Best Noise Cancelling Headphones and Earbuds
In a world of noisy construction traffic, screaming children and loud talkers, the best present you can give (or receive) is the gift of peace and quiet. While you might not be able to afford tickets to a desert island, a pair of active noise-cancelling headphones is the next best thing. They're great for playing your favorite tunes while keeping the outside world at bay. And with an average 15 hours of battery life, they're perfect for long trips.
But with a glut of ANC headphones on the market, how do you choose the right pair? Tom's Guide is here to help you select the best set, just in time to muffle the sound of rush-hour traffic.
What to Look For
There are a few things you should look for in noise-cancelling headphones. Are your headphones passive or active noise-cancelling (ANC)? The quick answer is that all headphones have passive noise cancelling, but not every device has ANC.
Passive noise-cancelling (PNC) headphones partially block out ambient noise via the ear cups. The denser the foam used and the tighter the seal around your ears, the more outside sound will be reduced. A pair of headphones with ANC features one or more microphones that measure the noise level outside the cans. From there, electronics within the headphones work to create sound waves that block ambient noise.
In an attempt to eliminate outside distractions, some ANC headphones unintentionally create white noise. The negative noise can be soothing, but sometimes, the sound is so pronounced that it bleeds into your music, inadvertently altering the audio quality. A good pair of ANC headphones will effectively block out ambient noise without adding unwanted effects to your music.
The other key characteristic (other than audio quality) to check for is battery life. ANC headphones typically last 15 to 20 hours on a single charge. You'll also want to check whether the headphones will still function once the juice runs out. Just because the ANC ran out doesn't mean the music has to stop, too.
Now that more streaming music services are offering high-resolution resolution audio, be sure to read our audio codec FAQ for everything you need to know about FLAC files, MP3s and everything in between.
Whatever your tastes or budget, here are the best active noise-cancelling headphones available.
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