Who here has ever tried to take a work call in a busy coffee shop or a cramped apartment with roommates? The slightest bit of noise is wildly distracting, and you feel like a jerk when you say, “I’m sorry, I missed what you just said,” for the 37th time. What you need, my friend, is a quality pair of noise cancelling headphones.
But first, how do noise cancelling headphones even work?
“Imaging looking at waves on a beach. Imagine another set of waves that are flipped on their head,” says Trevor Cox, a professor of acoustic engineering at the University of Salford. “Add the original wave and the flipped waves together and the two cancel out. The headphones pick up the noise to be cancelled on a microphone, flip it and then play the anti-noise from a small loudspeaker inside the headphone.”
Noise cancelling headphones don’t have to be big and bulky—there are so many sleek, foldable versions that won’t ruin your look. And if headphones aren’t your jam, there are some pretty amazing noise-cancelling earbuds on the market.
Best noise-cancelling headphones
1. SONY WH-1000XM3 HEADPHONES, $275
These silver Sony headphones with gold accents make noise cancelling headphones extra special. This pair is bluetooth compatible, and has a built-in rechargeable battery with a 30-hour lifespan. The foldable design with swivel earcups make this pair super easy to store and tote around.
2. BOSE HEADPHONES 700, $399
Bose makes super sleek headphones with 11 levels of noise cancellation, meaning you can eliminate as much or as little noise as you’d like. It’s also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. You can get up to 20 hours of wireless battery life.
3. MARSHALL MID A.N.C. HEADPHONES, $198
Covered in a textured black vinyl, and emblazoned with a brass-colored Marshall logo, these headphones are reminiscent of a retro speaker stack. They actively filter out ambient noise, and if your device supports Bluetooth aptX, you can also enjoy improved audio quality. When you have just the noise cancelling or the bluetooth turned on, you get 30 hours of battery life. With both on, you’ll get about 20.
4. JABRA ELITE HEADPHONES, $250
Complete with eight built-in microphones and active noise cancellation, these headphones are perfect for making crisp and clear calls. These headphones can analyze your sound environment and automatically shift the level of noise cancelling you receive. A single charge will give you up to 36 hours of battery. You can also use them to talk to the built-in Amazon Alexa.
Best noise-cancelling earbuds
1. APPLE AIRPODS PRO, $249
Unlike the original Apple AirPods, the pro version are noise cancelling. But, if you need to hear the world around you, you can turn on Transparent Mode to let the sound in. The wireless charging case delivers more than 24 hours of battery life.
2. JABRA ELITE EAR BUDS, $200
Jabra’s earbuds are perfect if you want a bit more security than wireless earbods and provide while still having the ability to move around. Three microphones and background noise reduction capabilities make for super clear voice on calls. You can get up to 8 hours of battery using when the noise cancelling is on, and up to 13 hours when it’s off. You’ll also have one touch access to Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant.
3. SONY WF-1000XM3 WIRELESS EARBUDS, $228
Sony’s wireless earbuds have smart listening capabilities to automatically switch to ambient sound mode based on your activity. With the carrying case, these earbuds have a battery life of up to 24 hours, and a quick 10 minute charge will get you 90 minutes of play time. They’re also Amazon Alexa compatible.
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