Best Products Audio 30 30 people found this article helpful The 10 Best Noise-Canceling Headphones of 2020 Tune out the background noise with these great headphones by Yoona Wagener Updated on November 16, 2020 The Ultimate Headphones Buying Guide The Ultimate Headphones Buying Guide Introduction Headphone Basics Types of Headphones What Is the In-Line Mic? 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We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links. The Rundown Best Overall: Sony Sony WH-1000XM4 at Amazon "While the cosmetic changes are minor...hardware improvements are noteworthy." Runner-Up, Best Overall: Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series 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 Noise Cancelling Headphones 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: Marshall Marshall Monitor II ANC at Amazon "The 40-millimeter dynamic drivers deliver a rich and balanced sound stage, especially for rock music fans." 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." in this article Expand Our Picks How We Tested About Our Trusted Experts The Ultimate Noise-Canceling Headphones Guide When you’re ready to tune out distractions, the best noise-canceling headphones can oblige. They’re engineered to counter ambient noise, both high and low levels, and cancel it out before it reaches your ears. This sound neutralization offers an immersive listening experience that allows you to focus on what you want to hear and avoid what you don’t. This can be just what you need while traveling, commuting, or just taking a moment for yourself. Of course, it’s not always safe or desirable to block out all sounds, which is why many wired or wireless headphones with active noise-canceling (ANC) technology also help you control the amount of environmental noise you want to let in. Some models even adapt these levels automatically and create the best balance depending on the noise around you. As with any pair of headphones, audio quality is also high on the list of priorities. Stats about supported audio codecs, drivers, frequency, impedance, and sensitivity can clue you into how loud they’ll get and the tones you’ll hear best. But fit (in-ear or over the ear), battery life for wireless models, and other add-ons like voice assistant support and microphone quality (if you take and make a lot of phone calls) are also important to think about to make a complete product you’ll enjoy using. Our top pick, the Sony WH-1000XM4 at Amazon, is just that kind of product. It offers a stylish and conveniently wire-free build, 30 hours of battery life, numerous smart features like Google Assistant support, and first-rate audio with active noise canceling tech that’s some of the most advanced on the market. To help you find your perfect harmony between noise cancelation, comfort, and audio quality, we’ve collected a list of the best noise-canceling headphones from other big names in the game, including Bose, Sennheiser, and Jabra. Holiday Deal Best Overall: Sony WH-1000XM4 Buy on Amazon Buy on Best Buy Buy on Walmart What We Like Superior noise-canceling tech Excellent audio performance 30-hour battery life Smart features What We Don't Like Expensive The Sony WH-1000XM4 picks up where the WH-1000XM3 left off and the results are impressive. While the cosmetic changes are minor (the band is slimmer and the overall design is lighter), hardware improvements are noteworthy. This starts with the dual noise sensor technology that combines a new algorithm and a Bluetooth audio chip that work together for better balance between noise cancelation and audio quality. Another convenient perk is the new proximity sensor that knows when you’ve removed the headphones and pauses playback. That’s good news for battery life, which is already impressive at 30 hours. If you’re looking for headphones that provide quick connectivity, the WH-100MX4 has you covered with smart switching between two devices, clearer call quality, and Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa assistance. While these headphones come at a premium price, it’s hard to beat the Sony WH-1000XM4’s impressive blend of performance, convenience, and extra flourishes. Sony WH-1000XM3 Review “These headphones combine technology, comfort, and conveniences that put them at the top of their class.” — Yoona Wagener, Lifewire Technology Writer and Product Reviewer Holiday Deal Runner-Up, Best Overall: Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) 4.7 Buy on Amazon Buy on Best Buy Buy on Walmart What We Like Comfy design Amazing noise cancellation Excellent sound quality What We Don't Like Expensive The Bose brand is one of—if not the most—recognized pioneers in noise-canceling technology and headphones, and the Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II) puts their authority on full display. This comfortable over-ear pair of headphones offers three levels of noise-canceling, which you can toggle between to best suit your environment and listening preferences. Audio quality is also impressive, thanks to the volume-optimized equalization (EQ) in the drivers that produces clear sound regardless of the volume level and background noise—even over phone calls. If you’re a fan of voice prompts for even more convenient hands-free connectivity on the go, The QuietComfort 35 has Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa built-in and ready to use out of the box. If you prefer to use a different voice assistant, you’re free to make that switch and assign it to the multipurpose/voice assistant button. Even better, these headphones will easily get you through the day with 20 hours of battery power, and when you’re short on time, a speedy 15-minute charge will extend playback by 2.5 hours. You’ll spend a pretty penny on these headphones, but the travel-ready design is drop- and corrosion-resistant and comfortable enough that you’ll want to reach for these every day. Bose QuietComfort 35 II Review "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 Holiday Deal Best for Comfort: Sennheiser PXC 550 4.2 Buy on Amazon Buy on Best Buy Buy on B&H Photo Video What We Like Unique design Fantastic sound quality Adaptive noise canceling What We Don't Like Slow charging time If you’re looking for a pair of headphones for hours of comfortable wear, the Sennheiser PXC 550 is a contender. These Bluetooth and NFC-compatible headphones feature a unique elongated cup design meant to mimic the ear shape. For many the unique earcup design and the plush band and padding will deliver a cozy fit, and the light 8-ounce build won’t weigh you down while you’re wearing or stowing them. They also fold completely flat for even easier packing. While you’re on the move, the adaptive noise canceling tech closely monitors surrounding sound levels and makes the proper adjustments for disturbance-free listening. And whatever you’re tuning into, the PXC 550 delivers pleasantly accurate and balanced audio quality. Sennheiser says that fidelity is improved if you plug these cans into a computer, which you may end up doing if you exceed the long-lasting 30 hours of battery life. The flip side of the battery capacity is slow charging time, but as long as you have the cable or plan ahead, you’ll enjoy using these comfy headphones. Sennheiser PXC 550 Review "The PXC 550 are great Bluetooth headphones from an audiophile brand, offering great sound quality and solid features." — Jason Schneider, Product Tester Best Bass: Sony WH-XB900N 4.3 Buy on Amazon Buy on Best Buy Buy on Sony.com What We Like Excellent bass Clear mids and highs Solid noise-canceling What We Don't Like Slightly uncomfortable for long sessions The splurge-worthy Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 retail for a premium price that won’t appeal to everyone, but there are many reasons to consider an investment—especially if you’re a fan of the Bose brand and its noise-canceling expertise. This set of headphones houses six mics, four of which help you hear callers better and two that deliver superior voice clarity when you’re talking, and there are 11 different noise control settings from complete isolation to the total opposite. Another highlight of the Bose 700 is the attractive and unique design that goes a long way toward justifying the steep price. The steel headband is much more minimalist than you’ll find in other Bose or over-ear wireless headphones, and the plush earcups rotate to 15 degrees to better mirror the natural shape of the head and ears. Our reviewer noted the success of the clamp design on the headband that helps to create a secure fit and freedom to tilt the ear pieces. Though he took issue with the sensitivity of the touch controls, which can lead to misfires or unintended prompts, the exceptional audio performance easily makes up for any shortcomings. Sony WH-XB900N Review "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 Best Splurge: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 4.7 Buy on Amazon Buy on Best Buy Buy on Bose.com What We Like Tight, crisp sound Six mics for noise canceling Great call quality What We Don't Like Unimpressive battery life The splurge-worthy Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 retail for a premium price that won’t appeal to everyone, but there are many reasons to consider an investment—especially if you’re a fan of the Bose brand and its noise-canceling expertise. This set of headphones houses six mics, four of which help you hear callers better and two that deliver superior voice clarity when you’re talking, and there are 11 different noise control settings from complete isolation to the total opposite. Another highlight of the Bose 700 is the attractive and unique design that goes a long way toward justifying the steep price. The steel headband is much more minimalist than you’ll find in other Bose or over-ear wireless headphones, and the plush earcups rotate to 15 degrees to better mirror the natural shape of the head and ears. Our reviewer noted the success of the clamp design on the headband that helps to create a secure fit and freedom to tilt the ear pieces. Though he took issue with the sensitivity of the touch controls, which can lead to misfires or unintended prompts, the exceptional audio performance easily makes up for any shortcomings. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 Review "The Bose 700 are very nearly the perfect wireless headphones." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester Holiday Deal Best Adaptive Sound: Jabra Elite 85h 4.8 Buy on Amazon Buy on Best Buy What We Like Great fit Impressive audio Tremendous battery life What We Don't Like Not as comfy for larger heads Adaptive sound control options are one area where the Jabra Elite 85h thrives. These over-ear Bluetooth headphones give the user the power to make adjustments through the Jabra Sound+ app and via a physical button. The app is the place to tweak ambient noise level settings that prompt the brand’s Smart Active Noise Cancellation feature to kick in accordingly. The eight-microphone system inside the headphones uses four to neutralize outside noise depending on your in-app preferences. You can also toggle through enabling ANC, turning it off, or allowing hear-through to keep you alert to environmental noise. If you leave the Smart ANC on default settings, the system will guess based on clues that indicate if you’re at home, commuting, or in public. Our reviewer reported some success with this automatic adaptive switching but preferred either contributing some input via the app or simply using the button control. He also noted that these were comfortable to wear generally, but that the fabric covering picks up lint very easily. Because of their slightly bulky build, fit could be an issue if you like a light and streamlined design. One thing that’s hard to argue against, however, is the stellar battery capacity, which is up to 36 hours even with ANC on. Jabra Elite 85h Review "The Jabra Elite 85H offers great sound, effective noise cancelling, and attractive modern design." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester Best In-Ear: Bose QuietControl 30 4.3 Buy on Amazon Buy on Walmart Buy on Bose.com What We Like Bose's industry leading noise canceling Stylish Great in-ear fit What We Don't Like Earphones don't attach to neckband Some people don’t necessarily like the bulky feeling that comes with over-ear headphones, and the Bose QuietControl 30 offers an in-ear noise-canceling alternative that’s far lighter than your average models with earcups. Our reviewer found the Quietcontrol 30 relatively easy to wear and had no issue with the earbuds slipping, but the neck band, which the earbuds aren’t directly attached to, won’t be a big hit with everybody. Design aside, the Bose QuietControl 30 features the Bose brand’s signature noise-canceling prowess. There are 12 levels of noise-cancelation to toggle through, either via the companion app or through the inline remote. But there’s no option to turn off ANC completely, which means you’ll always hear a bit of white noise even with the ANC set to level 1. This is virtually undetectable when you’re listening to music, and fans of balanced and diverse soundscapes will be impressed by the audio performance. You’ll just have to make sure you’ve alloted plenty of time for these headphones to recharge: the battery lasts only about 10 hours and takes up to 3 hours to charge. Bose Quietcontrol 30 Review Best Sound: Marshall Monitor II ANC Buy on Amazon Buy on Best Buy Buy on Marshallheadphones.com What We Like Sterling audio quality Impressive battery life with/without ANC Stylish ANC and monitor modes What We Don't Like Decent but not excellent ANC Limited codec support Steeply priced For those interested in an effortlessly cool-looking and sound-focused pair of over-the-ear headphones, the Marshall Monitor II ANC will be right up your alley. The 40-millimeter dynamic drivers deliver a rich and balanced sound stage, especially for rock music fans. The companion Marshall app holds the key to customizing your listening experience. It’s where you can set your equalization (EQ) preferences between five options or by creating your own. You can assign your top three presets to the “M” button on the ear cup. If you really want to focus on your EQ tuning, you can enter monitoring mode by pressing the ANC button on the other earcup. This is also the button that turns ANC off/on. You can control the amount of ANC by using a slider (in the app) to set the desired percentage. It’s not as robust as the ANC tech in leading Sony and Bose headphones but it will certainly get you through the distractions that come with an average work day or commute. These headphones have the longevity to power through day-long listening sessions of up to 30 hours with ANC on and 45 without it. The catch is that for a fairly steep price you won’t get support for higher-quality audio codecs such as AptX or AAC, just SBC. Paww Wavesound 3 Review “The Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones offer customizable and well-balanced performance in both ANC and monitoring modes.” — Yoona Wagener, Lifewire Technology Writer and Product Reviewer Best Style: Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8i 4.7 Buy on Amazon Buy on Best Buy Buy on B&H Photo Video What We Like Premium design Fantastic materials Impressive ANC without sealing What We Don't Like Slightly underpowered bass Not all headphones can be characterized as refined, which makes the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8i a standout from the crowd. These on-ear headphones are designed with premium leather and float on the ears rather than weighing them down. B&O says that this thoughtful construction just gets better with time, which isn’t something you’ll hear from most brands about the longevity of their wearable accessories. This go-the-distance quality requires a $400 buy-in, but you’ll also get 30 hours of playback and over 100 feet of Bluetooth range to two different devices—though our reviewer wasn’t quite able to get that full operating distance. The Beoplay H8i matches a high-end design with a faithful, professional audio experience that’s warm and well balanced. The companion app also offers control over equalization settings for more fine-tuned listening. As for noise cancelation, it’s solid, though some users have reported a slight hissing when activated. Our reviewer also noted that the loud beeps when cycling through ANC settings or powering the headphones on/off was distracting. Another slight letdown he reported is an inconsistency with the autoplay/pause function when taking the headphones off/on. “These aren’t just premium on-ear headphones, but also a luxury product that commands a luxury price tag.” — Andy Zahn, Product Tester Holiday Deal Best Rumble: Skullcandy Crusher ANC Noise Canceling Wireless Headphone 4.3 Buy on Amazon Buy on Best Buy Buy on Skullcandy.com What We Like Crazy haptic feedback Huge bass Smooth mids and lows What We Don't Like Noise canceling not quite as strong as competitors There’s bass and then there’s what the Skullcandy Crusher ANC produces: all-consuming and rumbling bass. Since bass is the name of the game, you won’t get the kind of balanced and full sound quality from higher-end models that cover wider mid and high frequencies. But these over-ear Bluetooth cans come with a slider to adjust haptic feedback and increase bass levels to your heart’s content. For the most personalized listening experience, the companion app will create a Personal Sound profile by playing tones and then putting together a full picture based on your responses (whether you heard them in the left or right ear). You have the option of using this profile and tweaking it or foregoing it altogether, of course. Along with next-level bass, the Skullcandy Crusher ANC headphones produce adequate, though not peerless ambient sound control. From a user standpoint, there’s a simple switch to toggle between off/on. Beyond that, the behind-the-scenes tech works to intelligently adjust ANC based on environmental noise. These brash headphones are sure to impress bass fans with plenty of bass customization and up to 24 hours of battery life—plus quick-charging. Skullcandy Crusher ANC Review “The Skullcandy Crusher ANC is an ideal noise-canceling headphone for a customer who cares less about subtle audio finesse and more about brain-shaking bass.” — Nick Jaynes, Product Tester Final Verdict The Sony WH-1000XM4 is our top choice for the overall best noise-canceling headphones, and the reasons lie in the leading under-the-hood hardware. This innovative tech offers an exceptional balance between noise control and audio quality, adaptive sound settings, and several smart features that make routine use pleasant and easy. Another worthy option is the Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II). Few brands have the same authority when it comes to noise-canceling technology and these over-the-ear headphones deliver on that reputation with three levels of noise cancelation and balanced audio quality at any volume. Plus they come set up to support Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, no configuration or update required. How We Tested Our expert reviewers and editors evaluate headphones based on design, audio quality, comfort, and features. We test their real-life performance in actual use cases, listening to music or podcasts while we commute, watching films, playing games, and working both at home and in an office environment. We also consider each unit as a value proposition—whether or not a product justifies its price tag, and how it compares to competitive products. All of the models we reviewed were purchased by Lifewire; none of the review units were furnished by the manufacturer or retailer. About Our Trusted Experts Don Reisinger has been writing about technology for 12 years and his bylines have appeared in Fortune, PCMag, CNET, among others. He’s an expert in consumer tech, gaming, headphones, and wearable technology. Andy Zahn specializes in consumer technology and gadgets ranging from smartphones to smart home devices and headphones. He enjoys experimenting with the latest gear, including many of the top noise-canceling picks featured on this list. Jason Schneider has a decade of experience writing about consumer technology for a variety of tech and media companies. He also specializes in audio equipment and headphones and reviewed many of the headsets we’ve selected. Yoona Wagener is a technology and commerce writer. She has covered a variety of peripherals, wearables, and headphones for Lifewire and uses one of the top picks on our list every day. The Ultimate Noise-Canceling Headphones Guide 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. Why Choose Noise-Canceling Headphones? 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. Cost 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. Wired vs. Wireless 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. Lifewire / Don Reisinger Software 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. Battery Life 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. Build Quality 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. Audio Quality 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. Active and Passive Noise-canceling 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. Lifewire / Andy Zahn Eardrum Suck 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. The Listening Experience 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. Comfort 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. Controls 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. Sound Integration 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. Lifewire / Jason Schneider Voice Assistant 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. Manufacturers Sony 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. Bose 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. Sennheiser 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. Conclusion 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.