Four top wireless noise cancelling headphones for your daily commute
Give background noise the flick while listening to your favourite music on the road with these headphones from Bose, Sennheiser, BeoPlay and Sony
The advent of the internet and developing technology never did eliminate the need for travelling, be it daily rush hour traffic, or heading out of town for the occasional trip. As such, a good pair of noise cancelling headphones can go a long way towards tuning out background noise so you can listen to your favourite tunes, and putting a lid on the stresses of life.
We take a closer look at some of the most acclaimed wireless, noise cancelling headphones in town to help preserve your sanity on land and in the air.
Bose QuietComfort 35
The king of noise cancelling headphones is back with the improved and wireless Bose QuietComfort 35 (QC35). Bose has taken care to keep the features that worked in earlier generations of the QC family, including great sound and superlative noise cancellation. Notably, the QC35 are very comfortable on the ears even after hours of use. Unlike other such headphones on the market, the QC35 don’t offer any fancy features such as touch-sensitive controls; turning them on and pairing is initiated through a straightforward combination toggle switch. Strategically located buttons on the right ear cup offer the ability to adjust the volume and rudimentary playback controls. Despite this minimalist approach, the use of physical buttons works well in practice by virtually eliminating accidental presses. On the flip side, the companion “Bose Connect” app doesn’t really do much beyond updating its firmware and changing the language of the voice prompts.
Sennheiser PCX 550
There’s no question that these premium headphones are designed to go head-to-head with the Bose QC35. Aside from incorporating Sennheiser’s NoiseGard technology for noise cancellation, the PCX 550 come with a whole array of capabilities, including voice prompts, touch controls, and an effects button to toggle between pre-configured sound effects. Twisting them from their flat position automatically switches the headphones on, and a LED-5 display along the bottom of the right ear cup lights up briefly to show the charge status. The PCX 550 offer two levels of noise cancellation, which can be further tweaked through the CapTune app. Overall, the PCX 550 are very comfortable and deliver solid audio performance; they arguably edge out the QC35 in terms of clarity and soundstage. On the flip side, the sheer number of features can be a little daunting. There were times when we forgot to twist the headphones flat to power off, or accidentally brushed against the right ear cup when adjusting them, inadvertently causing music playback to stop. That aside, with four built-in noise cancellation microphones and the highly adaptive NoiseGard technology, the PCX 550 are an ideal candidate to quieten things down on your commute.
If you’re looking to stand out from the crowd, the H9 are a serious head turner. Like the other headsets in the attractive BeoPlay series, the frame of the wireless H9 is carved from aluminium and covered with genuine cowhide leather, with soft lambskin on the trademark ear cups for comfort. Aside from the power toggle, volume and music playback is controlled with various gestures on the right ear cup, which does take some getting used to. The sound offers crisp highs and good lows. However, the trademark circular ear cups may not fit all
ears so well. The H9’s removable lithium-ion battery is another argument for getting the H9 as a long-term investment. However, you might want to invest in a sturdy case as the H9 only come with a basic fabric pouch to protect them from scratches.
While Sony is no newcomer to the market, the MDR-1000X are easily its best noise cancelling travel headphones to date. This is no accident, as Sony has pulled out all stops to take on its more established rivals, going so far as to develop its own headphone noise cancelling technology. The Sense Engine, for example, works with an “Optimizer” function reminiscent of home cinema systems to calibrate how the MDR-1000X sounds to individual users. Notably, a unique “Ambient Sound” switch will disable noise cancellation and leverage the MDR-1000X’s built in microphones to amplify surrounding noise instead. This works great to help you cross the road safely, or to chat with office colleagues without having to remove the headphones. Although they look a little bulky, the MDR-1000X sit comfortably on your head and deliver excellent music playback. Touch controls are used to adjust the volume and change tracks, and work well. However, the physical buttons on the left ear cups can be finicky to use, and are so close together that you can easily hit the wrong button.