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How to choose the best noise cancelling headphones

The best noise cancelling headphones do a lot more than cancel noise. Here’s a guide to help you find your perfect pair.

How to choose the best noise cancelling headphones

You’re trying to relax on a long flight, but the roar of the engine isn’t exactly soothing. You’re working remotely at your favorite coffee shop, but it’s so busy that you’re having trouble being productive. You’re finishing your last set at the gym and need an extra layer of focus. In these and many other situations — when the loud world feels a little too loud — noise is a nuisance. Fortunately, noise cancelling headphones can offer the buffer you need to tune out distractions and interruptions.

But with so many choices, how do you know which are the best noise cancelling headphones for you? This guide to Bose’s product offerings will help find your perfect fit.

Man wearing Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 in a library


Noise cancelling you control

Noise cancelling works best when it’s controllable. Sometimes you want an immersive noise cancelling experience that isolates you from the world outside. Other times you want to hear what’s happening — the barista calling your name, for example, or the flight attendant giving pre-flight safety instructions. Bose noise cancelling headphones let you adapt your level of noise cancellation to what your surroundings require.

All Bose headphones provide some level of passive noise cancellation. So does plugging your ears with your fingers. Although any physical barrier with the outside world will muffle some high-frequency noise, sometimes you need more than that. Different models of noise cancelling headphones offer different levels of control to suit your needs.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II actively listen to your surroundings and send an opposing signal to combat noise. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 offer 11 different settings for the widest range of control. For quick interruptions, they offer Conversation mode, which pauses your music and lets the noise back in — perfect for stopping to chat with a coworker when you’re otherwise engrossed in the week’s hottest playlist. The QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II have three levels of noise cancelling that are easy to switch between.

If you’re more comfortable with in-ear headphones, try out the QuietControl 30 wireless headphones, or the QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones. The latter feature Aware mode, which uses the headphones’ built-in microphone to capture external noises that you can hear inside your headphones with the press of a button — without taking them off. It’s an ideal feature for anyone who wants to tune out, but still needs to be able to tune in.

Woman wearing QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II outside

Voice control

Everyone could use an assistant sometimes. When emails pile up, meetings never end, and your calendar is bursting at the seams, a little help can go a long way. Fortunately, Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II are both optimized for the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa,* which can lighten your load by helping with some of the small details of your everyday life. You’re just a voice command away from checking your appointments for the day, or scheduling a reminder to grab your dry cleaning after work. (Voice commands and controls may vary.)

Voice pickup

You’re in a noisy office, running errands, or settling in for a day of work at your favorite coffee shop. Thanks to the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700’s superior voice pickup, you won’t have to worry about the ruckus around you when you receive a phone call. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 feature a cutting-edge four-microphone system that isolates your voice while cancelling the background noise around you. It’s a voice pickup leader not only amongst Bose headphones, but also in the market at large. That means important clients won’t hear the coffee shop’s milk steamer or your colleague’s booming voice two cubicles over. You’ll hear and be heard almost as if you were talking face-to-face in a quiet room.

A person adjusting volume on QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II

Finding your perfect fit

Although everyone loves curling up in a pair of sweatpants all day on a plush couch, there are things to do and places to go. But being busy doesn’t have to mean being uncomfortable. Your headphones should feel as great as they sound. When shopping around, find out what kind of headphones fit best. For some, a wireless over-the-ear headphone is a must. For others, the sleekness of an in-ear option works best.

Over-the-ear wireless headphones like Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II surround your ears like a hug. The adjustable headband helps make a secure seal around your ears without putting added pressure on your head. With wireless features, the way you control your headphone changes, too. For example, Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 work with gesture-based controls, which means you can easily play, fast forward, rewind, and control the volume by simply tapping and swiping your fingers instead of fumbling with traditional buttons.

Man wearing QuietControl 30 wireless headphones

For those who prefer an in-ear fit, Bose offers two of the best noise cancelling earbuds: the wired QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones and the wireless QuietControl 30 wireless headphones, both of which feature StayHear+ tips that create a soft and secure fit. For maximum comfort, the cone-shaped tips spread contact evenly across the ear and form a gentle seal that contributes to the headphones’ full-spectrum noise reduction. QuietControl 30 wireless headphones leave the wires behind and feature an ergonomic neckband made with soft materials that is perfectly plush for all-day listening. The best noise cancelling earbuds fit snugly inside your ears so you can exercise more easily or wear a winter hat comfortably when the temperatures dip.

Battery life

You’re settling in for a long flight. Although you’re looking forward to relaxing, and perhaps even taking a nap, there’s a group of chatty passengers behind you. Luckily, you’ve got your noise cancelling headphones with you. You pull them out of your bag, put them on, then sit back to enjoy a sleep-inducing soundtrack. Not so fast: Just as you start to drift to sleep, the battery in your headphones dies and the chatter behind you jolts you awake again.

Dealing with a battery that doesn’t last is a headache, and waiting forever for it to charge is a nuisance. Fortunately, Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II have superior batteries that provide up to 20 hours of continuous listening. Plus, they come with cables that come in handy when your battery dies, and you don’t have time to charge them.

Not all headphones are created equal. Whether you’re a world traveler who’s looking for a relaxing travel experience, a remote worker who’s searching for some peace and quiet, an athlete for whom music is fuel, or a commuter who wants to tune out the outside world, Bose has the perfect fit and features for you. Armed with the information in this guide, you can determine what kind of listener you are — and more importantly, what kind of noise cancelling headphones you need.

* Voice assistants are not available in all countries and may vary. Bose smart products voice assistant availability.
Product availability may vary by country