The point of headphones is to hear, you know, the music. So if you’re in a noisy environment like an aeroplane, say, you'll need all the help you can get.
Some headphones are noise-isolating, that is they are such a snug lughole fit they keep the noise out (and the music in). But noise-cancellers use electronics to erase sounds like engine noise. Here are six of the best, from Tivoli’s Radio Silenz with stylish wooden ear cups to the innovative Sony XBA-NC85 in-ear pair.
7 best noise-cancelling headphones
7 best noise-cancelling headphones
1/7 Sony MDR-1RNC Prestige
These are Sony’s flagship headphones with noise-cancelling and they’re impressive. Noise-cancelling works by using lever electronics to match outside sound like engine noise and feed the opposite frequency through the earphone, cancelling it out. On a pair of headphones like this it’s astonishingly effective. Hardly any outside noise creeps in – though rest assured you’ll still hear the air steward ask, “Chicken or beef?”. They’re big and solid but still highly comfortable. £449, sony.co.uk
2/7 Bose QuietComfort 15
The Bose headphones live up to the quiet and comfort in their name. They are over-the-ear cans so that keeps outside noise to a minimum and the Bose electronic magic is excellent. Note that if your battery runs out, these headphones stop working. Bose says that’s because it wants listeners to have the best quality audio, but that may not comfort you when the cell runs out mid-Atlantic. Pack a spare AAA battery or two. £259.95, amazon.co.uk
3/7 Turtle Beach iSeries i30
These are Bluetooth headphones designed to work with iPhones. This means that if you’re connecting to your iPhone to play your music you don’t need wires. Plus, there’s active noise cancellation in case you’re listening in a noisy environment like a plane (and there’s a cable for this). There’s also a pair of microphones if a call comes in. They sound great and the large cups are so comfortable you’ll be happy to wear them for hours at a time. £249.95, store.apple.com/uk
4/7 Beats Studio
Beats, the company just bought by Apple and worn by sports stars and the cool kids have a pair of noise-cancellers which excel for comfort as well as style – though the latter is a matter of personal taste, obviously. The sound is good, with good isolation complementing the electronics to drown out engine noise effectively. Soft, squidgy rubberised earcups hold them tightly to your head, even if you’re jogging (though please note jogging is not recommended on board). £269.95, uk.beatsbydre.com
5/7 Tivoli Audio Radio Silenz
The ear cups on these headphones are wooden, which looks good and is surprisingly lightweight. And the material seems to work well with audio, too. Plus there’s a ‘Defeat’ button which temporarily curtails the noise cancellation to make it easier for you to speak to someone, for instance. And like all the headphones here, the fact that the outside world noise is quelled means you can play music at a lower volume, which is better for your hearing. £119, tivoliaudio.co.uk
6/7 Sony XBA-NC85
These headphones are price because Sony has managed to squeeze noise-cancelling tech into in-ear buds – no mean feat. Especially because there’s no in-line battery pack as most in-ear noise-cancellers have. Sound is strong and the isolating effect of the fit helps, too. Note that like the Bose there’s no sound if the battery runs out of juice – and the battery here is rechargeable. A battery recharger is supplied. Different levels of noise cancellation are included, from silent to oh-my-God-I-think-I’m-dead. £312.92, amazon.co.uk
7/7 Logitech UE 9000
UE stands for Ultimate Ears and these headphones do sound pretty good. They have impressive bass and like the Turtle Beach cans these have Bluetooth built in so you can use them wirelessly for a tangle-free experience. The angular styling of the headphones looks good and these are comfortable on the ear, even for lengthy listening. And they wrap around the ears well, enough to reduce outside noise even without the cancelling switched on. £137.99, accessoryjack.com
If you can afford them, the Sony MDR-1RNC headphones are worth the investment; they're well-built, comfy and deeply effective. Tivoli's cans look good thanks to the wooden ear cups and are competitively priced. And the Bose headphones are the best compromise between price and power (so long as you remember a spare battery). Happy listening, travellers.