Best Noise Isolating Earbuds and Over Ear Headphones [2018 Reviews]

Noise Isolation Earbuds
Noise Isolation Earbuds (Close up of eartips)

The isolation performance of the best noise isolating earbuds is largely due to the design of the housing, nozzle and most importantly – the eartips. The seal that the earbuds create around your ear canal determines in large part how much ambient sound the earbuds will keep from leaking in.

Earbuds with a more comfortable and tight seal offer a better level of noise isolation. Aside from music, good noise isolating earbuds can work well as earplugs when you just want to protect your ears from high workplace noise levels or noisy surroundings that keep you from being able to hear without having to crank your volume up to MAX.

We’ve rounded up several pairs of earbuds that not only sound good and have the sound signature you prefer, but also have stellar noise isolation. While closed back over-ear headphones were better known for isolation quality due to the large earcups, but in recent years several models of earbuds have come on the market that also have very good noise isolation.

As per readers requests, we’ve recently added several noise isolating over-ear headphones in addition to some new earbud picks for 2018.

If you are looking for a quick recommendation, our top overall pick for earbuds are these Shure SE215-K, while in the headphone category we picked the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x for best noise isolation. See below for detailed reviews and several other options including more high end options if you budget can allow for it.

Here are all our top picks for both earbuds and headphones that have high quality noise isolation.


Best Noise Isolating Earbuds

1. Etymotic Research MC5

Etymotic Research MC5 Noise-Isolating In-Ear Earphones
The MC5 With The Included Tri-flange Bud Tip For Noise Isolation

The Etymotic Research MC5 earbuds come with a lot of accessories including triple-flange silicone eartips, foam eartips and Etymotic Glider eartips. A set of filters and tools are also supplied along with nice carrying case.

Etymotic Research MC5 Noise-Isolating In-Ear Earphones
MC5 Noise-Isolating Earbud Packaging

The MC5 has a great build quality for the price. Though they are entirely plastic, they don’t feel cheap! They are lightweight and the cables are Kevlar reinforced which makes them resistant to tangles and knots. When you wrap the cord around your ear, following the over-the-ear style, no microphonics are present.

This style of earbuds are sometimes called earplug headphones and the noise isolation of this set in particular works at its best when using the included tri-flange eartips. Whether you are on a plane, a train, a busy street, or just at home with a noisy television, these headphones can block  35-42 dB of ambient noise. You really couldn’t get a better set of headphones than this for the price.

The MC5 earbuds are also very comfortable to wear. Note that this comfort depends on the type of eartips being used. You can always find the best pair for you from an array of eartips both included and on the market. The slim and lightweight housings help add to the comfort, and even though these headphones have large dynamic drivers, Etymotic still keeps their headphone size as tiny as possible.

Etymotic Research MC5 Noise-Isolating In-Ear Earphones
Tri-flange Tip Included For Maximum Noise Cancellation

Sound quality is varied a bit when you change eartips from one type to another. Foam and glider eartips are both comfortable, but they can degrade the sound in different ways. Foam tips make the treble less announced while gliders enhance the harshness.

For the best noise isolation and audio performance, the tri-flange eartips should be used. These are the first earbuds from Etymotic that utilize dynamic drivers. The bass is crisp but doesn’t make a big impact like typical bassy earbuds that generally retail for less than $100.

Bass response is not well extended, so if you play heavy bass music they remain relatively calm. The MC5 headphones are very well balanced sounding  earbuds. However, they seem not to focus heavily on any single part of the mid-range where you hear the sound clearly and they tune the detail well. I found at this range they sound quite similar to another set of bass enhanced earbuds, the Sony MDRXB50AP. T

he treble in the MC5 is gently, not lusty. This sound wouldn’t be appealing for those who like sparkling and crisp treble.

Lastly, the MC5 offer a wide soundstage but a quality of deepth it is still missing somehow.

Pros:

  • Great noise isolation
  •  Good build quality
  • Reasonably clear sound
  • Balanced sounding profile and accurate treble

Cons:

  • Tri-flange eartips may not be comfortable, but they provide excellent noise isolation

2. Shure SE215 Noise Isolating Earbuds

Shure SE215-K Sound Isolating Earphones
The Shure SE215 Earphones Can Reduce The Outside Noise Up To 37 dB

Another set great at isolating sound are the Shure SE215 which are bigger in size and offer more quality of bass than MC5. Some users say are less comfortable because you can only wear them over-the-ear. There is a rubber loop which wraps around your ears starting at the end of each curved earpiece.

The bass of the SE215 earbuds is generally strong and deep, but doesn’t make a huge impact like the Sony MDR XB90EX. The mid-range tends to be warm and detailed. This is well balanced with the bass so that you feel the sound is evenly focused over these 2 ranges.

Like almost all earbuds with dynamic driver, the SE215’s treble is not too energetic or well isolated. If you crank up the volume they still sound pleasant without distortion, but the sound details won’t be improved at a higher volume.

To increase the noise isolation, you can buy aftermarket eartips like the triple flange sleeves to replace the ones that come with the SE215 earbuds.

Pros:

  • High noise isolating capacity
  • Solid sound performance
  • Well-controlled and powerful bass

Cons:

  • Bulky and heavy cable and connectors

3. Shure SE535-CL Sound Isolating Earphones with Triple Drivers

Shure SE535-CL Sound Isolating Earphones with Triple High Definition MicroDrivers, 4.5 x 3.2 x 4.5 inches ; 8 ounces

Review: This is our top high End Noise Isolating pick

The Shure SE535-CL Earphones come in two versions, the metallic bronze one, and the transparent plastic casing version. If you are one of those tech geeks that adore that type of aesthetics for your electronic gadgets then you are in for a treat with the SE535-CL earphones.

Shure, as expected, incorporated the over the ear design with this earphone which helps avoid tangles and microphonics (noises made when the microphone brushes against a surface). The Kevlar reinforced cable used is also quite rigid which made it a bit awkward at first but was necessary to achieve the improved durability.

The SE535 drivers also saw some upgrades. They are more compact when compared to previous drivers which allow them to fit better in the ear. If you like listening to your tunes in bed then the compact design of the SE535 will surely give you the comfort you need.

The overall triple driver system remains the same in terms of positioning. You get 2 woofers taking care of the low and mid-range while a tweeter is specifically used for mixing high-end frequencies.

The patented Shure quality remains intact here with its consistent sound producing on both left and right earpiece. The right sound goes through the correct driver.

The Shure SE535-CL also manages to avoid common shortcomings such as sound distortion. While the bass isn’t as explicit or powerful, I highly prefer accuracy rather than power when it comes to my music. Mid-range frequency also maintains its detailed reproduction even when the volume is pushed to the max.

Key Features:

  • Tried and tested triple high-def micro driver system.
  • Comfortable and ergonomic design.
  • Optimized for sound isolation.
  • Compact and lightweight.
  • Comes with a detachable 3.5mm cable (clear), carry case, volume control, airline adapter, and ¼ inch adapter.

Our Rating:

  • Sound Quality: 9/10
  • Bass: 9/10
  • Build Quality/Design: 9/10
  • Fit/Comfort: 9/10
  • Battery Life: n/a
  • Connectivity (Bluetooth stability): n/a
  • Who else is this good for?

If you have the budget and prefer something that delivers the best in terms of earphone noise isolation and audio quality, you can’t go wrong with the Shure SE535-CL Earphone. In terms of overall in-ear headphone quality, few can match up to what Shure SE535-CL can deliver. You won’t be disappointed with this headphone, that’s for sure.


4. ISOtunes Pro Bluetooth Earplug Headphones Review

ISOtunes PRO Bluetooth Earplug Headphones, 27 dB Noise Reduction Rating, 10 Hour Battery, Noise Cancelling Mic, OSHA Compliant Bluetooth Hearing Protector (Safety Orange)
ISOtunes PRO Noise Reduction Earbuds

The orange and black color palette of the ISOtunes Pro Bluetooth Earplug Headphones is definitely one of its initial striking features. There is also the overall size of the earphones which was undoubtedly larger than your standard earplugs. Fortunately, the design and construction of the ISOtunes made it lighter and more comfortable to wear.

The ISOtune Pro uses high-quality plastic for durability and for its lighter weight. The memory wire also allows users to wrap it around your ears without causing any discomfort. The ISOtune Pro is also IPX4 water and sweatproof making it a great choice for outdoor use.

It comes with a remote control located at the right-side wire that allows you to adjust volume, play, rewind, fast-forward, pause, and answer incoming calls.

As for the sound quality of this headphone, it produces clear quality with mids to highs audio and produces heart-thumping bass with relative ease. The audio quality benefits greatly from the ISOtune Pro’s impressive noise isolation capability. It achieves this with the help of the Comply ear tip which completely plugs off your ears from ambient sound. These are some of the best eartips on the market and our top brand pick for replacement earbud tips

Due to its wireless Bluetooth connectivity capability, one of the most important aspects here would be its battery life. The ISOtune Pro can keep you company for up to 10 hours in with one full charge. Volume level will play a big part in its battery life, I suggest you keep the volume between 50% to 70% for optimum battery life.

Key Features:

  • Bluetooth (4.1) wireless connectivity
  • 10-hour continuous battery life.
  • 27 dB noise reduction rating.
  • aptX High definition audio playback.
  • Noise isolating microphone.
  • IPX4 water and sweatproof.
  • Memory wire for a comfortable fit.

Our Rating:

  • Sound Quality: 9/10
  • Bass: 9/10
  • Build Quality/Design: 9/10
  • Fit/Comfort: 9/10
  • Battery Life: 9.5/10
  • Connectivity (Bluetooth stability): 10/10

Who else is this good for?

The ISOtune Pro offers amazing noise reduction and is sweat and waterproof. It is also lightweight, comfortable, stable, and wireless. All of this makes it a great choice for outdoor enthusiasts who loves to listen to tunes outside. It can also be a good choice for those who work in construction or factories as it is non-cumbersome. Sound quality is quite impressive and can handle music from all genre types as well.

Pros:

  • Reasonable price.
  • Well-made and comfortable to wear.
  • Comply earbuds allow for greater noise isolation.
  • Delivers good sound quality from mids and highs to powerful bass.
  • Comes with a 30-day guarantee.

Cons:

  • Bluetooth connectivity is not 100% stable as the range is rather short.

5. RHA T20 Dual Coil Hi-Fi Noise-Isolating In-Ear Earbuds Review

RHA T20 (Gen. 2): DualCoil HiFi Noise Isolating Stainless Steel In-Ear Headphones with Tuning Filters When it comes to overall construction quality, RHA has already built a pretty solid reputation for itself. The jack is manufactured using custom machine metal which is then securely attached to an extended cable.

The cable itself is made from an impressive strain resistant material. The cable features a sort of memory wire feature that prevents it from bending at strange angles and helps it regain its original position.

The RHA T20 headphones also come with their signature 3-year warranty which goes to show you how confident the manufacturer is with the quality of their product. The sound isolation of the RHA T20 is also nothing to balk at. Its sound isolating capability is quite impressive on its own but further improves when you use the Comply tips included with the set.

As for sound quality, you can expect it to be on par with the construction quality of the headphone. I found everything to be fairly on the middle ground. While not the most exact and detailed headphone, which is to be expected with an earbud type, it still manages to deliver a solid performance.

The highs and mids are surprisingly detailed even when pushed to the maximum volume. The sound is also more precise with a clear and crisp impression no matter the musical genre.

Key Features:

  • Dual coil dynamic drivers.
  • Stainless steel earpiece construction.
  • Ear hook design for better stability and comfort.

Our Rating:

  • Sound Quality: 8.5/10
  • Bass: 8.5/10
  • Build Quality/Design: 8/10
  • Fit/Comfort: 8.5/10
  • Battery Life: N/A
  • Connectivity (Bluetooth stability): N/A

Who else is this good for?

The T20 is a great choice for those who prefer lightweight noise isolating earphones rather than their bulkier and heavier headphone counterpart. I would recommend this in-ear headphone to music lovers who are not too nit-picky with their sound quality and prefer something extremely lightweight and comfortable with solid noise isolation capabilities. I’m not saying that the T20 offers subpar audio quality, far from it. It still manages to hold its own but doesn’t expect it to match up with high-end headphones.

Pros:

  • Impressive construction using stainless steel shell casing enhances overall durability.
  • Surprisingly rich and detailed sound.
  • Significant improvements from the T10 model.

Cons:

  • Cables are not detachable.

Best Noise Isolating Over-Ear Headphones

1. Beyerdynamic DT770 M80 Ohm Closed Monitoring Headphones Review

 Beyerdynamic DT 770 M 80 Ohm closed Monitoring HeadphonesThe Beyerdynamic DT770M is an iteration of the consumer favorite DT770 model. This headphone is quite popular with drummers as well as sound engineers who monitor in a mid to high noise traffic environment. In terms of aesthetics, the DT770M is quite similar to other DT770 models with its use of pleather earpads and an in-line control volume.

The construction is as solid as you would expect from the DT770 series. However, I would like to note that the earpads appear to be shallower and I felt it got quite hot in there incredibly easy. I also felt the in-line volume control made the headphones a tad bulkier than needed. The in-line controller is also made from plastic and the buttons have that cheap plastic tactile feedback.

The DT770M is specifically designed to stop ambient noise from bleeding in. The large earpads help form a cup that is almost airtight and blocks outside noise quite well. Of course, as I have stated earlier this design also made wearing this headphone quite hot. While the pleather earpads are quite durable, I would even state that it is made from better quality material compared to other earpads, it will not last forever. Fortunately, the earpads are replaceable in the event that it starts to show signs of wear and tear.

As expected from a Beyerdynamic headphone, the DT770M delivers exceptional sound quality. It can produce exceptional sound quality when paired with mid and high range audio. Bass heavy songs can overpower the overall quality but not too much that it ruins your listening pleasure. As long as you understand that this is a budget-friendly headphone then your expectations will be met accordingly.

Key Features:

  • 80 Ohm headphones.
  • Noise isolation of 35 dBA
  • Comfortable and replaceable earpads.

Our Rating:

  • Sound Quality: 8.5/10
  • Bass: 9/10
  • Build Quality/Design: 8/10
  • Fit/Comfort: 8.5/10
  • Battery Life: n/a
  • Connectivity (Bluetooth stability): n/a

Who else would this be good for?

Due to its noise isolating feature, this type of headphone is a great choice for people who plan to edit and monitor music in a noisy public area. It is also a good fit for drummers who prefer to completely shut off ambient noise during the performance.

Pros:

  • Active noise isolation.
  • Earpads completely cover ears in an airtight manner.
  • Earpads can be replaced.
  • Comes with an in-line volume control.
  • A safe choice for all music genres.

Cons:

  • It focuses primarily on noise isolation feature with other features pushed behind.
  • Will require an amp for optimum audio quality.

2. Sennheiser HD25 Professional DJ Headphones Review

Sennheiser HD 25 Professional DJ Headphone with SLAPPA SL-HP-07 HardBody PRO Case As these are German made you can expect it to be extremely sturdy, and it is. One of the biggest aspect of this headphone you will surely notice is its amazingly practical design.

It does not come with any flashy bells and whistles, instead, it focused on giving the consumer the bare bone functionalities at peak quality performance. In short, the Sennheiser HD25 is all about performance rather than style.

The HD25 is surprisingly light for something designed for heavy-duty use. The headphone is made of sturdy plastic and does not feel cheap at all. I do have a little nitpick with its design, primarily its inability to be folded. This is a bulky headphone which is why it is nice that it comes with its own case.

In terms of audio quality, the HD25 delivers just what you would expect from a high-end headphone. It delivers top-notch quality sound and a perfect partner for monitoring and audio mixing. The bass quality is on point with mids and highs exceptionally clear and detailed.

Sennheiser HD25 accomplishes this feat in audio quality thanks mainly to the neodymium ferrous magnet system that it uses. This system allows for optimum balance in tones and can perfectly separate instrument audio in a clear and precise manner. Its ability to give listeners the ability to analyze every single nuance in an audio makes it a great choice for mixers, DJs, and sound engineers.

Key Features:

  • Up to 30 dB noise isolation rating.
  • Closed-back earcups for optimum ambient noise reduction.
  • Adjustable padded headbands for comfort with any head size.
  • Comes with durable headphone case.

Our Rating:

  • Sound Quality: 9.5/10
  • Bass: 9/10
  • Build Quality/Design: 9.5/10
  • Fit/Comfort: 9/10
  • Battery Life: N/A
  • Connectivity (Bluetooth stability): N/A

Who else is this good for?

Due to its functionalities and performance, the Sennheiser HD25 is an ideal choice for professionals in the music industry. I would suggest casual music listeners skip on this as it might be overkill in terms of its features and price tag. This is a great noise isolating headphone for the audiophile who is quite nitpicky with their music and needs to distinguish every single nuance.

Pros:

  • 30 dB noise isolation rating.
  • Top quality performance and durability.
  • Incredibly balanced sound.
  • Classic design and comfortable.

Cons:

  • Quite expensive.
  • Bass can be quite heavy.

3. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones

Review:

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones, Black

The Audio-Technica ATH M50x is the follow up to their ATH-M50 model which is designed with professionals in mind. The ATH M50x is a more user-friendly iteration seeing as the original model was already a popular choice for both professional and casual audiophiles alike.

The M50x doesn’t differ greatly with the original version in terms of price. It does come with interchangeable cables and an easier to use interface without removing the features that made the original a hit.

In terms of style, the ATH-M50x looks pretty good and gives off that heavy-duty professional vibe. The headband is rather bulky but it fits perfectly snug over your head that it’s not much of an issue.

This noise-isolating headphone has 2.5mm sockets but as it uses twist lock mechanism you need to be aware that not all 2.5mm cable will be compatible. When it comes to sound quality, the ATH-M50x is on par with the original version. It offers powerful bass and thick low-end that most headphones can only dream about delivering.

It also offers flexibility in terms of control and a level of separation between the tones to prevent the music from sounding too chaotic. This is a common issue with headphones that deliver powerful bass, not the case with the ATH-M50x.

Key Features:

  • Circumaural earpads contours around the ear for optimum sound isolation.
  • Impressive level of sound clarity designed for professionals but in more user-friendly design approach.
  • 90 degrees swiveling earpad feature makes it more portable.
  • Comes with 1.2m to 3m coiled cable, 3m straight cable, 1.2m straight cable, 6.3m screw-on adapter, and carrying pouch.

Our Rating:

  • Sound Quality: 10/10
  • Bass: 10/10
  • Build Quality/Design: 9/10
  • Fit/Comfort: 8.5/10
  • Battery Life: N/A
  • Connectivity (Bluetooth stability): N/A

Who else is this good for?

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is a reasonably priced high-quality sound isolating headphone that is designed not only for listening but also for use in mixing and monitoring. I also recommend this for gaming and watching movies due to its powerful bass capabilities that will surely help enhance the experience during explosive action sequences.

Pros:

  • Amazingly powerful bass.
  • High-quality separation and stereo imaging capability.
  • A reasonably priced high-end headphone for all types of audiophiles.

Cons:

  • Sound isolation is good but not in the level of other high-end models.

4. 1MORE Triple Driver Over-Ear Noise Isolation Headphones Review

1MORE Triple Driver Over-Ear Headphones Comfortable Foldable Earphones with Hi-Res Hi-Fi Sound, Bass Driven, Tangle-Free Detachable Cable for iPhone/Android/PC/Tablet - H1707 Silver/Titanium The 1MORE Triple Driver delivers multiple drivers installed in each ear cup, something that is commonly found in in-ear headphones. This headphone comes in two versions, the plain black one and the brass outers versions. A nice little aesthetic choice here is that you can see the drivers via the transparent casing.

The triple driver featured in this headphone includes a standard dynamic driver for high frequencies and a bass reflex system for enhanced bass quality. The soundstage of the 1MORE Triple Driver is surprisingly wide for a closed-back headphone. The smooth sound quality is also quite prevalent in the upper mids part.

The bass reflex system also helped improve the bass quality. The Triple Driver can produce powerful thumping bass that is on par with other high-end models while also preventing the bass from completely overtaking other elements of the music.

On the other hand, the treble sound quality falls a bit short when compared to another headphone model like the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x. The 1MORE Triple Driver headphone is a solid inclusion in this list but might fail to capture the attention of casual consumers.

Key Features:

  • Dynamic main driver.
  • Bass reflex system for enhanced bass sound quality.
  • Piezoceramic treble driver.
  • Detachable cable.

Our Rating:

  • Sound Quality: 9/10
  • Bass: 9/10
  • Build Quality/Design: 8/10
  • Fit/Comfort: 8.5/10
  • Battery Life: N/A
  • Connectivity (Bluetooth stability):N/A

Who else is this good for?

The 1MORE Triple Driver Headphone takes a different and unusual approach when it comes to their tech which is its main selling point. The multiple driver features for a full-sized headphone is a strange choice and is not a common thing in the market. However, it did manage to give the Triple Driver an edge, specifically the bass reflex system that helps offer balanced sound quality in the mids, highs, and bass factors.

Overall, this is a well-rounded headphone choice for audiophiles who are curious to see how well its triple dynamic system stacks up with the industry standard. It is a matter of personal preference in the end.

Pros:

  • Solid and durable construction.
  • Comfortable fit to any head size.
  • Wide-ranging and rich quality sound.

Cons:

  • There is sound leakage.
  • Some mid-range frequency issues.

How to test the noise isolation

There are 2 methods to measuring noise isolation: Real-Ear-Attenuation-at-Threshold (REAT) and a probe microphone. While the first is commonly used to measure the sound isolation of regular headphones, the latter is used for testing noise cancelling performance.

Note that you should try all sizes of eartips to make sure you’ll get both comfort and proper noise isolation. Too large eartips cause discomfort and too small eartips won’t help achieve good noise isolation because of a loose fit.

If the housings are heavy and long when you shake your head, they will move and loosen up which will give a poor fitting. If the nozzle is not angled ergonomically then the eartips won’t fit well. Tri-flange eartips always provide the best noise isolation, but they are not as comfortable as single-flange eartips.

The term passive noise cancelling refers to this blockage of outside noise because of a secure fit. In contrast, active noise cancelling earbuds have electric circuitry to actively cancel out the noise.

Noise isolating earbuds naturally block most ambient noises for a clear, detailed listening experience. The soft flexible eartips that are included with earbuds provide a secure and snug fit, isolating the outside noise.

Etymotic Research and Shure earbuds have a better noise reduction capacity than most brands out there. Noise isolation earbuds are effective over both low and high frequencies, and they perform better than active noise cancelling earbuds. Another advantage of passive sound isolating earbuds is that they don’t require a battery or digital circuitry, so no hiss sound is present.

The level of noise isolation is measured by the amount of outside noise heard in by decibels (dB), also known as loudness level, at a range of frequency normally from 100Hz to 10kHz.

To get the best sound isolation for your ears you must experiment with different eartips and sort out which ones work best for you and give the proper fit.

Custom in-ear monitors (IEMs) provide the best noise isolation since the eartips are molded to perfectly fit into your ears.  However these IEMs are extremely expensive, priced at least $1000, and typically used at the profession level by singers or speech presenters.

 

3 thoughts on “Best Noise Isolating Earbuds and Over Ear Headphones [2018 Reviews]”

  1. Earbuds and in ear are great for commuters as the sound is in your ear and does not “leak”out to others around you. The real advantages are that these headphones are very portable and kind of hidden within your ears. The Noise Isolating In-Ear Earphones are designed with comfortable ear tips that fit right into your ear, allowing for stability despite constant movement. The isolation also leads to richer sound.

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