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Best Overall: Bose QuietComfort 30 at Amazon
"The QC30’s neck-band design is both comfortable and secure."
Best Budget: TaoTronics TT-BH042 at Amazon
"Not only has active noise-cancelation but it reduces audio interference — all packaged together for under $50."
Best for Exercise: Bose SoundSport Pulse at Amazon
"They have a built-in heart rate monitor embedded in the left earbud that helps you to track your performance."
Best Wireless: Sony WI-1000X at Amazon
"Automatically detects your activity — whether you're jogging on a trail or commuting on a train — and adjusts the noise cancelation levels accordingly."
Best True Wireless: Phiaton Bolt BT 700 True Wireless Earbuds at Phiaton
"Comes with a charging case that also doubles as a speaker with 3W output."
Best for Work: Mpow Jaws V4.1 Bluetooth Headphones at Amazon
"Features Qualcomm’s cVc 6.0 technology to filter out background noise."
Best for Travel: Plantronics BackBeat Go 410 at Amazon
"Sits flush with your ears, so you can even sleep on a travel pillow while wearing them."
Best Design: Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E4 at Amazon
"They say that you don’t notice good design but Bang & Olufsen disproves that with the breathtaking yet minimalist-designed Beoplay E4."
Courtesy of Amazon
Bose has made a name for itself with its QuietComfort line of noise-canceling headphones. As far as the “quiet” goes, the QC30 says it best: “Don’t just cancel noise. Control it.” After all, sometimes a little ambient noise is welcome, not to mention safe. Its dual-microphone system also helps to minimize surrounding noise so audio is crystal clear on calls. As for the “comfort” part of its name, the QC30’s neck-band design is both comfortable and secure. The earphones come with small, medium, and large tips so you can find the right fit for your ears. The battery will score you up to 10 hours of wireless listening per charge.
Noise-cancelation is a feature that generally doesn’t come cheap, but the TaoTronics TT-BH042 have active noise-cancelation and a Micro Electrical-Mechanical System microphone that reduces audio interference and it's all packaged together for under $50. The battery claims to last about eight hours with noise-cancelation activated and roughly doubles when it’s turned off.
The neckband-style design has a magnetic clip so your earphones can attach together securely and dangle around your neck when you’re on the go. And to keep up with your active lifestyle, the TT-BH042 is rated IPX5, making them waterproof against sweat and light rain.
Ok, we’re cheating a bit here. While these sport earphones aren’t actually noise-canceling, that’s because you should never use a noise-canceling feature while exercising. When you’re physically exerting yourself, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and to do so, you must use all your senses, especially hearing. Still, these earphones have other features that make them a superb workout buddy.
Their StayHear+ tips provide a secure fit that stays put during even the most intense workouts. On top of that, they are rated IPX4, making them resistant against sweat and light showers. They even have a built-in heart rate monitor embedded in the left earbud that helps you to track your performance and ensure you’re exercising safely. Through the Bose Connect app, you can view your readings, and it also integrates with your favorite workout apps like MapMyRun, Runkeeper and Runtastic. The battery life lasts roughly five hours on a single charge, which should last you a marathon or so.
These Sony earphones have a Smart Listening feature by Adaptive Sound Control that automatically detects your activity — whether you're jogging on a trail or commuting on a train — and adjusts the noise cancelation levels accordingly. (You can also customize the settings via the Sony I Headphones Connect app, available for iOS and Android.) The sound quality is also impressive for earphones thanks to S-Master HX that reduces distortion. Sony says its LDAC transmits more than three times the data as traditional Bluetooth audio, but several audio blogs bust that claim, noting that while it doesn’t truly deliver high-res audio over Bluetooth, your ears probably won’t notice the difference.
Featuring a neckband-style design, the earphones are comfortable to wear over extended periods and also come with multiple ear tips so you can find the right fit. You’ll earn about 10 hours of wireless listening (with noise cancelation) and the earphones are also compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa so help is just a command away.
Courtesy of Phiaton
What’s cooler than wireless earphones? True wireless earphones. You can hardly cross the street these days without seeing someone with Apple’s white AirPods wedged into their ears, but our favorite true wireless earphones hot off the presses are the Phiaton Bolt BT 700s. Originally backed on Kickstarter in just 4 days, these earphones come with a charging case that also doubles as a speaker with 3W output. The earbuds last for about five hours of playtime on a single charge and the speaker goes for about eight hours. The earbuds will charge back up in about two hours’ time, but for fast charging, you can score one hour of playtime with just a 15-minute charge.
The earbuds house balanced armature drivers that deliver vibrant sound and brilliant mid-high frequency tones. While true wireless earbuds can often feel like they’re about to fall out, Phiaton’s RightFit+ ear wings ensure they sit securely in your ears. Plus you’ll get four sizes of ear tips for personalized comfort.
It used to be that someone walking down the street talking to themselves was considered crazy, but these days, passersby just assume you’re an important business person. Sometimes duty calls and you have to be prepared to make or take a call even on a busy sidewalk. In these cases, these Mpow Jaws Bluetooth headphones are a lifesaver. They feature Qualcomm’s cVc 6.0 technology to filter out background noise. Clear Voice Capture (cVc) technology uses embedded algorithms to cancel out surrounding sounds, voices or ambient noise like the wind. When you speak into a microphone integrated with cVc technology, it analyzes the sounds and separates your voice from all other noises, so your voice sounds clear to the person on the other end of the call. Note that cVc technology is different from active noise-canceling technology (ANC), which instead reduces noise for the caller.
Sound aside, the neckband-style Mpow Jaws also have a smart “shark-like” magnetic design that attracts the earbuds to a stabilizer that sits at the end of the neckband, which makes them easy to wear on-the-go. They also boast 13 hours of talk time, so you’ll never drop out in the middle of an important call, and have a vibrating call alert so you’ll feel an incoming call even if you don’t hear it.
Before buckling down for a long-haul flight, always double check that you have your headphones, otherwise, you’ll be stuck watching movies with the airline’s cheap handouts. Your best travel companion is Plantronics’ BackBeat Go 410, a neckband-style pair of earbuds that are lightweight enough to carry in your pocket and comfortable enough to wear for hours on end. The earbuds sit flush with your ears, so you can even sleep on a travel pillow while wearing them. They feature dual-mode active noise-cancelation (ANC) that allows you to choose how much surrounding noise you want to let it from within the BackBeat app. For example, you may want to block out all noise on the overnight flight, but then allow some ambient noise to filter in once you land for safety reasons.
The battery provides up to eight hours of wireless listening with ANC and 10+ hours when ANC is turned off. To conserve juice, the earphones also have smart magnetic hibernation sensors that automatically switch off ANC when they are latched. Even if the battery dies while you’re 35,000 feet over the Atlantic, don’t fret; the earphones come with a patent-pending dual-use cable that converts your USB charging cable into a 3.5 mm cable for continued wired listening.
They say that you don’t notice good design but Bang & Olufsen disproves that with the breathtaking yet minimalist-designed Beoplay E4. With these earbuds, Bang & Olufsen “interprets the same values for a new type of contemporary product aimed at design-conscious active cosmopolitan music lovers.”
The earphones are made of soft Comply memory foam ear tips that ensure a secure yet comfortable fit. (You’ll also get four sizes of additional silicone ear tips to find the perfect match for your ears.) On the exterior, the scratch-resistant metal is hairline brushed and pearl blasted for a silky finish, while the interior features polymer that spoils your skin. Even the intuitive inline remote, which lets you adjust volume, skip tracks and answer calls, is thoughtfully designed using durable aluminum and rubber. The inline battery provides up to 20 hours of ANC listening but the wired earphones themselves don’t require power for listening (just with the added ANC feature).
As for the sound quality, the compact design packs a surprisingly powerful punch to deliver crisp and clear audio. The active noise-canceling feature can also be adjusted using Transparency Mode, which lets in ambient noise when you need to be aware of your surroundings.