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The Top 10 Noise Cancelling Headphones

As everyone jets off around the world ready to relax and soak up some well earned rays, we’ve pulled together a definitive list of the very best noise cancelling head and earphones available today to ensure you get the ultimate audio experience, whether on a long flight, by the pool or chilling in a deck check. Enjoy!

1. Bose QuietComfort® 20i

Bose Quiet Comfort 20i EarphonesIf you’re the kind of person who’s considerate towards the comfort of your fellow passengers but find it uncomfortable with massive tin cans strapped to your head, then the new Bose QuietComfort 20i earphones are for you. They’re the company’s first in-ear noise cancelling earphones, or “buds” as our American friends like to call them. By combining the StayHear+ tips with Acoustic Noise Cancelling technology, they completely block the outside world whilst flipping to ‘Aware’ mode allows some external audio in if you want to be a little more vigilant of your surroundings.

2. Sennheiser CXC 700

Sennheiser CXC 700

Sennheiser’s premium ear canal phones are specifically engineered for the discerning traveller. Signature NoiseGard features three digital frequency variations to accommodate your acoustic environment adjusting for buses, the subway, long-haul flights and noisy surroundings. The TalkThrough function allows you to communicate to your external environment without having to remove the earphones or adjust the volume; any verbal audio will trigger an automatic muting facility.

3. Beats by Dre Executive

Beats by Dr. Dre Executive

Our first ‘chunky’ inclusion are the Beats by Dre Executive headphones, a little less practical for those on the go however, they do have a much stronger sound quality. Beats Executive deliver pure audio integrity for crystal clear sound, whilst the active noise cancellation claims to reduce a jet engine to a whisper. As you might expect from a company co-founded by former N.W.A. rapper Dr. Dre, the signature feature here is the ‘phat’ bass and the sweet treble. Beats Executive have a lightweight aluminium alloy body and soft leather cups that sit on, rather than around, the ear for added comfort.

4. Shure SE215LTD

Shure SE215LTD Blue

The SE215LTD is a limited edition of the standard SE215 model of Sound Isolating Earphones. The first noticeable change is the striking neon blue shells but there’s more going on there than mere aesthetics, such as the enhanced bass delivered through the dynamic micro driver. Shure is a brand geared towards the professionals and the SE215LTD is no exception, with personal monitor technology road tested by skilled musicians and the newly tuned acoustic network delivering detailed sound, there is plenty here for the general consumer to get excited about.

5. Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H3

Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H3

We’re sneaking these in as although they aren’t technically noise cancelling, these Bang & Olufsen earphones are of such superior quality we couldn’t leave them out. The IEMs (that’s ‘in-ear monitors’ to the uninitiated) feature a new Micro Bass Port in a unibody frame milled from a single block of high-grade aluminum, available in charcoal, light grey or red. The ear buds even feature 23 microscopic ventilation holes. Yes, you did read that correctly – ear ventilation through your earphones. The sound includes a dynamic full tone design integrating a custom-designed 10.8 mm driver and remains true to Band & Olufsen’s trademark of recreating natural acoustic sound.

6. PSB M4U 2 Headphones


One of the pricier entries is also one of the critics’ darlings having scooped top marks in What Hi-Fi and gold class in Hi-Fi Vision. Not bad for a company marking its maiden voyage into the headphone market. The PSB M4U 2 might not have the catchiest name but it does promise a top of the line noise cancelling feature using four microphones, two per ear cup, for accurate processing. The ear cups are gyro-suspended which allows them to swivel for optimal fit, and the headphones come finished in black diamond and arctic white. The real winning feature here though is the superior sound quality ideally suited for all audiophiles. The bass is smooth and tight with exceptionally clear mids and rich highs.

7. Harman Kardon NC

Harmon Kardon NC

Harman Kardon prefers to distinguish its from the traditional headphone market by referring to its NC range as ‘over-ear’ headphones and one look at the large rectangular and robotic looking pads helps to understand why. Integrating superb mechanical design of sandblasted steel and black matte housing with the finest quality materials and premium electronics ensure that the NC is something of pure crafted beauty for the audio-conscious music enthusiasts to revel in before even considering the sound. On that note, Harman Kardon decided to incorporate the very same proprietary closed-loop active digital noise-cancelling technology originally developed for acoustic installation in luxury cars. This analyses and optimises the audio signal before reaching the listener’s ear.

8. AKG K 495 NC

AKG K 495 NC

Although in industry terminology ‘NC’ is an abbreviation of ‘noise cancellation’, AKG claim that in reference to its K495 range it means ‘no contest’ (clever – see what they did there). Confidence in one’s product shouldn’t be frowned upon and AKG justifies it by delivering high-quality performance and second to none active noise control. Among its other notable features are the detachable cables (no more messy coils), continuous listening even after the battery has conked out, increased durability compliments of the brushed metal parts and a unique folding mechanism for easy transport and storage.

9. Polk UltraFocus 6000

Polk UltraFocus 6000

Coined ‘the Cadillac of the Polk earphone series’, the UltraFocus 600 is remarkable in its ability for delivering such a big sound in such a modestly sized package. Even at high volumes there is a notable lack of distortion and a welcome clarity, not to mention lashings at any volume setting sure to satisfy your inner rocker. With thick cables and a bulky battery pack (the unfortunate drawback suffered by all noise reduction technology earphones) the UltraFocus might not be the most elegant option but it does feel assuredly durable and robust representing a valuable investment in a notoriously pricey corner of the audio equipment market.

10. Parrot ZIK

Parrot Zik

One look at the Parrot Zik, designed quite masterfully by Philippe Starck, and your inner retail demon starts gleefully chanting “I want! I want!” … but enough of drooling over its prettiness. It supports wireless Bluetooth listening and has an integrated Parrot Zik app, but the real wow factor is delivered in its innovative touch sensitive control system. Once you’re up and running a simple series of finger swipes over the outer panels will alter the volume, skip or forward songs whilst a tap on the panel will allow you to answer incoming calls. A sensor will detect whether you’re actually wearing the headset, so when you remove it it automatically pauses the song for you. It all feels a bit Westworld but you can’t help but be impressed by the technology all the same.

What have we missed? Tell us if you think there’s an even better set of head or earphones on the market… 

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