Active noise cancellation (ANC) headphones have been in great demand in recent times, whether it is to block out household sounds when one is at home, those of the office when one is at work, or just whatever is interfering with one’s audio when one is at play. Once considered an elite proposition, ANC is now found in many headphones at many price points. However, not all ANC headphones are the same, whether it is in terms of ANC or audio quality.
If you are on the lookout for a fair of high-quality ANC headphones, here are six options worth checking out:
Sony WH-1000XM5: The ANC Overlord That’s Perfect For Professionals
Price: Rs 29,990
The Sony WH-1000XM5 are an absolute no-brainer for those who want to banish external sound from their audio life when they put on their headphones. Sony’s WH-1000XM series have replaced Bose as the boss of ANC, and the WH-1000XM5 carry this tradition forward.
The design might not be to everyone’s liking, especially as it stops the headphones from folding into a more compact form, and even make their case look bulky, but put them on and you will sense the external world almost disappear.
The WH-1000XM5 have exceptional ANC and has an auto NC optimizer to change ANC levels depending on external sound levels. There is a super cool Speak to Chat feature which automatically pauses audio when you start speaking to someone, and the headphones are also among the best in this list for making and receiving phone calls, which makes them perhaps the best for professionals who work in noisy environments.
The 30mm drivers are not the biggest on this list but you will still get decent quality audio, with just that hint of bass that defines Sony’s sound (they support Sony’s LDAC high-resolution format).
Thirty hours of battery life and a number of smart features make these perfect for ANC lovers and mobile professionals. They are often available at prices that are lower than their MRP, so keep an eye out for special offers.
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless: When Audio Quality Matters
Price: Rs 34,990
The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless are perhaps your best option if you want a pair of headphones that are not just at blocking external sound but deliver extremely high-quality audio as well. The headphones come with audio that is close to audiophile-level quality in terms of being balanced (although it is not classically flat), handling bass and treble very well, without letting either of them overwhelm the mids, which are a Sennheiser strength.
The 42mm drivers deliver good volumes. While they are adept at handling every genre of music, they are particularly good for those who love listening to classical music, jazz, and rock and have clarity levels that can be even trusted for editing audio.
ANC is very good and adapts to external noise levels, and there is also a transparency mode for those moments when you actually need to hear ambient sounds (the traffic, announcements, and so on).
The touch controls take a little getting used to, and the design is non-foldable, but on the flip side, you get a very good case in the box, and a staggering 60-hour battery life.
Bose NC 700: For Design And ANC Control Freaks
Price: Rs 34,499
Headphones that deliver the best of both ANC and audio worlds, and also look good enough to act as a style statement? The Bose 700 ticks all those three boxes convincingly, although it comes with a very hefty price tag.
The metallic band on top of the headphones and the way it attaches to the cups makes it stand out in the crowd, especially if you pick the eye-catching gold and white Soapstone version. Of course, and this being a Bose, you get fantastic sound, which might not be the loudest, but is warm and very easy on the ears.
That said, audiophiles might find it a little too flavoured, and geeks might complain about the absence of aptX support. ANC quality is superb and if you are the type who likes to set things up themselves, well, you have a massive eleven levels of noise cancelling to choose from.
Call quality is great as well and on par with the WH-1000XM5. The battery life of 20-22 hours is a bit of a downer in this company, but then these are the best audio-visual ANC package in the list.
Sony XB-WH910N: For The Bassheads
Price: Rs 14,999
It might make purists shake their heads in disapproval, but let’s face it, a lot of us love the rumble of bass in our audio. More bass means louder beats, bigger explosions and generally a lot lower frequency oomph.
Now, if you want ANC as well as plenty of bass, then the Sony XB-WH910N are the headphones for you. The XB stands for ‘Extra Bass’ and this series of Sony has always specialised in headphones that almost make your ears throb.
The WH910N deliver very solidly on the bass front — those who love techno and underground music will just love the thump these deliver. Yes, as in all bass-heavy headphones, the other frequencies tend to get a little overwhelmed — treble is almost muted and even mids (vocals) at times take a hit, but hey, these are for bass. What’s more, they come with very good ANC (which adjusts as per the noise levels around you) and even an eye-catching design.
The touch controls need a bit of getting used to, but these headphones fold up super neatly, come with a nice case and have thirty hours of very good battery life. In fact, if you turn down the base using the equaliser in the accompanying app, they can even step as a budget (if bassy) alternative to the magnificent 1000XM5.
Razer Opus X: Budget ANC And Great Gaming Muscle Too
Price: Rs 6,999
They say getting decent ANC headphones for under Rs 10,000 is almost impossible. Well, not quite (we will be doing a story on that incidentally). If you are looking for a good-ish ANC experience and do not want to venture into the five-figure zone then the Razer Opus X are a terrific option.
They are well-designed and even come with a Razer-green variant. While their ANC is about the least impressive among those on this list, it is more than ample to drown out sounds in a local cafeteria.
There is a good transparency mode and about thirty hours of battery life. As these headphones come from Razer, they are especially good for gaming and you can enjoy games on your PC and phone with minimal audio latency.
Their gaming-focused design also means that they have excellent microphones, making them very good for calls as well. The sound is loud and proud with a bass thump, courtesy of 40mm drivers.
AirPods Max: Got An iPhone? Got The Bucks? Get These Then
Price: Rs 49,999
These headphones have launched several kidney jokes because of their pricing (they cost more than some older iPhones) and because of their carrying case. But if you have the bucks (both for the headphones and a new carrying case), then these are the perfect ANC headphones for anyone with an iPhone.
The ANC is easily the best in the business, and the sound quality is simply outstanding, with a surprisingly balanced output (even the treble is so clear, a rarity in closed-back wireless headphones) that it even outclasses the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless.
You get Apple’s spatial audio as well as a remarkably wide soundstage, and an Apple Watch-like digital crown to control volume and switch tracks. Yes, they are definitely heavy and those metal cups pick up scratches, but these are perhaps the best ANC headphones out there, provided you use them with an iPhone or iOS device.
That battery life of twenty hours is a bit of a downer, especially when you consider that they get charged over a lightning port (similar to those found on iPhones). Their price is lower now, although they are still the most expensive on this list by some distance.