The world is noisy but concentration and relaxation often require silence — or a controlled environment that is as free from distractions as possible. That’s what makes noise cancelling headphones awesome: the ability to block out background noises to help you be more productive or to help you mitigate unwanted sounds all around.
For me, picking the best noise cancelling headphones comes down to this formula: 75% noise cancellation performance, 15% comfort and 10% additional features. Noise cancellation is obviously the main draw, but if they’re uncomfortable that tanks the whole thing. Additional features can help give one pair of headphones a slight edge over another: wireless connectivity, for instance, is big for me as are easy-t0-use controls. Design and looks, for me, fit into additional features (for this post) because you don’t buy noise cancelling headphones for the way the look. If you want bright red headphones, grab some Beats. One final note: the quality of the headphones listed here isn’t really a factor because I feel like each of these brands and headphones offers quality that is high enough that the discussion thereof becomes an afterthought.
Let me know your thoughts and comments!
Plantronics BackBeat Pro
Wireless headphones coupled with lots of innovative features.
I just finished doing a full review of the Plantronics BackBeat Pro headphones and I’m totally blown away by them. They are wireless (a big win), comfortable and have incredibly well-designed, well-priced, sturdy and easy-to-use on-headphone controls. The noise-cancellation is great, but not perfect, but they’re my top choice because lately I’ve been more than impressed with products from Plantronics. They may not have the flashiest marketing, but the products are really high-quality.
Bose Custom QuietComfort 25
A customizable look with a classic industrial design.
I think when most people think noise cancelling headphones they think Bose — and for good reason. Bose is a respected brand in general and has, over the years, earned a reputation for comfortable, classic-styled headphones. The noise cancelling abilities of the Custom QuietComfort 25s (available in Android and iPhone editions) are probably second to none (even if they may be tied with a brand or two). What I like most about these is that they are highly customizable — you can truly personalize the look of your headphones. What I like least is the price: they’re nearly double the price of the BackBeat Pros listed above and I’m not sure the jump is worth it, to be honest, unless you really want some bright colors on your head.
PSB M4U 2
Super comfortable on your ears.
What the PSB M4U 2s have that the other headphones listed here don’t is absolute comfort. Now you can’t go wrong with either of the headphones listed above — they’re both quit comfortable — but the PSB cans are maybe 10% more comfortable. Not a giant difference, but if you’re going to be wearing your noise cancelling headphones for a very long time (and frequently) — like if you’re on a plane or plan on working with some background noise for several hours a day — then maybe that 10% will make a considerable difference.