Noise-canceling headphones allow for a more isolated and more enjoyable listening experience in a noisy environment. Unlike regular headphones that simply provide passive noise isolation with the seal created by their ear cups or ear tips, noise-canceling headphones actively block out background noise. They are much more suitable for commuting, plane flights, and office use.
There are a lot of noise-canceling headphones on the market. But not all of them are worth a second look, with many of them offering mediocre noise isolation. If you don’t have the time and patience to sift through the dozens of options on the market, this product guide is for you. In this guide, you’ll find the best noise-canceling headphones currently out, including several good options under $200.
Best Overall: Sony WH-1000XM3
The Sony WH-1000XM3 are premium wireless headphones with excellent noise-canceling, great app support, and good audio reproduction. They are versatile headphones suitable for commuting, travel, and office use, with their comfortable design and long battery life making them suitable for long flights and extended office hours. While they are on the expensive side, selling for around $350, they are well worth the money, especially if you want the best noise isolation.
Featuring a closed-back design, the Sony WH-1000XM3 are well-built headphones made of premium materials, featuring a sturdy and durable frame. They are stylish headphones with minimal cosmetics around the ear cups and headband. While they are quite bulky, they are lightweight and are comfortable to wear. They can be folded into a more compact form, which makes them more portable and easier to pack for travel.
The ear cups have soft padding and are spacious enough to cover most ear sizes, while the slim headband is flexible and sturdy. The Sony WH-1000XM3 have convenient on-cup touch controls with call and music management and volume control. You can quickly turn your music down by covering the touch surface with your hand, allowing you to talk to someone without removing your headphones.
With the included hard case, it’s easier to carry the Sony WH-1000XM3. Unlike a soft pouch, the hard case offers protection against both scratches and minor drops. In addition to the USB-C charging cable, there is also an audio cable included in the box. You can use the audio cable to switch to a wired connection when the battery is in critical status or fully drained. There are no inline controls on the cable, though, which might disappoint some of you.
Although they are not as good as headphones designed for professional use, the Sony WH-1000XM3 have good audio reproduction with good bass. The battery life is excellent, with Sony claiming up to 30 hours of battery life on a single charge. The headphones charge fast as well, offering around five hours of playback after just 10 minutes of charging.
When it comes to noise isolation, the Sony WH-1000XM3 are the best headphones on this list, which is especially notable considering there are a number of Bose products included here. They easily block out background noise like the sound of buses and office chatter. You can tinker with the noise-canceling feature on the companion app, which also includes a graphic equalizer.
Unlike some headphones with active noise-canceling, the Sony WH-1000XM3 also have a low sound leakage, with their ear cups providing a very effective seal. This is especially beneficial when using the headphones in a quiet office, as some people may find it unpleasant or distracting if your music is bleeding out too much.
Overall, the Sony WH-1000XM3 are the best noise-canceling headphones on the market, offering excellent noise isolation. They are well-designed wireless over-ear headphones that work great for commuting, travel, and office use. They have good audio reproduction and decent mic performance and easily pair with compatible devices, featuring NFC pairing for a faster setup.
Best-sounding Noise-canceling Headphones: Bose QuietComfort 35 II
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II are some of the most popular noise-canceling headphones, with many people considering them as the best overall. They sound better and are more comfortable to wear than the Sony WH-1000XM3, but the Sony headphones are a bit better in noise isolation. You can’t go wrong with either product. If noise isolation performance is more important to you, go for the Sony WH-1000XM3. But if you want better audio reproduction, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II are the better headphones.
Available in black, silver, and rose gold, with the option to choose a custom color scheme for an extra fee, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II are wireless over-ear headphones with closed-back ear cups. They are well-designed headphones with good build quality, featuring a sturdy headband and soft padding on both the ear cups and headband. They can be folded into a more compact format and their ear cups can lay flat for easy storage.
While they look bulky due to their over-ear design, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II are some of the most comfortable headphones on the market. They are lightweight and don’t put a lot of pressure on the head, which is important when wearing them for long hours. But on the other hand, they don’t feel as premium as other headphones due to the amount of plastic in their frame, which might disappoint those expecting more from expensive headphones.
For controls, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II have an on-cup control scheme, with both ear cups featuring easily accessible physical buttons with good tactile feedback. On the right ear cup, there is a set of buttons for volume control and call and music management. On the left ear cup, there is a dedicated button for activating your voice assistant and cycling through the active noise-canceling modes. This means you don’t need to use the companion app to adjust the noise cancellation level.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II are great-sounding wireless over-ear headphones with a balanced audio reproduction. They are suitable for different music genres, but they are not ideal for professional studio use and critical listening. They have an excellent battery that can run up to around 20 hours on a single charge while in wireless mode and with the active noise-canceling feature enabled.
In terms of noise isolation, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II are excellent. They are great for commuting and travel. You can easily switch between the three levels of noise cancellation using the dedicated button on the left ear cup. For office use, the headphones are a mixed bag: On one hand, they easily block out office chatter, but on the other hand, they are not very good at preventing sound from leaking out.
If you want better-sounding and slightly more comfortable noise-canceling headphones than the Sony WH-1000XM3, look no further than the similarly priced Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They have a good control scheme, an easy connection setup, and a long battery life. Their audio reproduction is great while their noise isolation is excellent. They also come with a hard case for a more secure container, along with an audio cable for switching to a wired connection.
Best Wired Over-ear Noise-canceling Headphones: Bose QuietComfort 25
While many of the best noise-canceling headphones are of the wireless variety, there are still a few wired headphones that stand out. And out of all of them, the Bose QuietComfort 25 – a pair of over-ear headphones with a closed-back design – are the best overall. They are much more affordable than the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, selling for less than $200.
The Bose QuietComfort 25 look similar to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, featuring a clean aesthetic with not much cosmetics. They have a slim headband and large ear cups that can cover most ear sizes. Both the headband and the ear cups are well padded; the padding is soft and doesn’t feel cheap, unlike with some low-end headphones. The overall build quality is good, though some of you might feel disappointed by the plastic construction, considering the price.
Whether you are listening to music or gaming, the Bose QuietComfort 25 are comfortable to use for long hours. They are lightweight and don’t feel too warm after just a couple of hours, but they are not suitable for workouts and running. While they are stable and secure enough for normal use, they will easily slide off when doing intensive physical activities. On the bright side, these Bose headphones are travel-friendly; they can fold into a more compact form and come with a hard case for protection.
The audio cable, which is roughly five feet long, is detachable. It connects to the left ear cup and has inline controls for convenience. With the inline controls, you can manage your calls and music as well as adjust the volume. While limited in features and a bit short on feedback, the inline control unit is easy to use and is not positioned too far in the cable.
The Bose QuietComfort 25 are good-sounding wired over-ear headphones, with good mid-range and bass performance. Suitable for both music and video games, they are comparable to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II in terms of overall audio reproduction. The mic is also decent, but it’s not built for a noisy environment. Since the headphones use a wired connection, there are no latency issues, which is beneficial when gaming.
With their active noise-canceling, the Bose QuietComfort 25 are recommended wired headphones for commuting, travel, and office use. They do a great job at blocking out the sound of cars and buses and are very effective against office chatter. The noise isolation is also decent even without the active noise-canceling feature, with the large ear cups offering passive noise isolation. On the other hand, sound leakage is quite bad, which can be an issue in some situations.
The Bose QuietComfort 25 are excellent noise-canceling headphones overall. They have good audio reproduction, a user-friendly control scheme, a decent mic, and superb noise isolation. If you like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II due to their comfortable design and sound quality but you prefer wired over-ear headphones, get the Bose QuietComfort 25 instead.
Best On-ear Noise-canceling Headphones: AKG N60NC
If you prefer on-ear headphones because of their more breathable and more portable design, check out the AKG N60NC. They are wireless on-ear headphones with good audio reproduction, decent noise isolation, and good battery life. While some online sellers put them up for over $200, you can get them for around $150 or less.
The AKG N60NC are closed-back headphones with an integrated mic. They can fold into a more compact form and are easier to carry than over-ear headphones, which makes them suitable for travel. Although their build quality is not as premium as high-end headphones, they are well-built headphones with a fully padded metal headband and thickly padded ear cups. They are comfortable to wear, but since the ear cups rest on the ears, they put more pressure than over-ear headphones, which can be uncomfortable after several hours.
Considering their breathable design and wireless connectivity, you might be tempted to use these headphones for sports use. They are not recommended for workouts and running. They are stable enough for casual use, but they slide off easily when used for more intensive physical activities. If you want more stable headphones, there are better options listed in this guide.
The AKG N60NC feature on-cup controls with a mix of buttons and sliding switches, which is a bit unusual. The easy-to-use control scheme allows for call and music management and volume control, but it’s limited in other features, so don’t expect too much on that front. Unlike with some wireless headphones, the detachable audio cable also includes an inline remote with a mic and a button for call management.
Featuring a punchy bass, the AKG N60NC are some of the better-sounding wireless on-ear headphones on the market. They have a good battery life, with AKG claiming up to 15 hours of playback when in wireless mode and with the active noise-canceling feature enabled. That’s more than good enough for all-day use for most people. If you use a wired connection with active noise-canceling enabled, the battery life jumps to 30 hours.
While not as good as the Sony WH-1000XM3, the AKG N60NC offer decent noise isolation for on-ear headphones. They are great for commuting and office use, blocking out background noise in an effective manner. They are especially recommended for office use due to their low sound leakage, with the ear cups providing a good seal despite their on-ear design.
The AKG N60NC are the best headphones if you want noise-canceling headphones with an on-ear design. They have a good control scheme and are comfortable to wear, featuring well-padded ear cups and a flexible headband. Although their noise isolation is not as good as that of the Sony and Bose headphones above, they are more breathable and more portable, which are big pluses for some people.
Best Wired Noise-canceling Earbuds: Bose QuietComfort 20
Many people still prefer the simplicity and portability of wired earbuds. If that sounds like you, then the Bose QuietComfort 20 are for you. They are wired earbuds that come with a control module for the active noise-canceling feature. They are some of the best noise-canceling earbuds out there, offering even better noise isolation than many over-ear headphones. On the other hand, they are a lot more expensive than regular wired earbuds, selling for around $250.
The Bose QuietComfort 20 are well-built earbuds made of high-quality materials. They are durable and are comfortable to wear for hours, with their “StayHear+” ear tips making for a more stable and ergonomic fit. There are three pairs of stability tips included, allowing you to choose the best and most comfortable fit for your ears.
Since they are a lot more compact than over-ear and on-ear headphones, the Bose QuietComfort 20 are significantly easier to carry for travel and everyday use. They also come with a compact carrying case that protects them from scratches, but not from major water exposure. They are good headphones for running due to their breathable and stable design, but their wired connection can be inconvenient.
The non-detachable cable includes an inline remote with a built-in mic. The remote allows for call and music management and volume control, with the buttons providing decent tactile feedback. The rectangular control module, which is also integrated into the cable, is well implemented and very easy to use. It has a battery indicator and charges using the included USB cable.
Although the Bose QuietComfort 20 fall short regarding audio reproduction, with other Bose earbuds offering better sound, they have excellent noise isolation. They easily block out background noise, from office chatter to the sound of cars. In addition to their active noise-canceling, they also passively block out noise with their excellent seal. The control module’s built-in battery can run up to 16 hours on a single charge, which is good enough for all-day use.
While their wired connection can be inconvenient sometimes, the Bose QuietComfort 20 are great earbuds for commuting, travel, running, and office use. They are easy to carry because of their compact design and can be used as regular earbuds when the battery runs out. They also don’t leak a lot of sound due to their effective seal, which means people around you won’t be distracted by your loud music.
All in all, the Bose QuietComfort 20 are fantastic noise-canceling earbuds with good build quality and excellent noise isolation. They are comfortable to wear for long hours and feature a good control scheme. Sure, they are not the most affordable earbuds, but if you want wired earbuds with active noise-canceling, you’d be hard-pressed finding better options than the Bose QuietComfort 20.
Best Truly Wireless Noise-canceling Headphones: Sony WF-1000XM3
If you like the compact and highly portable design of the Bose QuietComfort 20 but you prefer a wireless connection, get the Sony WF-1000XM3. They are truly wireless in-ear headphones with touch controls and decent app support. They have decent noise isolation and are suitable for commuting and office use, with their compact design making them easy to carry in your pocket.
Stylish and well-built, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are good-looking in-ear headphones with an integrated mic. Since they are a bit bulkier than other products, they protrude out more and are not very discreet, but they are comfortable to wear for hours. Unlike the Bose QuietComfort 20, they lack stability fins. On the bright side, they come with multiple silicone and foam ear tip options, allowing you to choose the most stable fit.
For controls, the Sony WF-1000XM3 feature touch-sensitive pads on both earbuds. The touch surfaces easily register input and are easy to use overall. You can manage your calls and music, activate your voice assistant, and disable the active noise-canceling feature with the touch controls. You can also map the controls using the companion app if the default setup is not to your liking.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 are travel-friendly headphones, with their lack of cabling removing one less thing for you to worry about while on the move. However, they are easier to lose than wired earbuds due to their completely wireless design. Fortunately, they come with a hard case, which also carries additional battery charges. The stylish case is sturdy and holds the headphones securely in place.
Regarding sound quality, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are good for truly wireless in-ear headphones, but there are many better-sounding earbuds out there. They offer decent active noise cancellation and are the best among truly wireless headphones on that front, with their good seal also keeping the sound leakage to a minimum. They are suitable for commuting and office use, and they are decent enough for running and workouts, but only if you can get a very stable and secure fit with the included ear tips.
And as for battery life, the Sony WF-1000XM3 can run up to six hours on a single charge, according to Sony. The included case provides three additional charges, which brings the total battery life to an impressive 24 hours. That’s more than good enough for all-day use for most people. The headphones also charge fast, with 10 minutes of charging translating to 90 minutes of playback.
Overall, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are the best truly wireless headphones with active noise-canceling. They are well-designed headphones with good battery life, responsive touch controls, and decent mic performance. While they are not as good as the Bose QuietComfort 20 regarding noise isolation, they are good enough for blocking out background noise while commuting and at the office.
Best Budget Noise-canceling Headphones: Mpow H10
Noise-canceling headphones are generally more expensive than regular headphones. Many of the best ones sell for well over $200. If none of our other top picks are within your budget, check out the more affordable Mpow H10, which sell for around $50-60. Although their build quality is unimpressive, they offer good noise isolation and are suitable for casual everyday use.
The Mpow H10 are wireless over-ear headphones with large, closed-back ear cups. They have a bland aesthetic and don’t really stand out. They are made of plastic and feel cheaply built, which is not exactly surprising for low-end headphones. While they can be folded into a more compact form, they are still bulky headphones and are not the most portable. The included soft pouch protects them from scratches when packed for travel, but don’t count on the pouch for protection against drops and water.
The ear cups have soft padding and feel comfortable. The headband is also well-padded, but it’s quite large, which can be a problem if you have a small head. In addition, the headband feels a bit flimsy, so be careful when adjusting it and when folding the ear cups. Overall, the Mpow H10 are comfortable to wear despite their build quality issues.
As with other wireless over-ear headphones, the controls are on the ear cups. On the right ear cup, there are physical buttons for call and music management and volume control – the essentials, in other words. On the left ear cup, you’ll find a dedicated switch for enabling or disabling the active noise-canceling feature. The control scheme is easy to use, with the buttons providing decent tactile feedback.
While their bass performance is fantastic, the Mpow H10 are only decent at best regarding overall sound quality and are not suitable for professional studio use. The integrated mic is also subpar and is especially poor in a noisy environment. On the bright side, the battery life is excellent, with Mpow claiming up to 30 hours of music playback on a single charge. The charging time is also fast. If the battery runs out, the headphones can still be used as regular headphones with the included audio cable.
The Mpow H10 offer good noise isolation and are even better than some noise-canceling headphones selling for a much higher price. They are recommended for commuting and travel, with their wireless connectivity making for a more convenient, cable-free setup. They are also suitable for office use, but their sound leakage is quite high, which can be unpleasant or distracting for your co-workers.
If you have a limited budget, the Mpow H10 are the best budget noise-canceling headphones out on the market. They offer good value for the money and are suitable for casual everyday use, with their active noise-canceling feature providing good noise isolation. They are not the best-sounding headphones, but their overall sound quality should be good enough for many people.
There are many other good noise-canceling headphones on the market. If our top picks are not quite what you are looking for, check out the products below. The list includes relatively more affordable options under $200, including neckband headphones, which are not represented in our top picks.
Anker SoundCore Space NC
The Anker SoundCore Space NC are some of the best noise-canceling headphones under $100. They are a bit more expensive than the Mpow H10, but they also offer good value for the money. They are wireless over-ear headphones with closed-back ear cups. While they are quite bulky, they can be folded into a more compact format and come with a hard case, making them easier to pack for commuting and travel.
Featuring a good on-cup control scheme, the Anker SoundCore Space NC offer good noise isolation with their active noise-canceling feature. In addition, their sound leakage is low, which is beneficial when using them at the office. The battery life is also excellent, with around 20 hours of playback in wireless mode with active noise-canceling. When used in wired mode with active noise-canceling, the battery life jumps to 50 hours.
Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2
The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 are wireless noise-canceling headphones with good audio reproduction and decent noise isolation. They are over-ear headphones with a decent built-in mic. They are well-built headphones with large ear cups and a sturdy headband. Both the ear cups and the headband have good padding for maximum comfort during long flights and commutes.
Regarding noise isolation, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 are inferior to the Anker SoundCore Space NC, but the difference is not that wide. On the bright side, they sound better overall, with better bass and mid-range performance. They have a better battery life as well, with up to 24 hours of music playback in wireless mode with active noise-canceling enabled. If your budget is limited to $150, check out these Plantronics headphones, especially if sound quality is important to you.
Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC
The Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC are versatile wireless headphones that work well for commuting, travel, and office use, with their long-lasting battery making them ideal for long flights and all-day use at the office. They are decent-sounding over-ear headphones with closed-back ear cups and on-cup controls with call and music management. Although they have good build quality, they are not the most comfortable pair of headphones if you have a large head.
Suitable for casual everyday use, the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC have decent noise isolation and good battery life. They can run up to 19 hours on a single charge with active noise-canceling enabled while in wireless mode. With active noise-canceling turned off, the battery life in wireless mode is around 25 hours. The wireless connection setup is hassle-free, with the NFC pairing feature making for an even easier setup.
Jabra Elite 65e
If you are looking for noise-canceling headphones that are suitable for running and gym use, check out the Jabra Elite 65e. Unlike all the other headphones mentioned so far in this guide, they are around-the-neck or neckband headphones. Compared to over-ear headphones, they are more breathable and more stable, making them suitable for workouts and running. They have an IP54 rating, which means they offer both dust and water protection. But while they are wireless headphones, they don’t have a completely cable-free design like the Sony WF-1000XM3.
The Jabra Elite 65e are well-built and durable headphones. Due to their compact design, they are easy to carry, with the included carrying case providing protection against scratches. They have decent noise isolation performance, with the battery capping out at around eight hours with active noise-canceling enabled; without active noise-canceling, the battery runs up to 13 hours. The Jabra Elite 65e also come with good app support and sound decent for neckband headphones.
Bowers & Wilkins PX
The Bowers & Wilkins PX are wireless over-ear headphones with an excellent build quality. They are a good alternative to the Sony WH-1000XM3, featuring superb noise isolation, good controls, and decent app support. While they are not as comfortable to wear due to their tighter fit, they are better-built and are more durable. They are premium headphones boasting a sturdy frame made of metal and high-quality plastic, with well-padded ear cups and headband.
Of the eight products included in this section, the Bowers & Wilkins PX are some of the best when it comes to noise isolation. They are almost as good as the Sony WH-1000XM3, which makes them excellent headphones for commuting and travel, with their long-lasting battery – up to 22 hours in wireless mode with active noise-canceling – allowing for all-day use.
Bose QuietControl 30
If you like neckband headphones but prefer something with better noise isolation than the Jabra Elite 65e, go for the Bose QuietControl 30. They are better at blocking out background noise, and they sound a bit better overall. They can run up to 10 hours on a single charge, which is good enough for most people. The app support is also decent, but the customization options are a bit limited.
You can use the Bose QuietControl 30 for workouts and running. They have a breathable and stable design with earbuds that stay securely in your ears. The control scheme is well implemented and is easy to use even while on the move. On the other hand, the neckband format doesn’t offer the same movement freedom afforded by truly wireless sports earbuds.
Bose Headphones 700
The Bose Headphones 700 are some of the best noise-canceling headphones on the market. While they are better than the Bose QuietComfort 35 II in some areas, they are also worse in other areas. But in terms of noise isolation, they are just as good, with the well-designed on-cup control scheme allowing you to easily adjust the active noise-canceling feature.
Like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, the Bose Headphones 700 are wireless over-ear headphones with closed-back ear cups. Compared to the former, they are better-built, feature a better control scheme, and come with a much better built-in mic, which makes them more suitable for business use. On the other hand, they are slightly less comfortable to wear for long hours, and they sound a bit worse.
Headphones are the common commodity among travelers, road – trippers, commuters, and city walkers alike. In any environment where socialization is to a minimum and you need something to pass the time by, putting on some of your favorite music or throwing on that blockbuster hit while streaming audio through your headphones is an ideal method. From simple earbuds to complex, technical headphones, it can be difficult to determine what headphones are best for your needs and what brands are worth paying attention to.
What is active noise cancellation?
Active noise cancellation (ANC) is a level of certification in the audio world. Active noise cancelling headphones will completely eliminate the sound around you, so you can focus on your music, or perhaps just enjoy the absolute quiet. Active noise cancellation determines the noise in your environment and then creates an equal pitch, then creates the absolute opposite of that noise in order to cancel out external noises around you. Active noise cancellation is an additional technology that comes along with many headphones these days; it is important to note that triggering it on will reduce the battery at a quicker pace than that of a standard headphone set. The majority of people who purchase active noise cancelling headphones include those who frequent airplanes often or take part in longer flights (it easily drowns out airplane engine sounds) so you can easily sleep or focus on the audio.
Why use active noise cancelling headphones?
Our eardrums are incredibly sensitive and a lifetime of loud, sharp noises or continuous loud noise can damage them easily. With standard earbuds or headphones, you will often crank up the sound in order to drown out the noise of the city, the loud neighbors, or the guy snoring next to you on the plane ride. This can result in increased eardrum damage if you have it loud enough for an extensive period of time. The beauty of active noise-canceling technology is that it does all the work for you; eliminating the noise around you, so the volume of your music or podcast can be at a “normal” level, and you reduce the risk of hearing damage. Active noise-canceling headphones are also a wise purchase for those who travel overnight or frequent airplanes/buses often; you can easily switch on the technology and have some peace and quiet while you catch a nap or work on your laptop. In recent studies, some people have been purchasing active noise-canceling headphones solely as a sleeping aid; those who have trouble sleeping at night and wake easily to the sound of a car honk, dog barks, or their partner snoring, the headphones can assist in falling asleep with absolutely no noise to bother you.