Noise Cancelling headphones

Edit: New readers to this topic can join it as of Jan 2022 by clicking here.

I have really sensitive hearing caused by a head injury, I am after the best noise cancelling headphones I can get for Air travel and also to mute as much as possible children and baby noises.

Could you please test the Bose QC 30 earbuds and also indicate how good a brand is on cancelling out noise without having to have any music on, and how good they are at shutting out everyday noise especially planes, crying babies and noise from children

thanks Meg


Thanks @meganchild, I’ll be sure to pass on your request. For reference and other readers, here is our existing test on noise cancelling headphones (member content).


We’ve taken a look at the new Bose ‘Sleepbuds’. Read our thoughts on the benefits and shortcomings of these noise cancelling headphones.

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We’ve recently updated our noise cancelling headphones review for those interested.

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Free review on the Bose 700 headphones:

Plus, the five worst in-ear headphones:


If my memory serves correctly, earphones/earbuds are not recommended due to potential damage to your hearing.


There are some tips on avoiding hearing damage and earbud use in our buying guide. Perhaps it’s something we could investigate more deeply.

There is also the option of filtered earplugs for situations like loud concerts:


If you’re considering a new set of headphones, we think these ones are best avoided:


Did you have a look at the Parrots?


:laughing: They are always very noisy outside our window :smile_cat:

The Parrot Zik 2.0 didn’t seem to do well either in the tests but Member reviews were more positive.


2 posts were split to a new topic: Usernames on Choice vs Community

We’ve put together a table that shows cost vs review rating for noise cancelling headphones (link below for more info). It gives you an idea of what you can spend vs the quality you receive, and as always price doesn’t always guarantee the best performance.

What are your thoughts on minimum spend for good quality noise-cancelling headphones?


Important point for some is the IP rating of the earbuds. If you sweat a lot get the best IP rating as it doesn’t matter how much you paid, if they fail due to sweat causing them to fail then they may be a costly experience…eg some are only IPX4 (some of the more expensive are this rating as well) and so are only sweat resistant, I have had a pair fail due to heavy sweating. There are higher IP rated earbuds out there.

@BrendanMays perhaps the IP rating could be included in the reviews in case people need to look at that specification?


Thanks, good suggestion. I’ll make sure to mention it to the product testers :+1:


Firstly let me say that I support Choice and the work it does for consumers. An issue I raised with Choice is in regard to subjective opinions being presented as factual without any objective or larger consumer sample evidence.

Specifically in this instance I was referring to their comparisons of in ear headphones (IEH) standard and noise cancelling (NC) in the January 2023 edition of choice. I must confess that I am an IEH tragic, owning several sets of them and turning them over regularly. I also subscribe to and participate with many headphone forums such as Head Fi.

It can be observed, and by order of magnitude, that most members of these forums would not rate the sound quality of the top line Apple pods higher than the equivalent Sony or the Bose (both standard and NC), and certainly not higher than the top line Sennheiser NCs which Choice inexplicably did so in a previous issue. Then there are other quality IEMs that are not even tested by Choice, such as the higher end Jabra Elite NCs (Jabra is also renowned for their hearing aid software and devices) which most people on these forums would agree they have a higher sound quality than the Apple pods and at a significantly lower price.

Of course sound quality is subjective and being so, our perception of quality is influenced by our beliefs and prejudices. I’m willing to guess that the IEM testers at Choice are young Apple enthusiasts who did not participate in blind tests. There is little other explanation as to why Choice rated the Apple product as having the best sound quality in this and previous publications, completely divorced to what most audiophiles would choose (I also see the same biases in tests of other Apple products such as phones, tablets, and PC monitors – although granted, in some cases it is justified).

In my view, Choice is doing its readers a real disservice by presenting these subjective ‘sound quality’ results without reference to any objective analysis (such as double-blind testing) or at least taking into account what a majority of users around the globe subjectively find to be the best sounding (and that research is easily done). Apple pods and headphones do have good sound quality but for most users they are far from the best, particularly at their respective price points.

Given the subjectivity and all the influences on human sound perception, perhaps next time Choice should hire some experts to set up controlled double-blind tests. I am sure the results will surprise their testers and provide more accurate information for consumers before they spend not an insignificant sum of money on headphones (or loudspeakers and other audio products for that matter).

Double blind tests are used precisely to control biases which as humans we all have. It is surprising that Choice does not use them. They can be tricky to set up (including ensuring they are volume matched as louder can be perceived as ‘better’ but it doesn’t need to be onerous or expensive and will add that objectivity which consumers deserve.



Welcome to the Community @KevinA,

I merged your topic into an existing topic about N/C headphones. Choice is clear on how they test. I have not received my January issue yet and note the most current on the Choice web today is Nov 2022, which could be the content you reference; the web site often precedes the publication.

A point is while the ‘5 expert testers’ are not identified Choice targets an audience consisting of consumers rather than enthusiasts and is clear Choice reviews are a place for consumers to start rather than a source for consumers to blindly purchase products from lab tests or comparative reviews that might not suit.

None of this is to argue your insightful post but for myself, we have modest JBL E65BTNC’s bought on sale a few years ago that are routinely panned in reviews but my partner and myself are very happy with them. I venture to guess there is no absolute goodness for a product that at the end of the day is personally subjective so it may be a no win in that regard. Are you asking for Choice to produce response graphs and so on, for example?

As a senior I wind up trebles to a degree that could make people with better hearing cringe but that reflects my ‘standard of excellence’. A lab double blind test using a flat audio curve would be meaningless to me. It is neither a ‘belief nor prejudice’ it is my reality, as I suspect it would be for every individual.

I trust I added some perspective. @BrendanMays might ask @DenisGallagher to respond on behalf of Choice and ‘the test’.

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No, I’m not suggesting measurements, spectrum plots and things like that for a general consumer magazine like Choice - simply I’m suggesting double-blind testing which is pretty much standard for testing subjective claims and what audio experts would do.

Your experience with the JBLs goes to the point that we are all different and above a good enough baseline have our own subjective preferences with sound, just as we do with food or anything involving our senses. However, to make a bold claim in a consumer magazine that one headphone has the best sound quality I certainly would like to see some objectivity to the claim, particularly when we are talking north of $300 for an IEM and where that that claim is at odds with most users.

I get the point that five testers are selected from a Choice audience, but five is not a representative sample and more so, if it is a sighted test (as I presume these are) then there is no control over biases (conscious or otherwise). For example marketing has a powerful influence on our thinking and perceptions (which of course Choice knows that) and in this example, if someone is highly enamored with Apple products (you can substitute any other well marketed brand) then that will affect perception if they know that is the brand of product they are listening to. It is why sighted testing is so unreliable.

Btw, my subjective preference is different to yours as I prefer a flat response to better hear into the music but with a little bit of a mid bass bump. We are all different. Funnily enough, the Jabra Elite may suit you because of the software that comes with it from their experience with ear aids. It measures your hearing response and adjusts the frequency curve to compensate for hearing loss in each ear.


For clarity it is not from a ‘Choice audience’.

Our testers have years of expertise in testing audio equipment and, unlike most reviewers, we don’t rely on one individual’s perception to rank products. Instead we use a listening panel of five people with expertise in sound appraisal who have shown that they can consistently rank products for their sound quality.

A few decades ago I was ‘with you’ :wink:

I have BT connect hearing aids and when they connect well to an audio source I don’t worry about headphones and the sound quality is generally excellent (my subjective opinion). But BT being what it is (the hearing aids don’t work well with the TV or home theatre BT but the JBL’s do), and on the occasion one needs N/C (as on aircraft) the JBL’s (plugged in) do the job well enough in lieu.

I look forward to hearing back from Choice staff on your comments.


Surely any expert in the field has seen all the candidates before and would know exactly which set they were testing even if the maker’s name or model was not on them.

So to be double-blind the testers have to sit wearing a blindfold (literally in this case) so they cannot see or feel the product while a naive intermediary who knows nothing about the product at all puts the IEM in their ear, and takes it away at the end after the tester pronounces their assessment?


I suspect it would be a lot more complex than this. Different brands target different types of audio performance, so an expert can probably tell which brand is ‘bass-heavy’ and which has a ‘clear upper range’. Some of this relies upon software, but a part of it is in the design of the hardware - and that cannot be ‘detuned’.