The Best Noise Cancelling Headphones, According to Our Readersshopahs@protonmail.com
Noise cancelling headphones are a Godsend in 2020. As I try to type this, a car alarm is blaring outside, which has been happening for 20 minutes straight with no end in sight. That’s probably a familiar story for anyone who’s had to readjust to a work from home environment in 2020. There’s a lot of unexpected audio distractions that only become apparent when you need to focus the most. Suddenly, every little weird street noise or sound from your upstairs neighbors becomes unbearable.
When we asked our readers to tell us the noise cancelling headphones they swear by, we received lots of similar scenarios. Tales of noisy kids or loud jackhammering made it clear that this is a common issue for folks who are stuck at home. Luckily, our readers had plenty of solutions for their own woes, from headphones to high-end earbuds designed to block out excess noise. Of course, some of you had more creative ways of dealing with your audio troubles.
“I would recommend the Growler 9000. It’s a small dishwasher that is so loud it drowns out the jackhammering and gunfire so common in my neighborhood with the steady GROWL GROWL GROWL GROWL.” ~ send_in_the_drones
What can I say? Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to stick to your headphone and earbud recommendations, because we got a lot of options. Take a look at what our readers had to say and see if any of these sound like the right solution to your own home audio nightmares.
Anker Soundcore Life Q20 | $60
“Anker Soundcore Life Q20. Relatively inexpensive ($60), 30 hr battery with NC on, 60 hours off, great sound quality. Anecdotal evidence: My teenage daughters got into a knockdown drag-em-out fight while I was working one floor below them. I didn’t even realize it until one came downstairs to tattle.” ~ cycoivan
Bose QuietComfort 35 | $270
“Sony might have better sound quality but the thing about the Bose QuietComfort headphones is that they’re actually comfortable — you can wear them for 14 or 16 straight hours of a work day without feeling uncomfortable at all” ~ neverspeakawordagain
Samsung Galaxy Buds Live | $140
“Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. I love that they are so comfortable and in-ear. I’ve never had them run out of battery on me, the case can charge wirelessly, and the case holds a nice charge for the earbuds.
They’re a nice mid-range price (~$139-ish) and if you have a Samsung they work easily straight out of the box. They also work well with iPhone after you install the app. I got mine in September and love them so much I bought my mom a pair for her birthday in November.
My furnace is particularly loud, and when I’m wearing them with the active noise cancelling on, I can’t even hear the furnace.” ~ stephcain76
AirPods Pro | $200
“I know some people are going to rag on me for this, especially after today’s announcement that Apple’s new over-ear headphones are going to cost FIVE HUNRDED AND FORTY NINE DOLLARS, but when it comes to in-ear ANC headphones, you can’t really can’t beat AirPods Pro. While they might not offer best-in-class sound or pricing, it can’t be overstated how much of a game-changer the H1 chip is. At first I thought automatic pairing was limited to Apple devices alone, another marketing gimmick to lock you in further to the company’s unparalleled interconnected ecosystem. Then I started using them with my gaming rig and realized the functionality extends to non-Apple devices, too.
Let it be known I also own a pair of Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones, whose audio quality is unequivocally better in every way, from the highs to the mids all the way down to the bass. Although it’s gotten easier to switch between two devices with their successor, the WH-1000XM4, as our friend Andrew Liszewski pointed out in his review for Gizmodo, the AirPods Pro eliminate the hassle of pairing altogether, perfect for those of us in tech laden households where there’s no shorten of pure, unadulterated content to devour. The noise-canceling, imperfect as it is, blocks out most of the city noise when I’m out for runs while the optional Transparency mode, along with reflexive pausing when one earbud is removed, lets sound in when my wife needs to show me her latest TikTok obsession. To top it off, spatial sound adds some immersive quality to my gaming sessions with Dolby Atmos for Headphones enabled, I think. That last part could be a placebo. It’s at least explicitly noticeable when I’m watching shows on my iPad and the noise becomes more distant than the farther away from it I move.
That said, the AirPods Pro aren’t without their faults. Much as I prefer the rubberized tips to the standard AirPods’ piercing plastic ends, some people wrongly prefer the latter. I owned a pair of the OGs myself and quickly returned them (or, rather, sold them to my mom) after they started to cause pain in my ear canal, not to mention there were several close calls when they’d fall out near the subway tracks. And while I’ll continue to evangelize the H1 chip, it doesn’t always work. In fact, my wife bought a pair after I hyped them up for months and her experience with automatic pairing hasn’t been nearly as positive as mine. But perhaps most unfortunate of all is the battery life, which lasts only about 4 hours on a single charge. As an all-day lofi chill beats to smoke / study / relax / long for platonic companionship to listener, it’s a real bummer having to sit alone with my thoughts for the latter half of every day. I mean, it only takes about 20 minutes for them to charge, but that’s plenty enough time to ruminate on that thing I shouldn’t have said 5 years ago.” ~ Gabe Carey