7 Best Noise Isolating Headphones in 2016
Updated for 2016.
Searching for top noise isolating headphones?
You’ve come to the right place.
Below we’ll show you 7 headphones (over-ear, on-ear, in-ear) that have the best passive noise isolation…
…so you’ll never again have to suffer the noise of your neighbor’s kids or experience nerve wracking plane flights.
Don’t let others hear what you’re listening to by leaking sound.
Keep your privacy to yourself with:
In case you’re looking for best noise canceling Bluetooth headphones click here.
Check the comparison table below to compare all noise isolating headphones.
- Best Noise Isolating Headphones Comparison
- Passive Noise Isolation vs Active Noise Canceling – What’s the Difference?
- What are the Advantages of Sound Isolating Headphones?
- Best Noise Isolating Headphones Reviewed (over-ear, on-ear)
- Best Noise Isolating Earbuds (In-ear Monitors)
- What Are Your Favorite Noise Isolating Headphones?
Best Noise Isolating Headphones Comparison
|Beyerdynamic DT 770 M 80 (Top Pick)||4.1||Up to 35 dBA||$$$$ ($120-$200)|
|Etymotic Research HF5 (Top IEM)||4.1||Up to 35-42 dB||$$$ ($80-$120)|
|Sennheiser HD25-1 II (On-ear)||4.6||Up to 30 dB||$$$$$ ($200-$300)|
|Audio-Technica ATH-M50x||4.6||Up to 36 dB||$$$$ ($120-$200)|
|KRK KNS8400||4.5||Up to 30 dBA||$$$ ($80-$120)|
|Shure SE215 Earphones||4.1||Up to 37 dB||$$$ ($80-$120)|
|Sennheiser HD 280 PRO||4.3||Up to 32 dB||$$$ ($80-$120)|
Passive Noise Isolation vs Active Noise Canceling – What’s the Difference?
There is quite a difference between noise isolation and noise cancellation that most people are probably not aware of.
Passive noise isolation isolates all outside sound, generally 25 dB – 30 dB, so if you want to lower all outside noise and just focus on your music, this is the best option.
Active noise canceling works slightly differently, it uses a microphone to record all low frequency noise, like the humming of a plane or helicopter engine (active noise canceling was first developed for helicopter pilots) and then sends the opposite sound to your ears through headphones to “cancel” it. This is a greatly simplified explanation. In the end, it usually cancels around 15 dB of noise.
Noise canceling headphones won’t cancel people talking next to you, or loud music, they are mostly used for canceling annoying background noise and not the “annoying people”.
Noise canceling is great if you want to remove the background noise, but still want to hear what people are saying. So this is useful if you’re on a plane and want to know when the dinner is going to be served, but find the jet engines too loud.
Additionally with lower quality, noise canceling headphones, the sound can be distorted which is one of the bad effects of this technology.
Generally, headphones with sound isolation have better sound quality, but this isn’t an exact rule.
What are the Advantages of Sound Isolating Headphones?
By reducing the amount of ambient noise that enters the ears, you can enjoy music at a lower volume, which is much safer for your hearing in the long run.
It’s been proven that listening to loud music can damage the ears and result in hearing loss.
The passive noise isolation is especially useful for listening to classical music that can be easily overpowered by outside sounds. Without distorting noise, you can hear every detail that you weren’t able before, making music richer and more enjoyable.
Sound isolation comes very handy when you don’t want to be bothered by outside world, like with gaming headphones for example.
How Much Ambient Sound Can Be Reduced With Noise Isolating Headphones?
On average good noise isolating headphones will lower the sound for about 30 dB, considering you have a good, tight fit which is crucial for passive isolation.
30 dB of sound reduction doesn’t mean you won’t hear anything; it will just dampen the loudness of external noises.
A running car 30ft away will produce around 60-80 dB of noise, if you put on the headphones, you’ll generally halve the noise.
Whispering is around 15-20 dB which means you won’t be able to hear it.
A normal conversation produces around 60 dB of noise, with just headphones on you’d still be able to hear it, but if you listen to the music you’ll have a very hard time noticing it.
You have to consider the volume of your music as well, the louder your songs, the louder the outside noise has to be for you to hear it.
What Manufacturers Aren’t Telling You About Noise Isolation in dB
Please take the dB noise isolation with a grain of salt. This is not an exact measurement of noise isolation as it’s really important at what frequency you measure. Some frequencies are easier to isolate than others and the manufacturers just pick the best one.
So if headphones are supposed to isolate 35 dB of noise, this means they can isolate from 0 to 35 dB, depending on what frequency. It doesn’t mean they isolate 35 dB on all frequencies.
Best Noise Isolating Headphones Reviewed (over-ear, on-ear)
Beyerdynamic DT 770 M (80 Ohm) are the best all-round noise isolating headphones right now.
Better headphones than these are going to cost you at least 2x the price ($300-$400+).
Make sure to pick the right Ohm model.
If you want to use these with your smartphone, laptop or an MP3 player, get 32 Ohm version as these devices usually don’t have enough power to run higher Ohm models properly.
We recommend the 80 Ohm version as these are the most versatile overall.
The amount of value you get out of DT 770 M is amazing, you can do an in-dept research about these and you’ll soon realize these are the best all-round noise isolating over-ear headphones right now.
These are meant for studio use so sound isolation plays a big part. Because they are closed-back they grip pretty tightly around your ears and isolate a lot of noise.
Listening to music with these on middle volume will completely remove all outside noise. Don’t be surprised when you don’t hear the doorbell ringing or your spouse talking to you.
The sound is isolated up to 35dBA which makes these headphones one of the top circumaural models at noise isolation.
Comfort also deserves top marks. With soft-skin earpads and leather padded headband, you can wear these for hours without any irritation. They are big and slightly heavier, but that doesn’t affect the overall comfort.
While the DT 770 M version come with soft-skin earpads and not velour ones like the DT 770 PRO, the comfort doesn’t suffer. You can replace the soft-skin earpads with velour ones but keep in mind this will affect sound isolation.
The reason earpads are replaceable is when your old pads get so worn out while headphones still work, you can easily buy a new pair and get great sound attenuation again. This ensures a long life for your headphones.
Build quality is superb. Made out of quality, thick plastics that you can feel won’t break easily. The metal headband is coated in leader, making it nice and soft, even after hours of wearing them.
Comparing the durability with other headphones, these are as good as headphones get and you really don’t have to worry about how you treat them.
The sound is where Beyerdynamic DT 770 M headphones really shine. These are as good as closed-back headphones get.
The sound is very accurate and it doesn’t have any particular “flavor” meaning they are quite flat, while still having enough bass to make music fun. Just don’t expect for bassheads to be overjoyed, overpowering bass is not present.
The soundstage is very good for closed-back headphones and creates a good sense of where the sound is coming from. At the same time, any quality open-back headphones (leaking sound) will obviously be better at this.
These are a perfect balance for everyone’s taste as you can listen to all music genres, from classical to rock and to more modern dubstep or hip hop, and enjoy it.
Do they have any disadvantages?
No major issues, except audiophile purists, might find too much bass and too little mids, since they are comparing their experience with headphones many times the price. Also, extreme bassheads will want more bass even when DT 770 M is already quite “bassy”.
Since they are 80 Ohm consumer eletronics like smartphones won’t be able to run them on high volume, you need an amp for that.
In the end, Beyerdynamic DT 770 M are an amazing piece of German engineering with a combination of great sound isolation, durability, comfort and sound quality that is suitable for all genres of music.
Truly an absolute top pick for sound isolating, over-ear headphones in this price range.
- Great sound isolation, up to 35 dBA
- Big, soft earpads for maximum comfort (can easily wear for hours)
- “Made like a tank”, awesome durability with replaceable parts
- Great value for money
- Great soundstage for closed-back design
- Rich and accurate sound with fun bass, suitable for all music genres
- All other aspects are subordinate to noise isolation
- Need an amp to listen loudly with smartphones, tablets, etc.
HD25-1 II headphones are the Sennheiser flagship portables for quite some time and are slowly getting the status of a classic.
These are used as a DJ and studio headphones because they have one of the best noise isolating on-ear design. While IEMs (in-ear monitors) and closed-back over-ear headphones will still isolate more noise, when it comes to on-ear (supra-aural) headphones, these beat the competition.
With up to 30 dB of noise isolation and portable design you can easily use these on loud public transport when you want to have some “yourself time”.
Overall Sennheiser HD25-1 II are surprisingly light considering how durable they are. At the same time their lightweight nature offers better comfort.
Generally on-ear headphones aren’t known as the most comfortable designs, especially after many hours of use, but these do quite well.
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Comfort is good, but you will feel some irritation after a few straight hours of wearing them, like with most on-ear models.
If you’re looking for comfort, get over-ear headphones.
You can replace the vinyl earpads with velour ones to slightly improve the comfort but keep in mind velour earpads have a slightly worse noise isolation.
Build quality is very good as with most Sennheiser products, made out of mostly plastic, having L-plug and looking rather rugged, these will easily stand the test of time. At the same time, you won’t win any beauty contests as they look quite rudimentary.
Unfortunately, they aren’t folding or collapsible, but only have slightly rotating joints so it’s a bit harder getting them into a small backpack.
Sound quality doesn’t disappoint even considering these are a more expensive model. They are easy to drive, meaning you will able to get them really loud even with just your smartphone.
They have a balanced sound without any range being too emphasized or lacking. This is great for listening to all genres of music.
Bass is punchy and clear, but not deep like with Audio-Technica ATH-M50x so these aren’t going to be much fun for bassheads, while having just the right amount of bass for most people.
Medium ranges are where these excel, very rich and detailed, but this isn’t always a good thing, because if you listen to bad recordings, you’ll notice it.
Treble is clear and precise, but can get a big aggressive at higher volumes. After all, these are studio headphones.
The thing most lacking is soundstage, you just won’t get the feeling of spacious sound like with Beyerdynamic DT 770 M for example.
Nonetheless, these sound great and are a lot of fun to listen to everywhere you go.
If you’re looking for high quality, on-ear portable headphones that will last you for years and offer a balanced, fun sound for all genres, Sennheiser HD25-1 II are your best choice.
- 30 dB of noise isolation on-ear design
- Comfortable (for on-ear headphones), especially with velour earpads
- Highly durable and made to last
- Clear, balanced sound that’s fun to listen to (not for bassheads)
- Basic looking design, not foldable
- Being on-ear, can get uncomfortable after a while
The reason why these weren’t chosen as the best noise isolating over-ear headphones is because of their bass-heavy sound that can become too much very quickly.
But if you like bass, these are for you…
ATH-M50x are one of the best rated over-ear headphones on Amazon.com and are hugely popular. This comes to no surprise as you get a great pair of headphones that’s even slightly better than its predecessor ATH-M50.
With up to 36 dB of noise isolation, these closed-back headphones are hard to beat in this regard. When you want some peace and quiet, put these on and enjoy your favorite music without interruptions. Tune out your loud neighbors or the noise from a busy street nearby.
You will have a hard time finding better isolating headphones for the price, especially considering the comfort and sound quality you get out of these.
Comfort is very good, as with most big over-ear designs. With padded headband and earpads that you can replace for velour ones like that, you’re getting top comfort that can be compared to any headphones.
They have one problem; stay clear of these if you wear glasses, as they tend to be very uncomfortable.
ATH-M50x are made out of durable plastics and metal, offering top grade survivability in today’s harsh world. The build-quality standard is the same as with the older model and these will last you for years as well.
Foldable design makes them semi-portable even considering their big size.
With detachable cables, which are a weak spot of many headphones, you have another reason to believe Audio-Technica ATH-M50x walk the talk durability-wise. (only fit Audio-Technica cables)
Sound quality is great, rather balanced on lower volumes, but really rich in bass. Meaning these really aren’t most suitable for any actual studio work like it’s advertised but are great fun for listening.
At higher volumes, and especially bass rich music, you’ll hear the boomy, thump of deep bass and low mids. The bass is so strong it overpowers other ranges so you’re only going to like it if you don’t mind that.
Middle ranges are rich, clear and detailed, but get slightly overpowered by bass. High pitch is also clear and balanced but gets overshadowed by lower tunes (bass).
These definitely aren’t the most balanced headphones but offer a lot of fun for bassheads who don’t mind bass-heavy sound signature. They aren’t bass cannons but certainly aren’t balanced either.
As one of the most popular headphones on the market, Audio-Technica ATH-M560x are a great choice for the bass loving person who wants a proven, noise isolating pair of headphones. (that don’t disappoint in durability and comfort either)
Top choice for basshead noise isolating headphones, period.
- 36 dB of noise isolation, among the best of over-ear designs
- Well-built, quality materials
- Very comfortable even for people with big heads
- Fold-able design, detachable cord
- Bass heavy sound signature (could be a con)
- Overpowering bass, not audiophile headphones
- Uncomfortable for people with glasses
KRK KNS-8400 are a bit less know and popular headphones than others on this list, but not any worse, in fact for real audiophile headphones, it’s quite the opposite.
When it comes to the sound isolation they do a good job, isolating up to 30 dB of noise isn’t bad at all, but Beyerdynamic DT 770 M are better in this regard. Since studio, monitoring headphones have a need for good passive noise isolation, KRK KNS-8400 do a great job too.
It’s much easier to focus on your music when background noise isn’t bothering you and since these are studio headphones special attention has been paid to making them good at noise isolation.
Super comfy, would be the words to describe these.
Because they’re mostly plastic, this makes them very light and comfortable. Big, soft earpads with memory foam help with this too, of course.
Enjoying your music with KRK KNS-8400 for long hours won’t irritate your ears.
Build quality is very good; it shows these are premium headphones even though at a lower premium end. Made out of high quality and durable plastics you can be sure these headphones will serve you for many years.
Detachable cables and earpads give you more options to customize your experience, improve comfort or durability with better parts.
These are real monitoring headphones so you’ll be able to hear every little detail or lack thereof.
Overall, the sound is balanced, perfect for real audiophiles who don’t care much for strong bass, but value clarity and detail.
The flat and accurate sound is perfect for monitoring headphones, but a little less suitable for dynamic music listening.
Highs and mids are as crisp and clear as you’d expect from professional studio equipment. You’ll simply hear more music with these.
The only bad thing about sound is the soundstage. Compared to Beyerdynamic DT 770 M these are worse and just don’t recreate positional sound very well. Then again, for soundstage, you’d probably be buying open-back headphones.
If you’re looking for audiophile grade noise isolating headphones with awesome comfort and durable design, get KRK KNS-8400, you won’t be disappointed.
- Good passive noise isolation up to 30 dBA
- Lightweight and durable design
- Very comfortable with memory foam earpads
- Detachable cables & earpads
- Audiophile, crisp, detailed and flat sound signature
- Not the best sound for modern music listening (little bass)
- Weak soundstage
The most affordable noise isolating over-ear closed-back headphones that are great for entry level audiophile headphones.
While at around $100 still aren’t dirt cheap, when you compare them to other top quality noise isolating headphones on this list, these are the most affordable.
The tight fitting earpads offer very good noise isolation, up to 32 dB which is comparable to much more expensive headphones.
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Plastic makes these very light and comfortable. While the earpad quality is not up par the more expensive models on this list, it’s good enough to wear for very long without much irritation. After 1-2 hours you might feel a bit tingly around your ears, but no major irritation should occur.
They feel a bit less premium on the head because they are not really premium, still, they compare favorably to average headphones on the market.
Since these are entry level headphones they are made mostly from plastics and it shows in their durability. While still good and with proper maintenance should last you very long, they just can’t compare to “tank-like” build quality of Beyerdynamic DT 770 M.
The good thing is you can replace the earpads, headband padding, and cords in case they break or deteriorate.
Because of foldable design, you can easily pack them up and take them with you on a trip.
Sound-wise these are rather flat and analytical, meant for studio work, but still with more bass and “color” than KRK KNS-8400s.
The sound is fun with a nice bass that isn’t too overpowering or boomy, like with Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, so if you’re a basshead, definitely check them out.
Treble is clear and not too aggressive, mids are slightly recessed, but not too bad, while bass is punchy and tight making every music sound lively. The only thing lacking is soundstage, like many other closed-back headphones. You just won’t get the spacious sound you’d get from some other better headphones (Beyerdynamic DT770 M).
Overall with Sennheiser HD 280 PRO you’re getting a great pair of noise isolating headphones that are very comfortable and offer a fun sound quality for entry level audiophiles.
- Good noise isolation up to 32 dB
- Reasonably comfortable
- Detachable cords, earpads and headband padding
- Very affordable price
- Good value for money
- Rather flat, but fun sound, great for modern music, games, movies etc.
- The quality of materials slightly lower
- Sound might not be to the taste of everybody
Best Noise Isolating Earbuds (In-ear Monitors)
Etymotic Research HF5 are the best noise isolating in-ear earbuds on the market right now.
In fact, they have highest rated noise isolation at 35 dB to 42 dB of noise isolation, depending on what ear tips you use.
This is the kind of isolation that can be compared to earbuds for $300-$400+.
They are so good, if a “bomb goes off” in the room next to you, you probably won’t notice.
The type of ear tips you use is crucially important for isolation. The foam ones are supposed to be the best, but many find they get better results with triple flange ear tips.
It doesn’t really matter, as you get all of these tips to try out for yourself in the original package.
When it comes to comfort with in-ear monitors, it mostly depends on what ear tips you use. While the best noise isolating ear tips aren’t the most comfortable, they aren’t too bad.
After a few hours of use you can have slightly irritated ear canals, but not to the point of pain or real irritation.
The earbuds themselves are very light due to their plastic construction and fit well in all sizes of ears.
Durability isn’t the best, but there is nothing particularly wrong with it. These IEMs are very low profile, minimalist and only available in black plastic.
They have pretty good strain relief while the wires are basic rubber protected.
By taking decent care of them, they should serve you long enough.
Where Etymotic Research HF5 in-ear monitors really excel is the sound quality.
These are considered one of the most accurate and detailed earbuds on the market right now.
Having crazy accurate and detailed sound you probably never heard before.
What you will immediately notice is a great lack of bass, just like with other Etymotic earbuds you won’t get many lows from these either.
While accuracy is great for classical music and other genres with little bass, other more modern pop and rock tunes will clearly show the lack of low tones.
Whether you’ll like Etymotic Research HF5 or not really depends on your music taste. In case you like more bass, check out Shure SE215 below for a more suitable pair of noise isolating earbuds.
If you can appreciate Etymotic sound and are looking for superb, noise isolating earbuds you can get no better than Etymotic Research HF5 in-ear monitors, period.
- Best noise isolation for in-ear design (35 dB – 42 dB)
- Nice selection of ear tips
- Good value for money even at $100+
- The most accurate sound quality (Etymotic standard)
- Lacks bass
- Uninspiring design and durability
Shure SE215 are a well-known, quality piece of music equipment that is hard to beat. They are one of the most popular and well-reviewed in-ear monitors on the market right now.
Their noise isolation is superb, maybe not as good as Etymotic Research HF5, but still much better than your regular earbuds.
You can really improve the isolation with triple flange tips for Shure you can get on Amazon and with the combination of Olives you’re getting a great isolating seal.
In case you’re willing to spend a bit more money, check Shure SE425 model which has awesome noise isolation too.
Their slightly unusual design might need some getting used to, but once you learn how to get a comfortable and tight fit, you’ll quickly learn to appreciate everything it brings, because with noise isolation you get good comfort as well.
Comfort greatly depends on ear tips you use and once you find the right ones and get the hang of putting them on, they are very comfortable. You can wear them for hours without irritation, but know this is only true if you really try all the ear tips.
The design demands behind-the-neck fit so keep that in mind when buying.
Made out of plastics that you can get in different colors and with detachable, memory wires coated in regular rubber they look weaker than they actually are.
In reality, these are one of the more durable IEMs that will survive a lot more than what you can imagine in your regular use. (some people even dropped them in water and they survived)
In case the wires give out you can easily replace them with new ones or if you want to add the functionality of microphone and in-line remote for smartphones, attaching the new cables is super easy.
When it comes to sound it has good, clear mid-range and treble with bass slightly emphasized. Altogether it has a rather balanced sound with just enough bass to make music fun, but these are definitely not extreme basshead material.
It’s a nice combination that is easy to listen to for all music types.
Shure SE215 are a proven, quality pair of noise isolating earbuds, with a slightly emphasized bass sound, that sit in your ears nicely and have great durability, you would be stupid to pick any other earbuds in this category.
- Great sound isolation with tight fitting ear tips
- Comfortable once you get a hang of it
- Durable, well-built, detachable cables
- Good value for money at $100
- High sound quality with slightly emphasized bass, great for all genres
- You need to get used to their unusual design
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What Are Your Favorite Noise Isolating Headphones?
Please let us know what you think about the reviewed models, share your experience and recommend some new models that could be a great choice when looking for passive sound isolation.
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