BEST NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES 2018: THE BEST ANC HEADPHONES FROM £40 TO £350 - Soul 2 Soul Mates Blog

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3/17/2018

BEST NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES 2018: THE BEST ANC HEADPHONES FROM £40 TO £350

BEST NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES 2018: THE BEST ANC HEADPHONES FROM £40 TO £350
Active Noise Cancellation headphones help block out unwanted sounds using clever technology — here we help you pick the best
If you're sick of your music being drowned out by the hubbub of city life or fancy a little peace and quiet on those interminable transatlantic flights, then you need a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. These ingenious gadgets suck out the hum and rumble of everyday living and make sure you can hear your music, or your movies, without having to crank the volume to ear-damaging levels.
Here we'll explain how the noise-cancelling technology works, and round up our pick of the very best active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones. Carry on reading and we'll run you through the basics, or if you just want to start shopping, then scroll down the page and you'll find a list of handy bite-size reviews. With prices starting from just under £40 and soaring over the £300 mark, there's something here for every budget.
How to buy the best noise-cancelling headphones for you

What types of noise-cancelling headphones are there?

There are two types of noise-cancelling headphones: active and passive. Passive noise cancellation just means blocking out external noises, which is why some companies call it “sound isolation” – for instance, closed-back over-ear headphones and earphones both act to reduce outside noise to a greater or lesser extent. Active noise cancellation (ANC) is much smarter, using clever technology - as we’ll explain below - to silence ambient noise, so nothing disturbs your listening pleasure.
The only downside of the technology is that it can come with a hefty price premium attached. If active noise-cancelling is out of your budget, then you may want to take a look at our roundup of the best Bluetooth headphones and the best-wired headphones instead.

What is Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)?

ANC relies on a combination of tiny outward-facing microphones which are built into the headphones and clever digital signal processing. The microphones constantly listen to the ambient sound around you, and the digital signal processor takes that audio and plays the exact inverse of that sound alongside your music. The result is that those outside noises are effectively cancelled out: distracting hums and rumbles are dramatically reduced (if not silenced completely), and this allows you to enjoy your music as it was meant to be heard.
ANC is a very impressive technology, but it doesn’t completely eliminate every type of background noise. Since high frequencies have a much shorter wavelength than lower tones, they’re harder to eliminate in real time. The technology is most effective a blocking out lower-frequency sounds, such as the rumble of aeroplane engines.

Be aware too that that ANC can very slightly affect the overall sound quality since the noise-cancelling wave can interfere with the frequencies in the song you’re listening to. The effect is usually minimal, though, and far preferable to putting up with background noise.
Due to the way the technology works, you might also hear a slight high-pitched hiss in the background when nothing is playing - but again, it’s a small price to pay for the ability to enjoy your music untroubled by intrusive external sounds.
Are there any other advantages of ANC?
ANC doesn’t just help you enjoy your music: it can protect your hearing. Without noise-cancelling technology, the only way to drown out ambient noise is to crank up the volume. Done on a regular basis, this can lead to permanent hearing damage. ANC lets you listen at lower volumes, so is far gentler on your eardrums.
ANC is also useful if you have hypersensitivity, hyperacusis or a similar health condition, as the technology can help reduce the strain on your ears.

The best noise-cancelling headphones to buy in 2018

1.       Bose QuietComfort 35 II: The best ANC headphones money can buy

BEST NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES 2018: THE BEST ANC HEADPHONES FROM £40 TO £350

Bose is well known for its noise-cancelling tech and it's just updated its popular QuietComfort 35 headphones to support Google Assistant. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II are the same excellent headphones with noise cancelling that beats every other headphone on the market and sound quality that's pretty good too; the difference is they have a new button on the left-hand earcup to activate Google Assistant. Tap it once with your thumb and you'll have your recent notifications read out to you; hold it down and you can ask the Assistant a question or issue a command, exactly as you would on your phone.
Plus, if you don't see yourself using Google Assistant much, you can reassign the button so that it is used to adjust the noise cancelling intensity or turn it off completely. Handy. Despite the new feature, though, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II aren't any more expensive than the originals but they are still pretty price at £330. 

2.       B&W PX: The prettiest, best-sounding ANC headphones

BEST NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES 2018: THE BEST ANC HEADPHONES FROM £40 TO £350

The PX are B&W's first pair of noise-cancelling headphones, and it's fair to say that they've been worth the wait. Before you even put them on, the look and feel is a significant cut above its similarly-priced rivals – B&W's engineers and design team have outdone themselves.
Pair them with your nearest Bluetooth device, though, and you best be prepared for aural fireworks. Where B&W's own P7 Wireless opt for bass-heavy bombast, and Bose tend to prioritise excitement over accuracy, the PX's are crisp and incisive from the deepest subs to the highest highs. Bass fiends may want to look elsewhere, and some may find the upper frequencies a little too subdued (especially so with ANC enabled), but be in no doubt – these are the finest noise-cancelling headphones you're every likely to encounter.
There is room for improvement, however. Comfort just isn't up there with the best, and we found the headband took several weeks to soften up – even then, they sit much more noticeably on the head than the featherweight Bose alternatives. The PX's noise-cancelling abilities aren't as refined as its Bose-branded rivals, either. Try before you buy, if you can.
The final gripe? B&W's 'smart' features – pausing and resuming the music automatically as you lift an earcup, or as you take the headphones off and put them on again – aren't always that smart. Thankfully, you can just turn that feature off in the mobile app

3.    Sony MDR-1000X: ANC headphones with great sound quality


The Sony MDR-1000X is arguably the best sounding ANC headphone on the market. It produces a stunning sound throughout all the frequency bands. Its bass has a healthy thump and extends lushly into the sub-bass frequencies, producing a deep pronounced rumble. Its impressive treble energy and soundstage are also top-notch.
Its ANC capabilities are also impressive, albeit not as good as the QC35s. Despite sitting a little loosely around your head, the MDR-1000X are comfortable to wear. It's intelligent too - by simply placing your hand over the right-ear cup, it intelligently pauses your music and allows you to hear ambient sounds around you - useful for crossing the road.

4.       Bose QuietComfort 25: The best wired ANC headphones

BEST NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES 2018: THE BEST ANC HEADPHONES FROM £40 TO £350

Much like the QC35s, the original Bose QuietComfort 25 are one of the most popular ANC headphones on the market. Their ability to block out ambient noise is outstanding. At only 195.6g too, they're incredibly lightweight, which means they can be worn without discomfort. The only caveat is that the headphones are wired - unlike the wireless QC35s these don't provide free reign.
Its sonic capabilities are impressive; its mid-bass slam is precise, the treble is energetic and the instrument separation is well executed. If you're looking to save some money and don't want to spend £300 on the Sony MDR-1000X or Bose QC35, get the QC25 instead.

5.       B&O BeoPlay E4: Impressive ANC earphones

BEST NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES 2018: THE BEST ANC HEADPHONES FROM £40 TO £350

If you're looking for earphones with good ANC, the B&O BeoPlay E4's are very good at blocking out unwanted ambient sound. This is achieved through its control box, that houses all the technology. This does, however, weigh down on your ears and makes it uncomfortable to carry around - but that's the price you'll have to pay if you want to invest in in-ears with impressive ANC.
The E4's have a serious emphasis on the lower frequencies. Its mid-bass is a little uncontrolled and this leaks into the mid-range, pushing them back. On the plus side, its treble extension and overall soundstage reproduction are both superb. If you want to invest in a set of ANC earphones, the E4's are a good choice.

6.       AKG N60NC: Small, stylish on-ear ANC headphones

BEST NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES 2018: THE BEST ANC HEADPHONES FROM £40 TO £350

There are very few ANC headphones out there that can combine both style and sound into one package. The AKG N60NC is an on-ear ANC headphone that is extremely portable thanks to its hinge design. Its 3D-axis folding mechanism means the headphones can be neatly tucked away, and combined with a solid plastic-metal frame, the headphones are built to last.
Its ANC capabilities are impressive for an on-ear headphone, though, they won't block out ambient noise like over-the-ear headphones due to a lack of passive isolation. Still, with ANC enabled by default, the N60NCs cope extremely well.
The N60NC feature the classic AKG sound signature, which is a relatively flat and neutral sound signature - if you're looking for an exciting sound, look elsewhere. If you're looking for a set of small, stylish ANC headphones get the AKG N60NC.

7.       Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2: Incredible sound with impressive ANC

BEST NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES 2018: THE BEST ANC HEADPHONES FROM £40 TO £350

The Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2 offers incredible value for money. From its luxurious design, ANC capabilities and excellent sound quality, these shouldn't be overlooked when purchasing wireless ANC headphones.
Its sound quality is excellent - its deep bass tones extend smoothly into the sub-bass frequencies, its mid-bass is punchy, while the mids and highs are accurately reproduced. Thanks to its 40mm drivers, the headphones have a wide soundstage, too.
The ANC capabilities are no slouch either. Ambient noise is significantly reduced, and if you're looking to listen to your surroundings, a quick toggle on the left-hand cup enables that. The headphones are clever, too. By detecting motion, your music will automatically pause when you remove your headphones from your head and automatically resume (alongside ANC) when you pop them back on.

8.       Damson HeadSpace: ANC headphones with style

BEST NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES 2018: THE BEST ANC HEADPHONES FROM £40 TO £350

The Damson HeadSpace was funded on Indiegogo in June 2017. It attracted a lot of attention due to its stylish metal design and hiss-free claims. Its ANC capabilities are impressive, as they block over 70% of ambient noise and provide a good level of passive noise cancellation.
Its design is the headphone's standout feature. It looks stunning and with a brushed aluminium finish, it suits all types of listeners. These do sit on the heavy side at 335g, so you might find them uncomfortable during longer listening sessions. Its sound quality is fun and warm sounding, with a punchy mid-bass response and sparkly highs, the headphones provide an exciting sound signature. If you're looking for headphones that combine ANC and style, look no further than the Damson HeadSpace.

9.       Philips SHB9850NC: Stylish Bluetooth ANC headphones with aptX

BEST NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES 2018: THE BEST ANC HEADPHONES FROM £40 TO £350

Don't let the unwieldy name put you off: the Philips SHB9850NC is an excellent set of headphones with a tasteful design. Its build quality is superb - the earphones feel more sturdy than cheaper rivals - and both active and passive noise cancellation are offered.
Sound quality isn’t bad either. The headphones have a slight warmth, punchy bass and a sparkly treble that makes music sound fun and exciting. There’s also a touch-sensitive control surface on the right earphone too, which allows you to control your music without having to fiddle with physical buttons.

10.   Lindy BNX-60: Top-quality ANC headphones for a reasonable price

BEST NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES 2018: THE BEST ANC HEADPHONES FROM £40 TO £350

Much like the Ausdom ANC7, the Lindy BNX-60 is an affordable pair of Bluetooth ANC headphones. The design has better isolation, so even with ANC switched off, you won’t be constantly annoyed by external sounds.
The headphones are comfortable too, with soft earpads that are comfortable for long commutes. The battery is rated for 15 hours of listening over Bluetooth with ANC enabled; you can also attach a cable and enjoy around 30 hours of ANC listening.
Sound quality is very agreeable, with punchy mid-bass and an accurate reproduction of the mids and highs. The BNX-60 also supports the aptX codec, resulting in a top-quality Bluetooth stream. Simply put, they’re the best ANC headphones for under £100.
If you're looking for the same sound signature, and don't mind wires, get the Lindy NC-60 instead. It's the £57 wired variant of the BNX-60. It requires two AA batteries for ANC to work and has the same design and sound quality as its older sibling.

11.   Tronsmart S6: The best sub-£50 ANC headphone

BEST NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES 2018: THE BEST ANC HEADPHONES FROM £40 TO £350

The Tronsmart S6 is the cheapest ANC headphone you'll ever come across. At only £46, they offer lots of features which would have been previously unimaginable on sub-£50 wireless headphones. The S6 features a dedicated ANC button, which can be used independently from the Bluetooth and wired-in connections.
The headphones' drivers also fold to make them a lot easier to carry around. The S6 are comfortable, too, with soft padding around the ear and at the top of the headband, which means you can wear them for long listening sessions.
As you'd expect for sub-£50 wireless headphones, they don't sound as good as the others listed above it, however, for its price you get fantastic bang for buck performance. The bass is strong, the treble extends relatively well and the instrument separation is pleasant. Its ANC capabilities are acceptable - just don't expect to block out all ambient noise with these on.

Decoka DK100: Incredible sub-£50 ANC earphones

BEST NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES 2018: THE BEST ANC HEADPHONES FROM £40 TO £350

For under £50, you'd think it would be impossible to find a pair of ANC headphones, let alone earphones. The Tronsmart S6 (above) are great budget ANC headphones, but what if you want something more portable? Step forward the Decoka DK100, a set of wired ANC earphones that tick pretty much every box.
The earphones have a small circular control pod, where you can toggle ANC or enable monitoring mode that allows you to listen in to everything around you - giving you better situational awareness. Its ANC capabilities are good, though, it can't compete with over-ear headphones, such as the Lindy BNX-60.
As for its sound quality, the DK100 sound good. It has a good pronounced mid-bass impact, slightly recessed mids and a relatively good treble extension; its soundstage is wide and instrument separation is impressive, too. Given its price tag, the DK100 earphones provide incredible value for money and are a great set of cheap ANC earphones.

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