In a world of noisy planes, screaming children and loud talkers, the best present you can give (or receive) is the gift of peace and quiet. A pair of good, active noise-cancelling headphones is what you need.
We've tested and reviewed the market's top noise-cancelling headphones across different prices and styles, and our top overall pick is the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. It offers best-in-class noise cancelling, great audio quality and a comfortable design for long-term listening.
Those wanting something more affordable may consider bargain options such as the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 and Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC that offer great bang-for-the-buck performance. The future of noise-cancelling headphones also looks promising, with the feature-laden Jabra 85h headphones expected in April. High-end headphone maker, Denon, has also entered the fray with its AH-GC25NC which uses two microphones on each cup and three ANC modes to keep things nice and peaceful.
Whether it's elite-sounding headphones to enjoy your Spotify playlists in peace or portable cans to shut out the world, there's something out there for every music lover. Here are the best noise-cancelling headphones money can buy.
1. BOSE QUIETCOMFORT 35 II
The best noise-cancelling headphones overallRating: 4.5/5 stars
Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC on); 40 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters)| Digital Assistant Support: Yes| Size: 7.1 x 6.7 x 3.2 inches, Weight: 8.2 ounces
Pros: Champion noise-cancelling technology; Strong battery life; Great sound; Lightweight, comfy design; Can listen in wired mode with ANC on
Cons: Google Assistant integrationcould be improved; Same design as last-gen model
The QuietComfort 35 II lets you go wireless while still enjoying Bose's superior active noise-cancellation tech. Screaming babies, subways and planes are no match for these premium cans, which are plenty light and comfy for enjoying the 20 hours of playtime on a charge. The controls are a cinch to use and the sound quality is top-notch among Bluetooth headphones. And if that wasn't enough, Bose has added a dedicated Google Assistant button so you can quickly inquire about the weather, a new restaurant or last night's game.
Read our full Bose QuietComfort 35 II review.
2. PLANTRONICS BACKBEAT PRO 2 SE
Best noise-cancelling headphone valueRating: 4/5 stars
Battery Life (Rated): 24 hours (NC On); 180 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 35 feet. (10.6 meters)| Digital Assistant Support: Yes | Size: 9 x 8.1 x 7.8 inches, Weight: 10.9 ounces
Pros: Strong battery life;Vibrant sound; Intelligible features; Pairs and connects to two devices at once
Cons: Overemphasized bass; Moderate noise cancellation
The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2's Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) technology can put a serious kibosh on an otherwise noisy situation. The headphones lacked the annoying white hiss that a lot of competing headsets use to keep the outside world at bay. The cans also offer a whopping 24 hours of quiet coupled with warm, rich audio and easy-to-use integrated smart controls.
Read our full Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 SE review.
3. SONY WH-1000XM3
Class-leading sound in a deluxe packageRating: 4.5/5 stars
Battery Life (Rated): 30 hours (NC on); 38 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters)| Digital Assistant Support: Yes | Size: 10.4 x 7.3 x 2.9 inches, Weight: 9 ounces
Pros: Unbeatable sound; Stellar noise cancelling; Longest battery with ANC on; Touch controls; Companion app with sound customization options
Cons: Design feels less premium than previous version; Not the best for phone calls
Advanced noise cancellation combined with compelling features and a ton of sound-optimization features makes the Sony WH1000xM3 a superior upgrade over its predecessor. The all-new HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 improves noise neutralization, as well as audio processing to achieve great high-fidelity sound. Comfort is another area where these sound-silencers excel, taking on a lighter and more slender form for better wearability. At 30 hours of juice, battery life remains a series highlight. And the addition of USB-C fast charging definitely ups the ante, rewarding listeners with 5 hours of use on a 10-minute charge.
Read our full Sony WH-1000xM3 review.
4. SENNHEISER HD 4.50 BTNC
Solid performance at a midrange priceRating: 4/5 stars
Battery Life (Rated): 19 hours (NC on); 25 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters)| Digital Assistant Support: Yes | Size: 10.2 x 7.1 x 3.9 inches, Weight: 8.4 ounces
Pros: Neutral-sounding mids and highs; Relaxed fit; Simple controls; NFC support
Cons: Mediocre battery; Noise cancellation could be stronger
Thanks to their minimalistic design, comfortable fit and clean, precise audio quality, the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC headphones are the clear-cut winner against other cans under $200.. While the NoiseGuard technology isn't as powerful as Bose or Sony's headphones, it ensures a quiet commute on the road and doesn't affect the sound profile.
Read our full Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC review.
5. BOWERS & WILKINS PX
A noise-canceller for luxury audiophilesRating: 4/5 stars
Battery Life (Rated): 22 hours (NC on); 29 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes | Size: 7.987 x 6.89 x 32.95 inches, Weight: 11.82 ounces
Pros: Beautiful design; Adjustable ANC; Smart features; USB-C charging
Cons: On the heavy side; Pricey
The Bowers & Wilkins PX headphones are the company's first Bluetooth cans to feature active noise-cancellation technology and offer smart sensors for automatic pause and play. The PX headphones also have a companion app that allows quiet-seeking music lovers the option of adjusting ANC modes as well as how much ambient noise the cans let in. The PX's premium price tag nets you great audio quality, up to 22 hours of battery life, and a pair of headphones just as pretty as they are sturdy.
Read our full Bowers & Wilkins PX review.
6. BOSE QUIETCOMFORT 20
Great noise-cancelling earbudsRating: 4/5 stars
Battery Life (Rated): 16 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth Range: None| Digital Assistant Support: None | Size: 7.8 x 5 x 2.4 inches, Weight: 1.6 ounces
Pros: Great noise cancelling; Extremely comfortable; Ambient listening mode;Plays audio when the battery dies
Cons: Not the best-sounding Bose earphones; Bulky in-line mic and battery module
Bose extends its industry-leading noise-cancelling technology to these premium earbuds, which do an amazing job of silencing background fracas while maintaining a balanced sound signature. NC mode is powered through the integrated rechargeable battery pack that provides up to 16 hours of use. The earphones also feature an Aware Mode to pipe in surrounding noise without stopping the music. Bose's patented StayHear tips are included with the package as well, and they rest comfortably on the ear with the wings providing a secure fit for added stability and noise isolation as well.
Read our full Bose QuietComfort 20i review.
7. MICROSOFT SURFACE HEADPHONES
Ultramodern design with adaptive noise cancellationRating: 4/5 stars
Battery Life (Rated): 15 hours (NC On) | Bluetooth Range: 35 feet (10.6 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes | Size: 8 x 7.768 x 1.89 inches, Weight: 10.2 ounces
Pros: Adjustable ANC levels; Impressive sound;Intuitive controls;Pairs with 10 devices simultaneously
Cons: Battery life lower than the competition;Cortana app needed for most features
Riding on the success of the Surface brand, Microsoft has expanded its reach into the audio space with the Surface Headphones. hese active noise-cancelling cans borrow much of the same design elements as the product's computing brethren, while bringing forth dynamic sound and unique controls. The result is a stylish set of cans with solid audio performance and surprisingly potent active noise cancellation. However, we wish these headphones supported other assistants and that the battery lasted longer.
Read our full Microsoft Surface Headphones review.
8. Sony WH-1000xM2
A last-gen model with next-gen soundRating: 4/5 stars
Battery Life (Rated): 28 hours (NC on); 38 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters)| Digital Assistant Support: Yes | Size: 9.81 x 7.329 x 2.92 inches, Weight: 9.7 ounces
Pros: Booming sound signature; Similar battery life as successor; Effective noise cancelling; Sound customization via mobile app
Cons: Touch controls are finicky; Still high in price
Dynamic active noise-cancelling technology and sound quality packed into a comfy, business-class design, the Sony WH-1000xM2 delivers one of the most personalized listening experiences yet. Two modes are programmed into these cans – Ambient and Noise Cancellation – each capable of drowning out environmental noise at high efficiency. Long battery life and smart features like Google Assistant are also highlights. However, the real sonic kicker lies in Sony's Connect App, which grants users the luxury of adjusting the sound profile to their liking.
Read our full Sony WH-1000xM2 review.
9. AKG N700NC
Beautiful cans with elegant soundRating: 4/5 stars
Battery Life (Rated): 23 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth Range: 37 feet (10.6 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes | Size: 9.8 x 3.78 x 9.1 inches, Weight: 9.2 ounces
Pros: Detailed and balanced audio; Business-class design; Excellent connectivity; Standard battery life
Cons: Listening modes are useless; Bleeds sound at high level
If you want noise-cancelling headphones with an upscale design and soundstage, the N700NC is a great option. AKG's newest release stands out as the most handsome noise-canceller and upholds the elite audio performance we've come to expect from the pro-audio heritage brand.
Frequencies are well-balanced to deliver clean, detailed sound, while toying with the AKG Headphones app grants access to personalized sound by tweaking the different EQ settings. AKG's noise-cancelling technology is effective at blocking out ambient chatter. Next to Sony's and Plantronics’ headphones, the N700NC delivers the longest battery life (with ANC enabled) than other models listed.
Read our full AKG N700NC review.
10. Beats Studio3 Wireless
Bass blasters for iOS loversRating: 3.5/5 stars
Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC On); 35 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 51 feet (15 meters)| Digital Assistant Support: Yes | Size: 9.2 x 7.2 x 4.5 inches, Weight: 9.2 ounces
Pros: Improved sound;Standard battery life; Quick-charging feature; Attractive design
Cons: Passable noise cancellation; Pairing issues with non-iOS devices
The Studio3 Wireless headphones have served as a turning point for the audio giant. Mids and highs are emphasized, blending well with Beats' signature bass profile. Apple users get the best experience, thanks to the W1 chip, which increases battery life and connectivity range on iPhone models. While Android users aren't afforded the same luxuries, they're still able to enjoy acceptable noise cancellation, strong battery life and far-better sound than some of the brand's previous models.
Read our full Beats Studio3 Wireless review.
Credit: Tom's Guide