You probably would have heard the term “noise cancellation”, and assume it cancel outside noise when listening to audio content with your headphone – which is right!
At the very narrow occasion, all headphones cancel noise because they block outside sounds by covering your ear.
Even if you get the tightest headphones in the world, it won’t be able to cover terrible sounds such as Car horns, or an airplane engine (you know how disturbing that sounds!)
To prevent higher-noise from reaching your ear, some audio equipment companies, e.g. Bose, solve the problem by using a technique called Active Noise Control.
In this noise cancelling headphone guide, I’ll work you through the understanding of Noise Cancelling headphones, why they are useful, their drawbacks, and would sum up by recommending best noise-cancelling headphone.
Let’s dig in… 🙂
What Are Noise Cancelling Headphones?
It would blow your mind how noise cancellation works…
Breaking it down…
Sound travels in waves; a wave is the representation of vibrations when a vibration occurs, the waves move alternating curves in the opposite direction – that vibration is responsible for the sound you hear.
Look at it this way, when waves occur in the ocean, they have crest (highest point), and a trough (the fall), let’s apply that to a sound wave:
The distance between the resting point (bottom of a wave), and the crest (highest point) determines the loudness of audio, its called the amplitude.
The number of times the waves pass by a specific point, determines the frequency, the higher the frequency of the wave, the higher the pitch and vice versa.
These are some of the things the microprocessor needs to build a complete waveform of a sound, the more accurate it build the sound, the better the calculation.
So, How Does it Cancel The Noise?
Inside a pair of a noise-cancelling headphone, there are microphones designed to pick up unwanted noise from your surrounding.
It builds the waveform, – passes it to the digital signal processor which analyses the sound. The digital signal processor neglects a non-unwanted noise. Its function is to analyse an unwanted noise.
Having done that, the digital signal processor generates the opposite sound wave; this is where the important stuff work:
When the unwanted sounds that the headphone build from the original audio are played 180-degrees out of phase with the opposite sound wave, they cancel each other out.
That’s how it works so to speak, the solution to noise cancellation isn’t perfect, but it is very close, and as it owns drawback/limitations.
Let’s look at the…
The Drawback of a Noise-Cancelling Headphones
It is designed to cancel regular outside noises like a car horn, or a drone of an aircraft engine. The reason is that it is easy to figure out regular noises, unlike a human voice where sounds change rapidly.
You might have guessed that you need some sort of power to run this type of headphone correctly. Without adequate power, an active noise-cancelling headphone won’t be able to function properly.
They are more expensive than regular headphone due to the nature of how they are built.
In some cases where the noise is unbearable, it might reduce the audio quality and add hissing sound.
Having said all that, let’s look at the usefulness of using Noise-cancelling Headphones…
- The ability to listen to audio material without the need of raising the volume too high.
- It helps to achieve better noise isolation from ambient sound
- As a sleeping aid for people with chronic sleeplessness – or people whom outside noise such as snoring, cars honking impact their ability to sleep.
You can see Noise cancelling headphones isn’t just for cancelling ambient sounds; they can also help in various ways.
Time to make your choice and selection of a Noice Cancelling headphones. I have carefully sifted through 100’s of them, and I am recommending you the best ones below, read through the description, and also check out the user review.
1. Bose QuietComfort 35 II
No doubt, Bose is one of the first choices among audiophiles. With over 2,900 customer reviews, cranking over 4+ rating, then you know this is worth every penny.
QuietComfort 35 comes bundled with lots of jaw-dropping features such as Alexa-enabled voice control, which can be used for voice access to music, information, videos, and more.
It also benefits from the power of three levels of world-class noise cancellation for better listening and a more accurate noise cancellation optimisation.
Moreover, the Bose listens to the type of music you’re playing and automatically optimises the level.
Alternatively, you can use the Bose Connect app to adjust the level of noise cancellation. Note that the option is only available on iPhone and iPad, and an Android version is said to be available very soon.
If you want to eliminate those annoying background noise, then this is the best choice for you. I find the built-in microphone useful, think of how you can cancel outside noise, and still make calls with HQ built-in microphone (Awesome!)
Lastly, one of the features I find interesting is the ability to hear audio from two sources at the same time with your Bluetooth. This feature is handy in cases where you need to connect both your iPhone/iPad and Laptop at the same time.
- Battery life up to 20 hours
- Bundled with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa
- Control Boss with Connect app
- USB charging cable
- Audio cable
- Carrying case
2. Sony Noise WH1000XM3
I don’t have the grudge to say one is better than others; they both have advantages and disadvantages. My current preference is the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, even with that said; everything comes down to your taste.
Sony presents you with a smart listening powered by SENSE ENGINE which adaptively controls the noise Cancelling levels, whether you’re are walking on a crowded street, hiking, or travelling in an airport.
It Detects your activity, and automatically adjust levels. This feature can be controlled with Sony Headphone Connect App; Available on both Android and iPhone from Play store.
It’s no surprise WH1000XM3 is build to last longer with less charge, you have up to 30 hours of battery life on a single charge. That’s not all, you have an option to charge via USB-C (which is extra faster than a regular USB).
To sum up, Amazon Alexa is built into Sony WH1000XM3 which can be used for hands-free voice access to music, videos, information and more.
3. Sony Noise WH-CH700N
Extra long-lasting Active over the ear Noise Cancelling headphone, which has a sleek design, and can last for 35hours. Alternatively, you are packed with a supply cable which enables you to keep the music going even when your battery runs out.
One of the features I look out for in Headphones is hands-free calling, you have the option built-in in Sony WH-CH700N + a built-in microphone, speak to your love once without taking your smartphone out of your pocket.
Don’t worry; you aren’t alone! You can customise your preferred settings with the Sony Connect App. Adjust levels, and customisable EQ settings directly from your smartphone; packed with lots of preset to tune into your current mood.
4. Bowers & Wilkins PX
With over 50 years of audio experience, PX presents you an adaptive noise cancellation headphone which responds to your behaviour and gives you a stunning audio experience combined with intuitive controls.
One of the key features of PX is the built-in sensors which intuitively respond to you. Wear it on your head, and it automatically switches one; remove PX, and it’ll return to standby mode as if it works with your body system.
5. COWIN E8 [Upgraded]
If you are part of the COWIN E7 or E8 family, then you should know they did a great job on E7/E8 Noise cancellation headphone. COWIN stepped up the game with an elegant version – the E8 updated which is even better than the previous version with lots of features.
Some of the features include – the upgraded Ear cushions, which is comfortable around your ear,
with pillow-like softness on the headband and protein ear cushions.
Much better noise cancellation for travelling, crowdy places, and anything in between.
Additionally, you get a whooping 20-hour playtime in Bluetooth or NC mode for 2-3 hours charging.
While this is great, woman and teenagers are advised to wear them for a shorter period; it’s not heavy.
6. Bose QuietComfort 25 – Apple Devices (Wired)
Quietcomfort 25 is a lightweight, comfortable ANC headphone which is engineered to sound as accurate as possible, while also reducing noise around you. One of the features I find interesting is the ability to control your music with remote (only applicable to Apple devices).
Also, you can control your music and calls with an inline mic.
7. Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2
The reason I will ever buy an ANC headphone is if it’s easy to use and have longer battery life. Plantronics Cancelling Backbeat is a calm and focused headphone, which has lots of features. e.g. To hear conversations going on around you; you simply activate the open-listening mode and vice versa.
Alternatively, it comes bundled with smart sensors. When you remove Plantronics, it automatically pauses the music and resumes when you put them back on.
Also, you enjoy 24-hours of wireless music or calls before switching to cable. Another feature you shouldn’t overlook is the ability to enjoy streaming up to 100 meters away from your class 1 Bluetooth smartphone.
8. JBL Live 650 BT NC
JBL Live comes bundles with Voice Assitant, which can be used to play your favourite tune, check the weather, text your loved ones by simply tapping the ear cup to activate the Voice Assistant (Google Voice Assistant or Amazon Alexa).
Another feature I love so much about this product is the ability to switch from one Bluetooth device to another with less effort. Let’s say you are having fun with a video on your tablet, and at the same time your mobile phone is ringing, you can simply switch with no hassle. (Pause one, and use the other)
Also, you don’t wanna miss the JBL Headphone App. It let you personalise your listening experience by tweaking the JBL sound preferences.
Another point you shouldn’t overlook is the battery life of JBL 650. You enjoy 30 hours with ANC turned off (who does that in a noisy environment), or 20 hours with Bluetooth and ANC on. Moreover, you can enjoy an additional 2 hours battery life with a quick 15-minute charge.
9. Philips NC1
NC1 by Philips implemented four microphones inside and outside the ear cans to capture noises as accurate as possible for advanced processing. Which means as an end-user, you would enjoy a great level of noise cancelling, while also not sacrificing any frequency range for better performance.
No hassle with folding – NC-1 is designed to be lightweight, and compact, making folding in multiple ways easy. The decision is yours on you preferred to fold your headphone, be it in the pocket or your travel bag.
Additionally, you have the option to switch between music and calls with the powered in-line control, NC-1 is recommended for people looking for something lightweight, and crystal clear audio.
10. Sennheiser HD 4.50
Sennheiser is known for their professional-grade headphones, after numerous request from users on superb ANC headphones. Sennheiser introduced their NoiseGard active noise cancellation, which is implemented in HD 4.50.
Apart from HD 4.50 being affordable, it also has a long battery life that lasts up to 19 hours with NoiseGard protection switch on, and 25 hours with it turned off.
While some users complained about the headband breakage, It is still superb if handled with care.
One Last Thing!
I hopefully guided you through buying a noise cancellation headphones, and I recommended a different one’s.
If you aren’t familiar or don’t know much about an Active Noise Cancellation headphone, or setting one up, just go through the manual bundled with your headphone, and you should be good to go.
Good luck with good ANC headphones, and I hope they last longer for you 🙂