Consumer Reports: Users share Noise-cancelling headphones experience for any budget

Jeff Ehling Image
Thursday, June 24, 2021
Noise-cancelling headphones ranked by Consumer Reports
Tech experts weigh in on the technology and say you don't need to sacrifice performance to get a pair at a good price.

We've all been on a loud plane or train when all we really wanted was some peace and quiet.

Enter noise-canceling headphones - They're great for a variety of uses and a great gift idea.

But some headphones are better suited for certain situations, according to Consumer Reports.

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Before the pandemic, Derek Flowers traveled a lot for work. One thing he always made sure to pack was his noise-cancelling headphones.

"I use mine on flights to drown out background noise and get work done," Flowers said.

A decent pair of noise-canceling headphones gives you great audio while reducing outside noise, according to Consumer Reports Tech Editor Thomas Germain.

"As long as they form a tight seal in or around your ears, noise-canceling headphones can help block out any outside sound but they really work best with low-pitched, consistent noises, like the roar of a plane engine," Germain said.

If you're a frequent flier or just want to listen to a podcast while blocking out background noise in a cafe, there are plenty of options out there, including an over-the-ear, budget-friendly model from SoundCore by Anker. CR's tests show they deliver very good sound quality and excellent active noise reduction.

If you like long, peaceful walks but want to remain aware of what's around you, some new headphone technology can help.

"Models with variable noise cancellation let you adjust how much sound you block," Germain said. "Or you can get a pair with a 'monitor' or a 'transparency' mode which actually amplifies outside sound on purpose."

If that's your jam, consider the Cleer Ally Plus with "monitor" mode. CR says they have very good sound quality with excellent active noise reduction. This pair is also a solid pick for traveling.

And while travel hasn't picked up yet for Flowers, his noise-canceling headphones aren't collecting any dust. And although they're not perfect for sounds like babies crying, at this point, Derek will try anything. He's been working from home alongside his 11-month-old twins.

As you can imagine, picking out the right headphones involves a lot of personal preference. And for noise-canceling tech to work great, Consumer Reports says it's critical to get a pair that fits you right, so check the return policy before you buy.

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