There are a few good noise cancelling headphones out there, but a recent test by headphone measurement Guru and Wirecutter contributor Brent Butterworth discovered which were kings of the hill. Butterworth’s sound tests found that the Bose Quiet Comfort 20s could claim superiority over every other in-ear noise cancelling headphone out there.
The test was conducted using standard measurement equipment and subjective listening tests conducted with multiple testers over the course of 35,000 miles of in-flight testing. Bose QuietComfort20 emerged to be the best in terms of in-ear sound quality, with noise-cancelling features that simply crushed the competition.
A lot of people would thought that all in-ear headphones have “noise cancelling” features. But while an in-ear headphone might have “noise isolation” that’s not the same as “noise cancellation”. These two terms are often used interchangeably, which is wrong. Although both of these features can reduce noise the way tthey do it affects how effective they are at doing it.
Bose QuietComfort 20 has exceptionally effective noise cancellation features and takes noise-cancellation a step further in terms of turning down the ambient noise.
“The QC-20’s noise cancelling function works so much better than any other manufacturer’s that the QC-20 almost belongs in its own product class. In the lower frequencies, where the noise from jet engines resides the result is best I can remember measuring, as good as -45 dB at 160Hz.” says Brent.
So the Bose QuietComfort 20s are clearly the best, but they arent exactly cheap. So if budget is an issue, what are the alternatives?
In-ear Noise Cancelling Headphones Budget Option #1 – Sony MDR-NC13
If you think $300 is too much dough to spend on a pair of headphones, another good option is the $45 Sony MDR-NC13. Sony is a well established brand known for its high quality and durable products, plus they are very affordable and sounded really great, says Geoffrey Morrison former Technical Editor of Home Theater magazine.
Good: Not as expensive like Bose QC-20 but, a great pick for a good all-around noise-cancelling headphones. It is bassier, decent sound, good treble detail (which is preferred by most people).
Bad: Mids are a little unclear. The included adapter does not meet the standard airplane adapters, which is double mono plugs and the MDR-NC13 has two stereo plugs which can cause some problems for some.
In-ear Noise Cancelling Headphones Budget Option #2 – Digital Silence DS-101A
The noise-cancelling ability of these in-ear headphones is not far from Sony MDR-NC13. The Digital Silence DS-101A landed on the top spot from the “Best Headphones Under $30” lists on thewirecutter.com, due to their amazingly good sound with excellent noise-cancelling feature, but they are limited and a rarity to find now days.
Good: A good buy for the price. The noise cancellation is very clean, sounded really great and the battery can last for a long time.
Bad: Need to improve more on the Customer Service department. But overall it is a great pair of in-ear noise cancelation headphones.