You are always on the go or traveling and you like to listen to music, but you are often distracted by ambient noise, such as that of cars or scooters passing by on the street; not to mention the noise of trains and planes. These are the scenarios in which it is more useful to use a pair of noise cancelling headphones : they are apparently very normal headphones, often wireless with Bluetooth protocol support, and capable of suppressing almost all sounds coming from outside.

Noise cancelling headphones use an active system for noise cancellation. Therefore not only passive accessories, such as ear pads or in-ear pads, but also a technology that mixes hardware and software in order to generate a signal opposite to that coming from the microphones. and delete the message. This allows you to hear only and exclusively what is present in recordings or telephone conversations (if you pair the headphones with a smartphone or tablet), obviously with the due proportions.

Best Noise Cancelling Headphones

The best noise cancelling headphones, in fact, are often expensive, while the cheap ones cannot adequately filter all the sounds coming from the outside. This is because, to work well, noise reduction must take advantage of high quality microphones and a complex and necessarily precise algorithm to eliminate any unwanted noise from listening. But no more chatter and let’s get to the heart of this buying guide, where I will help you select the most suitable model for you.

How noise cancelling headphones work

Today I will explain how to choose and how noise cancelling headphones work. There are actually two types: headphones with passive noise cancelling systems, and headphones with active noise cancelling systems. I will deal with the latter type: passive systems, as I mentioned earlier, mainly exploit the materials with which type of material used to build headphones and earpads, and the format of the same. Depending on the type of headphones, they can reduce noise to a greater or lesser extent, but the results are certainly not exceptional.

The active noise cancelling, often abbreviated as ANC, now is used by headsets of different brands and use different technologies, depending on the manufacturer, to reduce the noise of the surrounding environment. The principle, however, is always the same: they use one or more microphones to record what happens in the room, reproducing all the sounds with the same amplitude and frequency, but with a phase inversion of 180 °. Thanks to this system, they generate a phenomenon called destructive interference, thus preventing the wearer from hearing the sounds recorded in the midst of the sound reproduction that is instead reproduced normally.

Headphone format

There are different formats for headphones, and each one has very specific characteristics since the format also determines the ability of the same to passively muffle the volume of ambient sounds.

Open headphones

These headphones are the headphones that generally offer the greatest comfort and the best sound quality, thanks to a higher and more linear fidelity at all frequencies of music reproduction.

Closed headphones 

closed headphones are often heavier, using a pavilion that encloses the ear inside it. They are meant to be used on the go thanks to the isolation of the sounds produced by the large pavilions, but they are also less comfortable. The audio is also a little less crystal clear than open headphones, with an emphasis on the low tones.

On-ear headphones

on-ear headphones are the most compact, as they have a pavilion that covers the ear only partially, resting on it. They isolate very little from the sounds of their surroundings, but at the same time they are the easiest to carry around. Thanks to active noise cancelling they can solve – in part – the problem.

Over-ear headphones 

The vast majority of active noise-cancelling headphones use the over-ear format, which completely wraps around the ear and encloses it. This type of headphones, also called around-ear in some cases, isolates the listening very well and, in the presence of ANC technology, allows you to almost completely cancel the sounds produced by means of transport and the like.

The ANC technology is often implemented on closed headphones over-ear and on-ear headphones, but in recent times have been announced different models of headsets often in-ear headphones (with grommets which fit entirely in the ear cavity), which they allow to eliminate in a quite effective way the ambient sounds by exploiting both passive and active systems. A fairly iconic example is the Apple AirPods Pro.

Wired or wireless

All headphones with active noise cancellation are wireless, and almost always use the Bluetooth protocol to match the source (which can be a smartphone, a tablet, a computer, or even a TV, among many). This is because the 3.5mm audio cable alone fails to power the noise cancelling function and a battery is required to do so.

Often the noise cancelling headphones (not the noise cancelling earphones) can also be used via a 3.5mm cable, however to take advantage of the noise cancelling function the battery must be charged! In some cases, NFC ( Near Field Communications ) support is also provided, which allows you to pair the source (if compatible) simply by bringing the two devices closer.

Audio quality and specifications

The best way to evaluate the audio quality of a pair of noise cancelling headphones is to listen to them. Although there are several indications that you can use to understand the quality of the headphones in terms of sound, each of us perceives the audio and its facets in a subjective way. For example, there are those who love disco or dance music and prefer a tone rich in bass and treble, those who love jazz and prefer an airy musical stage, and those who love classical music and prefer uncompromisingly high linearity in the response. frequency, and a lot of fidelity and precision in the sound response.

To evaluate the qualities of a pair of headphones, both noise cancelling and traditional, there are still several parameters and I list them below.

Frequency response 

With this parameter, measured in Hertz ( Hz ), we indicate the range of frequencies that a headphone can reproduce. The human ear can hear on average from 20 to 20,000Hz, but the best headphones can go even further. Low sounds are reproduced at the lowest frequencies, down to about 100Hz, and become louder as the frequency increases.

Sensitivity 

This value measures the sound pressure in relation to the applied voltage. In other words, the higher the sensitivity, the less effort the amplifier will make to reach a certain volume.

Hi-Res Audio 

Audio via Bluetooth is qualitatively inferior to cable connections, however there are technologies that allow you to obtain very high quality audio, almost completely comparable to what can be obtained via cable. Among the technologies that indicate the possibility of reproducing high definition audio, we have the Hi-Res standard, which allows the management of audio files with resolution higher than 16-bit / 44.1kHz. Some models can in fact go up to 24-bit / 192kHz, or even go even further. Among the most used codecs on smartphones we also have aptX, owned by Qualcomm, and which also ensures low latency in communication.

Power supply 

Noise cancelling headphones are wireless, I told you this before. They use batteries that guarantee a certain autonomy based on the model and technologies used. The most advanced models use fast charging technologies and in a few minutes can offer hours of listening, while among the most popular necessary connectors we have micro-USBUSB Type-C and Lightning (in the case of Apple headphones or earphones). It comes with the cable.

Audio channels 

Noise cancelling headphones are almost always stereo, so they have two separate channels that can play a different sound message to give you an idea of ​​the different positions of the various instruments. In the case of true wireless headphones with active noise cancellation, you can choose whether to use only one channel (for example, to listen to a podcast or during telephone conversations). In that case the listening becomes mono.

Microphone and controls

Since noise cancelling headphones are designed for the most extreme mobility, it is difficult to find models without a microphone and controls. The microphone, then, is also essential to enable active noise cancelling, and can often also be used for the reverse function: some manufacturers call it Ambient Sound (or by other names) and it serves to amplify the sounds of the surrounding environment in in order to have a higher perception of what is happening. In the absence of cables, the controls are often on the pavilions and can be both capacitive, therefore touch-sensitive, and through physical buttons.

The controls of the noise cancelling headphones can be useful, for example, to manage the volume, to control music playback with the PlayPause functions or to move to the next and previous tracks, or even to enable noise cancelling or a possible voice assistant (eg. Google Assistant or Siri) on the connected device.

Other characteristics

In choosing your next noise cancelling headphones you can also evaluate other characteristics, such as the size of the driver (ranging from 30 to 50mm), or of the speaker present in the pavilions: the wider it is usually, the more the headphones can effectively reproduce the sound. low spectrum of sound frequencies. A large speaker consumes more electricity, however, so in the best noise cancelling headphones we usually have 40mm drivers, which represent an excellent compromise in terms of consumption and audio quality.

Noise cancelling headphones are designed for transport, and therefore you can often find a supplied case that allows you to carry them around while minimizing the overall dimensions. Even the ANC earphones often come with a carrying case: in the case of the true wireless earphones with noise cancellation, moreover, the case also integrates a battery and allows you to charge the same earphones while you are out and about, considerably increasing their autonomy on the move.

Which noise cancelling headphones to buy

Now that you know all about noise cancelling headphones, all you have to do is decide which noise cancelling headphones to buy. Below I will divide them into different categories based on the price range, including cheap, mid-range and high-end noise cancelling headphones. The noise cancelling earphones deserve a chapter in themselves, and at the bottom of the article I propose the best ones!

Best budget noise cancelling headphones (less than € 150)

Srhythm NC25 / NC35

The Srhythm NC25 are extremely cheap and low quality noise cancelling headphones. They use the over-ear format and 40mm speakers, while the 360mAh battery allows you to play music for up to 16 hours on a single charge. They come with a 3.5mm cable to use when they are flat or to get a little better audio quality. Obviously don’t expect miracles from this model. If you want to spend little you can also take a look at the Srhythm NC35, improved in various areas but also particularly “cheap” in terms of workmanship and audio quality.

Energy Travel 7 ANC

Travel over-ear headphones with folding structure, support for Bluetooth 4.1 and a declared autonomy of about 16 hours with active noise cancellation, 27 hours instead by deactivating the function. They also come with a 3.5mm audio cable, and a carrying case.

Sony WH-CH700

The Sony WH-CH700 are the most interesting noise-cancelling headphones among the budget models. 
They support NFC for quick pairing and connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth 4.1 technology. 
The autonomy is very high, equal to about 35 hours of music listening with inactive noise cancellation. 
These headphones are compatible with Alexa and therefore support voice commands both to control playback and to manage smart home accessories.

Fresh ‘n Rebel Clam ANC

The Fresh ‘n Rebel Clam ANC has a proprietary technology for active noise cancellation and is aimed at a young audience. 
They are sold in different variations with different colours, offer full sound and an over-ear structure with a foldable frame. The autonomy is up to 35 hours without ANC and 30 hours with active cancellation.

Sennheiser HD 450BT

Together with the Sony that I have just suggested to you, the Sennheiser HD 450BT are headphones with an excellent quality-price ratio, certainly superior to the Chinese models that I have proposed to you above. What is certain is that the price rises slightly: this model uses a proprietary technology for active noise cancellation, supports Bluetooth 5.0 and offers an autonomy of about 30 hours. The audio quality is very high in relation to the price, also thanks to the support of the aptX codec and the processing of high quality AAC files. There is no lack of support for Google Assistant and Siri.

Best mid-range noise cancelling headphones (up to € 250)

Marshall Mid ANC

The Marshall Mid ANC are headphones that are very fashionable in this period, quite cheap in relation to the technical contents. 
They support active noise cancellation, Bluetooth with aptX codec, and have an autonomy of up to 20 hours (more than 30 if you listen without noise cancellation). 
The design is on-ear, and there is also a carrying case included. 
They are very comfortable and the audio quality is quite good.

Sony WH-XB900


Among the best mid-range headphones right now I suggest the Sony WH-XB900, with active noise cancellation and Extra Bass mode that allows you to get the loudness effect. Compatible with Google Assistant and Siri, these Sony headphones guarantee an autonomy of 30 hours, supporting Bluetooth for pairing and NFC to perform pairing quickly with compatible sources. They guarantee a frequency response from 20Hz up to 40000Hz using LDAC sampling natively, up to a bitrate of 990kbps at 96kHz.

Beats Solo Pro


The Beats Solo Pro are mid-high-end noise cancelling headphones, characterized by a recognizable design and sound. They are designed for fast paced modern music, and offer good sound quality (although, I warn you, some sound purists don’t like Beats tone) paired with a proprietary sound cancellation system called Pure ANC. This system adjusts sound reduction based on ambient noise and the way the headphones are worn. They offer an autonomy of 22 hours of listening with activated noise cancellation, up to 40 hours without, and support fast charging: in fact, 10 minutes of charging are enough to get 3 hours of listening.

Sennheiser PXC 550-II


Other high quality headphones. The Sennheiser PXC 550-II are foldable but not very flashy. In fact, on the quality of the audio and on the features present. They support all voice assistants, offer an autonomy of 30 hours of music playback and have a touchpad on one of the earpads to accept commands by touch. You can adjust setting with the dedicated app and have an automatic shutdown function based on the data collected by the sensors.

Sony WH-1000XM3

Noise canceling headphones
The Sony WH-1000XM3 are an icon in the field of active noise cancelling headphones, and they don’t cost too much either! They use proprietary ANC technology enabled by the QN1 processor, and offer 30 hours of audio playback. In addition, they support fast charging and with 10 minutes of charge can play music for a full 5 hours. They have touch control on the pavilion, it has a USB Type-C charging cable and have a lightweight construction and super soft earpads. They weigh 255 grams and offer a frequency response from 4Hz up to 20,000Hz when connected via cable, from 20Hz to 20,000Hz if connected via Bluetooth. The integrated drivers have a diameter of 40mm.

Best high-end noise cancelling headphones (from 250 €)

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Noise canceling headphones
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II are another icon of the noise cancelling headphones sector, and even if they are not the most recent, they can still offer great satisfaction today. They offer three levels of noise reduction thanks to two built-in microphones, support Alexa and the Google Assistant, and you can adjust it’s setting through the Bose Connect app. They have a battery life of 20 hours, and in the original equipment there is also the carrying case. Choose if you love the typical Bose sound.

Microsoft Surface 2 Headphones


The Surface 2 Headphones are noise cancelling headphones produced by Microsoft and designed to work optimally with the devices of the Surface family. They actually go well with any device that supports Bluetooth. In addition, they have 13 levels of adjustment for the ANC function, offer good sound quality and a touch interface for volume adjustment and music playback control. The autonomy guaranteed by this model is 18 and a half hours of continuous music listening.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700


The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are among the best commercial noise cancelling headphones ever, and offer a highly sought-after design with a stainless steel headband and native support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice assistants. They offer 11 levels of active noise reduction and balanced audio across all frequencies. The autonomy guaranteed by this model is up to 20 hours of non-stop music, and a case for simplified transport is offered in the equipment (in addition to the charging cable, of course). Among the best, as I told you, and the most recent from the manufacturer Bose, but there are still those who prefer the old Bose QuietComfort 35 II model above all in terms of comfort.

Beats by Dr. Dre Studio3

Noise canceling headphones
The Beats by Dr. Dre Studio3 are company-specific active noise cancelling headphones that have been owned by Apple for a few years. They use a system to calibrate sound and noise cancellation in real time and offer a range of up to 22 hours on a single charge. Inside they have the W1 chip with which they can manage Bluetooth connectivity and energy consumption, while fast charging allows you to have 3 hours of listening with just 10 minutes of charge. By deactivating the noise cancellation the reachable autonomy becomes 40 hours.

Sony WH-1000XM4


These are the best commercial noise cancelling headphones. The Sony WH-1000XM4 combines very high quality audio with one of the best active noise cancellation technologies. They are compatible with all popular voice assistants, such as Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri, and offer the listener an autonomy of 30 hours of music. Compared to the previous model (which is on sale today at a much more competitive price) they offer a new audio processing technology and a new Bluetooth chip. Sony’s top-of-the-range headphones then implement the ability to turn off the headphones as soon as you remove them from the ears, and there is the ability to pair them with two devices at the same time.

Apple AirPods Max


Announced at the end of 2020, the Apple AirPods Maxthey are quite controversial headphones, especially because of the list price. Compared to much cheaper models (and with not too inferior audio quality) they sell it without a carrying case. Why buy them, then? The reasons are different, but the main one is exclusivity. The AirPods Max are over-ear headphones with a very high quality sound and extremely high comfort: they use two 10-core Apple H1 chips, one per ear, for continuous computational processing of the audio, adapting it to any circumstance, environment and type of content reproduced. They also use a stainless steel frame, a headband with a breathable finish, as well as bearings, and externally finished anodized aluminum pavilions. They comes in five different colors. List price: 629 euros.

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