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Best All-Around: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless

This year Sennheiser came out with a highly anticipated new pair of MOMENTUM headphones, and they were wireless. We were initially very impressed with these and that still holds true. They received a great score of 9.2 in our full review and many people believed even that was too low, that’s how good these are. The ANC (Active Noise Cancellation)  is superb using four microphones in order to catch everything that needs to be canceled. Sennheiser calls this technology NoiseGard and needless to say it works quite well. The sound quality is what we’ve come to expect from the MOMENTUM series of headphones with great sound from the lows all the way through to the highs.
The MOMENTUM Wireless 2.0 are great at everything.
As the name implies, these are wireless and connect to your device via Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX technology for high quality audio. If you have a compatible device they also have built-in NFC so all you have to do is tap your device to the ear cup to get instantly connected. Besides that they have a built-in battery that will get you around 22 hours of playback timewith ANC, that’s pretty killer. That said they also have the option to connect a 3.5mm audio cable just in case you forget to charge them. Most headphones have built-in mic for phone calls, but the MOMENTUM wireless go a step further and have two built-in microphones for clearer call quality.
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM wireless are one of our favorite pairs of headphones yes, but they’re also one of the most expensive. However, this is a “best of” list and sometimes a premium price is worth it. This is one of those times. The MOMENTUM wireless are available in only two colors: ivory or black for $424 and have a 4.1 out of 5 stars onAmazon.

Best ANC: Bose QC25

by Bose – ($299.00) Amazon.com
The Bose QC25 does what it does, and well. The active noise cancellation (ANC) is one of the best we’ve seen and the padding on the ear cups is extremely comfortable. As far as quality goes these tend to be more balanced so if you’re looking for a heavy low end you might have to look elsewhere. Besides the ANC these have playback controls built onto the wire for volume and play/pause functionality. They also have a built-in mic so you never have take these off for a phone call.
As the standard in ANC, the Bose QC25 won't disappoint.
While we’re on the subject of the cabling, it’s worth noting that the functionality does depend on the type of device you have. Previously they were made specifically for iDevices but Bose recently made these compatible with Android as well so make sure you get the right one if you’re interested. If you do own an iDevice there is also another cool option available to you which is the ability to customize the color. Though it will run you another $100, you can choose from a ton of different colors and customize everything from the spacers to the ear cups.
Unlike many other headphones on the market the QC25s don’t have a built-in battery, instead they run on removable AAA batteries. If the batteries die out you can still listen to music, just don’t expect any ANC. Focusing on portability, the QC25s also come with a hardshell case for extra protection in that over-stuffed bag of yours. These have a 4.4 out of 5 star rating on Amazon so grab one for yourself to see what all the hype is about.

Best Design: Parrot Zik 2.0

Sure the newer Zik 3.0’s are out right now and we were really impressed with them for sure, but since the ANC wasn’t one of the features that got an update we figured we’d keep the Zik 2.0’s on this list. Why? Well because now you can get them for almost half of what they were originally. Parrot claims to have made the ‘world’s most advance headphones’ with the Zik 2.0 and though we weren’t too sure about that, they’re without a doubt a great pair of headphones. The Zik 2.0 have Bluetooth 3.0 and NFC as well so connecting won’t be a problem. They also have gesture based controls on the side of the right ear cup which makes actually using them that much cooler. Just tap to pause/play/answer phone calls, swipe left or right to skip a trip, and swipe up or down for volume controls.
Customize the sound to your liking with the free app.
The app puts the EQ settings under your control as well as the option to turn effects on or off. Parrot claims that if you use Bluetooth and ANC together, the 830 mAH battery will last you roughly 6 hours. Not the best battery life we’ve seen but that’s still a decent amount of time for the average person as long as you remember to charge them.
Parrot also included a “Flight mode” which allows you to squeeze about 18 hours of battery life out of the headphones. In this mode all effects are turned off and they need to be connected via a 3.5mm audio cable to the source device. Though you lose Bluetooth in this mode, you can still use ANC which is handy for going on long flights where 6 hours just doesn’t cut it. If you’re interested in these check out the full review for all of the details.
If you prefer your headphones bold and colorful, these are the headphones for you. Rather than one or two color options, the Parrot 2.0’s come in six different colors: black, blue, orange, white, yellow, and brown and have a 3.5 out of 5 star rating. If you need to have the latest and greatest you can opt for the newer Zik 3.0’s and get the same noise canceling experience, but if you want to save a few bucks these are the way to go.

Best On-Ears: Philips NC1 Fidelio

by Philips – ($292.70) Amazon.com
One company that dabbles in a little bit of everything is Philips. The company site has plenty of headphones to choose from and you can even pick yourself up an electric razor while you’re at it. Still, in all of those choices one product that stands out are the noise canceling headphones dubbed the Philips NC1 Fidelio. These are the epitome of small and portable and can easily be folded flat so you can stuff them in your bag if need be.
Design is always something that depends on personal taste, but these are fairly moderate. They’re not too flashy but not too minimal and meet somewhere in the middle. The headband has a soft padding and the ear pads are stuffed with a comfortable memory foam allowing you to wear these for the longest of flight. Another positive is the insanely long battery life. Philips claims that a single charge is sufficient to give you roughly 30 hours of constant playback with ANC. That’s enough juice to go from JFK airport in New York to Shanghai, China — twice. Pretty impressive. That said if you forget to charge them or if the battery runs out on you these will still work as normal headphones, just without ANC.
For an on-ear option, these are as good as it gets.
Apart from that, these utilize 40mm drivers to provide you with high-res audio, meaning that you can listen to your favorite songs in higher than CD quality assuming the file is in a lossless format. This really only applies to you if you have a high end audio player or DAC, but it’s at least good to know that these have that option. The sensitivity maxes out at 107 dB and they also have a frequency range of 7Hz – 25kHz which covers the entire spectrum of human hearing, and then some.
The headphones come with a standard 1.2m audio cable that ends in a 3.5mm jack. On that cable is a mic and remote that allows you to answer phone calls and control audio playback as well. Unfortunately there is no volume control, so you’ll still have to reach into your pocket and adjust the volume if you need to. On the bright side that means that these are compatible with both iOS and Android so you won’t have to worry about loss of functionality when switching between devices.
The NC1s only come in black so if you’re into colorful things these might not be for you, but if you’re into quality sound these are worth a look. They have a 4.0 out of 5 star rating onAmazon with 55% of those customers awarding them a perfect 5 stars. Philips even throws in a nice hard shell carrying case, how thoughtful.

Best Bang for your Buck: Monoprice Hi-Fi Active Noise Cancelling Headphones

by Monoprice – ($110.36) Amazon.com
We’ve taken a look at a good number of Monoprice items, and are always impressed. The company has made a habit out of producing inexpensive products with sound quality that rivals the best. The Monoprice Active Noise Cancelling headphones are just another example of that and that’s why they made our budget item. This isn’t their only pair of ANC headphones, but the other is no longer being sold on Amazon and is out of stock on their website. That said if your budget is around $100, those are another good budget option.
To cut down the final price, shortcuts need to be made and corners cut. Monoprice usually achieves this with their build materials. These headphones are fairly barebones and made almost entirely out of plastic. Still, that doesn’t mean they’re fragile. In our research we didn’t find one complaint about them breaking. As far as design goes they only come in all-black and the only branding is the company name in small white letters on the ear cup.  The rotating ear cups along with the adjustable headband also ensure a good fit for almost any sized head. They’re also fairly light for over-ears, weighing in at less than 6.3 ounces.
As is the case with most things, it’s what is on the inside that counts.
Monoprice uses 40mm drivers with a frequency range as deep as 20Hz and highs at about 20kHz. As over-ears these already do a decent job at passively blocking unwanted noise, but the added ANC shaves another 19dB off of that. Similar to the Bose headphones earlier in this list, it’s powered by a single AAA battery. That lone battery should get you around 50 hours of ANC and if it runs out, you can still use the headphones in passive mode with one of the included audio cables.
This might be the budget pick, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come with some handy accessories. Included with the headphones you’ll also get a hardshell carrying case for easy transport, a 55” audio cable with in-line mic and playback controls, a 58” audio cable that ends in a 90-degree connector, a 1/4” adapter, airline plug adapter, splitter cable, and even a AAA battery to start you off. CNET even compared these to the Bose QC15s saying that they’re “70% of the quality at 1/3 of the price.” That makes sense considering they have a 4.3 out of 5 star rating on Amazon.

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