- 1 What We Considered
- 2 Best Noise Isolating Headphones for Travel
- 3 Best In-Ear Headphones for Working and Travel
- 4 The best Noise Cancelling Headphones for Sleeping
- 5 Best Over-Ear Headphones for Running and Working Out
- 6 Best In-Ear Headphones for Running and Working Out
Headphones have come on leaps and bounds in the last decade with, previously studio-quality immersion, coming at affordable prices for the everyday commute or workout. Each year headphones are increasing with functionality to match the ever-evolving technology in our smartphones. Although audiophiles have preferred brands for specific tones, how do our current market offerings stack up for everyday use for the common commute, workout, or online video conference?
What We Considered
- Noise Cancellation
Best Noise Isolating Headphones for Travel
Noise isolating quality varies from manufacturer to manufacturer with some having more aptitude for certain sounds or environments. Bose historically ranks among one of the best alongside bitter rivals Sony with their WH-1000XM range. When testing headphones for noise isolation one should typically focus on the environments they are most likely to be using the headphones. ANC or Active Noise Cancellation is the technology that uses microphones and speakers to reduce background sounds. PNC or Passive Noise Cancellation is usually the design of the headphone cups that use the shape of the headphone and materials to block out unwanted sound.
A Beast of Headphones for Travel – AirPods Max
The all-around performance of the AirPods Max is sublime at canceling out most sounds. We found them to perform particularly well on train journeys where the monotonous buzz of the engine can seep through into the cups of competitive headphones. Some of the higher frequencies can still leak from time to time, such as the horn of a car or notification signals at train stations. On the flight, the vacuum is enhanced even further where we found the AirPods Max to perform just slightly better than its closest rival. With fantastic ANC technology, Apple is emerging as one of the best noise isolation manufacturers and the AirPods Max is their best yet.
A reliable Alternative – Bose QuietComfort 35
- Three levels of world-class noise cancellation for better listening experience in any environment
- Alexa-enabled for voice access to music, information, and more
- Noise-rejecting dual-microphone system for clear sound and voice pick-up
Bose’s latest headphones were the Bose 700 that, for me, struggled to compete with their previous noise-canceling headphones, the QuietComfort 35. They are well-built, smooth-material headphones with ANC that are close to the quality of the AirPods Max. In fact, they are well-positioned to compete for the Android market with their voice recognition through Google or Alexa. They have the signature Bose sound which extenuates the melodies and smooth base and delivers on noise isolation without having to boost the volume.
Best In-Ear Headphones for Working and Travel
Three elements to consider when using headphones for dual-purpose work and travel. In-ear headphones struggle to compete with over-ear headphones on the noise isolation but they tend to be a little more comfortable for longer periods of time.
The Best in-ear for Business and Travel – AirPods Pro
- Active Noise Cancellation blocks outside noise, so you can immerse yourself in music
- Transparency mode for hearing and interacting with the world around you
- Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking places sound all around you
- Adaptive EQ automatically tunes music to your ears
- Three sizes of soft, tapered silicone tips for a customizable fit
AirPods are light and inconspicuous yet deliver on fantastic audio quality and good noise cancellation. The microphone, for small headphones, is very good and we found that you are able to have full conversations on moderately busy roads without having too much interference. When using a MacBook to work you are able to switch between devices without having to manually switch to that device as Apple technology recognizes alerts across all devices paired with the AirPods. The only downside for the AirPods is the more limited battery life than some of their competitors which can be frustrating at times.
The best Noise Cancelling Headphones for Sleeping
Selecting headphones for sleeping there are factors to consider such as noise cancellation with no audio, size, and material build of the headphones.
Sleep tight before Work in the Morning – AirPods Pro or Beats Studio Buds
Both of these in-ear headphones have their place amongst the best headphones for sleeping. The AirPods have slightly thicker nibs which forces them to protrude just a little further from the ear, so if you roll over in your sleep you will feel them. The Beats Studio Buds are smaller headphones that have as good a noise cancellation so are a little more effective for me personally. With these two headphones, the shape of one’s ear would be a deciding factor as both are equal in terms of performance. If you have a deeper ear to the canal then the AirPods would suit you very well, if you are slightly more shallow, like me, then Beats would be a good option.
Best Over-Ear Headphones for Running and Working Out
It is important to understand at this point that none of these headphones are sweat-resistant and so durability in this category is a crucial factor. The comfortability of the headphones, weight, and build material is important as well as the overall performance for audio.
The Best in Class without a Doubt – Sony WH-1000-XM4
- Industry-leading noise canceling with Dual Noise Sensor technology
- Next-level music with Edge-AI, co-developed with Sony Music Studios Tokyo
- Up to 30-hour battery life with quick charging (10 min charge for 5 hours of playback)
Although the Sony headphones are not front leaders for us in the over-ear space when it comes to working out they are in a class of their own. They have a lighter build than the AirPods Max and have a very good noise cancellation score. Probably one of the most important factors is their durability as they are built from high-quality plastic and supple leather cupping. Despite the plastic, they have a premium feel and, although struggle to match the futuristic design of the AirPods Max, have a nice sturdy yet durable feel. Again these headphones are not sweat resistant but we did find that we were able to quickly dry the leather ready for the next days’ workout, whereas the Bose 700 would still be damp 24 hours later. Replacement cups can be ordered at the Sony website so even if you are out running and get caught in a downpour a few times, you are able to easily replace the cups with an online order.
Best In-Ear Headphones for Running and Working Out
Whether you are doing weights, yoga, running, or just walking when it comes to in-ear headphones they have got to be comfortable, have decent battery life, and sound good. With a host of options out in the marketplace, there are some marketing more heavily than others and we have found one latest addition to be exceptional headphones in this class.
A Welcome Option – Beats Studio Buds
- Custom acoustic platform delivers powerful, balanced sound
- Control your sound with two distinct listening modes: Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) and Transparency mode
- Three soft eartip sizes for a stable and comfortable fit while ensuring an optimal acoustic seal
The Beats Studio Buds price point raised some eyebrows on their addition from Apple coming in cheaper than both the PowerBeats and the AirPods Pro. They have been a revelation in the workout scene with durability, excellent noise cancellation, and the signature Beats base that can take a workout from 0-100 very quickly. As in-ear headphones go these are one of the most price competitive in what would be seen as a slightly secondary price point against the likes of AirPods Pro and Sennheiser True Wireless 2. If you want a headphone to rock a workout, look good and feel great, these would be a perfect option.