We’ve all been on those nightmare flights where you just want to drown out the people around you. Flights when you just want to get lost in your own little world and escape the cacophony of people coughing, chattering and the ear splitting noise of screaming babies. A chunky pair of closed back headphones will do a decent job of blocking out much of the noise. But you will probably have to pump up the volume to a headache inducing level, distorting the music you’re listening to in the process. And let’s also not forget the damage you will be doing to your delicate ear drums on a three hour flight.
For these reasons, in recent years there has been a rapid rise in the popularity of noise cancelling headphones, which harness technology first developed by the military so that pilots could block out the engine noise and hear instructions. As often happens, military innovation has now found its way into consumer technology, enabling frequent flyers, commuters and audiophiles to enjoy their music in peace.
From a mere few pairs a few years ago, the array of noise cancelling headphones has exploded. There are many models to choose from to suit budget, style and audio preferences. So to help you choose which to buy, here’s a breakdown of the best noise cancelling headphones in 2019:
The big comfortable earcups feature microphones inside and out that gauge the exterior noise before channelling a counter frequency to block it out. When switched on the world outside becomes eerily quiet. In fact, many people use them without playing any music at all, they just switch them on, lie back and enjoy their flight in peace. The batteries last for 35 hours, and offer a tonally balanced performance with rich bass.
While the market leader and commonly regarded as the best noise cancelling headphones around, the disadvantage of the Bose QuietComfort 25s is that they only work when they are switched on. So should you forget to recharge the batteries you could have a long, boring flight to look forward to.
Renowned German headphones manufacturer Sennheiser has begun to mount a serious challenge to Bose’s dominance of the noise cancelling headphones market. Their MM550X Travel headphones are overloaded with features that make them a worthy contender for the title of best noise cancelling headphones in 2013.
The roll-call of technological innovations includes opt-X codec technology for near CD quality playback via Bluetooth, NoiseGard 2.0 active noise reduction technology and its much praised TalkThrough feature, which enables wearers to switch off the external microphone at the press of a button to hear what flight attendants or other passengers are saying.
The Sennheiser MM550-X Travel headphones also provide the exceptional sound quality you’d expect from the highly respected German brand. Its SRS WOW HD audio production provides a wider, taller sound, with greater clarity and bass, ranking them among the best noise cancelling headphones to choose.
If you’re looking for the optimum level of audio performance, look no further. In tests the Sennheiser PXC450-NoiseGard headphones have proven to be the best noise cancelling headphones when it comes to delivering a smooth listening experience. These can manage sound frequencies between 8Hz and 28KHz, which is way above what the human ear can actually hear. While it might seem pointless for headphones to produce frequencies that high, being able to play sounds beyond human hearing means that the sounds we can hear, at lower frequency, are more precise and defined, offering a much smoother audio experience overall.
The Sennheiser PXC450-NoiseGard Active Noise Cancelling headphones also feature Sennheiser’s patented TalkThrough technology and can be used passively (without having to switch them on) to listen to music. Reassuringly durable and solid in construction, the Sennhesier PXC450-NoiseGard Active Noise Cancelling headphones provide an exceptional sound performance that will delight frequent flyers and audiophiles alike.
The Sony MDRIRNC Prestige are certainly stylish. Featuring a distinctive red ring and iconic, sleek look, these will certainly help you standout in a plane filled with Bose QuietComfort 15s.
What’s more, these offer superb noise cancelling performance, able to reduce 99.7 percent of background noise. Smart sound enhancing technology provides MP3s with more depth, while their 40mm Liquid Crystal Polymer Film diaphragm’s offer balanced sound reproduction and minimal reverb. The bass section is also taken care of thanks to Beat Response Control for an enlarged and thumping bassline.
Endorsed by Katy B and Magnetic Man (me neither), the Sony MDRIRNC Prestige Noise Cancelling headphones are packed with technological features and rate highly in customer reviews. So they are deserving of a place on this list of the best noise cancelling headphones in 2013.
While on the subject of stylish looking headphones, fashionistas might want to check out the Harman Kardon Noise Cancelling headphones. With a reputation built in home and car audio products, Harman Kardon has set out to offer a pair of noise cancelling headphones that are sophisticated and modern, with soft leather cups and a reassuringly plush leather carry case.
Featuring closed loop active noise cancelling technology used in luxury cars, these battery powered cans (which can be recharged via USB) offer a high level noise cancelling for flights and the commute to work, and distinctive looks to match.
For those on a slightly lower budget, the Logitech UE6000 Noise Cancelling headphones are worth a look. These offer a wide detailed soundstage through its 40mm custom made laser tuned drivers. For the price the sound is remarkably detailed and rich, to provide a pleasant listening experience on long flights.
The main disadvantage is that, while their slick aesthetics can be enjoyed by all its wearers, only those with iPhones can take advantage of the controls mounted in the audio cable. This means that if you have an Android phone you won’t be able to change tracks or control the volume from the headphone’s cable. So you might want to look elsewhere for the best noise cancelling headphones for your needs.
These are another pair of slightly lower priced cans for people that hesitate when looking at the price tag of the Sony, Bose or Sennheiser headphones. Audio Technica are relatively new players, but their ATH-ANC7B noise reducing headphones are a strong entry to the market.
Featuring large 40mm drivers, these offer impactful bass, extended trebles and high fidelity. The level of sound production isn’t as wide as that of the higher priced brands (10Hz to 25KHz) and they can only reduce exterior noise by 20 decibels compared to the Sennheiser PXC 450’s impressive 32 decibels. They also might be a bit too bulky and heavy for some people, so you need to weigh up the cost savings with the higher performing and lighter weight of the more experience headphones featured in this overview of the best noise cancelling headphones in 2019.