Coping with lockdown life is hard enough without having to listen to other members of your household while you are trying to work.
If you can’t get away physically, a set of noise-cancelling headphones could be just the ticket to isolate you just enough to concentrate. From amazing value to truly fantastic sound, at a price, here’s a guide to the best available.
Most cheaper noise-cancelling headphones are terrible, but the Lindy BNX-60 are actually pretty good. They’re a little old, originally released in 2016, but having been reduced to just £50 they offer incredible value.
The noise-cancelling handles background drone fairly well, while the ear cups enclose your ears to help quieten the rest of the world. They have a reasonable set of controls on the outside too, but two different volume levels that can be a bit confusing.
They’re a bit cheap-feeling, and fairly tight on the head. They also don’t fold up particularly compact for travel, which probably isn’t a concern right now.
The battery lasts for up to 12 hours and charges via the older microUSB. You get a choice of a solid Bluetooth 4.1 connection, with support for AAC and aptX Bluetooth audio standards, or an included 3.5mm audio cable. They sound better with noise cancelling turned on with bright and punchy audio – better than you would expect for £50 – that’s a little over accentuated in the treble.
Verdict: A cheap and cheerful bargain.
RRP: £220 – deals from £170
Want noise cancelling without the bulk of headphones or a cable? Sony’s WF-1000XM3 are the best sounding, most effective noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds you can get.
They feature impressive noise-cancelling technology that rivals the best full-size headphones. They sound fantastic, have steady Bluetooth connection with support for AAC, and solid touch-panel controls on each earbud that now include volume adjustment.
The earbuds last up to six hours of continuous playback with noise cancelling active, with more than three full charges in the case for a total of 22 hours, all in making them some of the longest-lasting true wireless earbuds available.
Built-in support for Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri is the icing on the cake.
All that technology makes the earbuds massive – but get the fit right and they’re worth it. They even undercut rivals on price too.
Verdict: Amazingly effective noise cancelling without the bulk or wires.
Alternatives: Libratone Track Air+ (£179), Apple AirPods Pro (£250), Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 (£279)
Bose QC35 II
RRP: £250 – deals from £219
Bose pioneered the first noise-cancelling headsets in 1986 and has been a market leader ever since for good reason: its products offer excellent active noise cancellation.
Now in their second iteration, launched in 2017, the QC35 II combine excellent noise suppression with good sound, simple operation, reliable connectivity and supreme comfort.
Though they do not support the latest audio standards, they still have SBC and AAC and a stable connection. You can connect to two devices at once, such as your phone for calls and your computer for work, and the headphones last for up to 20 hours between charges. You can use a headphones cable too when the battery runs out. Good playback and volume controls, plus a button for adjusting noise cancelling or a voice assistant round out a simple, understated design.
They are built to last, fold neatly for travel and sound pretty good too. The best bit is their unparalleled comfort: light and airy with good adjustments – ideal for long work days.
Verdict: Effective, comfortable and built for the road.
Alternatives: Jabra Elite 85H (£170), Marshall Monitor II (£270), Beats Solo Pro (£270)
If price is no object and you want the very best sound in a set of noise-cancelling headphones that will work wireless, wired and even over USB-C, with practically every option ticked including top-tier comfort, you want the B&W PX7 from the upmarket British manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins.
The big, cushioned ear cups and padded headband provide all-day comfort. The noise cancelling is as good as Bose at blocking out the world, while the battery lasts for up to 30 hours. A 15-minute quick charge gives you up to five hours playback too if you run out. A rock-solid Bluetooth 5 connection is backed with the very latest in audio standards, including AAC for Apple devices and aptX Adaptive for Android or Windows. Plus they can connect to two devices at once, while call quality is great.
For a cabled connection you have a choice of a standard 3.5mm audio cable or a USB-C cable straight from your phone, tablet or computer.
The best bit is how they make whatever you are listening to sound: simply fantastic, producing the sort of quality audio that will enable you to discover new elements in well-worn tracks.
Verdict: Big and expensive, but the PX7 are worth every penny.
Alternatives: Sony WH-1000XM3 (£240), Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 (£300), Sennheiser Momentum 3 wireless (£300).
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