What if the world was a little bit quieter, would you be more productive?

If you are the kind of person who craves some quiet time for work or creativity, you would be disappointed with today’s open office plans and chatty work culture.

There is an answer, noise canceling or more precisely noise reduction technology has matured enough to be effective, compact and affordable, but more about affordability in a minute.

Bose QC20
Maker: Bose Corporation
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One of the best kept secrets of highly productive people is the couple of hours of quiet time everyday. For most people the quiet time is not a reality because of chatty office workers and open office plans. To make it worse urban homes are so noisy with kids and family life, there’s never going to be that quiet moment.

Enter noise canceling headphones. Put them on, play some white noise through an app or better still loop a soundtrack of nature like ocean waves. You are instantly on a private beach with no one around to distract you. Even real beaches are not this interruption free.

The Bose QC20i earphones are the most compact form of noise reduction with even better noise isolation than the big over the ear headphones.

Sure there is an ugly battery pack and noise circuitry dangling at one end, but so far there is nothing more compact and this effective, so we just have to live with it.

The idea behind the noise reduction technology is that they listen to the sounds around you with mics in the earphones and play back an inverse of the ambient sound to cancel them. This works great for reducing constant sounds like the hum of a generator, AC, fans, general non-intelligible street chatter, subway sounds. But they don’t stop loud dog barks, children screaming next to you or people talking loudly next to you. Oddly the same sounds are subdued if they are a little far away.

great sound for long hauls, doesn’t hurt your ears

As for music quality, there’s a typical Bose like quality where the low ends are not too punchy but clear, discernible vocals and a tiny tinge of emphasis on the high ends. Typical wide smiley EQ sound. So great sound for long hauls, doesn’t hurt your ears.

big negative is the rechargeable battery

The big negative is the rechargeable battery which lasts for a good 20 hours, that’s almost a weeks worth of listening sessions for light listening. The battery is not user replaceable and you have to visit the service center for a replacement.

Now the pricing is a totally different matter, most critics argue that the music quality of headphones in this price bracket has to be much higher. We agree on that. But we never looked at them has headphones for great music reproduction in the first place.


These are meant for listening to music in noisy environments like the train ride home, airports or a noisy urban home where even the best headphones would not allow you to even listen to your music just because of the noise around. Whereas the Bose QC20i just lets you listen to music despite of the noise and still provides very decent music reproduction quality. So in our opinion the critics arguments against noise canceling headphones are irrelevant.

The price of quiet for better focus and creativity is literally priceless.

For us personally the price we’re paying is for the couple of hours of peace at a busy office or urban home for more productivity and creativity, and most of the time we’re playing the ocean waves crashing around which further drops the ambient noise to zero levels.

The price for better focus and creativity is literally priceless.