A leaf blower is blaring across the street. The dishwasher is running. My husband is typing harder than a toddler banging on a piano.
My recipe for suppressing that daily din? Noise-canceling headphones and Spotify tuned to the Rain Sounds playlist. Press play and repeat. Ah, my auditory sanctuary.
To be clear, even the best noise-canceling headphones can’t offer total silence. But they can reduce the impact of whatever pandemonium is happening around you. And a number of new offerings recently hit the market, including Apple’s extravagant over-the-ear AirPods Max and Samsung ’s fully wireless Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds. I’ve spent hours testing the top models—and by testing, I mean taking a lot of Zoom calls and listening to The Highwomen on repeat.
Before you make the decision about which ones to buy, you need to decide which type to buy.
- Over-the-ear headphones sit on your head and have cups that go around your ears. These headsets generally offer better noise cancellation, battery life (the ones I tested claim 20 hours and up, while earbuds last 4 to 5 hours) and more high-fidelity sound. They’re best for extended stretches at a desk or long-haul travel.
- In-ear earbuds have soft tips that—you guessed it—sit in your ear. They are less expensive than headphones and can withstand sweat and rain. I’ve long extolled the benefits of wireless earbuds for their portability and comfort for glasses and earrings wearers. Buds are great for folks who are often on the move or listen to music while working out.
No matter which kind you pick, it’s important to find a good fit.