The 10 Best Noise-Canceling Headphones of 2020

Tune out the background noise with these great headphones

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The Rundown

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.

Best Overall: Sony WH1000XM3

What We Like
  • Fantastic audio quality

  • Best-in-class noise canceling

  • AptX HD and LDAC support

What We Don't Like
  • 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

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Bose QuietComfort 35 II
What We Like
  • Comfy design

  • Amazing noise cancellation

  • Excellent sound quality

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

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

Best for Comfort: Sennheiser PXC 550

What We Like
  • Unique design

  • Fantastic sound quality

  • Adaptive noise canceling

What We Don't Like
  • 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

Best Bass: Sony WH-XB900N

What We Like
  • Excellent bass

  • Clear mids and highs

  • Solid noise-canceling

What We Don't Like
  • 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

Best Splurge: Bose 700

What We Like
  • Tight, crisp sound

  • Six mics for noise canceling

  • Great call quality

What We Don't Like
  • 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

Best Adaptive Sound: Jabra Elite 85h

Jabra Elite 85h
What We Like
  • Great fit

  • Impressive audio

  • Tremendous battery life

What We Don't Like
  • 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

Best In-Ear: Bose QuietControl 30

Bose QuietControl 30
Courtesy of
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

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.

Best Sound: Paww WaveSound 3

What We Like
  • Stunning audio quality

  • Great for filtering ambient noise

  • Lightweight build

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Best Style: Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8i

What We Like
  • Premium design

  • Fantastic materials

  • Impressive ANC without sealing

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

Best Rumble: Skullcandy Crusher ANC

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 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.

Final Verdict

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.

About Our Trusted Experts

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.

What to Look for in a Pair of Noise-Canceling Headphones

Active or passive - True noise-canceling headphones use active circuitry to analyze sounds in your vicinity and generate counter-signals to literally cancel them out. If you want the most isolated listening experience possible, you need active noise-cancelation. Passive noise-canceling just insulates you from the outside world with big earcups that form a strong seal against your head.

Headphone style - Active noise-canceling headphones are available in over-ear models (where the earcups cover your ear completely), on-ear models, and in-ear models. There was a time when only over-ear models were really effective, but today, the quality of the noise-canceling hardware is far more important than the style you choose.

Noise-canceling toggle - This is a feature that allows you to momentarily turn off noise-canceling, allowing you to hold a conversation or listen to something without taking your headphones off. It isn’t absolutely necessary, but it’s a nice perk.