Overhead Headphones: What to look out for

This is not a running review. Overhead headphones are not your best choice if you are looking for something to work out with. But, they are the king of all audio devices. Even if you like the convenience of earbuds, the importance of owning a good quality pair of headphones cannot be denied. With so many products on the market, what features should you be looking out for when buying a new pair of headphones? What products do we like here at RunWay? Read on to find out.
The best noise cancelling headphones to shut out the world
What are the things to look out for when buying overhead headphones?
Active Noise Cancellation

Active noise cancellation is a technology which uses small microphones on the outside of your headphones to monitor the surroundings. The headphones then convert this sound to a frequency and play the negative of this frequency in to your ears, at the same time as the your chosen audio. The result is a blocking out of the sounds in your surroundings. Some companies have managed to perfect technology this better than others, so although many products offer this feature, not all products which offer this feature are equal.

Size and Storage

Secondly, we here at RunWay believe that the product should be friendly to your storage space. Overhead headphones tend to be bulky. Yes, they may all fold in some way or another, but that doesn’t necessarily reduce the amount of room it takes up in your backpack.

Battery Life

Last but not least is battery life. Since most high end headphones that are released today are bluetooth enabled, it is of utmost importance that the battery lasts long enough that you do not have to charge it more often than you charge your phone. Although this has been an issue in the past with wireless overhead headphones, most modern products are pushing the boundaries in terms of one-charge-playtime. 20 hours of playtime is not uncommon nowadays.

NFC Pairing

Near Field Communication is a technology embedded in many bluetooth products which allows one to pair two devices which are NFC enabled simply by touching the devices off one another. This is particularly useful if you plan on using your headphones with more than one device regularly.

On-Device Controls

Companies have been using this feature to get a one up on each other since the invention of wireless headphones. Some opt for buttons, other opt for touch gestures. You might think that touch gestures are more clumsy than buttons, but you can think again. We here at RunWay have had no issues with the Sony WH1000x M3 which is one such device.

Audio Quality

Nowadays, when a company releases a new product in the world of personal audio, we don’t really discuss the audio quality. When Beats Audio were the king of headphones, you would often hear about how music was being massacred by the bass heavy headphones. We have reached a point where, unless you are a true audiophile, it is difficult to tell the difference between one brand and another. Plus, most wireless headphones on the market can be heavily personalised through purpose built apps. You can do your own audio equalisation, should you find the factory settings to be too heavy on the bass or treble.

So which high-end products do we think do all of these jobs well?

Having tested products from all of the major players in the personal audio world, form Bose to Beats, from Skullcandy to Sony, we have picked some products which we love and broken them down them for you.

Sony WH-1000x M3
£255/€285/$310

With the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa built in, Sony’s flagship headphones, the WH-1000x M3, have become the product to beat. Out of all of our product tests, the Active Noise Cancellation on these headphones is the most advanced by far. It is good enough to completely block out your surroundings on a busy train or in an airplane cabin. The headphones also have a solid 30 hours of playtime from a single charge, and benefit from USB-C quick charging. Read our post about the Sony WH-1000x M3 here.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II
£250/€280/$305

Bose have long been the premium audio device company, and in general, their products top the market. The Bose QuietComfort range of headphones may not stand up to the Sony WH-1000x M3 in some regards, but in other areas the Bose QuietComfort 35ii is the better choice. For example, the Bose QC35ii have considerably larger ear cups which surround the ear entirely. They also fold in to a smaller shape for storage, as both ear cups fold inwards in comparison to the WH1000x M3 folding just one cup. However, from one charge, you will only get 20 hours of playback compared to the 30 hours offered by Sony’s WH1000x M3. They also use the older Micro USB cable which leads to a slower charge time.

Microsoft Surface Headphones 2
£240/€267/$291

Microsoft are relatively new to the hardware side of the tech industry, but they have made a huge investment in creating the Microsoft Surface range of products, ranging from the moderately priced Surface Pro tablets to lavish Surface Hubs. We here at RunWay are major fans of the Microsoft Surface range.

Lately, Microsoft have been making a mark in the headphone industry. They have cut no corners with the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2, and when compared to their predecessor, they’re much more moderately priced. Their active noise cancellation stands up to the Bose and Sony flagship headphones, but unfortunately they do not fold (at all) and their audio quality is not quite up to the same standard as the other brands. The thing that puts these headpones on our list of noteworthy products is multi-point pairing, which allows you to be using your headphones with your laptop and your phone at the same time. These headphones are clearly made for those of us who use our headphones for work and pleasure.

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