Best Noise-Canceling Headphones to Block Out Voices

Most people wouldn’t shop for noise-canceling headphones based on their ability to block out voices. We generally use those devices to prevent hearing loss due to prolonged exposure to loud sounds. But if you work in an open-plan office, for example, headphones may help you block out your coworkers’ incessant gossip. With that in mind, we’re going to talk about finding the best noise-canceling headphones for the job.

Using over- or in-ear devices is the best way to get rid of noise in areas where you don’t have much control over your surroundings. Whether you’re looking for a way to increase your efficiency at work or ignore the chatterbox sitting next to you on the bus, headphones might be the only way to do it. But how efficient could they possibly be? That’s the first question we’re going to answer.

Man wearing noise canceling headphones for blocking voices.

Do Noise-Canceling Headphones Block Out Voices?

Noise-canceling headphones can block out any kind of noise, including the sound of people talking. However, active noise-canceling technology isn’t as useful in this case as passive noise blocking. After all, the former is generally better at canceling out continuous sounds rather than those that naturally ebb and flow.

Active noise control requires several components. A microphone that picks up surrounding sounds, a machine that inverts said frequencies, and speakers that then play the opposite sounds back to you. As a feature in a pair of headphones, active noise control should function even without music.

Even then, there’ll be a small delay between the original sound and the playback of the opposite frequencies. It usually takes a moment to invert the original audio recording. That’s why the technology isn’t very effective at blocking out the sound of human speech as it is too unpredictable. Still, it can be incredibly helpful in vehicles, since the sound of traffic is more consistent.

Still, ANC can have a moderate amount of success in blocking the sound of speech. For example, it’s more likely to work if you’re trying to muffle your coworker’s distant droning as long as the frequency is under 1,000 Hz. However, if someone is talking animatedly right next to you, it’ll be less effective. That’s where passive noise blocking comes in.

Passive noise canceling relies on physically closing the ear off by either plugging or surrounding it with foam. That’s why you need to look for earbuds or over-ear headphones if you want to mute a conversation. With that being said, let’s talk about the best types of headphones for blocking out voices.

The Best Types of Headphones to Block Out Voices

As we have established, active noise-canceling technology isn’t exactly necessary for blocking voices. It may even be an unnecessary expense — though all of the products I’ll recommend later do have it in some form or another. Before we get into the reviews, though, let’s take a moment to talk about the best types of headphones you could use to block out voices.

Earbuds or In-Ear Headphones

Having previously explained the benefits of using in- and over-ear headphones, I won’t bother going in-depth about them again. However, I will reiterate some of my main points about these two types of headphones.

If you’re used to wearing in-ear headphones, you should make sure to get the kind that has flexible tips. The silicon will bend to the inner contours of your ears, creating an airtight seal. That should eliminate any chance of you picking up surrounding sounds, including voices, allowing you to enjoy whatever you’re listening to.

Of course, plastic earbuds that cling to the external part of the ear usually aren’t as comfortable as the kind that dip inside the ear canal. More to the point, they can’t really provide the physical barrier you need.

Over-Ear Headphones

Many people find in-ear headphones of any kind extremely uncomfortable. They usually prefer the passive noise blocking they get from over-ear headphones. However, if you’re going to be shopping for your headphones online, the difference between on- and over-ear headphones may not be obvious.

Ultimately, having a ring of foam around your ears is much more effective at blocking noise than simply having the foam press against your ear. So you’ll want to look for products that are described as around- or over-ear headphones.

While we’re on the subject, I should note that some over-head headphones are better at preventing noise from reaching your ears than others. In addition to high-quality foam, you’ll also want to get a pair of closed-back headphones as opposed to open-back ones. The latter kind is recognizable by the holes on the outside shell of the earpads. Since those openings are usually where outside noise sneaks in, you should focus on finding headphones with a smooth outer shell.

6 Best Noise-Canceling Headphones to Block Out Voices

If you’ve been looking for the best headphones to block out voices, you may already have expectations of this list. However, in the interest of not repeating myself, I’ve opted to leave out some significant contenders. If you believe I missed an important product, you may find my thoughts on it in one of my previous articles.

1. Mpow H5 Active Noise-Canceling Headphones

If you’re looking for noise-canceling headphones on a budget, there are several brands you could check out. Mpow is one I’ve recommended before — it manufactures headsets, earplugs, and a wide range of other products. The company’s H5 headphones have some high-end features despite their low price point. Most notably, they have an active noise control feature.

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Now, as you know, that doesn’t necessarily mean much when it comes to blocking out voices. Still, the soft over-ear cushioning should provide an additional advantage — even though the headphones technically have an open back. The three slits are minimal, but they’ll provide a convenient point of entry for your coworker’s shrill laughter.

The protein padding that surrounds the 40 mm speaker drivers is also present to a lesser extent on the underside of the foldable headband. You’ll find the power button, volume keys, and Micro USB charging port on the right earpad and the active noise control switch on the left. The headphones also have a microphone you can use for telephone calls.

The battery will last for about 30 hours before needing to be recharged, but you’ll also be able to use them with an audio cable when the battery is low. The jack is on the same side as the ANC switch. However, a Bluetooth connection will give you greater freedom of movement as long as you stay within 33 feet from your streaming device.

Features:

  • Wireless over-ear headphones
  • Built-in active noise control
  • Up to 30 hours of listening time
  • Comes with an audio cable, a charging cord, and a travel bag

2. Srhythm NC25 Over-Ear Foldable Noise-Canceling Headphones

Srhythm may not be the first brand you think of when you want to get new headphones. However, the NC25 model is a fantastic choice for those who are looking for decent sound reproduction and noise blocking at a low price.

Overall, these headphones are pretty similar to the ones we’ve just discussed. They have active noise control, which is accessible through the control panel on the outer shell of the right earpad. Meanwhile, the 3.5mm audio jack and micro USB charging port are both in the usual spot on the underside of the same speaker. The product comes with a carrying case, a 23-inch charging cord, and a 40-inch audio cable, as well as an aircraft adapter.

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The speakers themselves have 40mm stereo drivers surrounded by comfortable yet lightweight foam that goes around the user’s ears. The headband is also padded, in addition to being infinitely adjustable. You can extend it as well as rotate the speakers in several ways for storing purposes.

The wireless headphones can achieve a full charge within an hour or two, which will then give you about 16 hours of listening time. You’ll also be able to use the headphones for hands-free calling if you connect them to your Google Assistant or Siri app. Lastly, if you’re not too keen on the classic black option, you’ll also be able to get this product in coral or mint. However, the accompanying accessories will still be black.

Features:

  • Wireless over-ear headphones
  • Built-in active noise control
  • Up to 16 hours of listening time
  • Comes with an audio cable, a charging cord, an adapter, and a carrying case

3. Mixcder E9 Active Noise-Canceling Wireless Headphones

Coming from another lesser-known brand, Mixcder’s E9 foldable wireless headphones are a real gem. The closed-back headphones have dual 40mm drivers that ensure excellent audio reproduction as well as active noise control that should eliminate most low-frequency sounds. Yet, as always, if you’re trying to block out voices, you’ll probably want to look for good compression.

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Fortunately, you’ll find plenty of firm yet comfortable memory-protein foam surrounding those speakers. The underside of the headband is also padded for comfort, except for the bits on the side which allow you to twist the speakers before putting the headphones away.

The volume controls, micro USB charging port, as well as the power key are all on the underside of the left earpad. On the right, you’ll find only the active noise control switch and the audio jack.

Even though the audio cable would allow you to use these headphones whenever you want, their fast-charging feature will get you up and running (wirelessly) within minutes. Apparently, a five minutes’ charge should give you about 2 hours of battery life. Within an hour, the headphones will have enough power to deliver 35 hours of playback.

Unlike the other products I’ve mentioned, this one doesn’t use Bluetooth 4.2, opting for the 5.0 version instead. That basically means that the connection will be a bit faster and more stable with devices that also use the same system. Bluetooth 5.0 grants you more freedom of movement as well, so you’ll be able to get more than 30 feet away from the streaming device.

Features:

  • Fast-charging over-ear headphones
  • Built-in active noise control
  • Up to 35 hours of listening time
  • Comes with an audio cable, a charging cord, and a carrying case

4. COWIN E7 Active Noise-Canceling Over-Ear Bluetooth Headphones

Even though I hadn’t come across COWIN products before, the company is more popular than I’d imagined. It has products across all price ranges, though in the end, I found myself having to pick between three equally great contenders. In the end, I’ve decided to present its E7 model, though I could also wholeheartedly recommend its successor, the E8 headphones, as well as the understated SE7 design. But when all products are at such a high level of quality, the choice comes down to appearance.

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Fortunately, that’s one area COWIN’s E7 headphones excel in, mostly because of the chrome detailing in the design. In addition to the classic black and white options, you’ll be able to choose between five cheery colors — blue, yellow, red, green, and purple. Better still, the chrome elements aren’t all for show, either. The triangles on the back of the speakers allow you to control the volume and use the ANC feature.

The firm compression of the protein ear padding should eliminate any remaining external noise. When you add music into the mix, you’ll be completely protected from any surrounding sounds! The headphones should last for about 30 hours on a single charge, though you’ll also be able to use them with an audio cable even when you drain the battery. However, as is often the case, the microphone may only be functional when the headphones are in Bluetooth mode.

Features:

  • Over-ear headphones with NFC and Bluetooth connectivity
  • Built-in active noise control
  • Up to 30 hours of listening time
  • Comes with an audio cable and a charging cord

5. Bose Over-Ear Wireless Headphones 700

Even though we’ve seen several budget-friendly products that could help you get rid of the sound of peoples’ chatter, there’s a reason premium options cost as much as they do. You really can’t put a price on that kind of quality, especially when it’s paired with an impressive reputation. Bose practically invented noise-canceling headphones so the company’s current success was to be expected.

At first glance, the Bose 700 headphones look sleek yet understated. However, once you start paying attention to the details, you’ll see why so many people like them.  As evidenced by the slanted shape of the earpads and the softness of the padding, these headphones were designed with comfort in mind. Thanks to the stainless steel headband, they also provide just enough pressure to achieve the passive noise blocking effect we explained earlier.

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As for active noise control, this model offers a much more fine-tuned experience than any of the previous ones. Namely, you’ll be able to select one of 11 levels of noise canceling, giving you complete control over your environment.

The headphones are also optimized for the Google Assistant app, which is accessible with the press of a button. Of course, the same maneuver should also give you access to Alexa.

Overall, this model should perform perfectly for about 20 hours on a single charge. As with previous models on this list, though, you’ll be able to convert them into a wired pair with an audio cable.

Features:

  • Wireless over-ear headphones
  • Eleven levels of noise canceling
  • Up to 20 hours of listening time
  • Comes with an audio cable, a charging cord, and a travel case

6. Sony Wireless Over-Ear Noise-Canceling Headset

Lastly, I wanted to showcase a pair of headphones from another industry leader — Sony! The company’s WH-1000XM3 model is a wireless headset with a built-in mic that enables you to make phone calls and access the voice assistant app of your choice. If I had to compare this product to one we’ve already discussed, it would probably be the Mixcder unit. Both have a fast-charging feature, though Sony’s seems more impressive, giving you five hours of playback after a 10-minute charge.

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Interestingly, the Micro USB charging port on this device isn’t at the bottom of the earpad shell. While an interesting change of pace, its position on the top edge of the shell may be somewhat detrimental in certain weather conditions. Then again, we’re going to assume that most users would cover their heads with hoods or umbrellas if it started raining.

These headphones have another unique feature — a quick attention mode. You’ll be able to access it by covering the right ear cup with your hand, which should result in a lowered audio volume, allowing you to talk to people without even taking the headphones off. The back of the right ear cup is actually your control panel. Swipe to the sides to change songs and adjust the volume, and tap to activate your phone’s voice assistant.

Features:

  • Fast-charging wireless over-ear headphones
  • Active noise control and quick attention mode
  • Up to 35 hours of listening time
  • Comes with an audio cable, a charging cord, an adapter plug, and a travel case

Alternatives to Headphones for Blocking Out Speech

If none of the products I’ve mentioned in this or previous articles are your thing, there are other things that could block or mask the jabbering.

Earplugs and Earmuffs

Music goes a long way to muffle human speech, even without active noise control and passive noise canceling. However, if you’d rather listen to the sound of silence, there are two products you might find useful. Namely, you could always opt for earplugs or earmuffs — or double up and use both!

These are particularly great options if you’re worried about damaging your hearing. Still, because of the lack of ANC, you might only end up muffling the sound of whoever you’re trying to avoid. So you might still prefer to use one of the headphones I’ve mentioned.

White Noise

In my article about devices you could use to create a good sleeping environment, I mentioned white noise machines. They wouldn’t block out the sound of a human voice, particularly one that’s on the higher end of the spectrum. However, they might trick you into paying less attention to it.

As a mix of all humanly perceptible frequencies, white noise should be able to mask pretty much any sound. Theoretically, every note you can hear is also contained in white noise, so it should blend right in.

Now, there’s a wide range of products you could use to get this noise. On the one hand, you have mechanical and electrical white noise machines. On the other, some machines, such as white noise fans, can produce a similar sound. But if you want to test this theory before buying another gadget, you could just find a white noise track on YouTube.

You could even use a mix of nature sounds or ambient noises to achieve a similar effect. However, those don’t have the kind of scientific support white noise has.

Soundproofing Techniques

Lastly, if the voice you’re trying to block out is coming from outside of the room you’re in, you could try some soundproofing techniques. If you’re working on a budget, start with some of the cheaper solutions I’ve explained here. However, if you have time and resources to spare, you might want to check out one of my more comprehensive guides.

Enjoy Your Tunes While Blocking Out the Chatter

Ultimately, the best defense against any Chatty Cathy in your vicinity requires a three-pronged approach. Of course, active noise-canceling technology is pretty much an optional step. After all, it can only handle frequencies between 50 and 1,000 Hz, so your defense could even be two-pronged.

Passive noise blocking — having a physical barrier between the sound and your ears — can make all the difference. On top of that, music can be the final wall any external noise will have to go through. So if you still end up hearing voices through these headphones — they may be coming from inside your head!

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