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Noise canceling headphones have become a work and travel staple for many Kiwis. Over ear headphones with active noise canceling (ANC) tech are pricier than typical earphones, and quality varies greatly which makes finding the best noise canceling headphones a chore.
Our testing process is simple: We check noise canceling ability, sound quality, overall usability, and after purchase care before creating a short list of products you should know about.
Sonictrek QuietMix: Editor’s pick for all around best noise canceling headphones – $249.99 at Mifo.com.au →
Where to buy the Sonictrek QuietMix noise canceling headphones in Australia
The Sonictrek QuietMix over ear noise canceling earphones sit at the perfect nexus of price and quality. This is due to Sonictrek developing a proprietary sound canceling algorithm that competes directly with larger brands at about half the price. While the design aesthetic may not appeal to everyone, it’s hardly a reason to count these ANC headphones out.
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So what makes the Sonictrek QuietMix over ear wireless headphones the best active noise canceling headset?
- The best value ANC headphones, period. The Sonictrek QuietMix come with a bevy of features that improve the tasks of the day immensely, from listening to music to taking and making work calls. When you need focus, switch to active noise canceling mode to block an astounding amount of background noise thanks to Sonictrek’s inbuilt software. It easily competes with more expensive products in the category.
- Absurd battery life with USB-C rapid charging. QuietMix will achieve a continuous use time of approximately 30 hours before requiring a charge, far longer than any other headset in our list. That’s welcome news for long haul travelers and those with charge anxiety. Rapid charging works through a flush USB-C port.
- Outstanding sound range for all uses. Music in all ranges sounds resonant and pure, with little to no distortion at high and low frequencies. Additionally, ANC mode enhances listening sessions by removing any distracting background noise. Calls are clear and voice pickup is superb, enabling multi-purpose use without the need for a secondary headset.
- Comfort for long wearing sessions. Sonictrek have done a good job of using top quality cushioning and material on the included ear cups, and we had no complaints after hours of wearing the QuietMix.
- New Zealand-based warehouse and customer support. We have few expectations from after purchase support these days. That’s because many brands comes with poor or absent customer service and slow shipping to New Zealand from Asia. We tested Sonictrek on several occasions with questions and every time received proper replies within an hour. That demonstrates commitment to Kiwi market and contributes greatly to our award of Editor’s Pick.
Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700: Bose delivers, but with pricey frills – $455.00 at HarveyNorman.com.au →
Where to buy the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 in New Zealand
If you aren’t price sensitive, Bose may be the brand for you. That’s because these wireless noise canceling headphones come with useful features. That said, Bose also add on unnecessary and costly frills that distract from the primary purpose: canceling outside noise.
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Why Bose makes the list of best Bluetooth ANC headphones winners
- Noise canceling at the top of the pack. In many ways, Bose invented noise canceling for the consumer market. Since the 1990s, Bose have marketed this technology all the while making advancements. The 700 showcases the best of this tech, with noise canceling that is about as good as one can find.
- Excellent marks for sound quality for music. Music sounds tremendous on the Bose 700, in particular with noise canceling mode on. You’ll feel as if you are at a private concert with no one else in the audience. That said, calls can be a little distorted depending on the voice tone and connection strength.
- Nice to look at, but design detract from comfort. Bose may win marks for visual design, but a thin, oddly angled headpiece may become uncomfortable after just a few minutes of use depending on your head size and hair style. As many long haul travelers and work from home types utilize ANC headphones, this could be a deal breaker.
- Touch controls are annoying and hamper use. The thin connectors between the ear cups and the headpiece offer touch controls that purport to allow full control of all functions. As a result, the controls are difficult to use and we often found ourselves performing the wrong action, skipping ahead or hanging up a call.
Bose QuietComfort 45: An older, battle tested over ear ANC model – $389.00 at DickSmith.com.au →
Where to buy the Bose QuietComfort 45 in New Zealand
Oddly, Bose have kept the tried and true QuietComfort platform in production despite having a newer model in the aforementioned 700. Most likely, it is because they got it right the first time, and are not yet fully confident in a newer platform. If you have the funds to spare, this may be a better fit than the 700.
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Why an older Bose model remains at the top of our list of best wireless noise canceling headphones
- Noise canceling that stays competitive. While not as adept at canceling background noise as the Bose 700, the QuietComfort 45 remains highly effective. Higher pitched sounds are able to sneak through, and airplane noise can be a challenge. That said, these ANC headphones are still good at what they do.
- Designed in a different era. Let’s face it, a lot has changed in the last few years. The QuietComfort platform never anticipated work from home with endless calls or video meetings, and that means mic pickup isn’t great. Battery life could also be improved compared to newer models, and all day use may not be possible.
- Stands up to the listening test. Despite their age, the QuietComfort 45 still provide a Bose-level audio experience when listening to music. High are crisp and without distortion, and bass is present without drowning out more subtle elements of a score.
- Unnecessary Bose Connect app gets in the way. The included Bose Connect app may seem like a brilliant idea at first glance, but in reality it is from an older era when Bluetooth was not as universal. The basic functions of connecting, turning on ANC, and adjusting minor settings are not needed and should use the far superior Bose Music app.
Apple AirPods Max: Expensive ANC headphones for Apple enthusiasts – $888.00 at Amazon.com.au →
Where to buy the Apple AirPods Max over ear noise canceling headphones in New Zealand
Apple is known for creating products that cater to their own ecosystem, and the AirPods Max are no exception. Like other Apple products, iOS users will receive benefits including ease of connectivity, lost item tracking, and more. Of course, functionality comes at a cost and may not be top contender for the best active noise canceling.
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Where Apple hits the mark, and misses
- Perfect for iOS users on the go. Apple have built their own proprietary chip and software ecosystem, and so the AirPods Max are effortlessly interoperable with multiple Apple devices. Switching between a MacBook and an iPhone is as simple as a tap. Leave the AirPods Max behind? No worries. Apple tracks their location and alerts you on other devices as soon as you leave the vicinity. Not an Apple user? None of these features will work for you.
- Noise canceling is adequate, but not spectacular. For the price we expected to be blown away by the sounds of silence. But after switching Apple’s proprietary active noise canceling on, we noticed it did not filter out background noise completely. Thats a huge disappointment considering the massive price point and Apple’s reputation for excellence in engineering.
- Best in class transparency mode. Transparency mode – or piping outside sounds into the headphones – works wonderfully. Switching this feature on allows you to hear your surroundings and have full conversations without having to take the headphones off. In noise rooms, Apple’s software actually enhances your ability to focus on a single voice.
- Calls are easy and clear to make. Apple clearly invested in microphones and voice processing, as video and audio calls are crystal clear no matter the environment. As a result, your voice will come through as perfectly audible to the receiving party, and without lag or delay.
Yamaha YH-L700A: Mediocre ANC headphones from a renowned instrument brand – $419.00 at Amazon.com.au →
Where to buy the Yamaha YH-L700A ANC headphones in Australia
Yamaha rarely tread into consumer territory, preferring to exist as a brand strictly for professional musicians. That’s why we were surprised and excited to test the YH-L700A noise canceling headphones. And while they are a respectable attempt at the format, the product has a long way to go to match competitors.
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Why Yamaha makes the list of best ANC earphones
- A sound profile that is built for classical music. Yamaha have always been about pure genre instrumental sounds. Then it’s not surprising that the YH-L700A sound best when listening to instrumental tracks. More modern, high energy music creates distortion that even non-audiophiles may dislike.
- Comparatively poor noise canceling capabilities. Yamaha tout their proprietary noise canceling technology as an adaptive leap forward in software engineering. And while it sounds wonderful on paper, performance is mixed with glitches that take the listener out of the experience. Their noise canceling software shows promise, but needs significant improvement.
- Odd shape may not suit all ear types. The circular ear cups are large and bulky. Yamaha explain that this is to create a tight seal around the entire ear, allowing the active noise canceling sound waves to perfectly block out sound. But the large ear cups may not fit all ear sizes and head shapes, several testers noted gaps that prevent ANC from working. There’s a reason all modern ANC headphones use an oval ear cup shape, and in this case different is not better.
Runners-up: Best ANC Headphones In New Zealand
There are many, many noise canceling earphones in the Australian market. And while we attempt to test as many as possible for our readers, some units simply don’t make the cut. Here’s a quick peek at ANC over ear headphones that didn’t make the list.
Marshall Mid Retro Style ANC Headphones – $340.00 at Amazon.com.au →
Marshall is known for its quality and depth of sound, but the Mid ANC is a halfhearted attempt for retro over ear headphones diehards. The active noise canceling is hit or miss, which completely undermines the purpose of the technology. It was clearly added as an afterthought, and without much real world testing. If you are a Marshall die hard, you may want to wait for the next iteration.
Soundcore by Anker Life Q30 Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones – $149.99 at Amazon.com.au →
The Soundcore Life Q30 may seem a value, but underperforms stated features in active noise canceling, sound reproduction, and battery life. In addition, Bluetooth connectivity is spotty in busy environments such as whilst commuting, indicating a cheaper Bluetooth chipset may have been used. The lightweight plastic frame is also feels flimsy, and we have doubts as to its longevity, though only time can tell for certain. Anker need to make improvements in order to compete in the category rather than focusing solely on price.