There’s a new battle of the best new headphones on the block. What’s the best noise-canceling headphone on the market today? We put the AirPods Pro vs. Echo Buds vs. Bose 700. What are the best noise-canceling headphones for you?
Quick word: I’m not an audiophile. I’m a techy that enjoys great quality sound from my headphones. I travel a lot (noise-canceling in airplanes is very important) and working from home, with two kiddos at home (noise cancellation is even more important!). I won’t be able to dive into the nitty-gritty of audio quality, but I will be able to give you an above-average review of the real-life comparisons between the Amazon Echo Buds vs. Apple AirPods Pro (and the regular AirPods) vs, the Bose 700. Yes, I know that the Bose 700 headphone are over-the-ear headphones and naturally work better, but I talk about that in this review.
What exactly is noise cancellation in headphones?
This is as technical as I’ll get in this review. First, there are two types of noise cancellation: active and passive. Passive is simply removing noise by closing it off (think ear muffs/earplugs) that simply don’t allow the sound to get to your ear.
The Bose 700 Headphones have great passive noise canceling because they are over the ear. The Apple AirPods Pro also has some great passive noise canceling because of the “seal” that it places between new ear tips and your ear canal. The original AirPods don’t have the ear tips that the AirPods Pro have.
Active is more complicated. The simple version is that there is “anti-noise” that is produced that “cancels” out the unwanted noise.
The best-case scenario with active noise canceling is you hear more of what you want and less of what you don’t want to – and you don’t notice the noise canceling. More on that last statement as we dive into the reviews of the AirPods Pro vs. Echo Buds vs. Bose 700 headphones.
Battle of the Noise Cancelling Headphones: What was I looking for?
As mentioned, travel a lot and work from home. Noise Cancelation is extra important with two young ones running around the house and tons of noise in airplanes. Here’s specifically how I use noise-canceling headphones on a daily basis:
- I participate in a ton of Zoom Video Calls: so I need the noise cancellation to block external noise but I also need the microphone to work well
- Quick tip: use Krisp on any video calls – it’s awesome to cancel out noise on your end – and the caller’s end.
- I listen to music a lot when working
- I take phone calls via my iPhone – this is important because I have to switch devices very frequently (jumping from the computer with Zoom and iPhone).
- I listen to Spotify a lot, too, on both my computer and iPhone.
- On the airplane, I usually watch a movie or listen to music on my iPhone while I work.
- I also edit a podcast several times a month.
- I also edit videos for our YouTube Channel frequently.
I only highlight this to give you an idea of the real-world circumstances in which I’ve been testing when comparing the Bose 700 Headphones vs. Echo Buds vs. AirPods Pro.
AirPods Pro: Quick Review
Let me start by saying this: Apple is brilliant with its marketing. Their AirPods Pro website is full of great marketing lines like “Magic like you’ve never heard” and “Charge wirelessly. Use tirelessly.” But what does all the marketing buzz really mean for the everyday user?
To be 100% honest, I bought the Apple AirPods Pro expecting they were going to be 99% hype. I was completely wrong. I was super blown away by the noise cancellation.
I’ll post a full Apple AirPods Review very shortly, but I wanted to make sure I was able to post this comparison together before people were starting to shop for the holiday season.
What’s great about the Apple AirPods Pro:
- The integration with Apple iOS and the Mac EcoSystem is incredible. It’s so easy to pair with your iPhone, especially.
- The sound quality is surprisingly good. There has been a lot of discussions online about if the sound quality is better than the “normal” Apple AirPods. In my opinion, the sound quality is much better (I think partially due to the seal of the ear tips, but more on that in just a second).
- The noise cancellation is about 10x better than what I expected.
- I wear the AirPods Pro a lot more than I wore the original AirPods. The size is simply perfect to wear all the time.
- The AirPods Pro have a great feature called transparency, where you can “click” one of the AirPods and it will use the microphones to let you hear what is going on around you. It’s much easier than taking off your headphones to hear a quick announcement.
What I don’t love about the Apple AirPods Pro:
- The most notable is the price. At $250, they are a high-ticket item (here’s where I’ve found the best deal on the Airpods Pro).
- More on this in a moment, but the Sound Quality isn’t quite on par with the Bose 700 Headphones
- A couple of features, like how to turn up the volume have changed how they work compared to the original AirPods. It is also sometimes hard to “click” the AirPods Pro.
Besides the price, there isn’t much to NOT like about the AirPods Pro.
Amazon Echo Buds: Quick Review
I don’t know if Amazon cleaned it this week but Amazon release the echo but it’s just a few short weeks before Apple released The AirPods Pro. Amazon was clearly going after the AirPods market with its release of the Echo Buds. They were betting on the power of Alexa being a major selling factor.
It’s important to note that Amazon doesn’t bill their headphones as noise-canceling, but active noise reducing. There’s not much written on the difference besides the fact that noise reduction is more of a constant sound you can hear when there is nothing coming through the headphones. Think more of a white noise machine. Noise Cancelling, when done correctly, makes it so you don’t hear anything when the headphones aren’t playing something.
What I like about the Amazon Echo Buds:
- First of all, the price. At $129.99 they are the cheapest on this list.
- The sound quality was decent – not amazing.
- Alexa integration is cool and interesting.
What I didn’t like about the Amazon Echo Buds:
- The noise reduction is not great. On the airplane, these Echo Buds barely worked at all.
- On top of not having noise cancellation, noise reduction was distracting. It sounded like a white noise machine was playing in my ears when there was no music.
- I didn’t like the form of the Echo Buds in my ears. It just seemed awkward how they fit. I never seemed to get them into my ears correctly.
- The lack of integration, like Apple has with the iPhone and AirPods, really hurts Amazon at this point in the game. Having to pair the Echo Buds with both your phone and the Alexa App to work (and having spotty Wi-Fi on the airplane) makes the whole process really clunky.
Bose 700 Headphones Quick Review
Now, I know it’s not fair to compare the Bose 700 vs. Apple AirPods Pro or Amazon Echo Buds. The Bose 700 is the top-of-the-line consumer product Bose makes. It retails for almost $400. But I still wanted to test how the Bose 700 faired with Noise Cancelling, especially compared to the AirPods Pro. I couldn’t find a good answer.
What I like about the Bose 700 Headphones:
- The sound quality is AMAZING. These are, by far, the best in the group.
- The noise-canceling is great. It has the best active AND passive noise canceling available.
- These pair easily with my iPhone and Mac.
- The battery life is great and lasts a full day using heavily.
- They are comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
- The Bose 700 Headphones integrate with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant using the Bose App.
- They are a giant upgrade in terms of noise cancellation over the previous QCII.
What I don’t like about the Bose 700 Headphones:
- The size is my biggest complaint. I used to use the Bose 700 Headphones on Zoom calls, but it looked like I was wearing earmuffs all the time. It also takes up a lot of room in my backpack when I travel.
- I had a ton of problems pairing my Bose 700 Headphones with their new app when it first came out. A ton of problems (and I wasn’t the only one). I had no problems with the Bose QCII I used before. That was frustrating but is now fixed.
If you want the best noise cancellation and sound quality money can buy, and size isn’t an issue, the Bose 700 Headphones are your best bet.
Which headphones do the best job at noise-canceling?
No pair of noise-canceling headphones will block out 100% of the sound. That just doesn’t happen with any of them. If the Bose 700 Headphones block out 90% of sound, I’d say the Apple AirPods Pro block out about 80-85% of sound.
I will continue to use my Bose 700 Headphones when I’m recording/editing videos and podcasts, but I don’t think I will continue to bring them on flights. They are just too big to justify the small difference.