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With millions of students gearing up to take classes in front of a computer, headphones may be an essential back-to-school item this year. Noise-canceling headphones can help kids studying at home, where the distractions from fellow quarantiners can make for a less-than-ideal learning environment.
The technology in these headphones is better at “canceling” consistent sounds like the drone of a plane engine; sporadic noises such as people talking might not be blocked entirely. Silence isn’t guaranteed, but a good pair will help muffle your surroundings a bit no matter what kind of sound you’re dealing with.
We’ve combed our headphone ratings to bring you the best noise-canceling headphones for kids studying at home. We focused on sound-blocking performance; we also factored in audio quality. We picked models with an advertised battery life long enough for a whole school day. These are wireless headphones, but they all come with a detachable audio cable as well. That means a student can plug them in if they are using an older computer that doesn’t have Bluetooth.
Fit is important for noise-canceling headphones to work properly, so the models on this list will probably work best for middle schoolers, high school students, and adults. (Parents of young children with smaller heads may want to consider headphones made for kids—CR doesn’t currently test them.)
Of course, you don’t have to be a student to enjoy the benefits of the headphones below. The best noise-canceling headphones can help you stay on task no matter what kind of work you’re doing from home, whether it’s algebra or talking to clients on Zoom.
Great noise-canceling headphones typically cost a bit more than other headphones, but there are some budget-oriented options, too. Here are our top picks, starting with the least expensive.
This wireless model from Monoprice is available for around $50, making it an appealing choice for parents who have younger kids and don’t want to spring for an expensive model. But you’re not trading performance for price: The BT-300ANC has superb noise cancellation and above average sound quality.
It features integrated controls for calls, volume, and playback, and the ear cups fold in and swivel flat for easy storage and transport. According to Monoprice, the battery will run for 8 hours between charges with Bluetooth and noise cancellation turned on. (CR doesn’t test battery life in headphones.)
With the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC100BT, you get an unobtrusive portable model that’s great for kids who’d rather wear their headphones in rather than over their ears. Because they use an external compartment to house their electronics, they have an extended battery life of up to 10 hours with Bluetooth and noise cancellation on. That’s impressive for an in-ear model.
Like the other models on this list, you can also use the Audio-Technicas with a detachable audio cable that comes with your purchase, so they’re a good choice if you want to plug into an older computer. They earn above average noise cancellation and sound ratings in our tests. And at around $100, they’re a good value for this style of headphones.
JBL Live 650BTNC
We’ve seen the JBL Live 650BTNC sell for less than $150, a small marvel given its performance. These over-ear headphones deliver outstanding noise cancellation and great audio quality. JBL hasn’t skimped on features, either. The 650BTNC comes with a quick-charge function, the ability to simultaneously pair with multiple devices, and a generous 20-hour battery life, according to JBL. A free app provides some additional functionality.
Beats Studio3 Wireless
Beats headphones aren’t known for modest prices, but the cost of this model has come down to the point where it’s a solid value. At around $200, the Studio3 Wireless packs above average noise cancellation when you want to focus on a project, for school or work, and dependable sound quality when you want to jam. The model has a quick-charge function, and advertises 22 hours of playback time when you use it with noise cancellation and Bluetooth turned on.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
For those willing to shell out for the best performance, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is one of our top-rated models. The 700 earns exemplary ratings for audio quality and noise cancellation. Bose’s new flagship product is updated with a slim profile, touch controls, and more integration with digital assistants. But the company kept some of the best-loved features from its older models, such as adjustable levels of noise cancellation, a monitoring mode to let in sound from your environment, and an advertised 20-hour battery life.
Quality comes at a price. It’s listed at $400, but recently we’ve seen it sell for as low as $340. Bose’s older QuietComfort 35 Series II headphones are great, too, and they’re still widely available. If you don’t mind forgoing the latest features, you can pick them up for less.
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