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Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
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How to find the best noise cancelling headphones

By Leigh :) Stark, an award winning reviewer and technology journalist with over 15 years of expertise in the headphone and sound space.

Updated last:
October 16, 2023

What are noise cancelling headphones?

Originally developed for flights and expanded to include other types of sound, noise cancellation headphones have expanded their use to other locations, as well.

While the technology was initially intended to focus on the whir and hum of a big jet engine, these days the best noise cancellation technologies focus on congregated sounds that can be cancelled out.

Some of the sounds that can be cancelled out include:

  • Aircraft noise
  • Buses and trains
  • White noise
  • Human traffic (humans collectively talking, though it will be quelled, not cancelled)

It’s worth understanding before you dive into a pair of noise cancelling headphones that with the current technology, no pair of noise cancelling headphones will entirely block and remove everything. Noise isn’t just people around you, and it’s not sound happening all the time.

Noise is a collection of noise, and the technology in the best noise cancelling headphones will hone in on collected noise, though may be able to adapt to different situations.

Noise cancelling headphone technology is an area of major growth in technology, and is seeing solutions built by chip makers, including Qualcomm, which means more and more companies could soon be releasing noise cancellation in their headphones, possibly as a standard feature to truly wireless earphones.

What is adaptive noise cancellation?

The next generation of noise cancellation technology is built to be adaptive, in that it actively monitors your environment or can be triggered to change what sounds it is cancelling out.

While previous noise cancellation technology focused on specific sounds and spectrums, the future won’t have you wondering what to do, and will deal with outside sound in an algorithmic way.

How do you find the right pair of noise cancelling headphones for you?

Working out the right pair of headphones isn’t always easy, so consider making a checklist to sort out what you really want.

For starters, work out how much you want to spend, because noise cancelling earphones and headphones can vary quite a lot in price. Ranging from $99 to $999, and sometimes even higher, ANC headphones and earphones tend to attract a higher price tag because of the high-end tech they include.

How to work out a budget for noise cancelling headphones

Typically, the more you spend, the more premium tech you’re going to get, at least for the time. Newer and more expensive headphones often get the best types of noise cancellation, while less expensive models can ease back on how much cancellation isolation you’re getting.

An easy price guide to ANC earphones and headphones is as follows:

  • Budget noise cancellation ($79 to $149): they’ll typically cancel out aircraft noise and a few other forms, but some noise will come in
  • Mid-range noise cancellation ($150 to $299): a really solid middle point for anyone looking for something that will isolate them against not just aircraft noise, but also other forms, as well. Most of the high-end ANC tech trickles into the mid-range prices pint.
  • High-end noise cancellation ($300 to $699): where all the new technology is, ANC for flagship headphones and earphones often uses AI and machine learning to cancel out sounds. It means you’ll get a bubble of sound in almost any environment. While ANC can’t technically cancel out talking and all human sounds (yet), headphone options in this category may get you closer to a true isolation experience for your own bubble of sound.
  • Luxury noise cancellation ($700 and beyond): often geared at audiophiles and people with plenty of money, you’ll typically get among the best noise cancellation technology at the time, but you also might not. Headphones and earphones in this category may focus on premium design or high-resolution audio, or a combination of both. ANC will be a part of what makes them interesting, but it won’t likely be the only thing.

Noise cancellation news and reviews

We’re always writing about sound at Pickr, so this is just a starting point. Check out all the news and reviews on noise cancelling headphones below to help you get find what you’re looking for.