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Best Overall: Sony WH1000XM3 at Amazon
"Offering strong noise-canceling and high-end sound quality."
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Bose QuietComfort 35 II at Amazon
"The most comfortable and most effective noise-canceling headphones around."
Best for Comfort: Sennheiser PXC 550 at Amazon
"The ultra-comfortable build doesn’t diminish portability as the PXC 550s collapse into an included travel case."
Best Bass: Sony WH-XB900N at Amazon
"Sony's tried-and-true active digital noise-canceling [results] in a sound floor uninhibited by artifacts and lossy compression."
Best Splurge: Bose 700 at Amazon
"Positioned as an heir to the QuietComfort throne, this product takes cues both familial and inspired."
Best Adaptive Sound: Jabra Elite 85h at Amazon
"Over-ear cans, with a spread of enticing features that might just make them the right choice for you."
Best In-Ear: Bose QuietControl 30 at Amazon
"Offer the right mix of style, comfort, and tech."
Best Sound: Paww WaveSound 3 at Amazon
"Blocking out as much as 23 dB of unwanted ambient noise."
Best Style: Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8i at Amazon
"With a premium design and build materials to match, the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8i headphones are a beautiful choice."
Best Rumble: Skullcandy Crusher ANC at Amazon
"Feel every heavy drop and booming explosion shudder through your entire skull."
Picking up a pair of the best noise-canceling headphones is the perfect way to tune out a noisy, chaotic world. Looking for a way to make your morning commute more serene and pleasant? Properly implemented active noise cancellation (ANC) can drown out all but the most aggressive sounds, whether it's the inane conversation happening in the bus seat ahead of you or the screeching and growling familiar to every daily subway rider.
Of course, a lot of the considerations when picking up a pair of noise-canceling headphones (or finding the best noise-canceling earbuds) are the same as those you'd research when getting any standard set of cans. The great news is, these days you don't need to settle for subpar audio quality or compromise comfort to get great ANC. We considered a massive field of the very best current noise-canceling 'phones and selected the very best, arranged by where they excel most.
Fantastic audio quality
Best-in-class noise canceling
AptX HD and LDAC support
Slightly subpar call quality
The only pair of wireless noise-canceling headphones that can hold a candle to our top overall pick is the Sony WH1000XM3. These incredibly stylish and light headphones offer strong noise-canceling and high-end sound quality derived from 40mm liquid crystal polymer drivers. On top of being nice to look at, these headphones also have hidden touch sensor controls so you can play, pause, skip, turn volume up/down, and more by just tapping gently on the right earcup.
They’re also designed to be comfortable and can be worn all day. Battery life on these headphones is amazing with up to 30 hours of playback on a single charge. If you need to quickly recharge, you can get 5 hours of playback after charging for just 10 minutes. While a tad pricey at over $300, these headphones will surely satisfy the headphone lover in your life who demands good noise cancellation and sound quality. Jason had almost no complaints in his review, and called the WH1000XM3 one of the best noise-canceling headsets ever made.
"If you want the best, and aren’t afraid to really explore how these headphones work, the 1000XM3 are hard to beat." — Jason Schneider, Product Tester
Amazing noise cancellation
Excellent sound quality
Bose is perhaps best known for introducing the world to noise-canceling headphones, but the brand is also synonymous with high-end, high-quality sound. Bose’s QuietComfort 35 (Series II) over-ear headphones may not be the best sounding headphones money can buy, but they are certainly the most comfortable and most effective noise-canceling headphones around.
They come in black and silver color schemes, offering a healthy spectrum of styles. The cans themselves collapse into a convenient, travel-sized package. Sure, they're not cheap, but the noise-canceling technology developed by Bose has been perfected over decades. Our reviewer Don loved the high-quality materials, sound quality, and great noise-canceling Sony built into this model.
"The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is a well-designed pair of noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones with excellent audio quality, a useful app, and the ability to interact with voice assistants, making it perfect for consumers and professionals alike." — Don Reisinger, Product Tester
Fantastic sound quality
Adaptive noise canceling
Slow charging time
Your search for the most comfortable noise-canceling headphones is officially over — the Sennheiser PXC 550s are phenomenal with an ergonomic design that pairs a padded headband with rotating earcups meant for long listening sessions. As an added bonus, the ultra-comfortable build doesn’t diminish portability as the PXC 550s collapse into an included travel case.
When it comes to sound, the mids and highs offer excellent detail and clarity, the bass is just right, and the volume is loud enough without being overwhelming. Even when cranked to max volume, the audio is rich and clear without any detail loss.
Wirelessly connecting to any of your devices via Bluetooth 4.2 or NFC, NoiseGard suppression technology — with an active impedance of 490 Ohm and passive impedance of 46 Ohms — keeps ambient sounds away from your ear in order to place focus on your music or calls. A triple microphone array adds stand-out call clarity that also benefits from NoiseGard tech. Jason loved their unique design and killer sound quality.
"The PXC 550 are great Bluetooth headphones from an audiophile brand, offering great sound quality and solid features." — Jason Schneider, Product Tester
Clear mids and highs
Slightly uncomfortable for long sessions
Because they handle bass really well, the new WH-XB900Ns have a clear position in the larger Sony lineup of noise-canceling headphones. Now, normally, "extra bass" in headphones is a recipe for muddying up the sound, and we don’t usually recommend it out of hand (it’s why a lot of Beats products suffer). But the XB900Ns are an exception, first and foremost because they provide Sony's tried-and-true active digital noise-canceling, resulting in a sound floor uninhibited by artifacts and lossy compression. They also transmit frequencies across the full human hearing spectrum of 20-20,000 Hz.
The sound quality, while not quite on par with Sony’s flagship headphones, will work for most mainstream music, especially considering the added bass. But it isn’t all about sound quality. You’ll get up to 30 hours of use from a single charge, which is about 10 hours more than most of the primo options. These cans pack NFC and Bluetooth connectivity as well, in addition to built-in voice assistance and even intuitive touch controls. Plus, they sport a sleek design with soft, matte textures and comfy, leathery foam pads — making them appear every bit as premium as you’d expect. Our tester Andy loved those comfy pads, and said they suited bigger heads especially well.
"What the Sony WH-XB900N lacks in build quality it makes up for with good (if very bass-heavy) audio and a very attractive price point." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester
Tight, crisp sound
Six mics for noise canceling
Great call quality
Unimpressive battery life
The new 700 series noise-canceling headphones from Bose are, in part, a response to the massively popular Sony WH-1000XM3s. Positioned as an heir to the QuietComfort throne, this product takes cues both familial and inspired. At its core is Bose’s industry-leading noise-canceling, in full force, emanating a truly isolated sound which you can adjust using buttons planted right on the headphones. What’s more, these cans bolster a quiet sound floor located beneath a Bose's signature, expansive soundstage.
But the thing you'll notice first about the new 700s is how different they look from basically any pair of headphones from Bose or its competitors. The sleek headband comes down to a point that rests inside a canal on the outside of each earcup. It’s an interesting design choice and, combined with sleek one-tone earcups, it’s a good look.
But perhaps the most cutting-edge feature offered here is what Bose is calling "Bose AR." This protocol uses motion sensors built into the headphones themselves, along with location data (via the Bose Sound app) to augment the sound of certain apps, thereby further enriching your listening experience. The jury’s out on whether this technology will add anything meaningful, but still, it's a welcome sign of the innovation yet to come. Regardless, our reviewer Andy loved their audio quality and comfort over marathon listening sessions.
"The Bose 700 are very nearly the perfect wireless headphones." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester
Tremendous battery life
Not as comfy for larger heads
Jabra, a brand historically known for its Bluetooth cell phone peripherals, has made a name for itself selling high-end Bluetooth headphones. Like the Elite 65t before it, the Elite 85 headphones are over-ear cans, with a spread of enticing features that might just make them the right choice for you. Even when compared to industry leaders like Bose and Sony, their sound quality checks a lot of boxes. Their frequency range, for one, spans 10Hz to 20kHz (higher than the theoretical range humans can actually hear). With 40mm drivers and a solid seal around the ear, they should let out decent bass as well.
More interestingly, however, these headphones support Jabra's SmartSound technology. Using eight built-in microphones, they can examine your surroundings in order to ensure comfortable sound levels. This, in combination with the noise-canceling technology, should be enough, right? Well, with upwards of 36 hours of battery life depending on use, the Elite 85h are also categorically among the best in terms of battery life. All this, in combination with built-in Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility, rain resistance, and a two-year warranty make the Jabra Elite 85h a solid pair of Bluetooth headphones. Andy was blown away by the audio quality, fit, and incredible battery life in his review.
"The Jabra Elite 85H offers great sound, effective noise cancelling, and attractive modern design." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester
Bose's industry leading noise canceling
Great in-ear fit
Earphones don't attach to neckband
As mentioned, when it comes to noise-canceling tech, Bose is the cream of the crop. Simply because it’s been in the game since the 1980s, the company has a leg up on the essential hardware behind noise-canceling devices. That’s why both its over-ear and in-ear flagship cans are the best noise-canceling headphones on the market.
The in-ear QuietControl 30 headphones offer the right mix of style, comfort, and tech to ensure reliability and performance. Some people find in-ear headphones, in general, to be uncomfortable for prolonged use, so for these users, we still recommend going with the QuietComfort 35’s. But if you don’t mind the feel of in-ears, or you don’t expect to use them for long periods of time, the QuietControl 30s are the right fit.
Stunning audio quality
Great for filtering ambient noise
Loose ANC switch
The WaveSound 3 headphones are designed first and foremost for travel, with an included traveling case and specific design features meant to help when you are on airplanes or trains. They block out cabin noise, talking and as much as 23 dB of unwanted ambient noise. And they include an airplane adapter meant for plugging into some in-flight viewing systems, which is way better than using the sub-par headphones you are often given on a flight.
On top of clear sound and noise cancelation, the WaveSound 3 has a built-in microphone for taking calls (please don’t do this on an airplane!), as well as a lightweight and durable metal construction that will be comfortable on your head.
The headphones are praised for being a great value for less than $100, and that they're especially useful for travel and dealing with ambient noise.
Impressive ANC without sealing
Slightly underpowered bass
With a premium design and build materials to match, the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8i headphones are a beautiful choice. The brand is known for quality and attention to detail — Bang & Olufsen promises that their products will withstand years of regular use — and the H8i is no exception. The leather headband feels tough and durable while the outer earpieces incorporate anodized aluminum. Inside, lambskin memory foam earpads are both stylish and comfortable.
Unlike most noise-canceling headphones, the H8i employ an on-ear design that doesn't encapsulate the entire ear. That makes their noise-canceling technology even more impressive. Activate "transparency mode" with the click of a button and ambient noise is drowned out.
Audio quality is just as good as the design. Balanced mids and highs pair with outstanding lows and while the bass isn’t terribly deep, it’s easy to overlook in lieu of the total package. The headphone's battery supports 30 hours of playback, and they offer 100 feet of Bluetooth range and fast charging via USB-C.
Crazy haptic feedback
Smooth mids and lows
Noise canceling not quite as strong as competitors
There's a growing trend amongst gaming accessories and peripherals towards adding tactile or haptic feedback to previously passive devices. Skullcandy generously embraces the sensory feedback craze with its Crusher headset, which isn't content to just deliver staggering bass. It wants to ensure you feel every heavy drop and booming explosion shudder through your entire skull.
A dial lets you precisely modulate the amount of rumble you crave, whether you prefer a subtle twitch or a shattering thump when the low end kicks in. Paired with excellent sound quality and reproduction, tremendous bass, and adequate noise canceling, the Crusher immerses listeners in the most dramatic moments of games, songs, and films.
The Sony WH1000XM3s are the king of the hill when it comes to noise-canceling headphones due to their perfect balance of audio quality, ANC, and design. If pure noise-cancellation and comfort are your top priorities, however, Bose's QuietComfort 35 IIs are very worthy contenders.
Don Reisinger has over 12 years of experience writing about technology, and his byline has appeared in many of the leading tech media publications. He specializes in audio gear and specifically in headphones/earbuds.
Andy Zahn is an experienced tech journalist who obsesses over the latest gear and gadgets. As an avid outdoorsman, he's always experimenting with top headphones, and reviewed a number of the noise-canceling options on our list.
Jason Schneider is an experienced tech journalist who's been covering the industry for nearly a decade now. He's also an expert in headphones and audio equipment, and reviewed several of the headsets we selected for our list.
Noise-canceling headphones are a boon for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the modern world and immerse themselves in the sonic landscape of their favorite album (or disappear into an audio book). Active noise cancellation (ANC) is a wonder in a multitude of situations, like if you want to tune out the creaking and screeching of a train car on your morning commute, or you need a respite from the noisy conversations between some rambunctious roommates.
Noise-canceling headphones are generally great for those who are easily disturbed by commotion, and a good pair of noise-canceling headphones can increase productivity by eliminating distractions. But in a market full of options, how do you decide which set is right for you?
It’s important to know that the efficacy of noise-canceling circuits vary greatly. Some are capable of drowning out nearly everything, while others only cancel a narrow band of noise or employ an audible hiss. You don’t need to settle for low-grade audio quality; you just need to know how to find the right pair for you with consideration to sound quality, style, and overall functionality. Read on for our guide to finding the best noise-canceling headphones for you.
As mentioned in the introduction, noise-canceling headphones work well for those who just want to silence the world around them, but they’re also handy for blocking out background noise so that you can better focus on things like a phone conversation or music listening.
The Sennheiser PXC 550, for example, ranks highly on our list for its excellent sound quality. It lists the frequency response at 17Hz–23kHz, which is well beyond what even humans can theoretically hear, and therefore gives users tons of coverage—from the lowest lows to the highest highs. It keeps ambient noise away from your ear so that you can better focus on music or phone calls, which makes it ideal for virtually any use.
The best noise-canceling headphones can generally range from around $250 to just under $400. Of course, when you’re considering spending several hundreds of dollars on a set of headphones, you’ll want to find an option that nails all of the essential features, like wireless capability and comfort, and even provides some bells and whistles, like an app and interaction with voice assistants.
Bluetooth wireless technology allows you to listen (or, you know, not listen) without having to deal with pesky wires, though many companies don’t guarantee Bluetooth range. Wireless signals can be easily affected by other gadgets you have running in our homes or obstructions, so check reviews for how well a given set of headphones is able to surmount these obstacles.
A good wireless set can easily take you to the higher end of the price range for noise-canceling headphones. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II, for example, will run you about $350, but Lifewire testing all but guaranteed sublime audio signals between different rooms and floors.
Wireless noise-canceling headphones integrate applications, which can be great provided that they work well and are easy to use. An understanding (or lack thereof) of software can make all the difference in the benefits you get from your device; look for ones with easy firmware updates that can deliver improvements to sound quality and active noise-canceling, among other things.
Twenty to 30 hours of battery life for a pair of noise-canceling headphones is considered pretty exceptional. Many top-of-the-line sets reach and even exceed these levels (the Jabra Elite 85H boasts 36 hours), so if you find a lower-budget set that delivers within that battery life range, it could give you good bang for your buck. Keep in mind that low-cost sets with more battery life can sacrifice comfort due to the size of the battery. So, conversely, it makes sense that a budget-friendly product like the Paww WaveSound 3 is characterized as lightweight with only 16 hours of battery life.
How well a pair of headphones is built can impact both comfort and your listening experience, as poorly crafted tech can massively impact fit and durability. But how do you distinguish between a great build and a substandard one? Actually feeling the headphones, and trying them on, to gauge size, fit, and sturdiness can be beneficial.
For comfort on over-ear headphones, look closely at the band. Make sure it’s adjustable and locks in place, because there’s arguably nothing more annoying than a band that comes loose while in use.
For sturdiness study the rails specifically, as these aren’t always built to last, even if the drivers are. A great set will expand and collapse to fit big and small heads, and to allow users to store them more efficiently. The expanding and collapsing motions will break down the rails quickly if they’re not robust. If you can’t examine them in person, check out reviews for complaints of cracked headbands and for notes about general impact resistance.
We love to see stats advertised on company websites because many premium brands opt to leave sound specs off. It’s important to not get caught up in branding jargon. Rather, consider the numbers and elements, because those will better guide you.
Technically speaking, any type of headphone can provide some level of passive noise reduction. The headphones themselves block out some sound waves, particularly those at higher frequencies. However, true noise-canceling headphones have active noise-cancelation (ANC), which counters lower-frequency sound waves. A microphone and appropriate circuitry create a new, opposite wave that feeds into the headphones’ speakers.
If you know that you’re somewhat sensitive to ANC, look for headphones with lower ANC settings, like the Bose 700 and the Jabra Elite 85H, or ones with an option to switch the setting off entirely.
Some headphones might produce eardrum suck, or a feeling of pressure decrease in your eardrums. The phenomenon seems to be psychosomatic, but you can avoid it by doing some hands-on research. Find out if you’re prone to eardrum suck, read the reviews carefully for mentions of it, and to be completely clear, go to a company dealer to try the headphones on.
In the best case scenario, you’ll find a set of headphones that can completely wipe away ambient noise to create a truly immersive audio experience with music, speech, and more. However, there’s always the chance that it won’t—that background noise will be too loud—and the best your chosen pair can do is muffle noise. There’s also a possibility that ANC could compromise some audio quality; some devices, like Andy Zahn reported with the Jabra Elite 85H, may produce a faint hiss when you’re not listening to music or talking on the phone.
Over-ear headphones are generally more comfortable than on-the-ear ones (or earbuds), which is perhaps why almost all of our top noise-canceling headphones are the former. Comfort for over-ear headphones really comes down to the weight, the fit, the materials used, and the heat they generate while in use.
How heavy a pair of headphones feel in use should be a big consideration. Think that if a pair feels bulky when you try them on, they will feel that much heavier after hours of use. To avoid running into a weight issue, try on a few pairs to help figure out the maximum weight you're comfortable with.
Additionally, try to gauge fit and comfort based on the materials used by looking for padding both along the ear cups and on the inside of the headband. Materials vary from headset to headset, and you’ll have to decide for yourself which one feels best to you. Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II uses a suede-like material on the adjustable headband. It’s the same fabric you might find in yachts and high-end cars, according to Bose. Meanwhile, the ear cups are made of synthetic leather that, according to a Lifewire tech reviewer Don Reisinger, feel “soft on the skin” and comfortable for hours. Sennheiser uses a light, memory foam-like material in the earcups of the PXC 550, which, according to reviewer Jason Schneider, is super comfortable, though he noted that the placement of the seam might feel off to some.
Whether a pair of headphones get hot with use can also play a role in comfort, so look out for notes about that as you research. Schneider said the PXC 550 and the Sony WH-1000XM3 built up some heat inside the ear cups, while reviews for the Bose sets made no mention of that.
Some features to help manage external and internal sound can bring the quality of headphones from acceptable to exceptional. A design that supports both active and passive noise-cancellation, as well as voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, are handy additions and can elevate a headset beyond its competition.
Hear through, or being able to alternate between ANC and no ANC with the click of a button, is a feature that shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s basically the opposite of noise cancelling, and instead of using the exterior microphones to detect and cancel noise, it instead brings that noise into the headphones to help you increase awareness of your surroundings. A great pair of headphones will deliver audio crisply and promptly through hear through mode, to the point where it could be hard to tell that it’s being recorded and rebroadcast.
The latest high-end headphones give users more control than previously possible. For instance, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II allows users to access either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant by holding a button, and the Jabra Elite 85H allows you to switch between Alexa, Google, and Siri. Provided you have at least one of these smart devices, you can find out what’s next on your calendar, check the weather, and more, without broadcasting it out loud.
A pillar of the film and music industries, Sony tops (though certainly doesn’t corner) the market for noise-canceling headphones with its superb sound quality, comfortable construction, and functional design. In general, the company makes quality electronics—from televisions to camcorders to wireless speakers and, of course, headphones—that straddle a broad range of price points. We like Sony for its track record of building products to last and its expressed commitment to sustainable innovation.
Many know Bose not only for its advanced noise-canceling technology but for its audio equipment in general. While the company hasn’t been in the innovation game for as long as, say, Sony, it’s still considered a heritage brand with sophisticated product offerings that range from headphones to speakers to wearables (think audio sunglasses). These products generally come with a hefty price tag, but it's often justified given their ultra-advanced noise-canceling technology (they were the first company to supply an active noise reduction system to the United States military). We love this brand for its forward-thinking designs and outstanding performance—all with expressed consideration to energy efficiency, durability and chemical composition—as well as for its generous warranties, special discounts to educators, and blanket 90-day risk free trial offer.
For more than seven decades, Sennheiser has been steadily building a reputation as an independent family business that produces professional level sound in a range of products that includes microphones, monitoring systems, and headsets. It’s also an innovative brand, now making leaps and bounds in its expansion into noise-canceling headphones. Its PXC 550 headphones are best for comfort but have proven to deliver an exceptional noise-canceling response in wireless form. Perhaps what we most admire about Sennheiser is its commitment to “perfect” audio across applications.
There are so many noise-canceling headphone options to compare, it can be difficult to know what’s right for you. Given that the prices for these devices are all comparable—mostly within $150 of one another—the comparison comes down largely to how you value design, comfort, general sound quality, and battery life. Armed with our guide, finding the perfect set of cans to suit your needs should be a breeze.