The Best Headphones to Tune Out Distractions and Get Things Done
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“Destructive interference” isn’t just a good band name -- it’s also the key to how noise-cancelling headphones work.
Flipping the “on” switch prompts your headphones to start producing new sound waves. That may sound counterintuitive for a noise-cancelling feature, but these sound waves are designed to cancel out ambient noise -- your coworker’s loud chewing, your boss’s involuntary sighing or even the nagging hum of the overactive office air conditioning. The secret? These types of headphones create sound waves with crests and troughs that are opposite those of the intruding sounds -- resulting in a reduction in ambient noise by 70 percent.
If you’re in need of a tool like noise-cancelling headphones to amp up your workday focus, look no further. Here’s your go-to guide.
Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II
What We Love: Switch on this pair of Bose headphones, and you’ll probably feel like you’re in space. They may be pricey, but they’re a reviewer favorite across the Web -- and it’s clear why. The battery lasts for up to for 40 hours for wired listening and 20 hours for wireless, and you can adjust the level of noise-cancellation to your individual needs. Plus, there’s a dual-microphone system for phone calls and access to your phone’s virtual assistant.
What Customers Say: One reviewer writes, ‘I am an application developer and wear them at work because I am easily distracted. I don't even listen to music with them... They just cancel just about all background noise, including random chatter from the annoying marketing department.’ Another says, ‘The Bose sound is amazing. It is crisp and clean and full. I can hear so much more in the same music I have been listening to for years.’
Best Place to Buy: $349 on Amazon
What We Love: Ringing in at about $99.95, these are a quality option if you’re on the hunt for a budget pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Audio-Technica claims this model reduces ambient noise by 90 percent, and like most models, they have the passive ability to reduce noise pollution even when they’re switched off. Travelers should know this pair is lightweight and folds flat -- plus, it comes with a specialized airline adapter and carrying case.
What Customers Say: One reviewer writes, ‘If you're looking for a good pair of noise-canceling headphones but just can't justify paying $250+, these work well and they're from a company that knows what it's doing in terms of audio reproduction.’ Another says, ‘They cancel noise very well, have GREAT sound and are incredibly comfortable.’
Best Place to Buy: $99.95 on Amazon
Sennheiser MB Pro
What We Love: These headphones are a quality choice if your spending cap is $200. They allow people on the go to connect and switch between two different calls simultaneously, and they also offer a noise-cancelling microphone -- useful for interviews and conference calls. Sennheiser claims the battery will last up to 15 hours between charges. This model also connects to any of your devices using Bluetooth and provides a USB connection for other electronics.
What Customers Say: One reviewer writes, ‘This has AMAZING sound cancellation. I can be in Starbucks, and no one on the call knows. I can flush a toilet, and no one on the call hears it. Best headset I have ever had!’ Another says, ‘I would recommend these to anyone who sits in an office with people around them or who has a lot of background noise that needs to be cut out!’
Best Place to Buy: $171.02 on Amazon
What We Love: The cost of this pair is comparable to the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II, which makes sense because reviewers across the Internet are split between the two when it comes to the top choice for noise-cancellation and sound quality. Sony claims to adjust the sound beyond noise-cancellation technology by taking atmospheric pressure, face shape and even hairstyle into account. The “Smart Listening” feature detects activities and environment to adjust ambient noise levels, and the headphones also offer a touch control for tracks, volume, taking phone calls and using your phone’s virtual assistant.
What Customers Say: One reviewer writes, ‘These are top notch in terms of noise-cancellation and isolation… I could be mowing or trimming the lawn, and if I close my eyes, I’m in a totally different world.’ Another says, ‘These are the best-sounding headphones with the most potential on the average consumer flagship market right now.’
Best Place to Buy: $348 on Amazon
Bose QuietComfort 20
What We Love: If you’re on the go and gravitate towards earbuds over headphones, Bose’s first foray into noise-cancelling in-ear headphones is a clear winner across the Internet. There’s both an inline microphone and remote for switching to phone calls, and battery life lasts up to 16 hours (although if it runs out, you can still use the headphones to listen to music). Another perk? One button allows users to enter “Aware” mode, which stops the noise-cancelling feature and allows them to hear what’s going on around them without removing their earbuds.
What Customers Say: One reviewer writes, ‘On our last airplane ride, I recorded the background noise and created a loop to play back on my hi-fi system. This gave me the opportunity to compare several earphones in a controlled environment… None could match the phenomenal quietness achieved by the BoseQC20s.’ Another says, ‘Holy @#$#$ are they amazing… I think these are the best headphones I've ever owned -- of any kind.’
Best Place to Buy: $249 on Amazon