Buy Yourself Some Noise-Cancelling Headphones, Seriously

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For awhile, I’ve been having trouble focusing, so I decided to finally invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Since I’ve enjoyed them so much, I figured I might as well convince a few others as well.

Table of Contents

Losing Focus

As someone in grad school, I have found that my best working hours are after midnight. For awhile, I thought that maybe this was just an inconvenient truth about my physiology. However, as I get older, I’m starting to realize that has more to do with the lack of distractions.

For instance, at midnight, even Twitter is sort of dead. In addition, roads are clear, people are asleep, there’s nothing to watch on TV, and the general ambiance is white noise (i.e. crickets, wind, etc.). In other words, there are almost no distractions.

Of course, grad school is extremely demanding, so it’s not practical to only work in the evenings. I have to be able to work during the day as well. For the longest time, my solution was to put in some earbuds and play some white noise style music. Unfortunately, to combat some of the more persistent noise, I have to turn the music up—resulting in a complete destruction of my ear drums.

As work got more difficult, I found myself growing more frustrated while trying to get work done. As many of you know, coding is virtually impossible if you can’t get in a state of mind to solve problems. With every passing noise, I found myself drifting further and further away from productivity.

As a potential solution, I tried more aggressive ways of limiting noise like shutting myself in well insulated rooms and wearing earplugs. Unfortunately, these methods are actually just as bad as my mind craves stimuli. If I completely drain my senses, they only become more sensitive. In other words, what used to be white noise (i.e. vents, cats playing in another room, lawn mowers, traffic, etc.) becomes a source of frustration.

Over time, I thought more and more about potential solutions. For instance, I considered getting tested for ADHD, but that’s not the quick fix that I needed. Instead, I thought about trying noise cancelling headphones. Unfortunately, they’re quite expensive, and I had no idea if they’d actually work as advertised. Of course, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but wonder if they’d actually work.

Trying Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Eventually, I cracked and impulse bought some noise-cancelling headphones. In particular, I went out and bought the Sony WH1000XM3 noise-cancelling headphones (ad), currently the most recommended headphones on the market. After all, if I was going to pay upwards of $200 for a pair of headphones, I figured I’d might as well get some good ones. And, boy did they not disappoint.

If you struggle to get work done like me, I highly recommend getting yourself a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Whether you’re dealing with noisy coworkers from your cubicle or you just want to insulate yourself from your roommates, you can’t go wrong with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, seriously.

Now, I should preface that noise-cancelling headphones don’t completely cancel noise. In other words, they cancel random noise (e.g. jet and car engines) exceptionally well, but you might still be able to hear someone talking to you. Of course, if you listen to music with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones on, you probably won’t hear a thing.

Good Features

While noise-cancelling is a great feature, most modern pairs of headphones have even more features. For instance, on the pair I purchased, there are three modes:

  • Noise-cancelling
  • Ambient sound
  • Default headphones

In other words, you can cancel all noise (Noise-cancelling) or pipe noise into the headphones through a microphone (Ambient sound). Otherwise, you can treat the headphones like any other pair.

Also, did I mention that the headphones are wireless? They’re Bluetooth, so I can connect them to my phone or laptop without worrying about any cords—or ports for that matter.

Of course, Bluetooth can be a little annoying because the headphones tend to automatically connect to the last device you were using. If you’re like me and constantly switching between devices, it can be a painful process. That said, I think I’ve gotten used to using apps to connect my headphones at this point.

By far, my favorite feature of these headphones is the battery life. I can seriously wear these for a couple of days without having to worry about charging them. To be honest, I’m not sure what I expected, but I guess I’m so used to my terrible iPhone battery at this point. These headphones are more on par with my FitBit which I only charge about once a week.

One of my favorite features of this pair of headphones is the touch pad on the right ear. Visually, it looks like nothing is there. However, you can actually slide your finger over the right earphone for interaction. For instance, sliding your finger forward (toward your face) skips the current track. Meanwhile, sliding your finger backward restarts the current track or moves to the previous track. As for up and down, those are your volume controls. Finally, you can double tap the earphone to pause or play a song.

Bad Features

As it turns out, there is at least one more hand gesture. Specifically, covering the right earphone puts the headphones in ambient sound mode. Of course, I think it looks a bit awkward, and it takes way too long to activate and deactivate.

Speaking of bad features, I’m not a huge fan of the microphone. The audio quality is straight garbage, and it kills any sort of music you might be listening to. For instance, I tried using the headset for gaming, and the gameplay noises while the mic is on are horrendous. Apparently, there’s no fix either because Bluetooth can’t support good audio and mic quality at the same time. As a result, you get garbage for both. Unfortunately, I think this issue is universal to Bluetooth headphones

As you can probably imagine, the bad mic quality plays into hands-free calling as well. In other words, phone calls with friends and family are going to sound terrible for all involved. Of course, I’ve heard this issue varies by device, so maybe you’ll have better luck.

In addition to the bad mic quality, the accompanying app isn’t all that great either. At first, I tried turning on all the fun little software settings because I figured they’d improve my experience: don’t do that. As a consequence, I had to deal with the constant headache when the headphones would randomly switch out of noise-cancelling mode. Since it takes two clicks and 5 seconds to change it back, it’s a bit inconvenient.

That said, I would absolutely buy this pair of headphones again. I’ve never gotten so much work done in my life. In fact, I wrote most of this article while wearing them. Though, I did write some of this while administering an exam. I had to be at least somewhat alert for that.

Investigating Options

Since I’m no noise-cancelling headphones connoisseur, I can’t really help you figure out what’s good. That said, the pair I have are great, and I suspect there are other brands that are just as good. Here are a few options on Amazon based on my own personal research (ad):

As I already mentioned, I haven’t tested these headphones myself, so you might want to do your own research. That said, I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed in any case.

With all that said, thanks for stopping by. I thought it would be fun to put together a little article sharing something I find a lot of value in. As a self-proclaimed minimalist, I think it’s important to let people know what you find something that genuinely enhances your life, so this is my gift to you.

If you already have a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, let me know how you like them. At this point, I’m fairly content with the pair I have, but I wouldn’t pass up and upgrade in a year or two.

At any rate, if you liked this article, that’s too bad! I don’t usually create this kind of content, so it’s unlikely you’ll see more articles like it. For instance, here are the only “product reviews” I’ve ever done:

Those last two aren’t even reviews. Instead, I sort of just recommend something that I like (e.g. StrengthsQuest, Phantasy Star Universe, etc.). If you’d like to stick around anyway, hop on my mailing list, join our community on Patreon, and/or subscribe to my YouTube channel Every little bit goes a long way! Otherwise, thanks for saying hi. See you next time!

Jeremy Grifski

Jeremy grew up in a small town where he enjoyed playing soccer and video games, practicing taekwondo, and trading Pokémon cards. Once out of the nest, he pursued a Bachelors in Computer Engineering with a minor in Game Design. After college, he spent about two years writing software for a major engineering company. Today, he pursues a PhD in Engineering Education in order to ultimately land a teaching gig. In his spare time, Jeremy enjoys spending time with his wife, playing Overwatch and Phantasy Star Online 2, practicing trombone, watching Penguins hockey, and traveling the world.

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