Looking to treat yourself with a nice pair of headphones you could use to tune out the world and focus on your work and studies? Why not, you certainly deserve it. This guide to choosing the best headphones for programming is the only thing you will need to find the most suitable headphones for you that you could purchase right away.
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Why trust our review?
We have personally reviewed and tested the most popular and high-rated headphones available on the market at the present moment. This review is being continuously updated as the new models come out and become available to users.
Our reviews are based on thorough research of specs, common problems, user ratings, and personal experience. As you read through the article, be confident that you are receiving the most thorough and accurate advice on the new tech available today.
Why do you need headphones for programming?
The world is a loud place, in which we are forced to tackle such complicated tasks that require laser-sharp focus as engineering software. Luckily, there are tools we could use to block the background noises and help us concentrate on what we set ourselves up for.
One such piece of equipment is quality headphones, which serve several different functions in helping us eliminate distractions and enjoy music all in one go. The right set of headphones will help you eliminate peripheral noise, provide a pleasant auditory stimulation, and stay comfortably on your head to let you have the best experience.
By picking the right headset, you could enter the flow state (the state of being fully focused and immersed in your work) more easily and increase your productivity.
What type of specs should headphones for programming have?
Two most important qualities a programmer should look for in their headphones is noise isolation and comfort.
Comfort is important, since you want to have headphones that you can wear for long periods of time and not worry about pain, pressure, or other unpleasant sensations. The things you want to pay the most attention to are the clamping pressure on your temples, the band pressure on your crown, and softness and breathability of the ear pads.
Another important aspect in consideration of headphones’ comfort is being wireless. Being able to have a full range of motion without worrying about getting tangled in the cables is a definite positive.
Noise isolation is another crucial component for a set of headphones for programming. Whether you are working from home or from the office, you want to make sure you can tune out the outside world and focus on your coding tasks at hand.
There are two ways in which you may achieve noise reduction with headphones: passive noise isolation and active noise cancellation (ANC). While passive noise isolation is achieved mostly due to the seal of the earpads or earbuds, ANC is a technology that uses embedded microphones in the headset to detect the incoming noises and generate suppressing soundwaves that cancel out the extra outside noise.
In this review, we present the most comfortable headphones with the best ANC technology available on the market.
Is it safe to use headphones while programming?
If you are worried about looking awkward wearing headphones at your workplace or not hearing your boss or colleagues approach and ask you a question, don’t worry: the practice of coding with headphones is quite popular and welcome in most tech workplaces.
If you are ever in a situation, where you couldn’t hear someone talk to you, gently explain to them that you work best with headphones on and ask them to tap on your shoulder next time they request your attention. Listening to music is also completely acceptable when programming, so long as the sound is not leaking from the headset too much.
Best headphones for programming in 2023
1. Sony WH-1000XM5 – Best overall headphones for programming
The newly released 5th generation of the ubiquitously loved wireless Sony ANC headphones is here with new design and enhanced features. This is the model you just can’t go wrong with.
There are many reasons to buy this excellent Sony headset, which include:
- Leading ANC performance – this headset is able to dynamically sense and adjust its noise cancellation performance in accordance to how loud the background noise measures. In other words, if the outside noises are relatively low, the ANC setting will be lowered as well, while if you in a loud environment, such as on a busy street with a lot of traffic, the ANC performance will be automatically adjusted to the maximum. The overall ANC performance is better than its predecessor XM4 and is able to suppress noises by 30-40dB on average.
- Superior comfort – XM5 comes with the new and sleek design, which is also supported by the soft cushions and head band. You will find this headset extremely comfortable to wear for hours on end.
- Clear sound – Sony WH-1000XM5 is the best sounding wireless headset out there. The sound across all frequencies is authentic and enjoyable, even at the highest volume.
- Excellent microphone performance – XM5 got a new update from its pervious model, and the microphone performance is finally fixed! While many users complained of robotic-like voice conveyance during calls and meetings in XM4, the new model now boasts crystal clear communication through the microphones.
- Strong battery life – these headphones can go up to 40 hours without charge, which is far more than you would need in a single use, even if you were to board on a round-the world flight.
If you are thinking of getting a pair of headphones for programming that could help you isolate loud background noise, let you enjoy music in highest quality, and communicate clearly in calls and meetings, look no further – this is the perfect headset for programming!
If you want to save some money while getting near-identical experience, you may also consider getting the previous model, Sony WH-1000XM4, which performs nearly the same, with the exception of microphone quality, which could be substituted with an external microphone for your online meetings.
2. Bose NC Headphones 700 – Best noise-cancelling headphones for programmers
If you are looking for stellar noise-cancelling headphones with excellent sound performance, these elite pair is one of the best headsets on the market. Bose has been to known to produce the most effective ANC for many years. One particular quality of Bose 700’s noise cancellation is complete silence when ANC is used without any music, i.e. these headphones will not produce any audible white noise, which is quite common with ANC devices.
Sound performance and comfort are also among the best. We recommend these headphones for individuals who value silent and effective ANC over all other factors, although Bose 700 are not behind on all other components from Sony XM5 we reviewed above.
3. Apple AirPods Max – Best Apple headphones for coding
This set of headphones is the best Apple has on the market as of today. This elite-looking headset will be your favorite choice if you are looking for modern, classy design. AirPods Max offer spectacular musical performance with crisp and rich sound that your are guaranteed to enjoy. These Apple headphones compare well to Sony XM5 in ANC performance, and are extremely comfortable to wear with smooth ear pads and fabric head band.
Unfortunately, some features such as proximity sensors and voice assistant activation are not compatible with Windows devices, but we heartly recommend these headphones to programmers who love Apple products and are not afraid to spend extra money on them. You will not be disappointed with this extremely well-made product with comfort, battery life, and sound quality being among best on the market.
4. Sony WF-1000XM4 – Best earbuds for programmers
If you prefer compact earbuds to bulky headsets for coding, you are not alone. While the headphones we recommend in this article are very comfortable, they can still get hot and sweaty when worn for long periods of time. They also appear less stealthy than small earbuds, which you can insert in your ear canal and not attract much attention at your workplace.
One pair of earbuds that stands out from competition is the Sony WF-1000XM4. It provides an excellent fit for most ear canals, has outstanding sound, and performs exceptionally well with ANC. The design is small and has a premium look, with touch controls on the corpus and comfortably sealing earbuds made out of foam. Earbuds hold charge for about 8 hours and can be re-charged twice using the charging case. WF-1000XM4 are the best earbuds available on the market that you will love as a professional software developer.
5. Apple AirPods Pro – Best Apple earbuds for programmers
If you are an Apple product lover and are looking for good earbuds for coding, we recommend you get AirPods Pro. These headphones sound GOOD and perform really great with active noise cancellation. They come with 3 pairs of different-sized ear gels, which guarantee you will get a perfect fit for your ear.
The design of the AirPods is truly beautiful for those who like Apple, and the corpus of the earbud features pressure sensitive controls, which are easy for control of playback and ANC modes. Again, if you are looking to get a great sounding Apple earbud, get AirPods Pro.
6. Anker Soundcore Life Q35 – Best budget headphones for coding
If you are on a budget, but are still looking to get an awesome set of wireless headphones for coding, get the Anker Life Q35. It is hands-down the best cheaper headset available on the market that has a lot of cool features. It is not as sturdy and has lower sound quality and ANC compared to the top players in the industry, with noise cancellation being in the range of 15-30 dB in sound reduction.
It shows great microphone performance, impressive battery that holds on for up to 50+ hours (which trumps some of the most expensive and premium headphones), and has multiples control and customization functionalities, such as several noise cancellation modes and an equalizer. It is overall an excellent choice for those who are trying to save while getting a great headset.
How to best use headphones for programming?
In order to get the most out of your programming headphones, you should use their coolest features to the fullest. Active noise cancellation should be turned on in order to suppress the constant low- and mid-range frequency sounds around you, such as running AC and the sound of people speaking in the background, as well as any unwanted street sounds.
If you want to enhance your performance and enter a state of increased focus, you may wish to play low-volume rhythmic non-lyrical music that is designed to amplify your concentration without distracting you into listening instead of coding. We recommend All-Nighter playlist on Spotify for this purpose.
Other options for programming
If you are particularly noise-sensitive and are looking to suppress the noise around you while coding, and do not wish to spend a lot of money, you may also want to consider getting noise-reducing earplugs or earmuffs, especially if you do not necessarily enjoy listening to music while coding. These products offer greater noise reduction (sometimes too good for an office!) and will cost you only a fraction of the cost of high-quality wireless headphones.
Other gadget recommendations
If you’re stocking up on programmer equipment, you should check out our other guides and recommendations for buying coder gadgets. You may want to see the following:
- Best smartphones for programmers
- Best desks for programmers
- Best budget keyboards for programmers
- Best laptops for computer science students
- Best tablets for programming
That’s it! If you still haven’t checked out the products we listed above, go ahead and do so! It’s a great time to buy a pair of headphones for programming, and you should feel good about making a purchase right away, if that is what you truly want. We wish you great time shopping, and hope you stay happy with your purchase and experience!
Elmar Mammadov is a software developer, tech startup founder, and computer science career specialist. He is the founder of CS Careerline and a true career changer who has previously pursued careers in medicine and neuroscience.
Due to his interest in programming and years of past personal experience in coding, he decided to break into the tech industry by attending a Master’s in Computer Science for career changers at University of Pennsylvania. Elmar passionately writes and coaches about breaking into the tech industry and computer science in general.