Features, prices and models of noise cancelling headphones

Outdoor noises can make the sound quite unpleasant, which is why more and more people are choosing to buy noise cancelling headphones, a feature that allows you to eliminate the most annoying environmental sounds.

Noise cancelling headphones are ideal devices for listening to music, watching movies and TV series, traveling and working on the PC, getting a flawless sound quality. Here's how to choose the best noise cancelling headphones, with a selection of the cheapest and most exclusive models from brands such as Bose, Sony, Marshall and Sennheiser.

How to choose the right noise cancelling headphones

Choosing the right noise cancelling headphones for your needs is not easy: you need to evaluate first of all the budget available, but also the use you intend to make of them. The first aspect to evaluate concerns the technical characteristics of the device and its performance, but the type of connectivity and size are also important. Here are the factors to take into consideration.

Impedance, Driver and Frequency Response

One of the main aspects to evaluate when buying noise-cancelling headphones is to analyze the performance of the device. A good quality product must counteract noise, producing a sound wave that contrasts those coming from outside, in fact cancelling them out and creating a comfortable and relaxing environment, reproducing a clear and deep sound. For this reason, the frequency spectrum must be quite wide, including at least from 20 to 20,000 Hz, while there are high-end devices that go from 5-10 Hz up to even 40,000 Hz.

In addition to the ability to reproduce a wide range of high, medium and low frequencies, the best noise cancelling headphones must ensure a crisp and clean sound, while maintaining an adequate impedance. This is a technical value expressed in Ohm, a unit of measurement that calculates the electrical resistance of the sound signal. Normally, these devices have an impedance of 32 ohms, while some noise-canceling headphones can reach as high as 150 ohms. However, the ideal is a fair middle ground, as the higher this value, the lower the reproduction volume will be.

Another essential element to judge noise cancelling headphones is the driver, the speaker that reproduces the sound. In this case, the headphone must be rather enveloping, to avoid sound dispersion outside and internal acoustic infiltration, in addition, the driver must have a consistent diameter, at least 40 mm, to ensure a perfect reproduction of low sounds. The quality of the driver is expressed in decibels, a value that indicates the sensitivity of the noise-cancelling headphones, so to buy a suitable model you have to check that it offers from 90 to 110 dB.

Connectivity with cable or Bluetooth

On the market there are different noise-cancelling models, including wireless or wired noise cancelling headphones. Obviously, cordless devices are more comfortable, an ideal solution especially for travel and sports activities, avoiding the wire to hinder movements. These headphones use the Bluetooth connection to connect to terminals, such as your smartphone or PC, synchronizing with the audio and video file playing at that moment. However, these devices are slightly more expensive than wired noise cancelling headphones, which on the contrary remain cheaper.

Wired models cost less and usually offer a more sensitive sound than wireless headphones, but it always depends on the brand and type of device. Some devices offer the option of removing the cable, using the headphones in both modes, or replacing it with another wire of a different length, to suit your needs. For example, you can use a shorter cord for working at your desk, while using a longer one for traveling or running in the park.

Structure and size

Both the structure and size are quite important aspects, on which your listening comfort directly depends. For example, the weight makes these headphones for music more or less comfortable, especially after a few hours of use, so it is important to make sure that it is not more than 300 grams, otherwise the headphones could get tired quickly. Another factor concerns the shape, which must be quite enveloping and of the right size according to your ears, leaving no free spaces but also not remaining too large.

The padding must be soft, possibly hypoallergenic and easy to clean, with an additional coating also in the headband to prevent it from creating discomfort to the head. Of course, it is essential that the headphones are adjustable to suit your physical characteristics, with tilting external earpieces, shortenable headbands and an ergonomic and comfortable lining. If it's impossible to try noise-canceling headphones before buying them, you should at least choose a customizable model, making sure you can adapt it to your needs.

Power System

Noise-canceling headphones work thanks to batteries, which are built into the structure of the speakers and offer more or less autonomy. Most models are rechargeable, an important aspect to check before finalizing the purchase, to save on the purchase of new batteries and respect the environment. At the same time, the presence of the cable is the most important factor, since wireless headphones can guarantee up to 12-20 hours of autonomy, while corded ones can guarantee up to 35-40 hours on a single charge.

To increase the duration of the batteries, it is possible to deactivate the noise cancellation function. Since it is an electronic/electronic intervention, which using a system of waves and resistances eliminates external sounds, the activation of the anti-noise function causes an increase in the energy consumed by the device. To decrease power consumption, simply turn the system switch to the OFF position, activating the noise canceling feature only when necessary, and you'll see a 30-40% increase in efficiency.

Commands and Features

Each model of noise canceling headset can provide different features, depending on build quality, price and brand. Some devices offer the standard controls, i.e., volume up and down and on/off of the noise canceling feature, through a button located on the external earpiece. More advanced products offer the possibility of changing tracks, for example by starting the playback of the next music track on the mp3, or allowing you to pause the audio or video and activate the call mode.

Prices of noise-canceling headphones

To choose the best headphones you must also consider the price. These devices are quite expensive , especially if you want to buy a good quality model, which can offer clear sound and satisfactory protection from external noise. The cheapest devices can be found on sale with a price below 130€, the mid-range ones on the other hand range from 120-130€ up to a maximum of 180-200€, while the most innovative noise cancelling headphones, with additional features and very high quality materials can cost even more than 300€.

Best cheap noise cancelling headphones

Among the cheapest noise cancelling headphones on the market are the Creative Aurvana ANC, an all in all simple but functional model, with 100 dB sensitivity, 290 Ohm impedance, a weight of just 174 grams, 40 mm driver and 1.5 meter cable connection. Unfortunately, this device is only compatible with non-rechargeable batteries, does not work wirelessly and does not provide additional functionality, at the same time the sound quality is good and the weight is really low.

Not to be outdone are the Cowin E7 Pro Active, which can be purchased on Amazon at a price of only € 79.99, one of the lowest in the category. This is a device with 30 hours of autonomy, indicated as noise cancelling headphones for sleeping, listening to music or working on the PC. The device has large headphones with 45 mm drivers, sensitivity from 75 to 85 dB, pavilions rotatable 90 °, microphone for calls with NFC technology and Bluetooth wireless connection, however, the headband is not padded.

Another economic product, but equipped with the anti-noise feature, are the Sennheiser HD 4.40, wireless headphones with Bluetooth 4.0 connection, modern design, a weight of just 222 grams, with small 32 mm drivers that still offer a good quality of audio reproduction. The headband is adjustable but has no padding, the sound is quite balanced between high and low with impedance of 18 Ohm, a frequency response from 18 to 22,000 Hz and compatibility with any mobile device thanks to NFC transmission technology.

Best noise cancelling headphones value for money

Making noise cancelling headphones in comparison, one of the best models on the market are definitely the Sony MDR-XB950N1B, indicated as headphones for music and travel. This is a device that can be used both wired and wirelessly with Bluetooth connection, with a battery life of 22 hours, frequency response from  20 to 20,000 Hz and 40 mm drivers. The bass is extremely powerful thanks to the ExtraBass system, with management of settings via the Headphone Connect app, downloadable on Google Play Store and iTunes for Android and iOS.

One of the noise cancelling headphones with the best value for money are the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, a wireless model with Bluetooth connection, NFC technology and the possibility of also using a 1.5-meter cable. The device is compatible with Amazon's voice assistant Alexa, integrated within the operating system, offers a battery life of 20 hours, a wraparound covering, a weight of just 236 grams, an auto-balanced equalizer and control of settings with the Bose Connect app.

Also good are the Marshall headphones, a company specializing in the production of devices aimed at the music world. One of the best value devices are the Marshall Mid ANC Active, music headphones with built-in noise canceling functionality, up to 20 hours of battery life, Bluetooth connection, vintage design, microphone activation for calls, multi-directional earbud control, customizable sound drivers and a weight of just 209 grams.

Best high-end noise cancelling headphones

Those who want to buy a very high quality product can opt for the Bowers & Wilkins PX HD noise cancelling headphones. This model offers Bluetooth HD wireless connection, with the possibility of also connecting the classic USB cable, with a 48 kHz 24-bit audio resolution, noise cancelling functionality with optimal noise isolation, an ergonomic design with generous padding and a soft leather headband. In addition, the device features large headphones that wrap around the ears, with a structure made of exclusive materials, including aluminum and carbon inserts.

One of the best Sony headphones ever is the WH-1000XM3, a model with up to 40 hours of battery life using the cable or 30 hours with wireless functionality, excellent padding, a modern design and a noise cancelling system that can be activated manually. This device is compatible with Alexa, Amazon's virtual assistant, has touch controls for volume selection and external noise isolation, with a weight of 277 grams and an adaptive sound system. The latter automatically changes the audio configuration based on noise and activity performed, a setting that can also be made via the Sony I Headphones Connect app available for Android and iOS.