- Noise-isolating headphones skip the fancy tech and cut out ambient noise naturally.
- The best noise-isolating headphones are comfortable to wear, but still effectively block outside noise.
- That’s why we’ve chosen the Audio Technica ATH-M50x headphones as our top pick.
- They look great, have excellent sound quality, and isolate noise.
Noise-cancelling headphones are getting more and more popular because they block out ambient noise, but there plenty of reasons why you might not want a pair. Noise-cancelling technology can often change the sound quality of the headphones, plus, headphones with active noise cancellation are often more expensive.
So what should you get instead? Well, it’s worth considering a pair of noise-isolating headphones. What’s the difference? Well, it’s essentially that noise-cancelling headphones use special technology to cancel outside noise by using microphones to listen to outside noise and then use audio processing technology to "cancel" that noise with inverse sound waves.
In contrast, noise-isolating headphones simply physically block outside noise by covering your ear or sealing your ear canal. In other words, no special technology is needed in noise-isolating headphones, so the audio is more natural sounding.
Technically, almost all headphones are noise isolating to some extent, but some are better at blocking outside noise by nature of their design. Because over-ear headphones cover your full ear, they usually do a good job of isolating noise. In-ear headphones that fit snugly and seal off your ear canal entirely are also effective at blocking ambient sounds, though they may not be as comfortable for long-term wear.
Noise-isolating headphones come in wireless, wired, in-ear, and over-ear styles. There are a lot of great options out there, and it can be overwhelming to choose just one pair.
Thankfully, however, we’ve done the research so that you don’t have to. Based on our research and testing, these are the best noise-isolating headphones money can buy.
Here are the best-noise isolating headphones you can buy:
- Best noise-isolating headphones overall: Audio Technica ATH-M50x
- Best wireless noise-isolating headphones: Master & Dynamic MW60
- Best in-ear noise-isolating headphones: Etymotic Research HF3
- Best noise-isolating sports headphones: Optoma NuForce Be Sport4
- Best on-ear noise-isolating headphones: Sennheiser HD 25
The best overall
The Audio Technica ATH-M50x headphones look great, sound great, block most ambient noise, and come at a reasonable price.
The Audio Technica ATH-M50x headphones have long been the go-to pair for many people who want noise isolation. The headphones have a lot going for them, including a great design and excellent sound quality.
The first thing you’ll notice about anything is its design, and the Audio Technica ATH-M50x headphones look great. The headphones feature a black design with silver accents, and you’ll notice right away that they have plenty of padding in the earcups and under the headband. The headphones are adjustable, so they’ll fit on any-shaped head.
Perhaps the best thing about the headphones is how they sound. The headphones offer a nice rounded bass, with well-tuned mids and a ton of clarity and detail in the high end. They’re pretty good at blocking outside noise. They’ll cut out most higher frequencies, and while they won’t cut out everything, they’ll definitely make a moderately noisy environment much more manageable.
The Audio Technica ATH-M50x headphones have gotten plenty of great reviews since their launch a few years ago. For example, CNET gave the headphones a score of 8.7, and this pair sits with an average of 4.5 stars on Amazon.
Pros: Excellent design, great sound quality, relatively inexpensive
Cons: A little bulky
The best wireless headphones
Master & Dynamic
The Master & Dynamic MW60 headphones look and sound great, and while they’re expensive, we think they’re well worth the price.
Perhaps you’re looking for a pair of great wireless noise-isolating headphones, in which case it’s well worth considering the Master & Dynamic MW60 headphones. Master & Dynamic has been developing some of the best-designed and most interesting headphones over the past few years, and the MW60 headphones are among its best offerings.
One of the best things about Master & Dynamic MW60 headphones is their design. The headphones are made premium materials like leather and they have a unique look, thanks to the silver accents.
Perhaps more important than the look of the headphones is how they sound, and Master & Dynamic has outdone itself with the MW60 headphones. The headphones offer a nice bass response that doesn’t go over the top, plus there’s good midrange tuning and solid highs. The noise isolation on these headphones is very good and they easily cut out most outside noise without needing any active noise cancelation.
Since their release, the Master & Dynamic MW60 headphones have gotten excellent reviews, with Wired giving them an impressive 9/10 and Headphone Review giving them a still very impressive 8.1/10. The downsides? Well, the main one is that the headphones are a little pricey.
Pros: Excellent design, great sound quality, comfortable
The best in-ear headphones
The Etymotic Research HF3 headphones aren’t the most comfortable, but they sound good and offer excellent noise isolation.
If you’re looking for a pair of in-ear headphones solely for the purpose of noise isolation, then the Etymotic Research HF3 headphones are absolutely worth buying.
Let’s start with the design. The headphones have a minimalistic black design, with ribbed ear tips to help make for better noise isolation. They feature a standard three-button remote part-way down the cable, and won’t look out of place in any ears.
The sound of the headphones is pretty good, too. Perhaps the best thing about the sound is the detailed and clear high end, but the headphones offer decent bass response and well-tuned mids too. The noise isolation on these headphones is very good because they’re effectively blocking the ear canal.
So what are the downsides to these headphones? Well, they’re not the most comfortable. After all, they’re built to completely block the ear canal, so they may feel a little uncomfortable after long periods of listening. Still, despite the downsides, the headphones scored an impressive five stars on What Hi Fi.
Pros: Great sound quality, good noise isolation
Cons: Expensive, not the most comfortable
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