How to Choose Noise-Canceling Headphones for the Office
February 27, 2020 by Lee Mulkowsky
There’s ample reason to shun complete silence while you work. Listening to music has been shown to make workers perform better, according to search-engine-optimization company WebFX, and hearing classical music in particular has been shown to help people better solve puzzles. For those who don’t care much for music of any kind, worry not. Even ambient sound conveys benefits. In one study, those doing creative work received a significant boost from listening to white noise.
However, if you’re a solo- or entrepreneur using a coworking space, you can’t just jam out to tunes or keep your yoga soundtrack on at all times the way you used to when you worked from home. You’ll need headphones, and good ones. Luckily, 2020 is set to be a great year for “hearables” — smart, in-ear listening devices — and other headphones, so if you never got on the AirPods train, you still don’t have to.
Here, we discuss the top three characteristics to look for when choosing ear- or headphones, and recommend our preferred devices for seeing you through those long work hours.
Since hearables go in your ear, “comfort” may not be the first word you’d associate with them. However, things have come a long way since Apple’s original earbud, and in general, these mini speakers are now all contoured to better fit and remain in the ear. But if comfort is your number-one priority when it comes to these devices, seriously consider awaiting the (delayed) arrival of Microsoft’s Surface Earbuds, now due out in spring 2020.
“I’ve been on the hunt for comfortable earphones for years, and Microsoft’s new Surface Earbuds might just be the ones I’m looking for,” writes Engadget reviewer Cherlynn Low after test-wearing the buds at an event. They “surprisingly don’t stick into my ear canal the way a lot of other buds do. … [and they] didn’t budge even after I vigorously shook my head and jumped up and down …”
The large, disc-like devices feature “intuitive touch and voice controls, screen-free access to Office 365, immersive sound for music and calls, and all-day battery,” according to Microsoft.com. The Surface Earbuds will retail for $249.99.
If in-ear just really isn’t your thing (and you can swing the $349 price tag), you can’t do much better than the old granddaddy of speaker tech, Bose, and its QuietComfort 35 II. These headphones feature “top-of-the-line active-noise canceling, excellent wireless Bluetooth sound and extra-comfortable design,” according to a cnet.com review.
If you put your listening devices through a lot and use them day in and day out, chances are it’s durability you’ll be after when shopping for a new set. In that case, the Sure SE215 ($99 on Amazon.com) will very likely fit your needs. Small, easy to stash, and lightweight, these affordable earbuds also “produce a potent, clean and crisp sound,” according to one reviewer. Their reinforced cable allows for easy, affordable replacement, and their Sound Isolation technology means outside noises are effectively blocked when you’re using them.
Also set for availability this spring are Google’s Pixel Buds 2, the second generation of the search-engine giant’s hearable device. The Pixel Buds 2 come with built-in Google Assistant (which works when paired with a device that’s running Android 6.0 or newer) and are totally cordless. At $20 less than AirPods — and, some reviewers say, with a better overall user experience — the Pixel Buds may well be a better buy in general. With a sleek, aesthetically pleasing (and dare we say it, cute) design, long-range Bluetooth technology and a charger than doubles as a carrying case, the Pixel Buds 2 are starting to make spring not seem so far away after all.
Looking for new, affordable office space to go with those new hearables? Browse Metro Offices’ nine DC and Washington-area locations today.