Noise-canceling headphones are a Godsend if you’re surrounded by loud coworkers or face a noisy commute. The good news is that there are plenty of noise-canceling headphones on the market to block it all out. Listening to music at work can also boost your productivity, all the more reason to consider investing in a solid pair of headphones.
Noise-canceling headphones may also be good for your health. Heavy traffic and underground trains can generate up to 100 decibels of noise, which is sufficiently high to cause permanent hearing damage if you’re exposed to it for several hours a day.
Noise also damages more than just your ears. Further research reveals links between long-term noise exposure and an increased risk of a stroke or heart attack. Excessive noise can also adversely affect your mood, ability to concentrate and make it difficult to sleep. These effects can start at just 65 decibels – and the average open plan office reverberates at around 60 decibels.
Noise-canceling headphones at work
In a survey conducted by CommercialCafe last year, more than 60% of millennial workers said noise had a negative impact on their productivity, making it the second-most annoying thing about working in an office. The most annoying aspect was reportedly interruptions by coworkers. A pair of headphones could help here too–you’re less likely to be disturbed if you’ve got a pair on in the office.
Noise-canceling headphones have come a long way in the last few years. Increasingly, they rely on Bluetooth technology rather than wires, and while their batteries have shrunk, battery lives have increased.
Active noise-canceling headphones create a barrier to block sound waves by creating their own sound waves. They are usually fitted with a microphone to detect ambient noise, some circuitry to calculate the frequency and amplitude needed to create these noise-blocking waves, and a speaker to feed these waves into your ears, along with your normal audio.
But what are the best pair of noise-canceling headphones for work? Here are five of the top products on the market:
1. Sony WH-1000XM3
This pair of noise-canceling headphones is reportedly the best on the market, offering outstanding noise cancellation and fantastic sound quality. They also come with 30-hour battery life. “They’re a dominant noise-canceling pair of headphones that can beat out anything Bose has with both arms behind its back,” according to a recent report in Tech Radar.
This is thanks to Sony’s audio playback algorithms that adapt its sound barrier to whatever environment you’re in. They’re also comfortable enough to wear throughout the working day with plenty of cushioning. However, they do come with quite a hefty price tag of $349 and it may take a little time to get used to its playback controls, which require you to swipe on the right earcup.
2. Bose QuietComfort 35 II
The Bose QuietComfort II headphones were updated in 2018 to include Google Assistant. This means you can simply press and hold a button to interact with Google – and the responses from the assistant are played directly back into your headphones. However, this pair does not offer popular headphone features such as autoplay or instant mute. But you can turn the noise cancellation off, which helps to save the battery life.
For the $350 price tag, the plastic casing may look a little lackluster, but it does reduce the weight and increase the comfort of these noise-canceling headphones, which is important if you’re wearing them for an extended period of time.
3. Beats Studio3 Wireless
Beats Studio3 Wireless headphones come in an array of colors so that you can to stand out from the crowd in the workplace or around town. These headphones are also incredibly comfortable–the oval-shaped cutouts fit snuggly on your ears.
The headphones feature Apple’s W1 chip, making the connection process seamless when you’re hooking up to your iPhone or iPad. You can also see the battery level, which lasts around 22 hours, on your Apple device. However, some reviews mention sound quality issues compared to other headphones on the market in the same price bracket.
4. Bose QC30
The Bose QC30 headphones are one of the best noise-canceling in-ear headphones. You can control how much noise you want these headphones to cancel out, which can be useful if you still want a little bit of background office noise.
These headphones cost $299 and aren’t quite as effective as full cans when it comes to noise cancellation. However, they are seriously impressive compared to other in-ear offerings and nearby conversations are quickly canceled out when you start to play some music. The large neckband isn’t to everyone’s taste and the sound quality can be a little bassy, but the 10-hour battery life is decent, compared to other in-ear noise-canceling headphones.
5. Taotronics TT-BH22
Noise-canceling headphones don’t come cheap. You’ll notice that most pairs on our list run between $300 and $350. But this pair of headphones from Taotronics provides a solid audio experience and has an excellent build quality–and they only cost $70.
The battery life is 25 hours–although some reviews claim it is closer to 20—and although the build quality can feel a little cheap, they’re a very comfortable pair of cans. So, if you’re undecided whether you really need a pair of noise-canceling headphones in your office, these are a great starter pair.