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Best Noise Cancelling Headphones Gifts

Updated on December 9, 2017

Noise cancelling headphones can be an absolute savior for travelers and commuters. Few things are more frustrating than the constant noise of airplane engines, loud talkers or noisy children, but a good pair of over the ear noise canceling headphones can take you away from all that. You literally are transported into the music, audiobook or podcast of your choice. However, what used to be an easy decision when Bose was the only maker of sound cancelling headphones, is now a much more complicated decision.

I have owned several pairs of over the ear noise canceling headphones over many years and so I wanted to outline what I have found to be important decision factors for selecting a pair of headphones. I have also highlighted three brands to help you narrow the choices to some of the best of breed headphones. So, how does one go about selecting the sound cancelling headphones?

Comfort - If you love your headphones like I do, you will want to wear them for hours. Whether on a flight, commuting to work or simply enjoying music or a movie, comfort is key in selecting headphones. I prefer over the ear headphones because they provide greater comfort for long sessions. I find that the on ear headphones, such as Beats, hurt my ears after 20-30 minutes. Over the ear headphones do not actually press on any part of your ear so they provide greater comfort for a longer period of time. I prefer the Soul by Ludacris for comfort, but you really can't go wrong in comfort with any of these three Headphones. Winner Soul by Ludacris.

Sound - There are two elements to sound quality; noise canceling technology and ability to deliver robust sound. First, regarding noise canceling technology, all three listed here do a very good job of eliminating outside sound. However, I think Bose is still the master in this category. They have been doing it the longest (having pioneered the technology for headphones) and have continually improved it. Even if you are not going to listen to something on a plane, just the noise cancelling technology can dramatically enhance your airplane or commuting experience. Regarding the delivery of sound, each headphone make is different. I find the Soul by Ludacris headphones to provide a better total sound quality. While the Bose are excellent at noise canceling and very good for classical music or audiobooks, Soul headphones provide deeper bass notes and a richer experience for modern music, like rock, hip-hop and rap. Winner Soul by Ludacris.

Appearance - I know appearance is not supposed to matter -- but it does. Unfortunately for Bose, they have not changed the look of their headphones since they first started in the business. They are great headphones, but I always felt a bit awkward wearing them through an airport or commuting on the train. I find the other two pairs of headphones highlighted here to be much more stylish. If look and feel younger wearing them. If you are going for a conservative, business look then the Bose headphones are right for you. However, if you want a more stylish look then I suggest the winner is the Soul headphones.

Cost - Finally there is cost. Both of the headphones highlighted here are expensive. The Bose and Soul headphones carry the same list price near $300, however Bose does not allow retailers to discount their headphones so you can find much better values on Soul headphones on Amazon and other discount retailers. Winner Soul by Ludacris.

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Winner: Soul X-TRA Bluetooth Headphones

Rapper Ludacris Knows Music and has Delivered a Great Headphones Product

Florida-based company, Soul, specializes in high-quality audio playback and worked with Ludacris to develop their Headphones line. They offer discriminating audiophiles high-definition sound quality combined with noise cancelling technology. Born from a collaboration with rapper and actor Chris "Ludacris" Bridges (the expert mechanic in the Fast and Furious series), the headphones are available in black.

The ear pads and bow are breathable for maximum comfort and come with a unique folding collapsable design. While I find both the Bose and AKG headphones to be comfortable, the Soul headphones are like wearing a cloud. They are by far the most comfortable of the three headphones profiled here.

The Ludacris influence is apparent throughout the design of the Soul headphones. They are sleek and hip looking. They have a young stylish feel that will not be embarrassed to wear right through the airport once you get off your flight. They also deliver heart pounding base notes and a much richer sound than the traditional Bose noise cancelling headphones. If your musical tastes run to modern musical genres, such as rock, hip-hop or rap, these headphones will provide a great musical experience.

Among other highlights, the headphones features active noise canceling circuit for noise suppression, drivers with neodymium magnet and are powered by two AAA batteries. They do not come with rechargeable batteries like the other two headphones profiled here so you have to bring along spare batteries. However, you can use your Soul headphones without the noise cancellation turned on so if you run out of battery you are still in the game.

They come in a practical hard nylon shell to prevent damage. They come with two cables and adapters to plug into both traditional iPods/iPhones, as well as stereos and airplane seat plugs. Compatibility is assured with most portable devices: smartphone, tablet and iPhone 4G and 3GS, iPad and iPod.

The Soul X-Tra headphones also offer the best value for high end noise canceling headphones. While they carry a list price similar to the Bose QC 15, the Soul headphones can be found discounted on Amazon and other discounters for nearly $100 off that price.

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Alternative: Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones

The original in the field of Noise Canceling Headphones

While noise canceling technology has been around since the 1960s, Bose pioneered the technology in headphones in the late 1980s. The have continued to innovate the technology in their world class headphones. Unfortunately, the have not innovated the look of their headphones since the 80s so they look a bit clunky, but they still are the leaders of noise cancellation.

The Bose Quiet Comfort 15 are the latest version of their cutting edge headphones. The QC 15 are still the best for noise cancellation technology and outstanding for audiobooks, classical and lighter music. However, for heavier music, they do not carry the bass tones as well as the other two pairs in this review.

The Bose QC 15 are light and comfortable with over the ear cups that seem to seal around your ears when you first turn on the noise cancellation button. The Ingenious shape of the rechargeable battery, which is in practice the upper piece of the right ear cup, allows it to disappear into the headphones. To recharge the battery, you simply use the adapter plug in the wall which comes with six adapters for various world plugs in the carrying case.

One weakness of the Bose headphones that always bothered me was that if you run out of battery, you are finished. They do not work unless the power light and noise cancellation is turned on. So make sure to keep them charged or carry a spare rechargeable battery.

Before I purchased my Soul headphones, I had owned two sets of Bose headphones and was extremely pleased with both. However, as I prevlously mentioned they have not updated the look of their headphones since first introducing them and they look tired and dated. If you are looking for a good set of headphones that are conservative looking and very capable for all but heavier music then Bose headphones are an excellent choice.

Picture courtesy of Amazon.

Bose QuietComfort 3 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones, Black
Bose QuietComfort 3 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones, Black

One step up from the QC 15 are these new QC 3 headphones from Bose. They provide the absolute best available cancelling technology.


Do you own Noise Canceling Headphones? What do you think?

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    • invest90 profile image

      invest90 4 years ago

      Good article. I am looking for some for the home so I can listen to music while our busy household happens around me.