. Most noise is easily cancelled and on top of that they offer fantastic sound. Some users purchase them simply for the noise cancelling and often don’t listen to anything. They’re ideal for plane rides and busy offices.
- Bose QuietControl 30 – With the Bose QuietControl 30 they’ve designed wireless noise cancelling ear buds that offer top notch sound. You wear a band around your neck that offers the battery and powers the noise cancelling and the ear buds run from it to your ears. They’re the most comfortable type you’ll ever wear and come with three different size ear caps to ensure a perfect fit. The dual microphone system means it’s much easier to make calls in noisy or windy environments.
- Bose QuietComfort 35 – The QuietComfort 35 headphone are a step up from the 25s and offer a better (and more expensive, of course) listening experience. The noise cancelling is noticeably better and the sound is an upgrade, with volume-optimized EQ to ensure your music is great at every volume level. They’re remarkably comfortable and can easily be worn for eight hours at a time, if not longer. The Bluetooth and NFC connections let you easily hook up to multiple devices.
- Sony MDR-1000X/B – There’s a clear winner in the competition for best noise cancelling headphones, and it’s this remarkable pair from Sony. They’ve developed a multi-faceted noise cancelling system that lets you choose what type of noise to filter out (you can choose to hear voices so you don’t miss airport announcements, for example) and it works exceptionally well. On top of that they’re comfortable and the music sounds fantastic. They’re expensive, but if they’re in your budget it’s a great purchase.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the best noise cancelling headphones on the market or an excellent pair that fit into your budget you can rest assured there’s a satisfying option for you. Gone are the days where you lose your concentration at work because your coworker is being too loud or you lose your mind on a plane because the engine noise, crying babies, and annoying people around you are too loud. You can afford the noise cancelling headphones you want and the reviews I’ve published will help you make the right choice so you can experience the bliss of a perfect listening experience.