Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds 2017
 Buyer's Guide

Bose QuietComfort 20

Where do you listen to music? Some people listen to music when they’re walking somewhere, some people listen to music when they’re in the car, or when they’re on the bus. You might listen to music when you’re on a plane. Sometimes, when you’re listening to music, there is a lot of things happening in the background; a lot of loud things. You probably want those loud sounds to go away and not disturb your listening. This is why noise cancelling earbuds and headphones were made.

Noise cancelling earbuds cut out that background chatter and replace it with the sounds you want to hear. There is a bit of Urban myth that Bose is the group responsible for creating noise cancelling headphones. This might be because Bose provides some of the best noise cancelling earbuds and headphones available. However, the technology originated closer to the 1930’s and was originally nothing more than a party trick.

So, if loud engines or building work has been getting in the way of your listening habits, then it’s time to make sure you grab the best noise cancelling earbuds you can get your hands on. Commuting will no longer mean you have to push your earbuds further into your ears, or your headphones closer to your head.

A quick note before continuing. Because noise cancelling earbuds and headphones are designed to cancel out background sound, you should be careful when wearing them in public. Make sure that you are not in a situation where not hearing sounds could be dangerous.

Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds 2017

Image

Model

Connection

Ear Tips

 Type 

Price

QuietComfort

Bose QuietComfort 20

Wired

3

In Ear

$$

MDR-NC31EM

Sony MDR-NC31EM

Wired

3

In Ear

$

Phiaton

Phiaton BT 220

Bluetooth

4

In Ear

$$

PLAY H6

B&O PLAY H6

Wired

N/A

Over Ear

$$

AKG

AKG K 391NC

Wired

3

In Ear

$$$

1. Bose QuietComfort 20 - The best noise cancelling earbud of 2017

Bose

The first product is the Bose QuietComfort 20. The QuietComfort 20 is really a premium device when it comes to in-ear noise cancellation. These earbuds are capable of cancelling out nearly any sound. They are even capable of rivalling full-sized headphones. This is because the audio processor inside these is of top quality. The quality doesn’t mean that they don’t last very long either. The internal battery will allow for the user to have up to 16 hours of continuous listening. This is great if you are going on a long trip and need to take your earbuds with you.

As stated before, Bose is known for creating quality noise-cancelling earbuds, and these are no exception. If you are in the market for noise cancelling, these are probably the best in-ear noise cancelling headphones available. Sorry, I mean earbuds (the quality is just that good).

Current Price: $


2. B&O PLAY H6

PLAY H6

Bang & Olufsen have made a real gem with the play H6. This is the only headphone to be featured in this article because it’s one of the best. Whilst, as I said before, I tend to prefer earphones, the Play H6 might change my mind on that. It is a brilliantly designed and capable pair of Bluetooth headphones. The over-ear form factor means that these are great at cancelling out sound and they provide space for a better audio processor.

Current Price: $


3. Phiaton BT 220

Phiaton

The Phiaton BT 220 are the only Bluetooth noise cancelling earbuds I have included here. This is because Bluetooth tends to decrease the quality of sound when used with noise cancelling headphones. Phiaton, however, has managed to avoid this: or at least make the difference to negligible that it would be hard to notice. This may in part be due to the extra number of ear attachments being made available (four). This will give more people a better seal, which means they are more likely to isolate sound.

The Phiaton BT 220 is a good option is you really want some Bluetooth noise cancelling earbuds. However, if you are looking for a real quality listening experience, then you are probably going to want to go with either the Bang & Olufsen Play H6 or the Bose QuietComfort 20.

Current Price: $


4. Sony MDR-NC31EM

Sony

Like I said before, you should probably only consider buying Sony if your whole set-up is Sony. However, the Sony MDR-NC31EM is a pretty decent addition to the noise cancelling market. It doesn’t have an audio processor, so these are certainly going to reply more on noise isolation than noise-cancelling. But they manage to do this well. The earbuds offer decent and tight seals which don’t hurt or cause pain and the lack of an audio processor means that they don’t have to rely on a separate battery. This will go for as long as your music player will.

Current Price: $


5. AKG K 391NC

AKG K

The final, and most expensive, option I am going to look at is the AKG K 391NC. The AKG K 391NC is designed to function at a level higher than most other available options;  and the price tag tells you why. AKG have made sure to use only the highest quality components inside to make sure that these earbuds produce only the highest quality sound and cancel out everything else.

The AKG K 391NC comes in a silver, metallic look, which makes it stand out from a lot of the matte black alternatives. Moreover, the AKG K 391NC has one of the best battery lives I’ve seen from a pair of noise cancelling earbuds. At 35 hours, it completely silences the competition in this area.

Current Price: $



Noise Cancelling Earbuds Buying Guide

Brands

Bose

What can really be said about Bose? Bose are one of the most premium audio brands out there; up there with Bang & Olufsen and other expensive brands. When it comes to noise cancelling headphones, Bose makes them so well that a lot of people believe they are responsible for creating the technology. Bose are a great option for anyone who wants a pair of noise cancelling earbuds or headphones. The only problem might be the price.

Bang & Olufsen

Bang & Olufsen are another one of the greats when it comes to audio brands. They have been around since 1925, where two young engineers decided to try and make some of the best audio-visual equipment available on the market. To this day, Bang & Olufsen are known for creating quality products. This is certainly true when it comes to noise cancelling ability, as will be shown later.

Sony

Sony has a huge portfolio of different products and noise cancelling earbuds and headphones are just one of them. This means that they have a lot of experience when it comes to how their products link together. Because of this, I would recommend Sony if you are also using a Sony device to store and play the music from. If not, you should probably pick a more specialized brand.

AKG

AKG Acoustics are an Austrian company founded in 1947. They are also a premium provider of electronics but don’t seem to be as popular this side of the pond. They manufacture their products to a high specification and this shows once you start listening to them. They have a pretty decent range of designs and are certainly for your dedicated audiophile. AKG have been providing audio equipment to professional musicians for over 65 years. If professional musicians can see their quality, you should be able to see it too.

Again, the only problem with AKG is the price tag. AKG’s products are not for the standard music lover.

Phiaton

Phiaton (pronounced fee’ ah ton) are a Korean company founded in 1959. Compared to a lot of the alternatives here, Phiaton is relatively young. This means that their products may lack some of the refinements offered by longer standing brands such as Bang & Olufsen. Obviously, Phiaton aims to provide quality products which challenge the opposition and help to provide them with a better name. They are slowly getting more and more popular, so they are managing to do that.

If you are looking for a relatively cheaper option, due to their age, Phiaton are probably one of your best bets.

Noise cancelling earbuds and headphones can be a great addition to anyone’s audio device collection. However, they are going to cost you a fair amount of money. Whilst it is possible to buy noise-isolating headphones for a much cheaper cost (for instance the Sony MDR-NC31EM), if you want a real quality pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you are going to have to invest a lot more.

Whilst the AKG K 391NC is a great choice, the price is much more than the alternatives and a standard music lover might not even notice the difference. Bang & Olufsen’s Play H6 is probably one of the best options when it comes to noise cancelling whilst in moving vehicles (such as planes). But if you’re looking for something which is going to help when you’re on the move, you are probably going to want to go with Bose’s QuietComfort 20. The Bose QuietComfort 20 provides an excellent level of noise cancellation from one of, reportedly, the best noise cancelling product manufacturers around.

Types of Noise Cancelling Earbuds

Noise Cancelling Or Isolating?

Noise cancelling is actually, technically, able to be categorized into two different types. The noise cancelling earbuds make use of a microphone to copy the ambient sounds around you and then cancel them out with ‘anti sound waves’. This is called digital signal processing (DSP) or destructive interference. This essentially means that the sounds around you are being cancelled out by this replicated and opposite sound.

They are usually able to handle a lot of different changes in the environment around you, but sudden, sharp changes are going to come up. What you should expect from a good pair of active noise-cancelling earbuds is that you will be able to sit in a vehicle whilst the engine is running (this includes a plane) and only be able to hear your music.

What you should note about noise cancelling is that they require their own audio processor. The quality of this processor can vary vastly between different brands. If you purchase a cheap pair of headphones or earbuds, they are going to come with a cheaper processor. Make sure you buy something which works.

In contrast to noise cancelling, you also have noise isolating earbuds. These are essentially when the noise is not allowed to get into your ear; they isolate your ear from the noises outside. This means that they are usually designed to create the tightest, but still comfortable, seal between the ear and the earbud.

These are pretty reliable, but they rely on the seal being tight enough for the user. If the seal is not tight enough then sound is definitely going to leak in.

The best in-ear noise cancelling headphones and earbuds tend to make use of both types of noise cancelling, allowing for the maximum amount of noise possible to be kept out.

In Ear Or Over Ear? (Earbud Vs. Headphones)

This debate started a long, long time ago: headphones or earbuds? Some find the comfort of headphones to make then vastly superior to the earbud design, whilst others find that earbuds never fit inside of their ear. Regardless of preferences, both types are going to give you some pros and some cons.

This debate started a long, long time ago: headphones or earbuds? Some find the comfort of headphones to make then vastly superior to the earbud design, whilst others find that earbuds never fit inside of their ear. Regardless of preferences, both types are going to give you some pros and some cons.

Earbuds

Earbuds are light and portable. The in-ear versions are also great at noise isolating (this is depending on the seal you manage to get between the earbud and the ear). However, taking earbuds on a plane doesn’t always work, and sometimes you need to go with the larger models if you want complete noise cancelling ability.

Headphones

You can buy either smaller headphones, or larger ones which completely cover the ear. Personally, if I am looking for noise cancelling capability in very loud places such as a plane, I will always purchase the smaller earbuds. However, if you find the headphones more comfortable, then they are always a good possibility and can provide the best sound isolating ability. Their size means that they can create a great seal between the headphones and the ear.


Product images sourced from Amazon.com

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Bose QuietComfort 20
Author Rating
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Gerald
 

I am a self-taught audiophile who loves playing around with the latest and greatest audio gadgets and tools. When I'm not here reviewing the latest gear, you can find me at the lake or on the slopes.