It's okay to block out the rest of the world and exist in your own bubble, whether you're drowning out office babble, appreciating Frank Ocean's new album, or trying to get through your daily commute or business trip without having a serious meltdown. It's also okay to be a sound snob who wants his tech to look professional and stylish.
To hit all the marks, we've rounded up the industry's top-of-the-line tech for the traveling audiophile. These noise-canceling headphones will change your life. We're not kidding. Invest in a pair and you'll see what we mean. Wearing a pair of these headphones, you'll be the smartest guy in the room. Just try to hide your smug smile the next time a baby's screaming his head off...
Best for All-Day Comfort
Bose is a tech titan trusted by the likes of NFL coaches to cancel out the roar of thousands of screaming fans in order to make split-second decisions. You get comparable noise-muffling capabilities in the QuietComfort35—supreme wireless Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones—just by slipping them on. But, flip a switch and you can reject noise whether you want complete silence, to block out wind or noise during phone calls, or optimized clarity for listening to music. You can keep these bad boys on all day. They're light but sturdy; the around-ear cushions are plush and buttery in texture, and they don't make your ears hot, itchy, or irritated after hours of use. Plus, the styling is sleek and timeless.
Looking for an in-ear model? Bose's highly anticipated QuietControl 30 wireless noise-canceling neck-band headphones are available in October ($300).
Best for the Office
With Jabra's Evolve 80 headphones, you can switch on active noise cancellation to virtually extinguish the outside world. Better yet, you can activate a red "busy light" that appears on the ear cups so colleagues know not to disturb you. (Whether or not they do that, though, is another story.) And, if you need to answer a question or hear something, there's a "listen-in" feature that lets you hear the outside world without having to take the headset off. Just press the right ear cup to activate on and off.
Best for the Guy Who's Never Sitting Down
You're truly untethered with the Plantronics BackBeat PRO+. These headphones are equipped with Class 1 Bluetooth 4.0 technology so you can roam up to 330ft away(!) from your paired phone or device and still stream music. Simply press the control buttons on-ear to answer a call, turn up the volume on a movie, or change a song; and flip a switch to engage its complete range of noise-canceling capabilities. These headphones also boast impressive battery power (up to 24 hours of continuous wireless use)—the best on our list.
Best for Commuters
Dreamed up by the tech-obsessed and designed with the avid traveler in mind, these around-the-ear 'phones actively dampen up to 90 percent of ambient noise. Unwanted background noise, like roaring engines, is filtered out so you only hear your neighbor’s voice... if you want to. They feature a "talk-through" function, so you can communicate with flight attendants and train conductors without taking the headphones off (just press a button).
Best for Bargain-Hunters
The SHB9850NC/27 Philips Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones actually utilize four microphones to reduce noise by up to 99 percent and optimize your music listening experience. The ear cups are designed to create an acoustic system that seals in your tunes and earns the SHB9850NC/27 the Hi-Res Audio stamp of quality. Another standout feature: You can connect your headphones with two Bluetooth-enabled devices simultaneously, simply by tapping the ear shell. So, you can pair your smartphone and laptop to enjoy movies and music and effortlessly take calls in between.
Best for the Hands-Off Listener and Traveler
Style meets function with Beats by Dr. Dre Studio Wireless over-ear headphones. What's nice about this hardware is its noise canceling system is adaptive, meaning that when you're listening to music, it'll strike a balance; external noise is stifled so the audio quality doesn't suffer. But when there's no audio playing, the noise canceling will ramp itself up, drowning out more external noise, making it perfect for long commutes and everyday life.
Best for the Style Guy
Undeniably sleek, the new noise-canceling Zik 3 headphones from Parrot are ones you'll want to wear like an accessory. These headphones also have a presence detector. When you lower the headset around your neck, the music pauses; and when you raise it back on your head, the music starts again. What's more, the Zik 3 lets you know who's calling. Its “Text-To-Speech” system announces the name of your contact.
Best for the Audiophile
Disclaimer: Samsung Level On Wireless PRO Headphones are only compatible with select Samsung Galaxy devices.
The Samsung Level On Wireless PRO Headphones have ergonomically-designed ear cushions, which is good because you won't want to tear your ears away from Samsung’s state-of-the-art Ultra High Quality Audio technology that offers twice the frequency range of standard CD-quality wireless sound. When paired with active noise cancellation, you experience sounds comparable to a concert hall, Samsung says. And a Talk-In Mode lets you turn ambient noise on or off while listening to music, perfect for situations where safety is a concern (say you're biking or walking to work amid traffic) or when sound is helpful.
Best for the Tech-Obsessed
You can tell the designers and engineers at Sony were meticulous with the h.ear on Wireless NC. The tactile material enhances the sleek, minimalistic look of the headphones; but you can showcase your personality by choosing one of five standout colors. Noise-canceling audio gets a boost from LDAC, a new audio technology from Sony that allows you to enjoy high-quality wireless audio via Bluetooth. The tech transmits about three times more data than conventional Bluetooth audio, so you'll listen to music that's very close to High-Resolution Audio, which Sony defines as higher-quality sound that’s multidimensional and clearer—closer to the original track than other sources can produce. It's HD TV for your ears.