While the innovation of noise-canceling headphones might not do much to cure any of the World’s problems, there’s little arguing that it’s one of the best personal technologies to come into the market in the past 20 years.
To be able to listen to crisp, crystal-clear music and sounds without any background buzz is truly astonishing. What high-definition LCD did for televisions, the noise-canceling technology has revolutionized headphones.
There really is no comparison to the crisp audio emitted from the noise-canceling headphones. They serve as a perfect example of a technology of once it’s experienced, it’s hard to go back to the standard or even earbud models. While many of the noise eliminating headphones on the market today offer a similar clear sound, these five models are the best in the business.
#1 Bose QuietComfort 25
Other companies have lept to the forefront in recent years but Bose will always be the founding father of the noise-canceling technologies or at least be associated as such. Like most companies, they have shifted beyond just providing sound quality and have since aggressively engineered headphones that are extremely comfortable.
In this day and age when people are wearing their headphones hours on end during binge Netflix sessions, having a set of headphones that don’t irritate the ears is of utmost importance.
The latest attempt at comfortability and quality is the Bose QuietComfort 25. Bose underwent a redesign for the release of their QuietComfort 25 model and a result is a unit that weighs in at under 7 ounces without the cable, has adjustable earcups for a custom fit, and even a suede-like material underneath the headband for even more comfort on the noggin.
Having headphones that are easy to wear are one thing but what good is it if they provide crackly and distorted sound? Bose conquers that as well while boasting the best-in-class audio quality that lets in what you want while filtering outside sounds.
The Bose QC 25 are also geared for use specifically with Apple products and an inline microphone and remote means calls have that same great crisp quality. Finally, the earcups fold up nicely for easy transportation and storage. It should be noted though that the noise-canceling feature runs on a AAA battery which has about 30 hours of life.
On top of that most consumers recommend about 100 hours of listening before the headphones really get ‘broken in’ and really produce top-notch audio. That being said if you’re going to spend $300 on headphones, you might as well trust the industry innovator in Bose. (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) for the best pricing.
#2 Beats By Dre Studio
There’s perhaps no other headphone manufacturer in the industry that is as popular as the Beats By Dre right now. From national commercial spots to lucrative deals with athletes and entertainers, the word is definitely out there and the iconic lower case ‘b’ logo has definitely achieved brand awareness.
The company’s signature product is the Studio headphones, and over the ear, a noise-canceling unit designed with professional artists and radio broadcasters in mind. That being said, you don’t have to be an on-air personality to enjoy crisp tunes with little to no interference from the outside world.
The first incarnation of the Beats brand headphones was too bass fueled according to most consumers. This could possibly be due to the company marketing towards a more hip/hop and R&B music listening experience but it didn’t translate well to those looking to listen to talk radio or country music.
The latest version of Beats has tuned down the bass but the reviews are still mixed. Beats will always be a top seller among teens and young people because they are just as much a fashion statement as they are functional.
True music aficionados will almost to a T state that the Beats noise-canceling function emits a noticeable hissing sound and there have been some qualms about the durability of the product.
Most reviewers state that the main gripe with the Beats headphones is the price. They are a nice set of headphones, just not for the quality of a $269-$300 price tag. Then again, sometimes audio quality isn’t the most important factor in choosing headphones.
The Beats ‘phones are comfortable at 13% lighter than their predecessors and with softer ear cups and a flexible headband. Plus if the user is frequently listening to them on flights or in a busy office the background noise is less detectable anyway.
In the end, if you’re looking for a quiet night of listening to jazz music the Beats might not be for you. To get these for the best price (around $269), (For the latest prices and discounts, check here).
#3 Sennheiser 450 PXC
One of the main things that jump right out about the Sennheiser 450 PXC headphones is the suggested retail price of over $400. In the world of getting what you pay for though, it’s hard to argue that the 450 PXC set offers arguably the best sound quality in the business.
When consumer shells out almost $500 for a pair of headphones, they want to have peace of mind that it’s a well-built product and the Sennheiser 450 have noticeably durable construction and sound build.
One reason that buyers of the Sennheiser 450 PXC can justify the price is that for the cost you not only get the headphones but also a whole new music library to go with it.
Many reviewers remarked that listening to some of their old CDs but with a switch to the 450 PXC headphones has opened up background sounds and hidden instrument twangs that seemingly never existed. There are several reasons that the 450 PXC headphones are able to deliver such an elite performance.
First off Sennheiser has developed adaptive baffle damping and a patented Duofol diaphragm that blocks up to 90% of outside noise with the NoiseGard technology. What’s really innovative is a talk-through function which, although it blocks outside noises, allows conversations to flow through to talk without removing the headset.
Finally, all the conveniences are there that you’d expect from a high-end set of headphones. The rather large earcups fold up for convenient storage and the purchase includes a soft carrying case as well as a second adapter for in-flight entertainment. Fortunately, you can save over 40% off the $500 sticker price, (For the latest prices and discounts, check here).
#4 Sony MDR-1RNC
Sony is one of the most trusted brands in electronics and while some consumers might be skeptical of a company with their hands spread so many different ways, the MDR1RNC headphones are a true audio delight.
While some noise-canceling headphones are designed for drowning out office buzz or phase out the crying kid in 6A on a cross-country flight these Sony cans are truly fit for so-called audio snobs.
Most consumers of the Sony MDR1RNC rave about the one thing audiophiles strive for – balance. Bass should be tight and moving but not overpowering and muddy. Highs should be prevalent but roll off before they become harsh.
Songs you’ve heard before should sound like a new experience and you shouldn’t have to use full volume to do so. By all accounts, Sony captures all these traits and then some in their MDR-1RNC headset.
Sony features an automated AINC noise cancellation function with Dual Noise Sensor technology to boost up to 99% reduction of ambient noise. Comfortable ear pads and a lightweight design under 11 ounces make for a pair of headphones that can be worn for hours while listening to old tunes for what seems like the first time.
For the most part, those who purchased the Sony MDR 1RNC couldn’t be happier with their audio investment. (For the latest prices and discounts, check here).
#5 AKG K490C
AKG might not be a household brand name like your Bose, Sony, or even Beats nowadays but that doesn’t mean the company doesn’t offer a quality noise-canceling headphone. The K490C model at first glance is built for extended listening times with soft, plush leather earcups and a padded headband.
The convenience continues with a unique 3-D axis folding mechanism that makes the K490C headphones less of a burden to take on trips. A carrying case and flight adapter complete the adaptable traveling specs. (For the latest prices and discounts, check here).
UPDATE: Since they have stopped carrying the K490C’s on Amazon, I’d recommend the AKG Pro Audio K702’s instead. They are very comparable in terms of price and quality (with a few nice upgrades).
Conclusion: Final Thoughts
Besides being easy on the skull, the AKG K490C packs performance as well. A closed-back design blocks outside noise from interfering while the sounds inside flow uninterrupted. This is the same type of technology that recording studios use for ultimate performance. Retailing at around $250 or less the AKG K490C represents an easy-to-wear headphone set that delivers optimum sound.
There are a number of factors that consumers need to take into consideration when spending upwards of $300 on a set of noise-canceling headphones including brand trust, ease of wear, but most importantly performance.
It’s important to know just what the intended use of the headphones will be as those who enjoy a glass of wine and easy listening at home have different needs than those using the headset to drown outside conversations from their ears.