The 10 Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones of 2019.

by admin

(We did the research so you don’t have to.)

If you’re looking to invest in a great set of headphones this year, you’re in luck. There are so many incredible options out there, it really becomes a question of choosing between ‘amazing’ and ‘also amazing’. But everyone has different requirements so we’ve compiled a list of the critics’ favourites to help you find yours.

1. BOSE QUIETCOMFORT 35 II

Come on, you knew there was going to be a Bose on the list. And the much talked about QuietComfort 36 II deserves to be here. These headphones make both silence and sound sound better. Self-declared audiophiles probably won’t bow down in worship to the sound quality but it’s beautifully balanced – sensitive to the nuances in every genre, delivering them cleanly and crisply. When it comes to design, there seems to be a general divide. Some people say it’s classic. Others say it’s boring. (Everyone says it’s extremely comfortable.) There seems to be a similar divide regarding the battery life which is 20 hours long. Some feel it doesn’t quite make up for the fact that the battery isn’t replaceable. On the other hand, the usual problems that arise around Bluetooth and audio quality (in even the best headphones) just don’t apply to Bose: there is no fault in either the wireless operation or the noise cancellation. As for its flagship feature, there isn’t much to say. This is meant as a compliment, not a criticism. Almost everyone agrees that the integration of Google Assistant has been a success. Its speed, accuracy and general usefulness have been universally praised. But this much-lauded addition isn’t the main reason people are buying these headphones. People are buying them because Bose has once again delivered a product that’s, well, superb.

THE PROS

Excellent noise cancellation

Balanced sound quality

Great battery life

Dedicated button for Google Assistant

THE CONS

Expensive

Unexciting design

Battery isn’t replaceable

THE VERDICT

Still stupendous.

2. SONY WH-1000XM3

Even hardcore audiophiles haven’t found much to criticise about the Sony WHI-1000XM3. This model is 20 grams lighter than its predecessor, with a cushion padding on the headband and larger, deeper ear cups, making it one of the most comfortable headphones ever. In terms of pure aesthetics, it is sleek and minimal – a visual delight. Another upgrade that’s being universally praised is the switch from Micro-USB to USB-C charging. A 30 hour battery life (at moderate volumes) and a new quick-charge feature (5 hours of use from a 10 minute charge) makes it a particular favourite with travellers. Although there have been criticisms about the mediocre call quality and the occasional interruptions during usage, Sony has very nearly perfected the audio playback: it adapts according to its surroundings, switching between multiple sound barriers to deliver the best possible sound. The sound itself is natural and defined with a strong but not overwhelming bass, a good treble and a warm, natural mid-range. The overall verdict? The Sony WH1-1000XM3 accomplishes what most upgrades don’t, by being genuinely better than its predecessor. You really can’t ask for more.

THE PROS

Excellent noise cancellation

Great battery life

Useful for travellers

Incredibly light and comfortable

THE CONS

Can make your ears feel warm

Can only be paired with one device at a time

Mediocre call quality

THE VERDICT

At the top of almost everybody’s list.

3. PLANTRONICS BACKBEAT PRO 2 SE

It isn’t usual to start a product review by pointing out the flaws but bear with us. The Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 has been touted as rather heavier than, say, Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II. The noise-cancellation, while excellent, is not as effective as the 35 II either. The sound quality is warm but not quite as balanced. But when you compare the price point? Hallelujah. Especially because the disadvantages mentioned are fairly minor. Overall, the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 is a stellar headphone and deserves to be on this list regardless of its (relatively) low cost. BackBeat Pros aren’t known for being the most stylish headphones on the block. But the Pro 2 SEs are sleek, stylish and, quite frankly, sexy: a rare example of what happens when you mix old and new design cues and get it absolutely right. They also have all the smart features the range known for. To answer or ignore phone calls, just press the right ear cup. To adjust the ambient noise, use the OpenMic button right below the power switch. Smart sensors embedded into the soft lining of the ear cup also pause music as soon as you remove the cup from your ear. This model also doesn’t have that super irritating white noise most of its competition does, when the music’s been turned off. Earlier, we mentioned that the sound is not as balanced as Bose, but it’s fantastic quality all the same. It’s loud, rich, warm, natural and only occasionally overpowering.  Other features worth mentioning are the battery life (a solid 24 hours of continuous listening) and excellent call quality. Ultimately, the success behind the Pro 2 SE lies in the fact that it proves you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars for truly high quality sound.

THE PROS

Great sound

Excellent smart features

Great battery life

Cheaper than the competition

THE CONS

Not quite as fabulous as Bose

THE VERDICT

Proof that you don’t need deep pockets for high quality.

4. SENNHEISER HD 4.50 BTNC

One of Sennheiser’s latest offerings, the 4.50 BTNC, is both light and flexible – to the point of seeming almost flimsy. The design is understated but tasteful with foldable ear cups and enough padding to provide comfort without pressure. (Although there have been a few grouses about the lack of a hard shell travel case and the awkwardness of the ear-pad replacement.) It is also one of the most affordable noise-cancelling headphones on the market right now. Although it has all the advantages of Sennheiser’s NoiseGuard tech, the audio quality hasn’t been neglected by any means and has been praised by both critics and fans. The sound is fully rounded and natural, there’s not even the slightest hint of any processing here,  with a tight bass and balanced mids and highs. Feel free to turn up the volume, by the way. You won’t have a problem with noise distortion. Given its relatively low pricing, many expected a compromise in its battery life. But even that is a comfortable 20 hours long. The general consensus is that the 4.50 BTNC stands high above the competitors in its price range – in terms of design, sound quality and fit. It isn’t a Bose or a Sony but it has made a valiant attempt to keep up with them – and succeeded.

THE PROS

Excellent audio quality

Easy-to-use controls

Comfortable fit

THE CONS

Noise cancellation is adequate but not exceptional

Replacing the ear-pads can be awkward

THE VERDICT

A great all-rounder.

5. BOWERS & WILKINS PX

Gorgeous. That’s pretty much everyone’s first reaction to the company’s first Bluetooth headphones featuring noise-cancellation technology. They are a stunning combination of navy blue and soft gold with premium materials like genuine British leather with built-in sensors that have received universal praise. Unfortunately, there have been many complaints about their lack of comfort (mainly due to minimal padding on the headband) which means that the headphones have not managed disproving the theory that beauty and suffering go hand-in-hand. The battery life is good (22 hours) and the sound is strong and immersive, with clear highs and mids and a noticeable bass. The ANC can’t compete with some of the others on this list, but it is more than adequate and has a special feature: you can customise the noise cancellation according to your environment. (You’ll be offered a choice of three: office, city and flight.)

What else? Oh yes. They’re expensive. But are they for you? It depends on how important art is to technology, in your eyes.

THE PROS

Stunning design

Built in sensors

Great audio quality

THE CONS

Uncomfortable

Expensive

THE VERDICT

Art returns to technology.

6. MICROSOFT SURFACE HEADPHONES

Another great example of stunning design, the Surface headphones have a solid build with a sleek platinum finish. They are well padded with soft round ear cups that promise to be a godsend for big ears. The only downside? They might make you feel slightly overheated after a few hours. The team behind these headphones did a spectacular job by adding dial controls and a touch interface on both ear cups, for a seamless user experience. Although Microsoft has made a serious effort with its ANC (eight microphones produce thirteen levels of active noise cancellation, with four of them working to improve voice clarity), it isn’t quite as refined as Sony or Bose. The audio quality is impressive – the sound is spacious and not cramped, the bass is incredibly powerful (and not often overwhelming). It’s the sort of sound you want to sink into, but the only drawback is it can sometimes spill over: powerful sonics do cause noise to leak. The headphones also support three digital assistants: Cortana, Google Assistant and Siri. One of Microsoft’s drawbacks here though, is the battery power. Given the price of the Surface Headphones, you’d expect a great battery life as well as a great everything else but it only lasts about 15 hours. In conclusion?

These are not the best headphones ever made. But they’re pretty fabulous all the same.

THE PROS

Great design

Adjustable ANC levels

Great sound

Intuitive controls

THE CONS

Battery life

Expensive

THE VERDICT

Not perfect. Just fabulous.

7. AKG N700NC

AKG has launched quite a few wired and wireless models over the years – and they have all been well-received. The N700NC, however, deserves applause for pushing the company towards the rank of category leader. The headphones are sleek, modern and premium. You may grumble about the price but not very loudly – such is the power of their design. The foam-pads in the ear cups and the soft padding on the headband make them feel as comfortable as they look. Though the N700NC doesn’t have a touch-interface, its control scheme is practical: the buttons are easy to locate and respond well. The ANC is very good. Not as good as Bose and Sony but still effective – drowning out most ambient sounds. Like the Microsoft Surface headphones, they do tend to leak sound. The sound is wide and balanced, rather than deep. The treble in particular is clean and clear – and more than holds its own against a rich bass. Not too many people are happy with the codec support: the N700NC supports only one wireless codec: SBC. Another disadvantage? Its ambient-aware functionality is nothing to write home about. In the end, though, when you take into account the whole package: the design, the sound and the noise cancellation, you understand why these headphones deserve to be in the top 10.

THE PROS

Great design

Great sound

Comfortable fit

THE CONS

Not enough codec support

Sound leakage

THE VERDICT

Does the job stylishly.

8. BEATS STUDIO 3 WIRELESS

Solid and nicely packaged, the Beats Studio 3 design is great – but not the best. It’s flexible though: a choice of six colours means that people who want to blend in will be as comfortable with these as those who want to stand out. Like the Bose, although everyone has different opinions on design, no one has complained about the fit. (Which is adjustable for a wide range of head sizes.) These headphones aren’t cushy. But they’re comfortable. The ANC is adequate. That’s about it. The sound quality is mixed: it can occasionally sound over processed but these headphones make listening to bass heavy tracks a delight. Subtlety isn’t a strong point. Strength is. Speaking of strength, its quick charging feature tops up battery in 10 minutes for 3 hours of listening – a great option if you need to leave the house in a hurry without time to charge your headphones in advance. (The battery life, by the way, is a solid 22 hours.)  And though it has pairing issues with Samsung S7 (almost unacceptable given its price), you get a stable connection over a large area. So, to sum up: a comfortable fit. Decent (if not superlative) ANC. And a clean (though not always completely natural) sound.

THE PROS

Comfortable fit

Quick charging feature

Stable connection

THE CONS

Expensive

Only adequate ANC

THE VERDICT

Not yet a champion. But a worthy contender.

9. JBL LIVE 650BTNC

JBL’s latest offering may look slightly plasticy but it certainly doesn’t feel cheap. Solid and sturdy, it is available in dark blue, black and white (our favourite – it’s extraordinary how colour can make structure seem sleek) and it’s almost as comfortable as the QuietComfort 35 II (but not quite) with thick memory foam ear pads and a cushioned headband. It also supports connections to multiple devices. The JBL Headphone app provides for an equalizer that, once you’re connected, allows you to adjust bass and treble settings – or create your own. The sound quality is similar to the Sony WHY-1000XM3. (Which is praise of the highest order.) It’s defined by a strong bass. The sound has style: it is open, clear and lively. As for the ANC? It muffles sound well, but not as well as Sony and Bose do. It also lacks an ambient aware mode. The 20 hour battery life of the JBL LIVE 650BTNC is adequate and its quick-charge feature is also commendable: 2 hours of battery life from a 15-minute charge. The takeaway? Its noise-cancelling feature and comfort level can’t yet challenge its competitors from Bose and Sony. But for the price tag, it offers great sound. Which, despite all the other features headphone makers are perfecting these days, is still the feature that matters most.

THE PROS

Great sound quality

Reasonable price

THE CONS

Only adequate noise cancellation

THE VERDICT

Delivers on what matters.

10. BOSE QUIETCOMFORT QC20i

This list started with a Bose and it shouldn’t surprise you that it ends with a Bose as well. (Because. Bose.) Before delving into design and features, there is one thing we need to mention: the noise-cancellation on these light yet solidly build earbuds are beyond any possible superlative. Moving on. The design is elegant – sophisticated and understated tones of gray and silver. The ear tips will stay in your ears comfortably, remaining secure without pushing their way too far in. They’re so comfortable that you could fall asleep with one side of your face pressed against your pillow – and not feel a thing. The battery life is 16 hours which is disappointing (although a saving grace is you don’t need power for the audio to play). What about the audio quality? Not something audiophiles will get excited about but still classic Bose: neat, balanced and natural. But to return to what we started with, the reason you’re going to buy this (if you are) is the noise cancellation and fit: it has no equal. Ultimately, it’s a reminder that when it comes to the silent bubble, no one does it quite like Bose.

PROS

Superb noise cancellation

Extremely comfortable

Power not required for audio

CONS

Expensive

Short(ish) battery life

THE VERDICT

Silence has never been so comfortable.

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