Whether you are trying to find a way to pass the time on a long commute or just trying to get a moment of peace in a crowded cafe, headphones can definitely help. When you add in the noise-canceling feature that many headphones offer today, that can be the awesomesauce icing on the cake. Sometimes it’s not about listening to but about not wanting to listen.
To find the best noise-canceling headphones on the market, you can almost always go with some of the most expensive, as these really do have the best quality. There are a few things you will want to take into account, including:
- What do you need the headphone for?
- Do you prefer earbuds or headphones?
- Do you require wireless or wired headphones?
Sometimes it’s not just about the expense, but also about other factors as well. If you are planning to use them to sleep with, you don’t want a cheap set of wired earbuds. On the other hand, if you are looking for something to use while exercising you may want to look for something that would not interfere with movement. Then, of course, there are the gamers.
What Kind of Headphones Do You Need?
There are three main types of headsets available, which include the following:
There are differences between each one, depending on the purpose you need them for. While it may seem like the only difference is cost, there is a huge difference in sound quality from one type to another. Some may include a microphone while others do not.
Do you need headphones that have a wider range in frequency for mixing music or making videos, or are you looking for something that would be compatible with your computer for playing GTA V? These are all things to take into consideration when looking into purchasing a good set of headphones. What is the main purpose you plan to use them for?
There are also other things to take into consideration as well. If you will be able to charge them regularly (for Bluetooth compatible) or will you be able to be connected to your phone or computer on a regular basis for a long time?
Studio headphones are used for people like YouTube creators or audio mixers. People who need to hear a clear sound, but more for voices than for music. Surround sound is not as important with these kinds of headphones and you will definitely hear everything when it comes to the audio, which may include flaws in music you would not hear otherwise.
I tend to look at studio headphones as a roller coaster ride of sorts, with each upside, there is inevitably a downside that comes with an upside. They are built for durability, due to the abuse a typical studio engineer will put them through, but this has the downside of a high cost. Though durability is something important, a high price tag may take precedence.
Although with the high cost, they are meant to last, so most manufacturers will offer consumer replacement parts. If you do end up breaking something, such as one of the earpieces, you can contact the manufacturer and get a replacement. In this case, you can fix them for a fraction of the cost of replacement, which is definitely an upside.
Studio headsets also do not come with a mic either. These are NOT recommended for playing games due to the lack of surround sound. However, if you want to add a new level to your music listening pleasure, you may enjoy listening to music how a sound engineer hears it, pops, crackles and all. This is due to having a higher frequency range than gamer headphones.
Sennheiser HD 650 Open Back Professional Headphones
Ranging in price from $300 – $500 the Sennheiser HD 650 Open Back Professional headphones are definitely not for the budget-minded individual. Considered the top pick for some sites for 2019, these headphones definitely surpass all others when it comes to sound quality. The open back will allow you to hold a conversation without taking them off.
With a sound range from 10 Hz up to 39,500 Hz, you will hear everything with these. Considering that the average human hearing range is around 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, these cover things that most humans can’t even hear. So if you are one of those special individuals that can hear sounds outside of a normal human range, you will hear it with these headphones.
Designed for both sound quality and comfort, these headphones really can’t be beaten by a cheaper variety. The Sennheiser company has been in business for more than 60 years, which really shows in the quality of their headphones as well. You know a company has to be doing something right to be in business for more than half a century, and it shows in their products.
Probably the biggest downside to these headphones, besides the high price tag, would be the tight headband for the headphones. For someone who has a medium to larger head, they feel tight and may even cause a headache, if using for more than an hour or so. These are definitely not for the regular music listener. They built with either a sound engineer or an audiophile in mind.
- Wide frequency range
- Designed for both quality and comfort
- Built by a company that is more than 60 years old
- Tight headband
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro Headphones
Coming in at a range of $80 to $125, the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones may seem like a lower-end product, as far as studio headphones go, but the sound quality definitely surpasses the price. Also made by the Sennheiser company, they have taken the time to offer a lower-cost product without lowering the quality that customers have come to expect from them.
With a noise-canceling ability up to 32 dB, these headphones equate to earmuffs used in gun ranges when it comes to canceling out background noise, which is definitely one of the biggest pluses for these headphones. While the frequency range is not as big as other similar, higher-priced, models, it is still impressive enough coming in at a range of 8 Hz to 25,00 Hz.
The quality itself does leave a little to be desired as it seems older made headphones of this same model seems to be better made, though that can be understandable with trying to keep the costs down while still providing a quality product. The sound quality is just as good as it was when this model was first released.
Two of the downsides of these headphones would be the tight headband, which does seem to loosen up after a week or so of regular use. The other major downside with these is the coiled cord. With a cord similar to that of an old-style landline telephone, the coiled cord can be heavy and can weigh down the users head. This could lead to wire breakage with extended use.
- Sound quality
- Advanced noise cancellation
- Wide frequency range
- Heavy coiled cord
- Not as well built as previous headphones of the same model
Consumer headphones are the ones that we are most familiar with and generally break down into two different categories themselves. Those used for music and those used for hands-free cell phone devices. While distinctly different uses, oftentimes the manufacturer will take into account the two areas and try to find a balance between them.
Those used for music are as they sound and are built for optimal music listening pleasure in mind. These are the kind like Beats By Dre and other popular brands that you tend to hear about. They are designed and optimized with music in mind and may not work too well with phone calls. Most may not even have a microphone included.
Those used for hands-free cell phone use can range wildly in price from a cheap $15 speaker to a $200 Bluetooth headset used for making calls and listening to music. They can be small enough to fit in your hand or pocket. Alternatively, they can also be large enough that you need to carry a backpack with you just to store your headphones.
Sony WH-1000XM3 Headphones
Considered by TechRadar to be the best noise-canceling headphones for the past two years, the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones are definitely the ones to beat. Ranging in price from $250 to $600, they will be a bit of a hit to the wallet for the budget-minded, but they are worth saving up for. The sound quality is top-notch, although the microphone is lacking.
Add in the fact that they are wireless, the main issue you have to worry about is someone borrowing them or forgetting where you place them. Both lightweight and comfortable, these headphones are really a value for your money. The noise-canceling aspect alone is worth the money as it can almost completely drown out the sound of a vacuum while using it.
They have a 30-hour battery life, although you do need a USB-C cable to charge the battery, not the normal micro USB that you see used for most Android phones and tablets. If you are upgrading on tech, this may be an issue, but if you are more tech-savvy, it may not be. The long-lasting battery, however, means that you can go an entire day without having to charge them.
One of the biggest issues with these headphones seems to be the call quality. It seems that to call it subpar may be a bit of a compliment when it comes to the microphone in regards to making calls. The audio gets a bit distorted too, but it seems to be the biggest issue is with the subpar microphone used with this set of headphones ending up with the user sounding robotic.
- 30-hour battery life
- High-quality sound
- USB – C cable needed
- Microphone is subpar
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 range in price from about $400 to around $500 which is a chunk of change for the budget-minded, granted, but might be worth saving up a few months for. Like the Sony WH-1000XM3, it has excellent sound quality and a pretty good noise cancellation feature. It does offer a microphone, same as with the Sony, but only better quality.
What makes the Bose headphones worth considering is the call quality, which Sony just cannot match. Bose has included in their design a noise-canceling microphone in addition to the noise cancellation feature in the speakers, which brings the value of these beauties up a notch. When you consider the clear calls, even in a crowd, it makes these worth a second look.
Bose spared no expense when designing these headphones. Coming from the previous incarnation, these headphones are an all-new design with a sleeker look and a matte finish, available in both black and champagne colors. Along with Amazon’s Alexa built-in, you can also access both Google Assist and Siri through the app.
The downside: The app. I can’t really put it any clearer than that. You HAVE to sign up for a Bose account AND be logged into said account to control the headphones. If you don’t sign up and have a stable internet connection, these headphones are useless. If you plan to use them for a flight or in a rural area, they may not actually work.
They ask for permission to access things they don’t need like your location history and access to your microphone, not just when you plan to use it either. The app is also known to be buggy, which causes it to repeatedly log the user out of the app, but that, hopefully, can be fixed in the future.
- Good sound quality
- Superior microphone
- Decent noise cancellation
- The app
- Must have a Bose account and be logged in
- The agreements are extreme
- Must have a steady internet connection
- If you don’t agree with everything, your money is wasted
Gamer headsets, while not particularly new to the market, are a more targeted one, like studio headphones. For those who just play on occasion, a headset may not even be needed, and if it is, then a consumer pair would suffice. For those serious gamers, however, having a good gamer headset can submerge you into the world of fantasy and sci-fi, of racing and zombies.
Gamer headphones will include a mic with the headphones to allow for in-game chat or for talking with an audience when streaming, like on Twitch. You may also like to talk on apps like Discord while you are gaming, typically with teammates or other players, so you can work together on a mission. This can make certain games far easier to play and beat.
Gamer headsets tend to be a bit higher in starting price, around $50 for a cheap pair. This is due to most gamers headphones having some sort of surround sound, in addition to the included mic. While high end headsets may go into the thousands, I opted not to include those here as that starts to get into competition-level quality.
Some of the main things to take into consideration when looking at gamer headsets are the quality of the sound and the compatibility of the headset when comes to the system you are using. Whether you use a PC or an XBOX, compatibility is something that you can’t usually work around too much although some systems or headsets may have a viable workaround.
HyperX Cloud Revolver S
Ranging in price from $100 to $150, the HyperX Cloud Revolver S is a headset that balances cost with functionality. With a detachable noise-canceling microphone and Dolby 7.1 digital surround sound, this is a headset sure to impress. With the fact that it is a wired headset, the concern over battery is not an issue. Theoretically, you could play 24 hours without losing sound.
Depending on your play style and the system you use, having a wired headset can really be an issue. Especially when it comes to long play sessions, a quick trip to the bathroom could end up damaging the headphones, if you are not paying attention. So this is something to keep in mind when using wired headphones.
One of the things that you may need some getting used to is that though they are built around a steel frame, they are neither heavy nor feel tight around your head like most headphones are. Designed with large leatherette ear pads, this allows for the pressure to be distributed more around your ears rather than just strict pressure. This can feel a bit disconcerting to some.
One of the few downsides that could be problematic is that these are designed mainly for PC use. While it is possible to make these function with an XBOX or a PS4, by downloading additional firmware either from the game system manufacturer website or from the HyperX site, the sound will not be as accurate, in regards to surround sound, as with other headsets.
- Low cost
- Dolby Digital 7.1 Surround Sound
- Detachable microphone
- Designed for the PC, so may have issues with console systems
SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless
The SteelSeries Arctis Pro wireless headset ranges in price from $145 to $275 and seems to be a huge improvement over previous incarnations in the Arctis series. Going from wired to wireless with some of their previous releases, the sound quality of the Arctis Pro has definitely gotten better with each new upgrade, and this could be something worth checking into.
One of the major benefits of this particular model is the fact that it comes with two rechargeable batteries. Each battery seems to last roughly 10 hours of gameplay, while the backup battery only requires about an hour to charge. In essence, even if you play three days straight, with the one-handed battery changes, you would still not lose sound.
Designed with both PC gaming and PS4 in mind, you can still use it with XBOX One, it just requires updating some firmware and potentially some workarounds. Usually, a quick Google search can help with this. Microsoft did have some issues with many headsets when the XBOX One was first released, but they are working on updating the firmware to accommodate.
One of the major downsides with this headset seems to be a lack of reliable customer service. Both with general contact and when it comes to replacing them if they arrive damaged or a part breaks within the warranty time limit. This can be a major issue when it comes to online purchases, so this is something to keep in mind should you decide to buy these.
- Dual battery
- 1 battery lasts 10 hours, only takes an hour to charge the backup battery
- Will have to download firmware upgrades to work with XBOX One
- Unreliable customer service for both questions and warranty
Earbuds Vs Headphones
Earbuds can be great for traveling, such as commuting back and forth on a train to school or work, but not so much if you are an avid gamer. Sometimes a pair of earbuds will do in a pinch or in a situation where you do not have a lot of room for storing them, such as a pocket. But there are other times, like when going through a serious gaming session, you just need more.
Earbuds can actually be a great tool to keep around for more than just listening to music as the best hands-free Bluetooth devices are usually earbuds, at least to some extent. Although if not handled with care, they can break rather easily, with the proper care, they can actually be very useful and a great investment.
The technological advancements made in regards to earbuds can improve your life as well. Especially due to their smaller size in relation to headphones, earbuds are a must-have for any avid music lover.
Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Earbuds
Similar in style to WH-1000XM3, the Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Earbuds are about a ⅓ of the cost and about 1/10th of the size. Completely wireless, these earbuds offer noise-cancellation capabilities and high-quality sound without sacrificing style. Ranging in price from about $200 to nearly $400, shopping around for the best price is advisable.
Very small, as earbuds tend to be, these do come with a charging case for storage as well. The case is small enough to fit into any bag and most purses, which makes this a good option for those who are concerned about bulkiness. The sound quality is comparable to the headphone version, so if you prefer earbuds to headphones, these would be a good choice.
They are capable of being used while making phone calls with a built-in mic but is best used while in a quieter environment. Using these while playing sports or quick movements is not advisable due to their small size and that there isn’t much holding them into your ear. Although if you wear a hat or earmuffs in wintertime, that would work for holding them in place better.
The major downside of these earbuds is the fact that they do not come equipped with wireless charging, as the case can be kind of bulky to carry around. The other issue was that the app needed to be used for the majority of the controls with these. There are some controls on the left earbud, but it does not change the volume or do anything with the noise-cancellation.
- Lower cost than it’s headphone equivalent
- Small enough to fit in a pocket
- Comes with a case that doubles as a charger
- Sound is comparable to a headset without the bulkiness of one
- Cannot be wirelessly charged
- Need the app for most functions
- Quick movements need to be avoided since there is nothing holding them in place
Bluetooth Headphones for Sleeping
When you are trying to go to sleep at night, the last thing you want is to get tangled up in a wire. There are a number of alternatives to this, including wearing wireless earbuds, but these can fall out of your ears while you are sleeping and get lost in the sheets.
Getting wireless headphones designed for sleeping in will help to solve this issue. Using a Bluetooth sleep mask can help solve a few issues in regards to sleep, including blocking out the light.
Joseche Bluetooth Sleep Mask
Ranging in price from $12 to $30, the Joseche Bluetooth Sleep Mask has decent noise cancellation features, blocks out the light and includes small Bluetooth speakers set inside the mask to allow you to listen to music or podcasts while you try to rest. Perfect for both travel and home, these are small, come with a carrying bag and can help you to block out the outside.
Even those who are budget-minded can afford these as they are found on many popular sites for less than $20. Whether you are trying to block out a crying baby on an airplane or a snaring spouse at home, these are the right price for any budget. The adjustable velcro strap on the back helps to make it comfortable and well-fitting.
Some of the downsides are that although they are Bluetooth compatible, you cannot use them to make phone calls as they do not have a microphone included, though most people don’t usually make phone calls when they are trying to sleep, so this does make sense. They also do not come with a hard case, only a soft bag to protect them, so they could get damaged easily.
- Small, can fit in an overnight bag
- Comes with a sleep mask to block out light
- Cost, under $20
- Does not come with a hard case
- Can get easily damaged
Making Your Wired Headphones into Bluetooth Compatible
Depending on what you intend to use your headphones for, Bluetooth may be something you want to opt for. So what do you do if the headphones you just bought are not Bluetooth enabled? Well, thanks to modern technology, there is a fix for that. While you obviously can’t just cut the cord off to make them wireless, you can turn them into Bluetooth compatible.
For the small cost of $30, you can turn any wired headset into a Bluetooth compatible one. The TaoTronics Bluetooth 5.0 Transmitter and Receiver can turn any wired headset that has a 3.5mm input into a Bluetooth compatible device in seconds with very little work involved.
This can make a huge difference when you are moving around and can’t really afford to be plugged into your computer.