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Are Noise-Cancelling Headphones Worth the Added Expense?

Find out what noise-cancelling headphones are and if they're worth buying.

Sony Headphones Tomasz Gawlowski / Unsplash

Last Updated: October 4, 2021

Written by Brandon Jones

What Are Noise Cancelling Headphones?

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Active Noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones reduce ambient background sounds by producing opposite sound waves to cancel out unwanted sound. These headphones have microphones that detect outside background noise to allow them to cancel out these sounds before your ears can hear them.

Active noise-cancelling headphones are different than headphones that passively block noise with a noise-reducing barrier.

Besides the noise-cancelling part of these headphones, they are just like any other headphones.

Benefits of Noise-Cancelling Headphones

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Noise-cancelling headphones are great for traveling by blocking out the background noise, such as the hum of an engine. Noise-cancelling can partially block out the voices of people talking in addition to other everyday background noises.

Noise-cancelling headphones are enjoyable at a lower volume also, due to blocking out the noise you're usually trying to block out by increasing the volume. In theory, this would reduce the chance of hearing loss originating from listening at high volume levels. This is assuming you're not still increasing the volume because you love the song so much!

Like the noise-cancelling headphones we recommend, higher-end headphones have better quality and clarity, which is enhanced by noise-cancelling and creates a more immersive experience.

Downsides of Noise-Cancelling Headphones

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Noise-cancelling headphones (at least the ones on the market currently) don't completely block out voices or high-pitched noises but still tones them down some.

It also takes some time to get used to the noise-cancelling aspect of noise-cancelling headphones. Noise-cancelling from the headphones affects air pressure which may feel strange at first and may affect balance. Most people get used to this, though, and don't notice it over time.

Conclusion - Should I Buy Noise-Cancelling Headphones?

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If the benefits of noise-cancelling headphones sound good to you, you should buy some to try them out. Even if you aren't going to use your headphones in a noisy environment, they still block out ambient background noise that you may not have noticed until it's blocked out. Without the extra noise, it can make you feel like you're in a room made just for you and your music.

If you commute or work in a noisy environment, then noise-cancelling headphones will be even more worth buying. These headphones will block out a lot of extra noise that can be distracting so that you can focus on your work and hobbies better.

Lower-priced noise-cancelling headphones can be a good start to see if they're worth getting, but higher quality headphones will be sure to convince you. For example, the Sony XM4s are the most popular for their excellent noise-cancelling and sound quality. Be sure to check out all of our recommended noise-cancelling headphones below.

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Soundcore Q30

  • Custom equalizer via their app to adjust the sound to your preferences. It saves the settings on the headphones so you can keep the same settings on multiple devices.
  • 40 mm sound drivers for improved clarity.
  • 40 hours of noise-cancelling playtime with quick charging.
  • Comfortable over-ear earcups.
  • Soundcore by Anker Life Q30 on Amazon (affiliate link). Soundcore by Anker Life Q30

Sony WH-1000XM4

  • Highly rated noise-cancelling technology.
  • Custom equalizer via their app to adjust the sound to your preferences
  • 30 hours of playtime with quick charging.
  • Touch controls for volume control, voice assistant, media control, and answering calls.
  • Has an automatic speak-to-chat feature that reduces volume during conversations.
  • Sony WH-1000XM4 on Amazon (affiliate link). Sony WH-1000XM4

Bose 700

  • Eleven levels of active noise-cancelling.
  • Touch controls with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri voice assistant support.
  • Lightweight stainless steel headband.
  • 20 hours of playtime.
  • Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 on Amazon (affiliate link). Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700