How to choose the best noise-cancelling headphones

Turn off the outside world, and bring on the music...

20 Jan 2021

We could all do with a little peace and quiet from time to time, right? Although a lot of us are lucky enough to be in lockdown (again) with our loved ones, there are times when we just need to shut out the background noise for a moment or two.

Noise cancelling headphones use special technology that turns down the volume on the outside world. Using in-built mics, they pick up low-frequency noises like traffic and low voices. The headphones then neutralise the noise by producing an inverted sound of its own to cancel it out.

And there are lots of benefits to noise cancelling headphones too:

  • Stopping damage to your ears. Ever have to turn up your music a little too loud, just to hear it in a busy place? Since ambient sound is eliminated with noise cancelling headphones, we don’t have to put the volume up quite so high, saving us from permanent ear damage.
  • Helping you focus. This is especially good now, where there might be several us working in the same space in a flat share or family home. Concentrating on blocking out background noise takes a lot of effort. When we can zone it out, we can get way more done.
  • Making a moment to destress. Having lots of noises coming at you at once can make us all feel overwhelmed from time to time. Pressing pause on the outside world can be meditative, giving us a chance to check in on how we’re feeling.

We’ve all got different things we want out of our headphones, so look out for a pair that suits your needs best...


Best for music lovers

Pro pick: Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Bluetooth Noise-Cancelling Headphones

These are one of the best noise cancelling headphones, picking up on an even bigger number of frequencies so that it really is just you and the music for up to 30 hours on a full charge. As well as incredible audio, one of the best features of these headphones is Speak-to-Chat. When you start talking, your headphones will automatically pause your music. Pretty smart!

Budget beat-makers: JBL Tune 750BTNC Wireless Bluetooth Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Given their (at the time of writing) sub-£80 price tag, these are seriously impressive in terms of noise cancellation. They have a premium look and feel, whilst also delivering super crisp audio and punchy bass. And at 15 hours of battery life, one charge will last you a whole day.


Best all-rounders

Pro pick: APPLE AirPods Pro

No earphones list would be complete without a mention of Apple’s AirPods. The Pro version is an upgrade on its regular, non-noise cancelling version. The newer design also means they’re less likely to fall out, making them great for taking calls or listening to podcasts when you’re moving around the house or need your hands free. And, if you have an iPhone, it’s easy to use the voice assistant Siri.

Budget beat-makers: GOJI Wireless Bluetooth Noise-Cancelling Headphones

These are some of the best value noise cancelling headphones available, yet they have great sound quality and really do block out whatever’s in the background. With 16 hours of battery life and memory foam ear cushions, you can keep this comfy pair on all day when you’re working from home.


Best for gym junkies

Pro pick: BOSE SoundSport Free Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

Nobody wants to be popping their headphones back on every 5 seconds when they’re working out. Even though there’s no cable connecting the buds together, these Bose headphones will stay put no matter how much you move around. And - a must for sports headphones – they’re also sweat and weather resistant so you don’t have to worry about going for a run in the rain.

Budget beat-makersSkullcandy Method S2NQW-M685 Wireless Bluetooth Noise-Cancelling Sports Earphones

These are comfy earphones that won’t get in the way of your workout. Special ear gels keep them snug in your ears when you’re on the move and a magnetic band that clips together keeps them safely round your neck when you’re on a break. Plus, with a 10-hour battery life, that loads of gym-session’s worth!

Shop noise cancelling headphones

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