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In the Zone

Your guide to noise-cancelling headphones under $300

Kevin Jacoby's picture

by Kevin Jacoby on 10/19/2020
Blog Category: devices

Working from home during a global pandemic involves a fair share of challenges. Not the least of these is finding some peace and quiet. That’s not easy amidst playing children, wailing sirens and the neighbor’s effort to become a rock drummer.

Noise-cancelling (NC) headphones present an elegant solution. That is, if you can find a pair that offers decent sound quality at a price you can afford.

Bargain Bose

Back when business travel was still a thing, a walk down the aisle in business-class was like watching a fashion show of Bose noise-cancelling headphones. Over the years, Bose had worked hard to become the first name in NC technology. But it also became one of the most expensive.

So what if your customers want to go with a name they can trust, but for the honor would prefer not to spend upwards of $400?

Well, they can feast their ears on the Bose QuietComfort 35 II Smart Noise-Cancelling headphones. At just shy of $300, these quiet cans come with industry-leading NC-cred, minus the business-class price tag.

Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones

Bose NC headphones: business class at an economy price

What makes Bose’s “Smart” headphones smart? That would be none other than Google Assistant.

Yes, the company that practically runs the whole internet has jumped into bed with Bose. The result: a set of ear-goggles that can block out a baby’s cries, soothe you with the dulcet tones of smooth jazz, and offer all the hands-free help of a smart speaker.

Getting the Jabra done

The technorati may crow over every set of Bose, Sony and Apple cans to hit the market, but Jabra has been getting the job done, albeit quietly, for decades. The company’s name may not be the first to cross your customer’s lips. But they’ll appreciate Jabra’s features and quality just the same.

Jabra’s latest addition to the world of private NC listening is the Elite 85h. Like its more expensive brethren, these wireless headphones offer impressive noise-cancelling as well as smooth, crisp sound. Unlike some of the more highfalutin’ brands, the Elite 85h cans offer an all-day-and-then-some battery life. The company says they’ll keep the noise out and the tunes in for up to 30 hours.

Jabra Elite 85h headphones

Jabra Elite 85h: up to 30 noise-free hours

Another noteworthy feature of the Jabra headphones is an integrated off-switch that shuts down the system whenever the ear cups swivel 90 degrees. This movement comes into play when you stow the cans or pull them down onto your neck for a quick conversation. As the ear cups swivel, the speaker-housing flattens out against your chest, simultaneously saving wear on both the battery and the bottom of your chin.

Rounding out the feature set nicely is a custom iOS and Android app. It provides granular control over the headphone’s features, including the ability to design, select and save custom EQ settings.

Best of all, you can get all this from Jabra for around $200 — that’s nearly $100 less than you’d pay for Sony’s similarly featured WH-100XM4 headphones.

This bud’s for you

For reasons too boring to mention, noise-cancelling was until recently the sole domain of the traditional—if not downright bulky—over-ear form factor. But oh, how times have changed.

Today, thanks to years of tireless technological tinkering, your favorite features have been miniaturized. The result is a new generation of truly wireless Bluetooth earbuds. They offer brilliant sound in a small, lightweight form.

Two cases in point: Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds and Apple’s ubiquitously-white AirPods Pro noise-cancelling buds.

Priced at around $280 and $250, respectively, these NCs show that miniaturization commands a premium price. Nonetheless, if your customers seek a minimalist solution that disappears easily into a pocket, they might just find love between these tiny tweeters.

Bose QuietComfort earbuds

Bose QuietComfort buds: better sound, less noise

Both buds offer great sound and noise-cancellation. Bose, as usual, seems to edge out Apple (and everyone else) in terms of sound quality, especially at low volumes.

Apple AirPods Pro

Apple AirPods Pro: longer battery life

But when it comes to battery life, Apple’s AirPods Pro rule. With the aid of its svelte, white case, AirPods Pro offers up to 24 hours of listening time — about twice as long as you get with the Bose QuietComforts.

Silence can be golden

To keep our kids learning and our workers working from home, we all have to do whatever it takes. Noise-cancelling headphones aren’t the whole solution, but they can surely help.

So tell your customers about these affordable NC headphones. That, in turn, could help you keep working, too.

Your neighbor probably isn’t going to be the next Keith Moon. But the next sound you hear should be a win-win.


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