Whether you work in an open-concept office (the horror), spend a lot of time on airplanes, or are simply in search of a solid pair of headphones to keep outside noise out and your music in, noise cancelling headphones are one option to consider. There’s a big difference between noise “isolation” and noise “cancelling.” It can be easy to confuse the two and hard to figure out which type you really need. The former simply minimizes the amount of extra sound that gets into your ear, and there’s serious technology behind the latter. Here’s your guide to the differences and what to look for in a good set of headphones.
Headphones that isolate and block external noise through physical means. You can also notice “passive noise reduction” in this type. Essentially, these versions suppress noise by making a strong barrier between the ear and the headset. Earbuds which isolate and block out external noise with a tight fit. Over-ear versions that go all the way around the ear have thickly lined cups built to keep out as much noise as possible from outside. The goal is to build the most supportive seal across your ears or ear canal so your music is the only sound you hear.
Noise canceling headphones utilize Digital Signal Processing (DSP) technology to deliberately block out external noise from the sound waves. Simply stated, anytime you see “noise cancellation” or “strong noise reduction,” that implies that the headphones have an internal amplifier and audio processor that “hears” the vibration surrounding you and plays the reverse signal to balance it out. It is considered disruptive interference. Most good versions can tolerate continuous, external noise (such as talking, air conditioning systems, jet engines, etc.), so it’s hard to compensate for sudden shifts like someone yelling or a door slam.
1.Echo Buds- Immerse in sound. Take Alexa on the go
Amazon has gone through a lot of trouble making sure the Echo Buds suit a large range of ears. Two types of rubber ear tips and two types of ear fins are supplied with the headphones, which are called “wingtips.” Proper fit counts as the Bose active noise reduction (ANR) system functions well when a complete seal is achieved. While it wasn’t ready for release at the time of this review, Amazon is introducing an ear tip sizing check — a feature within the Amazon Alexa app’s settings menu — that lets you find the correct ear tip scale. The Echo Buds have been unflatable, remaining attached to either an iPhone or an Android computer over Bluetooth.
Also in areas where many earbuds have stymied, the Echo Buds never skipped a beat. They are really versatile too. You may have all of them, or only one. When all are in and the music is running, just take one back, and the tone would stop automatically. Put it back in, and you’re back to your tunes. The pause method functions great, but I noticed that the restart functionality was a little hit and miss. Bose established their onboard ANR as one of the highlights of the Echo Buds is. I’m still not clear on the difference between ANR and ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) — which Bose uses on its flagship headphones — but I can tell you this: It works really well.
Turning on Bose ANR has a virtually mystical impact on excessive low-level noise, such as computer buzz. I didn’t get a chance to bring the Echo Buds to the biggest traveler’s check — an aircraft — but while I stood next to a fridge with its compressor working or my NAS hard drive operating through its ludicrously loud diagnostics, certain noises were cancelled out fully.
It’s not a cone-of-silence, but it’s enough successful to enjoy the opportunity to momentarily let out sounds in through the pass-through feature. You should change the frequency of the pass-through amplification within the Echo Buds settings.
2.Libratone Track+ Wireless Active Noise Cancelling Headphones, Bluetooth 4.2 w/Mic, IPX4 Waterproof, Apt-X and AAC codec, Premium Low-Latency Audio and Video Earbuds, 8H Playtime (Stormy Black)
The Libratone Track Plus is £ 169 bluetooth headset neckband with integrated noise reduction. These are good for noisy commutes, and even useful for exercise. Their sound is large and enjoyable, the noise cancelling for in-ear headphones is helpful and very uncommon, and the design fits even easier for running than Sennheiser’s neckband alternatives. We don’t love all the hardware architecture elements but they are robust and scalable. Libratone audio gadgets often combat this effect with a pretty design that stands out on the shelf or a web page. However, the Libratone Track Plus is fairly simple, because most of us don’t want our headphones to stick out so much.
This style works well for exercise and general comfort. Unlike the Sennheiser Momentum, they don’t jog around your head as you run. And while the silicone capsule-with-hook skin used on the earpieces looks like an ear canal-clogger, they’re actually very comfortable, a little like the Bose SoundSport. On the down side, you can’t fold them up easily to fit in a pocket like the OnePlus Bullets Wireless and, over a couple of weeks of testing, one part of our Libratone Track Plus headphones has already failed. The rubbery sheath that covers the final part of the cabling is only lightly glued onto the earpiece stalk, and it has come apart.
Active noise suppression (ANC) is the key feature which distinguishes these earphones from the many other wireless neckband pairs. Beyond the major stars, ANC consistency is unpredictable, but here it is very strong. Pressing a small button on those earphones ‘left stem switches between four stages of noise reduction, slowly growing their control. You may also use a “adaptive” feature while using the Libratone software, which adjusts the ANC up and down to suit ambient noise.
3.Apple AirPods Pro
Apple’s true wireless earbuds have gone “pro” and in doing so deliver on the promise of the 2017 originals. The new AirPods Pro are worth the wait. Apple managed two pieces of magic in 2017 with the original £159 AirPods. They just worked without the skips, blips or audio delay, and came in a tiny battery case that kept them charged and safe – a combination that competitors still find hard to match.
But they had one big problem: no isolation from the outside world. It meant that in any noisy environment you struggled to hear your music. Three years later, the £249 AirPods Pro and their silicone earbud tips fix that fundamental problem, adding active noise cancelling for good measure.
The AirPods Pro look, sound and function should be familiar to anybody who has seen the initial AirPods or used them. Simple white earbuds are replete with stalks and a tiny white flip-top case which they pop to hold and launch. The stalks are marginally narrower so they have a squeezable control base. Perhaps the main distinction is the narrow tip of the silicone earbud, which helps reduce noise. The ear tips aren’t normal in true Apple fashion – replacements cost $4 a pair in the US but the UK cost is undisclosed at present. You have three styles in the pack, so they are quick enough to switch out but by mistake they are hard to pull off.
The charging device is a smidgen thicker and heavier than the AirPods device but it also renders it one of the smallest and strongest affordable. This sits in your jeans ‘money bag, stays securely on the AirPods Pro and the cover shuts with a pleasing click. The case charges through Qi wireless charging or the patented Lightning cable offered by Apple. The AirPods Pro promises more than four hours of uninterrupted listening with successful noise cancelling and charging over five times in the device, for a cumulative play period of over 24 hours. While fine, rivals like the Track Air+ last about six hours between charges with noise cancelling enabled.
Pairing is just as simple as prior AirPod models. Everything you need to do with an iPhone or iPad is open them close the screen, and follow the directions. Using iCloud, the linking details is then shared between all your Apple devices, so you can easily switch between an iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, Mac or even Apple TV. These also fit great with non-Apple computers, endorsing regular Bluetooth 5.0 updates or older versions. Click the button on the back of the earbuds in the open case to paire them with something else like a Windows PC or Android computer.
4.Sony WF-1000XM3 Industry Leading Noise Canceling Truly Wireless Earbuds with Alexa voice control, Black
The Sony WF-1000XM3 True Wireless headphones have a lot to live up to: Launched as part of the brand’s lauded 1000X family of noise-cancelling headphones – that includes the award-winning Sony WH-1000XM3 – and the expectation is that these true wireless earbuds will offer superior noise suppression and no small amount of style. The Bonne News? On any count they don’t fail-so that’s why the Sony WF-1000XM3 is always our favorite true wireless earbuds for 2020.
Sony launched a software update for the WF-1000XM3 headphones in November 2019 that includes a whole host of enhancements, including Amazon Alexa support, headset volume control and clear battery level indicator.
To those who want to take their headphones for a stroll, the XM3s (as we will refer to them from here on to save our weak “0” key) miss apparent fitness features such as waterproofing and ear stabilizers. If that last bit refers to you, they’re going to manage it in a hurry, so you’re going to want to search for a running buddy somewhere (for that, Sony’s got the similarly pithily called WF-SP700N). Sony opted for battery life over portability with the XM3 case as did Beats with the Powerbeats Pro. Sony’s case isn’t as huge as Beats ‘case, but for most pockets it’s still too high.
If earbuds were evaluated purely on their construction, the WF-1000XM3 would still gain all the marbles: they miss the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless’s protrusive weight, and Apple AirPods ‘unpologetic dorkiness. And, weighing only 8.5 g each, they’re at peace in the ear and look fantastic. The headphones come in a stylish rechargeable shell, with copper lid on-trend, and are tightly protected with magnets. The case itself acts as a battery pack, if and when you require a rescue recharge.
5.Plantronics BackBeat GO 410 Wireless Headphones, Active Noise Canceling Earbuds, Bone
A combination of plastic and rubberized silicone makes up the neckband earbud design. Much like the BeatsX and OnePlus Bullets Wireless, the soft-touch neckband is bendy and easy to forget when wearing it. Terminating both ends of the neckband are oblong plastic housings that contain the 180mAh battery and Bluetooth components.
The cable is cut off from the right hand by an external three-button remote that makes for a multitude of functions. For starters, when the magnetic housings are pushed together, pressing the minus and multifunction buttons for two seconds toggles the smart magnets, which triggers and deactivates the active noise cancelling (ANC). Holding the plus and multifunction keys for two seconds results in another helpful feature: this switches ANC on / off. Because of the poppy red paint job, which is a trend which more manufacturers can adopt, the right earbud is readily noticeable from the left. Although that’s great, one of the Plantronics BackBeat Go 410 i’s possibly more novel features.The amplifier performs. It does an outstanding job reducing crowd noise and parling the sound of the speaker well. But for Plantronics, a brand traditionally excelling in this field, it’s nothing to write about at home. In fact, the positioning allows it possible to unintentionally brush the microphone into a mid-conversation jacket neck, allowing the person on the other end to burst an eardrum. Our rigorous monitoring culminated in 7.88 hours of continuous playback from the Plantronics BackBeat Go 410. This is remarkable as the battery life posited by Plantronics is eight hours.