Best Noise-Canceling Headphones For Back To School


Lindsay has a research paper on the laws of thermodynamics due at 1:00 p.m. sharp the next day so she’s holed up at the school library because, by all accounts, it should be the quietest place on campus to get her work done. Unfortunately, Chad and Karen are two tables over giggling at memes on Reddit and the noise is driving her crazy. She pops in her aging Apple AirPods, but the battery is trash and, besides, they don’t do squat to shield Lindsay from Karen’s high-pitched giggles.

If only Lindsay’s folks had known that noise-canceling headphones are the single most important tool for a good education, then perhaps they would have opted to get her a set of Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 or Sony WF-1000XM4 headphones as a back-to-school gift instead of an ergonomic laptop backpack, which is doing a great job of preventing Lindsay from experiencing premature sciatica, but doing absolutely zero to help her get her work turned in on time.

School is full of noise pollution that can adversely affect students. Here are six noisy school scenarios your student may be about to face and a matching set of noise-canceling headphones that may just make the difference between surviving school, and thriving.

The snoring roommate

Since Murphy’s Law is a grumpy S.O.B., it’s virtually guaranteed your student’s roommate is going to snore. The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are compact enough to be worn to bed at night and have noise-canceling tech strong enough to handle a gentle drone on their own or freight-train-level log-sawing with the aid of a little music or ambient noise.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 in four colors.

On top of that, the Galaxy Buds 2 will last a little over 5-hours of playtime per charge, and the included charging case will top the buds up three times before needing a charge itself. These are among the most stylish and comfortable wireless earbuds with ANC that you can buy right now, and the price is right as well.

Snoring may seem like a crime, but it’s just biology, so one might as well be prepared. Speaking of biological imperatives …

The copulating couple next door

The great lyricist, George Michael, may have said it best: “Sex is natural, sex is fun.” And, let’s be honest, despite a global pandemic, sex is happening in college dorms and frat/sorority houses across the globe, likely right next door to your student when they are trying desperately to sleep or study (because they are your angel and of course that’s what they are doing).

While the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 mentioned above could also be a good option here, it may be worth considering a set of wireless earbuds with a little more flex in the noise-canceling department. For that, we suggest the Sony WF-1000Xm4. These wireless ANC earbuds offer some of the best noise-canceling you can buy in an earbud and they offer outstanding sound quality, too. That last point is important when what you want to hear needs to be inversely proportional to what you don’t want to hear.

The campus construction

Whether the engineering department is getting a new wing for their recently acquired particle collider, or a new hand-chiseled fountain is destined for the quad, there is rarely a time on campus when some kind of construction isn’t going on. And while ANC earbuds can do a lot toward reducing some noises, the kind of noise that literally moves walls calls for heavier artillery.

Sony WH-1000XM4 and their companion app.
Riley Young / Digital Trends

Enter the Sony WH-1000XM4. These full-size cans are a souped-up version of the earbuds we just mentioned and if any headphones can block out the noise of a backhoe clanging against concrete, they can. The battery life is best in class, too, so they’ll last for a couple of days before needing a recharge, and they are the second most comfortable set on this list, so they’ll last longer than the wrecking crew’s lunchbreaks.

The frat rager

Bruh! If you’d rather study or sleep than chug Jägerbombs, then everyone knows you need Bose!

Frat parties are a lot like jet engines in that they are impossibly loud, all of the time, and you just can’t make them go away. Luckily, Bose invented noise-canceling tech to drown out jet engine noise, so it stands to reason they’d be able to shut out the din of any bro-infused rager that may be taking place within close enough proximity to also smell it.

That’s where the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 come in. Not only are they stellar for blocking out noise, but they offer great battery life, excellent sound, make a terrific travel companion, and are the most comfortable headphones on this list. As a bonus, they are also terrific for phone and video calls.

Speaking of …

The Zoomer

Whether one is auditing all their classes because they’re just there for the experience, or because they opted for an Arts degree instead of an engineering career, some students may participate in classes entirely online. That being the case, they will need headphones that not only shut out surrounding coffee shop noises for their own sake but also shut out the whoosh of the espresso machine when the student is speaking on said Zoom meetings. For this purpose, there’s really no better option than the Apple AirPods Pro.

Woman wearing airpods pro.
Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

Not only do the AirPods Pro do a great job of shutting out noises for the wearer, but their advanced noise reduction technology also works wonders when it is time for the wearer to start speaking, making sure those on the other end only hear the student’s voice and not whatever racket is going on around them in their chosen space for learning that day.

The annoying gamer roomie

A boom microphone attached to headphones attached to a black tower beaming with neon while singlehandedly heating the room can mean only one thing. If your student walks into their dorm to this scene, they’re going to need help.

Pwning noobs isn’t just a pastime, it’s a lifestyle, and that lifestyle is loud. It’s also highly addictive and likely to lure your student in from time to time. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

For this scenario, we suggest the JBL Quantum One. This gamer-friendly headset sports noise-canceling, RGB lighting, virtual 7.1 surround sound, and head-tracking technology, all befitting a gamer who occasionally gets some schoolwork done. But mostly pwns noobs.

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