While working from home, one always tries to maximize productivity. However, when working through a videoconferencing platform, background noise can occasionally be distracting to your listener as well as a bit too revealing about your personal life. That is why buying the right noise-canceling headphones for your work environment is a worthy investment. With an overwhelming number of options available on the market, choosing the perfect noise-canceling headphones can be a daunting task.
What features do great noise-canceling headphones have? Do they provide good value for money and are within your budget? In this blog post, we aim to answer these and any other queries you may have before you venture out into the vast world of headphones, searching for the right fit. Read our suggestions for the best noise-canceling headphones for work in 2021 below, and you are likely to find one that fits you best.
Noise-Canceling Headphones vs. Earbuds
While these terms are often used interchangeably, there is actually a stark difference between headphones and earbuds. Headphones are worn over or on the ear, and both ear cups are joined together by a headband. A well-fitting pair of headphones is comparatively more comfortable than earbuds. The ear cups of the headphones embrace your outer ear and do not directly apply pressure to the ear canal. If you’re looking for clear sound quality and the best noise cancellation, headphones are the better choice. However, they do come with their fair share of downsides. Over-ear headphones are rather big and bulky than earbuds and are often considered too noticeable for a work environment. They also tend to be uncomfortable for users who wear glasses.
Earbuds are a more feasible option when considering portability. They are lightweight and inserted into the ear. However, they tend to fall short when it comes to comfort. Since they’re inserted into your ear, using earbuds for a prolonged time can cause discomfort. While their noise leakage is at a minimum, earbuds tend to have a lower noise cancellation performance. The question that is raised quite frequently is, which one is better? It all boils down to personal preference at the end of the day and which one suits your work-life best.
On-Ear Headphones vs. Over-Ear Headphones
Headphones can be divided into two main types. While the difference from a viewer’s point of view is negligible, performance can vary significantly. Over-ear headphones, as the name suggests, fall over your ears and cover them entirely. While sound quality mainly depends on the quality of the headphones themselves, Over-ear headphones tend to do a better job at noise cancellation generally. They do not press on your ears and hence, are more comfortable in the long run. However, since the ear-cups are a bit bigger than their counterparts, carrying them around can become somewhat inconvenient.
On-ear headphones rest on your ears. They are considerably more lightweight and smaller than over-ear headphones and hence, easier to carry. Ambient noise is still audible to an extent, hence making them safer to use in public places. However, they compromise comfort as they rest on your ears, and constant pressure can cause aches.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones in 2021
Best Wireless Headphones
Sony’s top-of-the-line noise-canceling headphones have dominated the market for quite a while. And it’s no surprise that their latest product, the WH-1000XM4 lives up to its hype. Compared to their predecessors, the WH-1000XM4 ear pads’ have a greater surface area resulting in more contact with your head. In addition, the cushioning on the headband is slim, making it one of the most comfortable on this list. The soft finish gives them a premium, long-lasting feel. Along with 30-hours of battery life, these headphones offer fast charging. They use a USB-C cable, and a 10-minute charge can last almost 5 hours.
The WH-1000XM4 offers a wide array of features as well. It has seamless dual-pairing, which means you can connect two devices at a single time. Moreover, the headphones have high-quality touch sensor controls to pause/play or attend to your calls. Finally, on the inside of the left ear-cup is a small sensor that stops playback when the headphones are removed. A subtle but significant feature.
Sony spared no expense when it came to their Active Noise Cancellation technology. They use dual noise sensor technology, where two microphones capture ambient noise and then pass the data to the processor, which cancels noise. It does an outstanding job of bringing the best out of different types of sounds, especially music. It even features an equalizer so you can customize the sound to your liking.
With great battery life, exceptional noise-canceling, and even better sound quality, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is our best recommendation for wireless headphones for work.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones
Bose’s latest Noise-Cancelling Bose -700s have set the benchmark when it comes to this category. Their revolutionary technology coupled with premium design and comfort is the reason why we included them as our Best Noise-Cancelling headphones in 2021.
The Bose-700s feature a lightweight stainless steel headband and follow a minimal design. They are over-ear headphones, and the ear-cups are tilted perfectly to provide you with a luxurious and extremely comfortable feel. The headphones are charged using a USB-C cable and can easily last around 20 hours on a single charge. With the help of an app, you can set times to switch the headphones off, helping you conserve the battery. However, its biggest selling point is the quality of its noise cancellation. Bose uses a six-mic feature where all the mics collect ambient sound and cancel it out. The clarity of your own voices is also noticeably better as they use an additional four mics to collect your sound and isolate it.
The Bose 700s also features a touch control on the ear-cups, which allows you to seamlessly connect to different voice assistants like Google Assistant and Alexa. All in all, the Bose-700s have unrivaled noise-canceling and comfort. They do come with a hefty price tag, but they are definitely worth it.
Best Over-Ear Headphones
The Jabra Elite 85H is a pair of active noise-canceling headphones that boast a long battery life and comfort. With their several unique AI features, these headphones are some of the best you can find.
The Jabra 85H’s are known for their comfort. Even for people who have glasses on. The soft faux leather case with a fabric interior radiates a sense of quality and class from the start. The ear cups are large, exceptionally soft, and foam cushioned. This means you can use them for extended periods of time without feeling intense pressure on your ears. Jabra offers a variety of functions in terms of noise cancellation. It allows the user to choose from different levels of noise-cancellation and set it according to their liking. It also features a ‘Smart Sound’ mode that adjusts noise cancellation level depending on the environment.
The Elite 85H offers up to 36 hours of battery life along with fast charging, where a 15-minute charge can last up to 5 hours. It also includes several features where you can fine-tune the audio performance using their sound++ app. The call quality is also commendable. With astounding battery life, exceptional comfort, and plenty of sound profile personalization, the Jabra Elite 85H’s are easy to recommend. Some arguments could be made regarding the slightly unrefined sound quality; however, these are definitely a bargain for this price tag.
Best On-Ear Headphones
The Jabra Elite 45H, which costs less than $100, offers exceptional sound quality wherever you go. And while it lacks some features like noise-canceling or ambient listening mode, they still excel in some of the basic features they offer.
Having headphones constantly press against your ears can be uncomfortable. However, Jabra has taken comfort to the next level by introducing soft and moldable memory foam on both ear-cups. The underside of the headband is a cushioned material making the headphones lightweight. The Elite 45H uses on-ear headphone buttons on the edge of the right cup to control playback, volume, and call interactions. They also allow you to access smart assistants of your choice, and their app allows users to personalize their listening experience.
When it comes to sound quality, they offer clear, precise, and incredible sound. The 40 mm speakers create a nicely detailed sound for almost all frequencies. Similarly, the mic offers excellent intelligibility. The Jabra Elite 45H boasts a battery life of almost 50 hours. If you’re a user who enjoys energetic, assertive sound and wants them to last for days, then these headphones are for you. With the price tag it offers, the sound quality isn’t as impeccable as the Bose 700s or Sony WH-1000XM4, but it’s a considerably cheap and long-lasting option if you’re on a budget.
Best Budget Noise-Cancelling Headphones
The Soundcore life Q20 is Anker’s entry-level Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones, and it’s safe to say that they’re a bargain. They are by far some of the cheapest headphones available in the market from a reputable company.
The Life Q20’s have a sleek and lightweight design. The headband is thick with foam padding on the underside, and the memory foam in the ear cups makes them comfortable to use for long periods. They use control buttons on both ear-cups. The sliders on the right handle volume while the one on the left controls power and noise cancellation. Noise-cancellation on these headphones is fairly average. The headphones can block out most low-volume background noises; however, they struggle to do so with higher frequencies. For work-from-home purposes, the noise cancellation works efficiently and blocks out most of the noises.
For fans of the EDM or hip-hop music genre, these headphones are a treat. The sound focuses more on emphasizing bass, making it easy to listen to for extended periods. However, the quality and sharpness are somewhat lacking, and it does not offer customization of sound. There is a BassUp option that only boosts the bass. The Life Q20 offers a battery life of up to 30 hours with ANC and 60 with ANC off. A 5-minute charge can last you almost 4 hours.
If you want to prioritize comfort and battery life over flawless sound quality and noise cancellation, then the Soundcore life Q20s are surely one to look into. The quality isn’t as great as some high-end ones, but if you’re looking for decent and cheap headphones with a low price tag, you won’t find a better pair.
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