If you’re looking to screen out unwanted noise on the airplane or other loud environments so you can concentrate on the tunes, normal headphones won’t cut it—you often have to crank the volume up so loud, it becomes unpleasant (and could damage your hearing).

What you want are active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones, such as the TaoTronics TT-BH060 ($70 at Amazon). They’re super comfortable, affordable, and while not they won’t eliminate noise entirely, they do reduce the most tiring portions of the spectrum. But these aren’t the best choice if you want great sound in addition to active noise cancellation.

How active noise canceling works

If you’re not familiar with noise cancellation, here’s how it works. The headphones record ambient noise, reverse its phase, and then play that sound back along with the original noise. Waves being pulses of sound, they take each other out of the equation when similar frequencies collide going the opposite direction (the phase) given the same amplitude (volume). Indeed, pro sound consoles have phase-flip and mono-summing switches that let audio engineers check for this very phenomenon.

In active noise-canceling headphones, microphones record the ambient noise, and then the phase is inverted and added to the mix of what you’re hearing. How well it works depends on the speed and accuracy of the hardware. Nearly all noise-canceling headphones are also of a closed-back design, so they also passively reduce the amount of ambient sound that reaches your ear drums. 

Design and specs

The TT-BH060 boast an impressive physical design. They’re a closed-back model, of course, and they have very comfortably padded on both the ear cups and the headband. In that aspect, they’re better than the $100 Sony MDR-7506 (non noise canceling) that I normally use. They’re also light in weight at 7.7 ounces.

The TT-BH060 happened to fit my head and ears perfectly right out of their carrying case. This obviously won’t happen with everyone, but they are easily adjustable via the usual sliding mechanisms for each side. The cups fold up so they fit in the provided case.

The volume up/down rocker is on the bottom of the right cup, along with the Bluetooth pair/power button, ANC on/off switch, 3.5mm jack for hardwired use, and dual microphones for the noise-cancellation work. The left cup is home to another mic and the Micro-USB port for charging the battery.

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The TaoTronics TT-BH060’s come nicely packaged with a carrying case and the required cables for charging and hardwired use.

TaoTronics includes both a non-data Micro-USB charging cable and a three-foot 3.5mm male-to-male analog stereo audio cable with a straight-line plug on one end and a right-angle on the other. The TT-BH060’s also support Bluetooth 5.0 with it’s advanced power savings and more reliable streaming. This of course requires a Bluetooth 5.0 transmitter at the source, although they are backward compatible with earlier versions.

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