Are Noise Canceling Headphones Worth It? (Detailed Guide)

In our constantly noisy world, noise canceling headphones promise a little slice of serenity. With the ability to actively block out external sounds, they can transform chaotic environments into peaceful personal spaces.

Noise-canceling headphones are worth it for individuals who value enhanced audio quality and want to minimize external distractions. These headphones utilize advanced technology to actively reduce or eliminate external noise and protect hearing by allowing music to be enjoyed at lower volumes.

But with high price tags, are noise canceling headphones really worth the investment? There are several factors to consider when deciding if noise cancellation is right for you.

How Noise Canceling Headphones Work

Noise canceling headphones work by using small microphones on the earcups to pick up ambient noise around you. The headphones then generate an opposite “anti-noise” sound wave to cancel out the surrounding noises before they reach your ears. This creates a bubble of silence around you, blocking out everything from chatty neighbors to jet engine roar.

There are two main types of noise cancellation:

Passive Noise Cancelation

Passive noise cancellation relies solely on the physical design and materials of the headphones to muffle outside noises. The earcups form a tight seal around your ears and the padding blocks sound waves from entering. This passive system alone provides some noise reduction compared to regular headphones.

Active Noise Cancelation

Active noise cancellation uses those tiny embedded microphones to pick up ambient noise. Advanced digital signal processing then generates an equal but opposite sound wave to actively cancel the intruding noises in real time. This completely neutralizes the outside sounds, leaving you with a serene listening environment.

Active noise canceling headphones require power, either from an internal battery or external source, to generate the sound neutralizing waves. Passive headphones rely solely on sound blocking material.

Some people’s confuse themselves between noise cancelling headphones and noise isolating headphones. But don’t worry. I have already discussed everything in detail just for you. So, click the read to overcome this confusion.

Are Noise Canceling Headphones Worth It?

For frequent travelers and commuters or those working in consistently loud environments, noise canceling headphones can be a game-changer – allowing peaceful immersion in music and media.

But for more casual at-home listeners, the benefits are less substantial unless you prize the ability to find focus amidst noise. And audio purists may still prefer the uncompromised sound of non-noise canceling headphones.

The Rising Popularity of Noise Canceling

The active noise cancellation headphones market is experiencing rapid growth, expected to expand from USD 15.68 billion in 2023 to USD 30.19 billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 14% during this period according to research from Mordor Intelligence.

This growth is driven by the hearing health benefits and audio enhancements provided by noise canceling technology. In a recent study, earphones with active noise cancellation were found to reduce ambient sounds by 14.2 ± 2.0 dB SPL in the low-frequency range and 5.1 ± 0.7 dB SPL across the full frequency spectrum according to research published in PMC.

The Benefits of Noise Canceling Features

There are many potential upsides to using noise canceling headphones, depending on your needs:

Improved Audio Quality

By eliminating ambient noise, active noise cancellation improves the audio quality you hear from your headphones. It’s easier to pick up nuances in acoustic music, dialogue in videos becomes clearer, and you may not need to raise the volume as high to hear everything. This can lead to a richer, more immersive listening experience.

Greater Focus and Productivity

The silence provided by noise canceling headphones can make it easier to focus on work or creative projects. Blocking out external distractions helps you direct attention inwards. This makes noise canceling headphones a favorite for students, office workers, or anyone wanting distraction-free time.

Peaceful Traveling

Noise canceling headphones are amazing travel companions, blocking out the roar of plane engines or chatter of fellow passengers. They make it easier to relax, listen to music, watch films, or sleep when commuting or traveling. This can help you arrive more refreshed and focused.

Hearing Protection

By actively minimizing loud ambient noises, noise canceling can reduce the need to crank up the volume excessively. This may help protect your hearing health in noisy environments over time. Noise induced hearing loss is cumulative over our lives.

Anxiety and Stress Reduction

Excessive ambient noise can trigger anxiety or overwhelm people with sensory processing sensitivities. Noise canceling headphones cut out the cacophony of modern life, creating a calming oasis for your mind. This promotes greater relaxation and ability to reboot.

There’s no denying noise canceling headphones can provide a blissful listening experience in the right loud environments. But cheaper passive headphones may suffice if you primarily listen at home.

That’s why, it is important to understand the safety issue when use noise canceling headphone, and this is why you should read this article on “are noise canceling headphones safe“.

Factors to Consider Before Buying

Noise canceling headphones offer meaningful benefits for many users, but also come with downsides and variables to consider. Key factors include:


Quality noise canceling headphones with advanced active technology cost more than regular headphones – often $100+ for wireless over-ear models. You’ll want to decide if that investment is justified by your personal listening needs and if you will use the noise cancelation enough to warrant the price.

Sound Quality Trade-Offs

The very technology that enables active noise cancellation can also degrade aspects of music playback quality. It’s worth reading professional reviews on sound quality to find the best options if audio fidelity is your priority. Some models even allow you to turn noise cancellation off when not needed.


Since noise canceling headphones form a tight seal over your ears, comfort and ergonomics are important. On-ear models can get hot during extended wear and press your ears. Over-ear designs with ample padding tend to be most comfortable for long listening sessions. Try before you buy if possible.

Situational Usefulness

Noise canceling is most impactful in environments with sustained ambient noise like planes, trains, or offices. In quieter settings, the benefits are less noticeable. If you primarily want headphones for focused listening in noisy places, noise cancellation is highly advantageous. For more casual home use, it may not make a big difference.

Single Use vs. Multiple Device Pairing

Many noise canceling headphones can pair with multiple devices via Bluetooth so you can easily switch between your phone, laptop, tablet, etc. If you only plan to use headphones with one device, a single-pairing model may suffice. But multiple connections provide more flexibility if you have various audio sources.

Wired vs. Wireless

Wireless Bluetooth noise canceling models provide freedom of movement but require charging. Wired versions simply plug in via audio cable. Wireless headphones are more versatile but introducing Bluetooth does degrade audio slightly. Consider your portability needs – wired offers dependable quality.

Battery Life

For wireless models, longer battery life equals less charging and forgetting dead headphones. Look for at least 15-30 hours of listening time. Some allow passive noise canceling when batteries deplete so the music doesn’t stop. Having a wire as backup ensures continuous uninterrupted listening.

Noise Canceling Headphone Recommendations

Here are some top-rated noise canceling headphones to consider across price ranges:

Budget Pick: Anker Soundcore Life Q20 – $60 Affordable active noise canceling over-ears with 40 hour battery life. Great value/performance ratio.

All-Purpose Pick: Sony WH-1000XM4 – $350
Industry leading active NC with touch controls, multipoint Bluetooth, speak-to-chat feature.

For iPhone Users: AirPods Pro – $250 Apple’s premium in-ear buds with transparency mode and wireless charging case. Seamless iOS integration.

For Audio Purists: Sennheiser HD 820 – $2400 Open-back audiophile headphones with nuanced soundstage. Exceptional wired sound quality.

For Athletes: Jaybird Vista 2 – $200 Fully wireless earbuds with active NC for workouts and intense activity. Waterproof and sweatproof.

For Business Travel: Bose QuietComfort 45 – $330 Over-ear with 24 hour battery, multiple device connections, comfortable for long flights.

For Peace and Quiet: Philips PH805 – $300 Bluetooth over-ears with extra effective noise blocking for relaxation and focus.

If you want a permanent way to avoid noise then soundproofing is the best way and the most common option is the soundproofing foams. To help you better whether the soundproofing foam are good for soundproofing or not, I have already written an article. Just click the link to read it.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Potential advantages of noise canceling headphones:

  • Improved sound quality and listening immersion
  • Greater concentration and focus
  • Peaceful environment for travel or work
  • Hearing protection benefits
  • Less need to raise volume extremely high
  • Anxiety and stress reduction

Considerations to keep in mind:

  • Higher cost than regular headphones
  • Sound quality trade-offs with some models
  • Need to consider comfort and ergonomics
  • Most useful in sustained noisy environments
  • Recharging requirements for wireless models
  • Advanced features may not be needed for casual use

So, Are Noise Canceling Headphones Worth It For You?

The debate around noise canceling headphones boils down to personal listening priorities and lifestyle. For road warriors constantly immersed in the roar of planes and trains, the ability to create a serene private oasis is an incredible gift. In noisy open-office environments, noise canceling headphones become an essential tool for concentration.

But for the average listener at home, the benefits diminish compared to the premium price. Evaluate how you listen to music, videos, and calls, and where ambient noise frequently interferes. If your daily soundscapes tend to be already quiet, noise canceling may be an unnecessary luxury.

But for frequent travelers or those contending with perpetual loud backgrounds, noise canceling can be a worthwhile investment to safeguard your hearing, boost focus, and provide some much-needed peace.

Assess your own needs to decide if these innovative headphones will truly enhance your listening experience given the added cost. With a little self-reflection, you can determine if the ability to curate your own slice of silence suits your lifestyle.

There are also alternatives beyond noise canceling headphones if you are looking to create a peaceful environment. Acoustic foam panels can be used to soundproof rooms by absorbing echo and ambient noise. Soundproof insulation like mass loaded vinyl placed in walls deadens noise transmission between rooms.

Considering all your soundproofing options can lead to the ideal solution tailored to your space, budget and needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are noise cancelling earbuds worth it?

Noise canceling earbuds use tiny microphones and audio processing to counteract external noise. This can provide a more immersive listening experience in noisy environments. However, noise canceling does come at an increased price. For frequent travelers or those routinely in loud spaces, this improved audio quality and concentration may be worthwhile. Casual listeners may not find the benefits substantial enough to warrant the cost.

Are Noise Cancelling Headphones Worth It?

Noise canceling headphones excel at reducing ambient background noise for a more focused and higher quality listening experience. This can benefit frequent commuters and office workers greatly. However, for at home use in already quiet environments, the advantages become more negligible. The premium cost of noise cancellation may not be justified based on individual lifestyle and needs.

Is it better to use noise cancelling headphones?

Noise canceling is highly advantageous in consistently noisy spaces like planes, trains, or a bustling open office. By removing external distractions, it becomes much easier to focus on work or creative projects. But in quieter settings, regular headphones may perform just as well as noise canceling models without the additional cost. Evaluate your common listening environments.

Are bose noise cancelling headphones worth it?

Bose is known for very effective noise cancellation technology that can block ambient sounds better than many competitors. However, some critics argue Bose models compromise on audio quality compared to alternatives at similar price points. Assess noise canceling effectiveness, audio fidelity, comfort and pricing to determine if Bose suits your needs.

Why are Noise Cancelling Headphones expensive?

The microphones, battery, and audio processing required for quality active noise cancellation result in a higher price compared to regular headphones without these components. While the technology has improved, historically noise canceling could also degrade aspects of audio quality, another factor in higher costs. Advanced noise canceling capabilities justify the premium pricing for some.


Noise-canceling headphones are worth considering for individuals who frequently encounter noisy environments and desire improved audio quality and concentration. However, they may be an unnecessary expense for casual at-home listening, as they tend to cost more and offer fewer benefits in quieter settings.

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