Our favorite noise-canceling headphones
Note: Hearing protection devices are rated for the number of decibels they can reduce outside noise, indicated by a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) number.
Power-tool noise can, over time, lead to hearing loss. So it makes sense to wear hearing protection as much as possible in the shop. The devices shown here make that protection more tolerable by synching wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth signal, letting you listen to your favorite entertainment. Wear them in the shop, while mowing the lawn, or even when traveling on an airplane. We especially like these five products; they all have rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for all-day bliss, and you can even answer phone calls with them.
ISOtunes Pro, $90 (photo above)
This unit comes with five pairs of different-shaped foam tips, so you can choose the ones that best fit your ears. They hook over your ears to stay put. To get maximum protection (27NRR) from outside noise, you’ll have to insert the tips well into your ear canal for a good seal. Reception and sound quality are outstanding, and a built-in limiter prevents audio from blasting above 85 decibels (dB). The controller’s three raised buttons prove easy to use without having to take the unit off and look.
ISOtunes Xtra, $80
Similar to the Pro earbuds, the Xtra has a 27 NRR and 85-dB limiter, but lacks the ear wrap. You get four pairs of foam tips and three pairs of rubber tips to ensure a comfortable fit. Built-in magnets on the back of each earbud snap together to hold the unit around your neck after removing the tips from your ears.
PlugFones Liberate 2.0, $100
You get four sets of tips: two foam and two silicone. The foam plugs can achieve 29 NRR, and the silicone 26 NRR. Pair that with easy-to-use controls and this makes for a great hearing-protection/entertainment system.
3M Safety WorkTunes Connect, no. 90543-4DC, $50
If you prefer earmuff-style hearing protectors to earbuds, these provide good sound quality at a value price. With a 24-dB NRR, they effectively dampen workshop and lawnmower noise to comfortable levels. The spring-tension level squeezes an average-size head at first, but loosens up after a few weeks of use.
Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II, $350
Okay, you might not think of this unit for shop hearing protection, and it’s quite an investment, but that price buys some advanced features. Active noise-canceling technology produces three levels of “counternoise” to block out ambient noise, making it like stepping into a soundproof booth. But, you can still hear a router or tablesaw well enough to get feedback from the tool. These incredibly comfortable muffs have intuitive controls, and come equipped with options for Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant (provided you have those apps on your phone).