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From essential business to medical procedures, there are plenty of reasons you may still be flying during the pandemic, and nothing changes the fact that you’ll want to make that flight as comfortable as possible. Eliminating background noise like crying babies and fussy children, or even just the hum of powerful engines, is an instant and dramatic ambiance improvement, making headphones and earphones with active noise control (ANC, and better known as noise cancellation) a top commodity for savvy travelers. Even if you’re not hopping a flight, they’re equally effective while commuting on public transportation or when trying to catch a much-needed nap as a passenger on a long drive, making them useful for just about any type of travel, business or otherwise. And with 2020’s overwhelming increase in work-from-home “offices,” tuning out household chaos to communicate with clients, colleagues and bosses in virtual meetings and constant phone calls is all but impossible without the assistance of quality ANC assistance. Whether you’re flying, riding or working from home, these 6 noise-cancelling headphones and earphones will save your sanity again and again.
Best Headphones for Inflight Entertainment
Comfort is key on airplanes and few headsets are as cozy as the Exodus ANC from eco-conscious House of Marley, with memory foam ear cushions that are as much pillows as headphones. The 28-hour ANC battery life will outlast even the longest flight itinerary, and the set packs a whopping 80-hour capacity with ANC off. Most inflight entertainment systems don’t yet support Bluetooth capability, requiring unreliable dongles for wireless use, but you can avoid this hiccup by directly connecting to the plane’s inflight entertainment with the long cable included, and reap the added benefit of continuous charging. With space at a premium in your carry-on luggage, you’ll also appreciate the fold-hinge design of this sustainably-produced headset that fits in a small, durable pouch for stowing. With 50 mm high definition drivers and House of Marley’s “signature sound” performance, you’ll have a hard time finding a better music and entertainment experience at this price point. With active voice assistant technology and easy Bluetooth call controls, the Exodus ANC doubles as a solid work-from-home choice, but this is definitely a set best appreciated for quality sound.
Best Headphones for Work from Home (or Work from the Road)
When you need serious reliability and power on the road, the ADAPT 560 from EPOS|SENNHEISER is hard to top. Multi-point connectivity seamlessly switches between devices and the award-winning design of this flat-fold headset easily fits in the soft-sided, protective carrying case that stows in any size bag. An additional boom arm for improved call quality folds away when not in use, and a dedicated button launches Microsoft Teams for virtual meetings. These powerful headphones boast a 46-hour battery life and nearly 2000 hours of standby, and only require about 3.5 hours to fully recharge. ANC functionality easily blocks out noisy airport and hotel distractions and works just as well in hectic households for parents working from home or students learning remotely. Bonus: Bluetooth stays connected up to 82 feet from the source, so you’ll never worry about disconnecting from important calls even when roaming from room to room and losing track of your phone. The high-quality audio and powerful noise cancellation make this a good choice for entertainment on flights and long rides, too, but the ADAPT 560 shines as a workhorse.
Best Earphones for Adventure
For quality ANC headphones that can withstand an exciting life on the go, turn to SYNC ANC from SOUL. Easily clipped to any backpack or bag with the included metal carabiner, the shock-resistant buds and fast-charging case are also water- and sweat-resistant to provide a sharp listening experience while withstanding the knocks and bumps of all your adventures. The 12 mm drivers provide unusually powerful audio for earphones and the ergonomic design, combined with three sizes of included ear tips, makes long listening considerably more comfortable (a blessing, considering the 22–25-hour battery life). Though they’re difficult to lose or damage, the surprisingly low price point provides additional peace of mind no matter how wild or fast-paced your travels may get.
Best Mindful AirPod Replacement
At a similar price point to AirPods, Redemption ANC earphones offer superior functionality with sustainable design of bamboo and recycled materials and a philanthropic give-back initiative from House of Marley. A quick 2-hour charge yields 5 hours of ANC listening (7 hours with ANC off) from the earphones, and the fully-charged magnetic case can deliver more than 20 total hours. Tap engagement easily turns ANC on and off, and 8.6 mm drivers produce great quality sound through water- and sweat-resistant buds. Beyond making a responsible decision by opting for House of Marley, you’ll also be making a style statement with the unique design of both the buds and case, leaving white plastic AirPods behind forever.
Best Value for Superior ANC
As you’d expect, you’ll generally have to pay more for higher quality performance, but the Panasonic RZ-S500W true wireless noise-cancelling earphones remain a stellar value, priced only slightly higher then lower performing alternatives. When it comes to ANC, many earphones have either feedforward or feedback functionality that effectively convert noise from particular frequencies, but dual hybrids like these Panasonic earphones have both for a more complete range of noise elimination. With 8 mm drivers and 6.5 hours of play (13 with the charging cradle), they’re well-suited to short- and mid-distance flights and drives, but they’re especially impressive when used for work at home or on the go. Five earpiece sizes assure the most comfortable fit and most effective noise cancellation while 3 mics per bud dramatically improve call quality on these voice assistant compatible earphones. Bonus: In a pinch, a 15-minute quick charge yields up to 70 minutes of use.
Most Powerful Earphone Performance
True to the legacy of Technics Hi-Fi systems dating back to the 1960s, the Technics AZ70 true wireless noise-cancelling earphones deliver powerful Hi-Fi sound through 10 mm drivers and graphene-coated diaphragms for unmatched acoustics. The super sleek set of buds and their compact charging case provide 6.5 hours of playback with dual hybrid ANC listening functionality and beamforming noise reduction for quality call capability. With built-in Amazon Alexa assistance and both Siri and Google Assistant compatibility, the foolproof Technics Audio Connect App adds to the superior usability of this easy-to-setup and easy-to-operate earphone set that delivers quality more typical of larger headphones, but at earphone size and convenience.