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I thought I heard your characteristic theme music, but when I turned around there was no one there. The ATH-ANC40BT Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones combines the benefits of in-ear functionality with Bluetooth® and active noise-cancelling technology.
The Photive PH-BT1000 Portable Bluetooth Speaker combines high-end stereo sound with portability, letting you enjoy your music wirelessly anywhere you want. The PH-1000 pairs instantly with Bluetooth devices like smartphones, Tablets, and computers, letting you send your favorite songs wirelessly to the speaker.
There are 3 main limitations of noise cancelling headphones: (i) some headphones are poor at reducing external noises, (ii) some headphones produce noise-cancelling (NC) at the expense of audio quality, and (iii) others produce a hissing noise as a result of the active noise-cancelling circuitry. High-end headphones from PSB, Bose, Harman Kardon, Sennheiser, and Parrot Zik, categorized as audiophile NC cans obviously produce the highest quality audio and are without a doubt the best noise cancelling headphones available, however, they can cost upwards of $250. The review also discusses the difference between active and passive noise cancellation technologies and have included a 5-minute video demonstrating the effect of noise cancellation. Three Bluetooth noise cancelling headphones have also been reviewed on the list of the top 20. In addition to the reviews on best noise cancelling headphones, they also have sections dedicated to best wired and Bluetooth headphones without built-in noise reduction for in-ear, on-ear and over-the-ear categories. Video Demonstrating the Effect of Noise Cancelling HeadphonesThis video demonstrates the difference between Active and Passive Noise Cancellation under simulated airplane cabin conditions. Reach out to the author: contact and available social following information is listed in the top-right of all news releases.
We've added the ROC Sport Black Platinum by Monster Over-Ear Headphones to the What to look forward to section below.
Blue has announced the Lola, an unamped, lighter, and less expensive version of the Blue Mo-Fi—one of our alternate picks. Our new pick, the Oppo PM-3s, are the best sounding closed-back headphones under $1,000 we’ve ever heard. The PM-3 headphones blew away our listening panel with their real-life sound—plus they are incredibly light and comfortably fit a variety of head sizes. I came to this conclusion after researching every new pair of headphones in this price range released since our last test, in March 2015, reading through countless professional and Amazon reviews, then running a listening panel that pitted our old favorites against the latest additions.
Overall, they sound the closest to hearing the instruments live or in the recording studio that we’ve come across in this price level. They’re available with Apple and Android remote and mic options, so not only can you enjoy great sound on an expensive home sound system, but you can also use them easily with your portable device.
What we found after all our extensive listening tests, however, is that among our top picks, there really is no wrong choice. If our main pick is unavailable, the $300 PSB M4U 1s were our top pick for the past two years and still have a fantastic overall sound. These bring a sense of depth to the sound that creates the feeling of space, rather than a flat wall of sound—clean treble sits lightly over clear mids, complemented by full, rich lows that don’t boom or thud.
The PSB headphones sound like a great speaker in a great listening room, which is wonderful. An impressive first attempt from the mic maker, the Blue Mo-Fis have a unique built-in headphone amp. The $350 Blue Mo-Fi headphones are the first ever from the renowned microphone maker and not only are they impressive for a first attempt, but also impressive, full-stop.
The only problem is that they’re heavy—they’re 46 percent heavier than PSB’s already-bulky set. The (original) Sennheiser Momentums offer more intensity in the bass, in exchange for a little less clarity in other instruments compared with our main pick. These tied in our panel test with Master & Dynamic MH40s, but the Momentums cost about $200 less than the MH40s, so they got the extra edge.
The Momentums were our second-place pick at one point, but have fallen in the rankings over time.
Well, not only did I do extensive research and consult with some of the other top professional reviewers (you can read more about that below), but I also hold a bachelor’s in both music performance and audio production from Ithaca College.
Around the same time, I started reviewing high-end home audio equipment for magazines like Home Theater Magazine, Home Entertainment, and Sound & Vision. Headphones in the $300 to $400 range are made for the person who wants to shut out the world and get some meaningful listening done.
If you’re not sure if you’re ready to commit to this price range, there are a few things to consider.
Second, are you primarily streaming music, which is usually encoded at a lower bitrate than other formats? So if you won’t take these with you on the plane and you need something else sweatproof when you hit the gym, is the $300 still justifiable?
For about $150, you’ll still get great detail that sounds like a really good recording, or listening to a performance through good speakers. First, I spent almost 20 hours researching what new headphones had been released since our last guide, from every major headphone brand and the smaller boutique outfits as well.
Anything on the new list that had good reviews or was too new to have any reviews yet, we brought in to be tested.
The idea behind our panel is this: listen to all of these headphones back-to-back to get a sense of sound, build quality, comfort, and features as compared with each other. In fact, to our knowledge, this is the first time any publication has directly compared some of these products in the same test session. Panelists selected their own music, with which they were intimately familiar, and therefore could better judge what each headphone brought to the table. The Oppo PM-3s are the best sounding, most versatile closed-backed headphones for less than $1,000 we’ve ever heard. By now, you may find yourself wondering, Wasn’t this guide originally about headphones under $300? If you want a detailed explanation of how planar magnetic headphones work, check out Tyll Hertsens’s illustrated explanation here.
Every panelist was able to get a good seal, which means they’re likely to fit most people easily and comfortably. As they’re available with either Android or iPhone cables (in addition to a longer straight standard cable), you can take calls and control your music on the go, too. And as they’re available with either Android or iPhone cables (in addition to a longer straight standard cable), you can take calls and control your music on the go, too. The PM-3s fold flat into their selvedge denim case, so they take up about as much room as a hardcover book in your bag. This isn’t to say they’re overly fragile, but you’ll need to treat them like you would your mobile phone. The Oppos are my current reference headphones, so they’ve been used more than any other headphones in my library over the last 10 months. The $300 PSB M4U 1s were our top pick for two years because they were one of the most-liked headphones on a long list of really great competition. Instruments sound authentic, and there is a sense of depth of space in the sound, as though you’re in a room.
In other words, the highs are clear and sparkling, the lows, full and resonant without overpowering or muddying up the mids, which are even and crisp, enabling you to hear your music in rich, vivid detail.
Throwing an amp into the equation gave the PSB headphones a bit larger dynamic range at a given volume setting, but it didn’t change the overall sound profile or clarity (at least with the amps that we used). While some headphones sound better with specific types of music, the PSB offering excels at just about everything. The seal if the M4U 1s provides decent external noise isolation, so if you want to wander from work to the subway to home, they’ll will adapt with you. As an added bonus, the M4U 1s have a single-button remote and mic, meaning you can take calls and bring the them out into the wild away from your listening room. We’d love an iPhone three-button remote option, but when headphones sound this good, at this price, we’re willing to put up with the single-button universal remote.
We first got to test the Blue Mo-Fis as part of a super-secret preview at Blue, the microphone company that makes our pick for best USB microphone.
One of the main reasons the Mo-Fis are so different is that they include a built-in, rechargeable headphone amp. Additionally, the amp also has an On+ setting that adds a small bass bump for those who like a little more power in the low end.
For folks who wear headphones all day long, this could possibly become a literal pain in the neck. I have a pair of SkullCandy Hesh headphones and they do a pretty good job but they are just too bulky to wear in all situations.

I meant it as $40 isn't too bad of a loss compared to if I went out and bought some $400 bose earbuds and ended up not liking them. Earbuds have an incredibly wide range of sound profiles as well, just as most other headphones types do. You are the kind of listener that disappears into a noisy crowd and yet your mind stays on track.
Free-from-wires, it’s unique neckband design offers both comfort and convenience while you are on-the-move.
Featuring two 40mm, 6-watt (total) drivers and a large speaker cavity for excellent sound, this tiny but powerful speaker can fill any room with rich audio. Use it at home, take it on vacation, enjoy it while camping, or set it up any other place you want to play your favorite music.
Change tracks and adjust volume from your Bluetooth device, or use the control buttons located on the speaker.
In contrast, the better NC headphones are able to achieve optimal noise reduction without loss or distortion of sound quality. For those who do not need audiophile grade audio quality, there are some very good wallet-friendly options from Audio-Technica, SOUL, Sony, Panasonic and V-MODA. Passive technology works simply by blocking the entry of external noises and noise isolation (reduces bleeding out of audio signals to the outside). After considering a total of 56 pairs and testing 20 with a panel of audio professionals, the Oppo PM-3s are the best sounding, most versatile closed-backed headphones for less than $1,000 we’ve ever heard.
If they are unavailable, we recommend the PSB M4U 1s, which sound almost as nice as our top pick.
When you get into this price range, the difference between number one and number five is the tiniest of deviations that most people won’t mind. Every one of our panelists ranked them in the top three, and they comfortably fit the variety of head and ear shapes on our panel. Every one of our panelists ranked them in the top three, and they comfortably fit a variety of head and ear shapes.
In other words, consonants in words are clear without sounding harsh, and strings have a full, rich sound rather than a tinny one.
They are as close as you can get to real-life sound, but they’re pretty heavy—a literal pain in the neck.
They really shine with all kinds of music, but especially when you listen to live and acoustic instruments that you know well: They and the PM-3s by Oppo come as close to real life as we’ve heard in this price range. This not only makes for more responsive sound, but also saves your music device’s battery life. They represent a solid, more affordable option, especially if you like smaller ear cups, or if you prefer more intensity in the bass. Still, it’s important to note that while they have a cool, compact styling, the ear cups may be a bit small for folks with larger outer ears. I spent several years in terrestrial radio before moving on to become a professional voice actor in Los Angeles, a job I continue to do and love.
Since landing at The Wirecutter, I’ve had the pleasure of listening to and reviewing hundreds (yes, hundreds) of headphones, and my articles have been featured in Forbes, Time, Electronic House, and Fast Company. I read reviews on PCMag, Engadget, Sound & Vision, Forbes, and other professional sites. When I listen to a track I’ve heard hundreds of times with headphones of this caliber, I find small details I’d never noticed (or perhaps was unable to hear) before. Or, more important, can you hear the difference between a file that you play off of Spotify versus the same track played on a CD? This range will lack some of the extra detail, depth of sound, and dexterity in the dynamics that headphones in the $300 to $400 range will have, but for most people, it’s really good enough to make them happy.
Generally you’ll see more expensive drivers and often open-backed headphones with luxury build materials.
I came up with a list of eight new models, and then looked through other professional reviews to see what they had to say and to see if any headphones had fallen through the cracks. This gave us 14 new picks to test against our top three from last year, or 17 headphones total that faced our panel.
That last part is especially important, as headphone reviews are often conducted one by one as they are released. Finally, the panelists were asked to give me their top four picks and discuss their findings on each set of headphones individually. You can especially hear this in an orchestral sound, in recordings that have utilized microphones in the midst of the orchestra.
Hip Hop and EDM low notes can still kick ass, but not at the expense of vocals or anything else.
Very large hat sizes might find the clamping force a bit much, but the ear cups are soft enough that it’s snug but not headache-inducing. With so much going for them, we think that someone who is already considering $300 headphones will be more than willing to spend $400 for an upgrade in sound, fit, and versatility.
One of the reasons dynamic drivers are used so frequently is that they are pretty durable; you can punt the Sony MDR-7506 headphones and they’ll keep working. All of the panelists still ranked these in their top three choices, remarking on their top-notch sound quality, long-term listening comfort, and solid build quality.
What this means is that consonants in vocals come out clear without popping in your ear, and voices sound as though you’re right by the microphone.
Acoustic guitar sparkles with gentle fret noise and a warm resonant sound, piano is given a sense of depth to its case, and percussion instruments have actual pitch beyond the hits on the skin. As such, we’re certain that they’ll settle in snugly and comfortably over almost any head or ears. The NAD, by comparison, had gaps on John’s and my faces where the earcups extended beyond our jawline and didn’t seal. Whether due to the larger ear cup size or the firmness of the NAD’s foam, smaller jawlines might have difficulty getting a seal. But if you often find yourself on planes, trains, and in the back of automobiles, you might consider paying an extra $100 for the noise-cancelling M4U 2s, which are the same headphone with a built-in noise-canceling circuit that’s quite effective.
The PSB have a slightly more colored bass than the Oppo and lack the exceptional dexterity that the PM-3 have. And although the shiny plastic overlay on the PSBs has held up for us so far, we would like a design that feels as though it could take a bit more abuse. This is Blue’s first ever headphone offering, and the company spent two years developing them.
This means that high-end audio enthusiasts don’t need to carry around a separate headphone amp with the Mo-Fis. There is a dial on the top that allows for adjustment of the tension of the side arms, and the ear cups pivot forward and back as well as side to side. Four of our reviewers actually slightly preferred the sound of the Mo-Fis over the PSB M4U 1s. It’s simply that instruments you’re familiar with sound more like they do in real life, as opposed to just a great recording. I wore them for more than two hours and had no problem, but I have healthy neck muscles and work out.
I have yet to meet a pair of ear buds that fit and are comfortable, I'd never waste $40 on a pair just to see if they fit right. You broadcast sound for the others at the tap of a screen before disappearing into noise-cancelled concentration once again.
Bluetooth connectivity allows you to wirelessly play and control your music from Bluetooth devices and take calls hand-free directly through the speaker. Weeding out poor quality NC headphones and selecting a high-quality pair is now possible thanks to the recently published list of the 20 best noise cancelling headphones. This list of budget-friendly active noise cancelling headphones have been handpicked for their low price tag and high quality sounds and noise reduction. The Blue Mo-Fis have impressive sound quality, but they are 46 percent heavier than the already-bulky offering from PSB. They’re very natural sounding, with a flat response across all frequency ranges—no one aspect of the sound overpowers another. So if you find yourself drawn to one of our other choices more than our main pick, go for it! Additionally, these headphones have a universal single-button remote and mic on a detachable (and therefore replaceable) cable. And when the bass drops in your favorite party anthem, these won’t rattle, sound sloppy, or lose the detail in the other instruments.

If you think you’re willing to deal with the weight and cost premium (or if you need a dedicated iOS remote with volume control), your ears are in for a real treat—even with the possibility that your neck doth protest). I’ve got a pretty good handle on what’s out there and what’s worth your time and hard-earned money. That said, we still tested the contenders with two different headphone amps as well because chances are, if you’re spending this kind of money on headphones, you’d like to know how they’ll sound if you do decide to get an amp. They’re made for sitting and enjoying in a stationary place, and often have quarter-inch jacks to be plugged into an amp.
I looked through what people like Steve Guttenberg of CNET and Tyll Hertsens of InnerFidelity had to say, as well as consumer sites like Amazon, Crutchfield, and other stores, plus enthusiast sites like Head-Fi.
Often, it’s impossible for reviewers, professional or amateur, to evaluate multiple headphones back-to back, which is vital for accurate comparisons. Here’s why: The Oppo PM-3s are the best sounding, most versatile closed-backed headphones for less than $1,000 we’ve ever heard.
The PM-3s not only sound great when used with a headphone amp (which give them a bit more dynamic range), or through a home theater receiver, but they also work well with a portable device. But snag them on something so they slam into the cement at speed, and you may be in trouble. Despite the white color, the headband and cables still look really good too–new, in fact. Instruments sound authentic, rather than recorded, and there is a sense of depth of space in the sound, as though you’re in a room with the musicians hearing their amps, rather than hearing a one-dimensional recording. I’ve worn them in my home studio for hours at a time, as well as on a flight across North America, and had no discomfort whatsoever. Similarly, the Beyerdynamic Custom One Pros are massively huge whereas the Sennheiser Momentums have tiny ear cups that might pinch larger ears.
While the PSB do have a sense-of-space-in-a-room feel, they aren’t quite as natural-sounding as the PM-3. Those years in development show—the Mo-Fis are unique in just about every way and sound absolutely amazing. The amp’s battery is rechargeable via an included micro USB cable and has a claimed 12 hours of active use time. Another aspect worth noting is the removable cables, one of which includes an Apple remote with volume control. They’re more neutral-sounding when compared with the PSB headphones, with a little less sibilance to the consonants in words and a little less intensity in the bass (unless you select the On+ mode). In the regular On mode, the Mo-Fis are delicate and detailed, and can get really loud if you want them to.
All that solid build material, internal amp, and rechargeable battery create a headphone that weighs more than an iPad Mini. A built-in rechargeable battery lasts for up to 10 hours per charge, so you can enjoy your music all day. It is a highly recommended read for anyone looking to purchase high-quality yet cheap noise cancelling headphones. Closed-backed, with planar magnetic drivers (we’ll get into what that means later), the Oppo PM-3s have a level of detail and clarity that none of the other headphones in this range were able to match. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, the $170 Sennheiser Momentums offer more intense bass in exchange for less clarity. The oomph in the bass sounds pleasingly warm to some, but others may find that it lacks a certain definition.
If you’re worried that you’ll have a tough time keeping tabs on them, or you’re working in an environment where drinks get dumped on gear regularly (say, a nightclub or a communal office worktable), it might be better to get a pair that will make less of a dent in your wallet to replace. Last, I looked through our reader comments to see if there were any headphones you wanted addressed. Planar magnetic use a thin piece of plastic that’s able to vibrate very rapidly, and can be very precisely controlled. The set’s diaphragm is efficient enough that the output of your mobile phone is enough to power them. With that in mind, we know it’s a lot of cash, and as we said above, there are other headphones in this range that are also great, and cost less. That thin diaphragm that we discussed earlier is literally suspended in a field between the magnets. And if electronic music or hip-hop is your thing, the M4U 1s are clear and strong all the way down to 30 Hz then taper off gently with no weird driver flapping or rattling. Where the PSB sound like a great speaker in a great room, the Oppo sound a step closer to actual instruments in a room. The key word there is “active,” as the Mo-Fis automatically power down when you take them off, so you don’t need to stress about forgetting to flip the switch when you step away from the music. Generally speaking, you get the sense that Blue really looked at every detail and cared about the design process. When in the On+ mode, the bass isn’t overwhelming, it more feels as though songs have a tad more deep low end, sounding fuller and richer. They have sophisticated noise cancelling circuitry that identifies and silences external noises by generating a counteracting signal (near exact opposite wavelength). Songs with an already emphasized bass line can lack a little clarity in the other instruments when compared with the offerings from Oppo and PSB. That’s not to say these headphones aren’t sturdy, you just don’t want to dropkick or submerge your investment on a regular basis. Streaming music is also often heavily compressed (the more premium services less so), which means it can lose a lot of detail, and occasionally adds noise (think hiss, hum) to music. But if you only have a few hundred to spend and you need to consider many aspects of your music-consuming life, maybe get a few pairs of different, less-expensive headphones. Many high-end audio fans will say that the expense is worth it, as the headphones that require an amp often have greater dynamic range and are even clearer, more delicate sounding. They’re lauded for their ability to reproduce many sounds very accurately, but are expensive (which is why they’re rare at this price) yet common among really high-end headphones). They don’t have massively huge ear cups that are embarrassing or impractical to wear out of the house. However, we like to think at this price range, you’d already be taking good care of any of these options. Bear in mind, however, I take good care of my stuff and don’t make a point of testing these for durability.
The PSB are also are bulkier than the Oppo, and don’t have the option of a 3 button remote and mic, but sound and fit took priority over any extra features.
And even if the amp does run out of battery, the headphones don’t turn into a paperweight as the non-powered passive mode still sounds wonderful.
Because of this special circuitry, active noise cancelling cans produce higher levels of noise reduction (up to 80 decibels; enough to block jet-engine noise inside an aircraft cabin) compared to their passive counterparts (up to 20 decibels). It’s not a massive shift, but a subtle one that could make the difference between being in love versus being in like for picky listeners.
Get our budget choice for the gym, our in-ear under $100 for travel, and our $150 over-ear for your desk. The PM-3s sound good enough that all of our panelists agreed that if they were already willing to spend $300 for over-ears, and heard the difference between the other options and Oppo’s offering, they’d shell out the extra extra money for the PM-3s. They don’t weigh so much that they’re uncomfortable for long-term listening sessions (at 320 grams, they weigh less than the PSB M4U 1s). One of the disadvantages of active NC headphones is that they need a battery to power the noise-cancellation circuitry. It sounds counterintuitive, but if it means you enjoy the songs you love in more places, it’s a better investment. While some headphones will continue to play music even after the battery dies (without NC), others cease to play any music at all. This is an important point to consider when selecting a pair of suitable noise-cancelling headphones. Why spend the money on a $30 truffle-laden potato mousse when you’re totally happy with $3 fresh french fries?

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