Not every employee has the luxury of a quiet room to themselves to Work-From-Home (WFH) in. But even those who do have a room may face other issues such as having to work through noisy renovations.
With the World Health Organisation having just named the latest COVID variant Omicron, it seems likely that a hybrid WFH situation is here to stay. One way to help improve the long-term well-being of your employees during this prolonged period of WFH is getting good noise-cancelling earphones/headset.
What Do Noise Cancelling Earphones Do?
Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) uses a microphone on the earphones to cancel out noises by having the earphones produce an equal and opposite sound wave that cancels the noise out. At least, that is the theory. In practice, this works really well only for low frequency noises, but not so well for other noises. Apply a noise cancelling profile/algorithm that is too aggressive and it tends to eat up some of the music you are playing.
It also does not help matters that some advertisers tend to confuse ANC with sound isolation, which really is about having the earphones form a good seal and thus block outside noise from leaking in so that your earphones function essentially like earmuffs or earplugs while you are not playing music.
Suffice to say, even earphones equipped with ANC also rely on some degree of sound isolation. If you get earphones with good sound isolation, it cuts out noise well even if it is not equipped with ANC. Beware, because the opposite is also true – if the earphones are equipped with ANC but have poor isolation, you may find a lot of sound still bleeding through.
Generally, there are two types of audio devices which provide good sound isolation these days – Over-the-ear type (also known as headphones) and in-ear earphones. Earphones tend to be less expensive and more portable, however wireless earphones will inevitably come with less battery life. This may be a problem if you have teleconference meetings that drag. Headphones tend to generally be more comfortable and have better battery life, but they are more expensive and also much bulkier. Hence, if you intend to bring it to the office from time to time, you may find earphones to be a more portable option.
While few people may be audiophiles, the audio clarity matters immensely for zoom meetings, because it aids the interpretation of what people say without having to strain your ears.
(Note: Battery life spec refers to playing time with continuous playback)
#1 Creative Outlier Air V3
Battery life: 10 hours/ 40h total
If you are on a tight budget, these earphones offer great value for money. For the price, you get some basic ANC, which Creative is very careful to call ‘Noise Reduction’. However, these earbuds are feature-rich, boasting a battery that can play for 10h per charge and 4 charges in the case for a total of 40h total playtime. The case can also be charged wirelessly.
Other features include Ambient mode, which allows you to hear background sounds without taking your earphones off. The earphones also come with interchangeable earbuds which help you achieve a better seal with your inner ear and get better sound isolation. All in all, a very bang-for-your-buck package with very few downsides.
#2 Jabra Elite 3
Battery life: 7 hours/ 28h total
The Elite 3 has Jabra’s Sound+ app integration which allows sound customisation with six different sound presets, including a speech preset which is great for calls. The improved ergonomics help improve comfort especially for use during long meetings.
The Elite 3 comes with different sizes of earbuds to achieve a good seal with your ear canal. For additional comfort and better sound isolation, you can purchase third-party foam tips which conform to the shape of your ear canal.
#3 JBL Tune 600BTNC Wireless On-Ear Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
Battery life: 12h
The Tune 600BTNC is lightweight and portable, which contrasts the heavy-duty JBL Pure Bass sound. The 12-hour battery life is great especially considering that you can plug in the headphones to charge while using them, as compared to earbuds which cannot be used while charging.
#4 Plantronics Backbeat GO 810 Wireless ANC Headphones
Battery life: 22h
The Backbeat GO 810 has the rare Bluetooth multipoint capability, allowing it to receive audio from two devices simultaneously. This is useful for people who want to listen to a meeting on their laptop while monitoring notifications from a work phone.
The quick charge feature also gives an incredible three hours of listening time for just 10 minutes of charging, meaning that a quick 10-minute charge is sufficient to have the headphones outlast a short meeting.
#5 Sony WH-CH710N Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphone
Battery life: 35h
The WH-CH710N uses Dual Noise Sensor Technology to continually monitor the noise level in users’ environment. Then it uses the Automatic Artificial Intelligence Noise Cancelling (AINC) which is by no means perfect, but does a better job at noise cancellation than most ANC systems.
The 35-hour battery life also means that it is unlikely to run out of battery halfway through a meeting, although since this is a headset, it is not too difficult to plug it in while using.
We managed to find many of the headsets at lower prices that its listing price, so you should consider shopping carefully AND not going for deals that sound too good to be true at the same time.
This article was originally published on 9 June 2021 and updated with new recommendations. Additional reporting by Clement Low.
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