These headphones hush ambient sounds by creating frequencies that obviate the noise at your ear. They won’t eliminate everything, but the better models significantly reduce the whoosh of airplanes’ air-conditioning systems and crowd chatter. Noise-canceling headphones come in all forms, from full size to ear buds, and since you no longer have to crank up the volume to overcome background noise, this type of headphone lets you listen at lower levels. You’ll also hear more low-level detail in your music.
How Do They Work
Noise-canceling headphones seem like an oxymoron: a piece of audio technology that creates silence, rather than noise. They’re useful on planes, in crowded offices, and for light sleepers trying to catch some shut-eye in a thin-walled apartment, but how can a pair of headphones make sound disappear?
The first component of noise-canceling headphones’ formula for success is passive noise control, or the slightly more sophisticated technological equivalent of putting your hands over your ears to block out incoming noise. Certain ear buds or headphones are shaped specifically for the purpose of physically preventing sound waves from reaching your ears; these are the types generally marketed as “noise-isolating.” Whether by creating a closer external seal around your ears and using sound-absorbing material like high-density foam, as in the case of headphones, or simply fitting better into the shape of your ear canal, as in-ear buds do, noise-isolating accessories can block up to 20 decibels of background sound.
When 20 decibels of quiet won’t quite cut it, noise-canceling headphones step in with active noise control, or ANC. Pioneered by MIT graduate and Bose Corporation founder Amar Bose and inspired by the intolerable loudness of jet engines on a transatlantic flight, ANC technology is what distinguishes noise-canceling headphones from noise-isolating headphones. Rather than simply preventing unwanted outside sound from reaching a listener’s ear, ANC uses “destructive interference” to cancel out ambient noise.
The process involves placing a microphone as close as possible to where sound will be entering the ear, which will pick up on the frequencies of the incoming noise; the headphones will then generate a frequency exactly 180 degrees out of phase with the unwanted noise—an “anti-noise” output that directly cancels out the input. While ANC is most effective at lower frequencies, noise-canceling headphones can reduce overall noise by up to 80 decibels—just about the amount of irritating background racket produced by commercial jet engines, so you can get at least some peace and quiet on your long-haul flight to wherever.
And now for the best noice-canceling headphones.
1. PSB M4U 2
Priced at $399, PSB Speakers’ M4U 2 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones may be one of the most expensive pairs of noise-canceling headphones on the market, but they’re also one of the few that can still play after the batteries are drained. If you’re an audiophile in the market for noise-canceling headphones, but you don’t want to sacrifice sound quality, the M4U 2s are the pair to buy.
2. Harman Kardon NC
Harman Kardon NC headphones feature an exclusive acoustic system that integrates superb mechanical design, materials and electronics. User-exchangeable bows, self-adjusting housings, soft leather cups and slow-retention ear-cup foam ensure a comfortable fit and an optimal acoustic seal on the ear. The NC model employs the proprietary HARMAN closed-loop, active digital noise-cancelling technology developed for acoustic installations in luxury cars. The USB-rechargeable NC headphones have a battery that lasts up to 40 hours. Even when the battery dies, the headphones will still work when connected by the supplied bypass cable to a playback device. No other noise-cancelling headphones offer this passive playback mode.
3. Bose Quiet Comfort 15
Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones feature exclusive Bose advancements in noise reduction technology. You hear less noise and more of your music and movies-with quality sound and a long-lasting comfortable fit. You won’t find this combination of benefits in any other headphone.Connectivity Technology: Wired,Jack Type: Angled(3.5 mm) and One (1) Year Warranty.
4. Bose QuietComfort 3
Compact, on-ear Bose Quiet Comfort 3 headphones offer a proven combination of Bose noise reduction, audio performance and comfortable fit. Proprietary Bose technologies deliver quality sound from these award-winning headphones – and make listening a pleasure just about anywhere.
5. Bose QuietComfort 20i
Shut out the world and lose yourself in your music – or let the world in. It’s your choice with the first in-ear noise cancelling headphones from Bose. The Quiet Comfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones are engineered to let you enjoy better sound every day, everywhere you go. Turn on noise cancelling to reduce surrounding distractions and focus on your music. Or choose Aware mode to continue enjoying your music while also hearing what’s going on around you. Inside these advanced headphones, exclusive Tri Port technology brings your music to life.
Additional exclusive technologies provide dramatic noise cancellation rivaling any full-sized headphone on the market today. The proprietary Stay Hear+ tips create a soft, secure fit – with no need to force them into your ears. The inline mic/remote lets you easily control your iPhone, iPod or iPad. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery provides up to 16 hours of use, and a USB charging cable is included. And even when the power is off or the battery runs out, you can still use these headphones to enjoy Bose quality sound.
6. Beats Studio 2013 (White)
The world’s most famous headphone has been completely redesigned and re-imagined. The new Beats Studio is lighter, sexier, stronger, and more comfortable, with precision sound, Adaptive Noise Canceling, a 20-hour rechargeable battery, and RemoteTalk. It has all the energy and excitement you expect from Beats, plus a powerful, re-engineered sound.
7. AKG K495 NC Acoustics (Black)
Of course ‘NC’ stands for ‘noise cancelling’, but it could also stand for ‘no contest’, because when it comes to pure, undisturbed sound, the AKG® K495 NC headphones deliver high-quality performance and active noise control that are second to none. Durable and easy to charge through the USB, these top-of-the-line headphones create a perfect audio world: you get all the sound you want, and none of the sound you don’t. State-of-the art, active noise-cancelling technology (closed -loop technology) Unparalleled AKG sound quality Continuous sound for listening with empty battery USB chargeable (adapter included; no batteries) Detachable cables in two different lengths Brushed-metal parts for increased durability Supersoft headband and ear cups for long-wearing comfort Unique 3d-axis2 folding mechanism for easy transport and storage Flight adapter and premium carrying case included
8. Sony MDR-NC200D (Black)
Hear only what you want to with background noise on mute. Featuring Sony’s advanced digital signal processing technology, ambient noise is reduced by up to 98.2% with these mdr-nc200d premium digital noise canceling headphones. Whether you’re at the office, on a plane or train, built-in artificial intelligence (AI) technology automatically adjusts to your surroundings to offer the optimal level of noise canceling customized to the environment and sound conditions. High quality audio is yours with 40mm driver units, full digital amplification and a high performance digital equalizer delivering the highest highs and lowest lows for incredible-sounding music. Cushy, feather-soft ear cushions provide maximum comfort, plus an ultra-compact, collapsible design makes these headphones perfect for travel.
9. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC1 QuietPoint
The ATH-ANC1 QuietPoint headphones from Audio Technica deliver natural sound and luxurious silence in a highly compact on-ear design. These fold-flat headphones incorporate Audio Technica’s acclaimed active noise-cancelling technology to block out up to 85% of outside noise, while delivering clear, detailed and natural sound. The active noise-cancelling circuitry is located in a handy external module attached to its connecting cord, for extremely light weight on-ear wear. The headphones also work when the noise-cancelling function is turned off, and operate in passive mode without batteries. Although compact, the headphones deliver powerful, immersive sound, thanks to their precision high-efficiency full-range drivers and premium internal components. They’re ideal for use with the Apple iPod, iPhone, iPod touch, portable music players, computers and in-flight entertainment systems.
Which one will you go for and did we miss any great noice-canceling headphone model? If so, please let us know by commenting below and we will be sure to check it out and add it to the list.