Best headphones for an open-plan office

Keep the office noise out and your music in.

Best headphones for an open office floorplan
Why is your neighbor typing so loud?Rawpixel via Unsplash

Sometimes the place specifically designed for working can dampen your productivity. If you’re in an open office, it’s hard to escape others’ conversations and actually get to, say, writing your article about the best headphones.

Because open floor plans are becoming more popular—and because the Popular Science crew is moving to an open office this week—it seemed wise to do some research to determine the best gear for this new working environment. Clearly, the first stop on this gear tour is headphone town.

If you have people working 18 inches from either shoulder, you want to block out their noise (who knew breathing could be so loud?) without bothering them. You'll want to block chatter without blasting your tunes so loud your coworkers know exactly how many times a week you listen to the soundtrack for A Goofy Movie. If you're like me and listen to music way louder than you should, it's important to bring a pair of headphones to work that won't distract the people around you.

Master & Dynamic MW40

Master & Dynamic MW40
Handsome headphones with top-notch sound.Amazon

I prefer wireless headphones because they’re better for commuting, but I understand it’s important to have a nice wired option that doesn’t need to be recharged and can plug into older devices. If you haven’t switched over to a wireless pair yet, Master & Dynamic’s over-ear headphones are stylish, comfortable, and produce top-notch sound. The MW40 model has 45mm Neodymium drivers, removable lambskin, and memory foam ear-pads, and can fold flat so they don’t take up much room in your bag while you travel to and from work. The body is made of leather, stainless steel, and aluminum, materials designed to make the set more durable than cheaper pairs. It comes in 12 color options and includes a two-year warranty, a 3.5mm cable with audio controls, and a protective carrying case.

Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II)

Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II)
Noise-canceling headphones for every occasion.Amazon

Bose’s QuietComfort 35 (Series II) over-ear headphones were my go-to for traveling, office listening, and blocking out unwanted noise. They hold a 20-hour charge, interact with virtual assistants, and connect over Bluetooth or NFC (near-field communication). The headphones can be used wirelessly or with a 3.5mm cable, and have adjustable noise cancellation.

Anker Soundcore Space NC

Anker Soundcore Space NC
Anker’s Soundcore Space NC wireless headphones are a new cheaper favorite.Amazon

These Soundcore Space NC have got a balanced, wide sound and extra comfortable memory foam ear pads. They boast 20 hours of wireless battery life with noise-cancellation—50 when wired—and tap and swipe controls on the right ear to adjust volume, pause the song, or switch tracks. The headphones also come with a carrying case, but fold fairly flat.

Bowers & Wilkins PX wireless headphones

Bowers & Wilkins PX
Headphones with three levels of adaptive noise-canceling.Amazon

Bowers & Wilkins’ PX headphones have two, angled 40mm audio drivers—that claim to create a more natural stereo sound—and can be used wired or via Bluetooth 4.1. There are three levels of adaptive noise-canceling—they react to a range of noise levels—that can be controlled from within the smartphone app. These three settings are designed to block background noise from cities, planes, and offices.

The PX also reacts to your motions, meaning if you remove the leather-and-memory-foam cups from your ears or place the headphones around your neck, the music automatically pauses. The PX also features an impressive battery life. While using the adaptive noise-canceling, the headphones last for up to 22 hours, but can last up to 33 hours if the headphones are wired and not using Bluetooth. The headphones charge via USB.

Sony MDR7506 monitor headphones

Sony MDR7506 monitor headphones
Blocks out unwanted noise without noise-cancelation.Amazon

For a cheaper—and less fancy—option that still provides quality sound, Sony’s large-diaphragm MDR7506 headphones are my go-to when mixing music at home. The over-the-ear headphones have 40mm drivers and are designed to block out unwanted noise and prevent sound from escaping into microphones. They come with comfortable, padded ear pads, an extendable cord that can reach up to 9.8 feet, and a soft travel pouch.

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