Noise-cancelling headphones can make a huge difference in creating a peaceful and productive environment–especially when dealing with crowded airports, noisy plane journeys and bustling cities. Below, we’ve handpicked a selection of our favorites for business travel.

What are noise-cancelling headphones?

Noise-cancelling headphones are designed to reduce unwanted external noise.  This is done in two ways: active and passive. Active noise cancelling is an electrical feature that requires power to work. It uses microphones on the headphones to detect external noise, which is then cancelled out by producing a mirror image of the sound wave. 

Passive noise-cancelling, on the other hand, is a physical feature that doesn’t require power. It works by blocking out external noise through the headphones’ design, such as closed-back ear cups, noise-isolating materials, and a good ear seal.

It goes without saying that active noise cancellation will cancel out more noise, and is really the only way that earbuds can be noise-cancelling. But for larger on or over-ear headphones passive noise cancelling is much more comfortable and means that the headphones don’t require as much charge (or, if they’re wired headphones, any charge at all.) 

Things to consider when buying noise-cancelling headphones

When it comes to buying noise-cancelling headphones, there are a few things to consider. First, decide whether you want on-ear or over-ear headphones, or true wireless earbuds. On-ear headphones sit on top of the ear, while over-ear headphones surround the ear, providing more noise isolation but potential sound leakage. True wireless earbuds are the most portable option, but may not provide as much noise-cancelling as actual headphones.

Next, consider the purpose of the headphones. Some are designed for audiophiles, with high-quality sound and advanced features. Others may be more comfortable for long-term use or better for exercise. And of course, some are specifically designed for their noise-cancelling capabilities.

Our top recommendations

  • For the best all-around noise-cancelling headphones, we recommend the Sony WH-1000XM5. These headphones offer exceptional sonic clarity and noise-cancelling abilities, as well as a comfortable fit and intuitive controls.
  • If you prefer true wireless earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM4 and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are tied for the top spot. Both offer outstanding noise-cancelling and audio performance, as well as long battery life and comfortable fit.
  • For the best audiophile headphones for the true connoisseur, we recommend the Focal Bathys or the Mark Levinson no5909s. Both offer exceptional sound quality and a premium build.
  • Finally, if we’re judging them purely on their noise cancelling capabilities, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are impossible to beat. They feature the most sophisticated noise-cancelling system available, with 11 levels of intensity and built-in voice control. 

Travel Leaders also help block out the noise of business travel. We’ll organise everything needed so you can just sit back, relax, and whack on a podcast. Happy travels!

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