The smartest noise-cancelling headphones in the world?

While there's a lot to be said for headphones that offer the best possible noise-cancelling technology, there's sometimes a balance to be found between blocking out sound and being aware of what's going on around you.

An Indiegogo campaign from a company called Stages Audio is looking to deliver the best of both worlds, and make noise-cancelling headphones much smarter.

The Hero headphones, showcased at CES 2017, are a pair over-ear wireless headphones that can be set to let through audio from a particular angle, but not from others.

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The "ambient+" technology uses eight microphones within the headphones to more accurately recognise external noise. The companion app then promises to let you better control how they block ambient noise.

Interestingly, the technology could soon include voice recognition, allowing you to add keywords and specific voices, automatically turning off noise-cancelling when your partner speaks or if someone says a certain phrase - "Excuse me" - when in public.

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There's also an option to add the tech to your existing headphones. 'Sidekick' is a small, cylindrical device to give ambient+ technology to your existing headphones. It's rechargable, portable, and can work with 24bit/96kHz digital audio.

While noise-cancelling and ambient headphones aren't the newest innovation, and there are apps such as Awareness that offer similar functionality, the voice recognition angle could make a lot of sense.

If you want to back the Hero and get your hands on a pair, a $299 pledge (approximately £240) should get you some by July 2017.

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Adam was a staff writer for What Hi-Fi?, reviewing consumer gadgets for online and print publication, as well as researching and producing features and advice pieces on new technology in the hi-fi industry. He has since worked for PC Mag as a contributing editor and is now a science and technology reporter for The Independent.