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Gadgets - Nov 8, 2017

The sweet sound of noise-cancelling headphones

Our roundup will help you choose a perfect pair that’ll be music to your ears

By now, most of us have gotten used to the pleasure of wireless headphones and the freedom of not being physically tethered to an input jack while we peruse our favourite playlists and podcasts. Many manufacturers now offer noise-cancelling models that have introduced mobile listeners to a whole new level of pleasure: freedom from ambient noise. Here’s our roundup of three of the latest entries in this increasingly popular audio-accessory niche.

Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2

California-based Plantronics entered the audio-headset market back in the early ’60s with lightweight designs for pilots and astronauts – Neil Armstrong was wearing a pair of Plantronics when he walked on the Moon. More than half a century’s worth of cutting-edge tech development makes itself felt in the company’s latest noise-cancelling headphones. Comfortably snug on the ears and easy on the eyes, the BackBeat PRO 2 boasts impressive sound quality and top-notch on-demand active noise-cancellation, all at an incredibly affordable price ($250). Remove the headset while listening and smart sensors automatically pause the streaming; put them back on and your entertainment instantly resumes. The battery runs for up to 24 hours on a single charge and switches to hibernation mode for up to six months if accidentally left on and unattended. Along with other cool features, you’ll appreciate the handy rotary-wheel volume control on the outer left earcup: use it to conveniently dial up the sound in one small step that feels like a giant leap.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

When you slip on a pair of Bose headphones, you know you’re in for something special. The sound quality is reliably powerful and stunningly crystalline, and the company remains a true pioneer in the realm of noise-cancellation technology. The latest generation of QuietComfort headphones not only honours that legacy but clearly lives up to the name, delivering both “quiet” and “comfort” in spades. The active noise-reduction electronics are state of the art, plus you get the added benefit of passive noise reduction, thanks to the headphones’ overall acoustic design and the materials used for the earcups and cushions. It goes without saying that their cushiness enhances the comfort level, too. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II ($450) are just a modest step up from the previous model in this line, but you’ll appreciate the latest new feature: Google Assistant is built right in, and there’s a dedicated Action button on the left earcup for quick and easy access. No need for Google Assistant? No worries. The Action button can be switched to select your preferred level of noise cancellation – high, low or off.

Beats Studio3 Wireless

Let’s start with the obvious: these headphones look great, and you’ll look great wearing them. Clearly, a lot of thought went into the understated, streamlined design. Even the carrying case has a neatly sculpted look. The headsets are available in a classy range of colours – including shadow grey and porcelain rose – and with Apple’s W1 technology baked into them, you can count on seamless setup with your iOS devices. The W1 chip also allows you to easily switch between compatible Apple devices for equally seamless streaming. The Beats Studio3 Wireless headphones ($400) provide a decent 22 hours of battery life, and the Fast Fuel charging feature offers another nice touch: a healthy three-hour boost of juice in just five minutes when the battery is low. The sound quality is superb, and noise cancellation kicks in the moment you power up. Just double tap the power button to turn it off. With noise cancelling disabled, battery life soars to 40 hours, but what fun is that? It’s so much easier to get lost in your tunes when the rest of the world is tuned out.

Looking for more great gift ideas? Head to our 2017 Holiday Guide for shopping tips and tech picks.

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