What type of headphones are best for reducing noise in a loud office environment. Do noise canceling headphones work? Are there good passive noise reduction headphones on the market?


If the noise is just background noise (AC, traffic, ...) noise cancellation would work.
If you have loud co-workers, go for isolating headphones.
That was my case and I chose a pair of Sennheiser (HD280) over the ears with a 32dB attenuation level. Great and comfortable, except you need some fresh air from time to time or your ears get a bit sweaty...


Bose Quiet Comfort 3 - I'd get nothing done without them.

Edit: As others have mentioned, these don't completely isolate you. They're great at eliminating mechanical hums and other droning noises, but human speech, though somewhat muted, is still intelligible. I see this as a feature: if somebody is trying to get your attention they'll probably succeed, but most background conversations are reduced to subconsciously-heard noise.


Shure SE 310's are very expensive but very worth it. They have absolutely near-perfect isolation, it's bliss!!!


Bose QC3 are good if you don't wear glasses. Bose QC2 if you wear glasses.

They aren't cheap, and you can tell why after you start using them regularly. This is double true after you've used them on a plane flight.


Personally, I use the ChatterBlocker MP3 from http://chatterblocker.com/ with my Bose Around-Ear Headphones (they have a noise-canceling version also). I've tried a lot of things and this is what works best for me.


I've tried a few different pairs. I've only tried passive noise reduction as I am skeptical about active noise reduction. I work in a cubicle farm of about 35 people. In that one area we have telephone support staff, consultants who talk to customers, loud talkers, pen clickers, an aggressive throat clearer, etc. I sit next to a tabletop drummer.

I listen to "white noise" nature sounds (rain, wind, etc) from places such as www.naturesounds.ca and www.purewhitenoise.com .

Koss QZ99

These are great for blocking noise. You can tell that that was what they were designed to do. The sound quality is perhaps not great, and they are pretty heavy, but I love them. They are the big guns of noise blocking. I also like the retro look of them.

Sennheiser HD280 Pro

These don't block out sound nearly as well as the QZ99's. They are however lighter, more comfortable and have better sound. I find that they work well at the less raucous times of the day and when tabletop drummer is away.

Direct Sound EX-29

These didn't work for me at all because they didn't fit properly. The ear pieces don't swivel, and they don't sit flat on my head, leaving a gap. If there is a gap, then the sound isolation doesn't work. If I hold them flat with my hands, then they seem to work. They would probably be a good solution if they fit your particular head.

Ultimate Ears in-ear headphones (Model?)

I would have to look up the model for these. The ones I have are entry-level ones. They work reasonably well, somewhere between the HD280's and the QZ99's. How well they work probably depends a lot on how well they fit.

I'm going to investigate other cheap in-ear headphones. I think that it works well to alternate between over-the-ear and in-hear headphones. When one gets too uncomfortable, switch to the other.

Vic Firth Stereo Isolation Headphones

I haven't tried these, but they would be worth investigating.


Sennheiser HD-280s; over-ear headphones that block out most noise without noise cancelling, are very comfortable, have great sound... and cost $65 on Froogle.


Sort of tangential to the original question, but no matter what headphones you choose, I'd spring for a rear view mirror so you can see your co-workers sneaking up on you. It's pretty awkward to try to get someone's attention who is wearing headphones.

I also tend to leave a visualization open in a window on my monitor. It's a little more subtle than a sign that says "HAY GUYS I AM LISTENING TO MUSIC"


Be careful ... most of the cheaper headphones that advertise noise cancellation don't have true active noise cancellation like the Bose headphones. Instead, they add white noise which fools the ear into thinking the background is much quieter. Unfortunately, the actual volume of sound into the ear is increased and, at higher volume levels, can actually lead to hearing loss.

I prefer the over ear headphones as opposed to ear buds, since they passively block outside sound and are more comfortable for long periods of time.


My Bose TriPort Around-The-Ear headphones (~$150) are spectacular for drowning out noise, sound reproduction, and wearing for 8+ hours straight.

Noise canceling headphones will only reduce droning background noise like servers, HVAC units, etc. I use mine to drown out my coworkers so noise canceling isn't necessary. If you're going to be wearing them for extended periods I'd definitely recommend something that goes around your ear (circumaural) rather than on the ears or in the ears.


I love my Sony studio headphones. They are large and padded (but light) and cover the entire ear.

They produce incredible sound while keeping office chatter out.


I use a pair of Klipsch Custom 1's they are in ear head phones and have a range of 'ear gels' to fit any shaped ear to block out all noise. When only wearing the head phones I can hardly hear any external noise, and when music is playing they perform amazingly well.

If Klipcsch are out of your price range I would recommend looking into other 'in ear' ear buds as they all possess great noise canceling abilities.


I us a SONY MDR NC 40 at work and its wonderful. It only filters about 65% of background noise, but makes a real difference. Volume is only up to 20% or less, when i use the headphones.


I found that semi-open headphones (like Sennheiser HD-650) is disturbing to others, and hence prefer ear buds (currently Shure SE530) in the office.



http://www.EarphoneSolutions.com Any of the in-ear ISOLATING earphones will do! And you will hear the music all over again for the first time!!


They do work, and the expensive ones have some pretty impressive physics involved. There are some that actually record the sound around you, and then play it back in your ear 90 degrees out of phase with the actual sound, thus, if you know your wave-physics, cancelling out the sound waves around you via interference.

Cool huh?


I don't have any experience with noise cancelling headphones myself, but I find that a decent set that covers the ear entirely makes a huge difference. They have the added bonus of generally being cheaper than noise cancelling sets. You'd be hard pressed to go wrong with anything made by Sennheiser.


I bought some Panasonic headphones (newegg.com) recently and they are great for noise cancellation. I originally got them mainly to use on airplanes, which works wonderfully. Now that I started wearing them at work too, I don't even notice when people come into my office. They're more expensive than most headphones, but they still cost less than Bose.


I like my $20 Koss earbuds. They have different sized rubber fitting thingies that provide a snug in-ear fit. I sit right by a noisy breakroom, and they provide plenty of noise blockage, for a lot less than $150! :)


Don't know about noise canceling headphones but i've got the Audio-technica AD400 which are awesome for work because they are light and really comfortable with a different design than most. Price was 150 aud http://headphones.com.au/psingle?productID=146


Sennheiser HD-650 are really nice, but quite expensive. Very comfortable and the sound quality is excellent.


The QC3s are too small. I'd stick with the QC2s.


I've just bought the JVC "Marshmallow" in-ear earphones (supposed to be about $20 in the US)

I reasoned that big circumaural headphones get too hot, and no headphones have been invented with piezoelectric cooling (left as an exercise for the reader), while the lightweight supra-aural headphones leak your music into the office and you would need noise cancellation.

So that leaves in-ear phones which passively keep noise out, wearing them and playing music your can't hear conversations behind you. The only problem is finding something comfortable. JVC marshmallow is not perfect, but they made an effort to keep it comfortable, and its much cheaper than the Sennheiser CX-II.


I have a pair of Maxell EH-130 Ear Hooks. I think I picked them up at a local record store for around $5.00. They're compact like earbuds, they fit right in the ear like earbuds, but they don't fall out like earbuds. (I can never get earbuds to stay in for longer than a couple minutes.) The sound quality is good and they're comfortable. I do occasionally have to push them back into place, but meh. I have no real complaints.

I've read some complaints about the wires breaking and only getting sound through one ear, but I haven't experienced that problem with these... yet. I had a couple pairs of Sony ear hooks that did that, so I figured I'd give the cheaper Maxell pair a try, since I was apparently going to be buying headphones every couple months. I've had these for about a year now.

You can get EH-130s for as low as $2.00 now through Google Products.