Noise Cancelling Headphone Recommendations, if any?


Active Member
Hi all,

I've been a relatively satisfied in-ear phones user for music listening when out and about for some time (using Shure SE420's and recently upgraded to Shure SE535's).

I am however a pretty geeky audiophile, with some relatively high-end kit elsewhere and know that the sound quality of in-ears around this price range is significantly inferior to that of even similarly-priced over-ear headphones.

The only factor that has kept me using in-ears when out and about has been what seemed to me to be much better external sound isolation. In particular, the expandable foam tips used with the Shure in-ears are incredibly effective, to the extent that I can be walking around town or sat on a train and the background noise is almost like sitting in my living room at home (when the kids aren't there that is!).

My recent upgrade to the Shure SE535's has left me a little frustrated however, as I have tried every type of ear tip available and just can't get the same level of insulation that I could from my trusty old SE420's. I assume because the ear-phones themselves, with the extra driver, are a bit chunkier and don't fit into my ear as well.

In any case (and many appear to disagree when you read around, but..), the improvement in sound quality is not actually that huge in the Shure SE535's as far as I'm concerned. By way of comparison, I have a set of Shure SR940 over-ear headphones, which are similarly priced to the SE535 in-ears (possibly even slightly cheaper) but the sound quality is better in all areas as far as I can hear and by some margin too.

I also have some pretty high-end open-back headphones at home, so I also know how good headphones can sound (when you're in a quiet room that is).

Of course, it doesn't matter how good the sound quality of your headphones are if you're out and about and the background noise interferes!

So, to cut a long story short, I am now considering the replacement of the Shure in-ears for some 'noise-cancelling' on-ear or over-ear headphones.

I know I need to give some a try, but in the first instance, I just wondered what people's views were on how effective you feel active noise cancelling is compared with in-ear sound insulation, before I take the plunge?

Secondly, if anyone has any good noise-cancelling on-ear or over-ear headphone recommendations for under the £200 mark (new or second-hand), then they'd be gratefully received?

Or is alleged 'noise cancelling' never going to be as good as the in-ear insulation and so I stick with the old SE420's!!?

Thanks in advance...

Deleted member 702178

I'm a bit obsessive with isolation in earphones/headphones. I've tried various ANC headphones including the WH-1000XM3 which are supposed to be the best. However I've found them all disappointing and end up going back to my Etymotic in ears which beat them all for isolation and by far for sound quality.


Distinguished Member
Active noise cancelling is never going to be 100% effective, if it was it would affect the sound quality dramatically.
I'm happy with the NC on my Sony WH-1000XM3's which is very effective at blocking the sound from my TV's 2.1 audio system 2 metres away and my wife watching/listening to it 1 metre away.
I think the isolation from a very good seal in in-ear headphones is probably best.


Well-known Member
I would like to get opinions on the Sennheisser PX550, which seems to retail at the same price as the Sennheisser Momentum over ear and now the Sony M3.
I was listening to the PX550 yesterday in a shop and it sounded very good. The Momentum would not operate .


Active Member
Thanks for the posts.

The Etymotics were ones I was very close to purchasing a few years back when I decided on my older Shure SE420's. It seemed back then, all of the higher-end in-ears included claimed SNR values (in dB). SNR is a rating system used for ear defenders for Health & Safety purposes and so does have some degree of status.

The specs for modern in-ears and 'noise-cancelling' headphones don't seem to state this any more (not that I can see anyway?), or indeed any other specification for 'claimed' sound insulation!?

It would be good to see some sort of consistent sound insulation figure quoted on so-called 'noise cancelling' or 'noise isolating' headphones, at least as a starting point.

Without this, in practice, there really is no other way to test, other than going and trying some out, but bearing in mind shops rarely allow you to bring back headphones (especially earphones) for health/infection reasons, this is pretty tricky.

The only other thing you can do is rely on reviewers opinions, but we all know the pitfalls of doing that. By way of example, one noise-cancelling headphone I have looked-up during my search is the PSB M4U8. I noted AVForums own @Ed Selley suggesting recently that they "...drop the incoming noise levels by an extremely impressive amount. The PSB makes listening to Nils Frahm in a soft play centre possible". Sounds impressive. But then I see the What Hi-Fi review siting "so-so noise-cancellation" as one of the reasons 'against' getting these headphones. I know which opinion I'd trust more, but you get the point.

Just a thought anyway...


Senior Moderator
As an ex shure e4g (gaming edition), ex shure se535 and current shure se846 owner, there's a lot to be said about individual fitting. I am fairly certain my ears have changed shape over 15 years also. The se846 sit much better plus with westone tips provide better noise isolation that the se535 ever did
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