Best Noise Cancelling Headphones
If you have to go to work on the tube, or fly frequently, you can't do much better than a good pair. Noise isolating earphones are great, but they can't match the best active noise cancelling pairs when it comes to zapping that rumbling drone of engine noise.
Last updated: 10/08/2012
When looking at headphones like these, there are a few basic questions you need to ask yourself. First, do you want in-ear models or the over/on-ear type? With in-ear pairs, all the cancelling gubbins is packed into a little remote housing that lies on the cable. It generally gets a bit annoying, unless you wear clothes that are happy to accommodate a shirt clip.
Larger pairs, like Bose's mega-popular models, fit everything into the earcups themselves. Therefore, they're a lot neater and all-round easier to live with.
A quirk of Bose ANC (active noise cancelling) headphones is that they will not output any sound at all unless cancellation is switched on. Run out of battery and you're well and truly stuffed. Some alternatives pull the same trick, but equally some don't. Bear this is mind if you're going to spend a long time away from a charger.
These days, the battery life of ANC headphones is generally very good though. You're looking at 20-plus hours, while some offer up to 50 hours of use. Some pairs use custom rechargeable units, where others rely on good old AA/AAA batteries.
Then there's the question of sound quality. Buying into this sector, you'll just have to accept that the sound won't compare with the very best non-ANC headphones at the price. It's not a tech that can simply be slotted-in for free.
Let's check out the cream of the cancelling crop…