When you put on a pair of headphones, do you hope for total and complete noise isolation so you can listen to your audio without distraction? Are you looking for the best way to drown out the noises of loud, busy environments while still being able to travel and work with convenience? If you’re looking for headphones that reduce background noise, you’re going to need to find the best noise-cancelling headphones with high-quality performance and a comfortable design.
How to Choose the Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Why choose noise-cancelling headphones over other types of headphones? A reliable pair of noise-cancelling headphones can be a great investment that will bring you years of enjoyment, no matter what type of lifestyle you have.
- Work: If you’re someone who frequently travels for work, there’s a good chance that you’ll need a pair of noise-cancelling headphones that can help you focus and be more productive, even in crowded or loud environments.
- Music: Whether you’re musicians or you just enjoy listening to your favorite tunes undisturbed, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones can bring out the sound of your music while minimizing the annoying noises from the world around you.
- TV and Movies: Whether you’re on a plane or in the comfort of your own home, having noise cancelling headphones can make your movie and TV watching experiences much more enjoyable and captivating – no more having to rewind to figure out what the characters are whispering about!
- Gaming: For a truly immersive gaming experience, you’ll need the best noise-cancelling headphones with microphone capabilities and great battery life so you can get the most out of your games without having to turn down the volume.
If you’re wondering how to choose the right noise-cancelling headphones for your needs, you’ll need to consider price, comfort, connectivity and overall quality.
Comfort, Features and Extras
Comfort: Wearing uncomfortable or ill-fitted headphones can lead to listening fatigue, rending you sore after wearing the headphones for too long. When using a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you want them to be comfortable enough to wear for extended amounts of time. The cups need to be well ventilated with breathable material so that you don’t get sweaty ears. Depending on their form factor (in-ear, over-ear or on-ear), weight and shape may also be an important factor in overall comfort as well as portability.
Features: A popular and very useful feature, particularly for people with busy lifestyles, is quick charging. The best noise-cancelling headphones will only need to be charged for short periods of time, such as 5 to 10 minutes. Other features may include an inbuilt microphone to make or take calls and downloadable smartphone applications that you can use to enhance listening. Finally, the high-end canceling headphones will have practical and easy-to-navigate touch controls to quickly play, pause and skip your listening material.
Extras: Manufacturers always try to add some extras, including a high-quality carrying case to store your headphones while you travel. Not only will a compact carrying case make your headphones more portable, but it can also help extend the overall lifespan of your headphones by helping to reduce wear and tear. While not always necessary, many quality headphones also come with various cables and adapters, such as airplane adapters, for added convenience.
What exactly makes a pair of headphones “noise-cancelling”? Noise-cancelling headphones are headphones specifically designed to reduce or eliminate ambient or background noises. The sound quality of noise-cancelling headphones can be the same as other types of headphones, with a focus on active noise control (commonly referred to as ANC). As part of this active noise control feature, some noise-cancelling headphones produce a static-like noise while they’re turned on. This will generally be most noticeable when no audio or music is playing, but the impact on overall sound quality can vary. Generally, decent noise-cancelling headphones will have noise isolation features that far outweigh the idle white noise that ANC can produce.
One of the biggest advantages to noise-cancelling headphones is the fact that you don’t have to turn them up to ultra-high volume in order to drown out background noises. This can potentially improve the sound quality of the audio you’re listening to while dueling reducing the possibility of damaging your hearing. Without the need for constantly having your headphones turned up to the highest volume, you can experience health benefits by opting for noise cancelling headphones over other alternatives.
Battery Life and Connectivity
When it comes to buying wireless devices, the battery life is often one of the top features to consider. Without a power running to your wireless headphones, there would be no ANC.
Good headphones will have a battery life of at least 10 to 20 hours. Some high-end devices can even have 30 hours of performance before needing a charge. If you plan on using your noise-cancelling headphones frequently, you’re going to want to look for headphones that are rechargeable or capable of being used while wired.
Most ANC headphones are wireless and connect via either Bluetooth or Near Field Communication (or “NFC” for short). Of the two, Bluetooth is more readily available on the vast majority of devices, such as smartphones, TVs, laptops and tablets. Bluetooth also has a much larger range of connectivity with paired devices compared with NFC.
When it comes to making your headphones run as long as possible, NFC uses up a lot less battery life and may help extend how long you can listen to your audio. Unfortunately, NFC is much slower than Bluetooth; it may also have difficulty playing larger files, such as high-quality music files. Many of noise-cancelling headphones can have both Bluetooth and NFC functionality so you can use your headphones according to what works best for your preferences.
Active and Passive Noise Cancelling
If you’re looking at the world of noise-cancelling headphones, you’ll need to investigate passive and active noise-cancelling. These are the two types of noise cancellations that headphones use to isolate sounds.
Passive noise cancellation works by blocking out noise from the outside world through the actual, physical design and material of the headphones. Most of the time, the “donut” or headphone cup is completely enclosed.
Active noise cancellation uses electronic technology to cancel out the noises around you. The headphones detect the sounds around you using a microphone on the inside of the cup. It then produces its own sound wave which is exactly opposite of the noise that the microphone picks up. This is then sent to the headphone’s speaker where the noise isolation actually takes place.
Active: Active noise cancellation requires power to work. If you turn off or unplug the headphones (essentially removing the battery or power), then the ANC will no longer function. You will only have the passive noise cancellation to help block out the noise.
Passive: Passive headphones will usually cost less than ANC headphones, but their effectiveness depends entirely on the materials that are used in the construction of the headphones as well as the design of the cups.
Which One is Better: While the active noise cancellation feature comes at a premium price point, ANC headphones work much more efficiently at cancelling out noise than passive headphones. Additionally, they do not have to be playing audio to have the ANC. This means you could use your noise-cancelling headphones to block out sounds from the world around you in different scenarios, like a busy workplace or on an aircraft, without listening to actual audio. It all comes down to your needs for noise cancellation and how much you’d like to spend; investing in a quality pair of noise-cancelling headphones is likely the better choice if you consistently use headphones on a day-to-day basis.
12 Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones of 2020
Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II
Elegance, Comfort, and Silence
The QuietComfort 35 are dubbed as being the most powerful noise-cancelling headphones from Bose yet. With an elegant and comfortable design, Alexa voice command integration, and a battery that offers up to 20 hours of continuous play, the story looks complete. However, Bose brings the icing on the cake with their revolutionary 3-level noise cancellation system.
The sound, noise cancelation, and other settings can be adjusted using the Bose Connect app that can be downloaded, for free, from the App and Play stores. With the app, the headphones are a fantastic audio system that offers the intimacy you want, regardless of location.
The sound quality is just as revolutionary, with a good bass presence and clear, crisp high notes. Furthermore, when paired with an easy to wear design and premium quality materials, the end result can’t be anything else than stellar!
- Padded headband for long-term wear
- Premium materials
- Impressive sound quality
- 3-levels noise cancelation
- Bose Connect app for increased control
- Integration with Alexa
- 20h battery life
- The mic picks up environmental noise during calls
- Slight pressure due to ANC
- Sound can be a bit muffled
Industry Leading Noise Cancelation
Sony took the world by surprise with their latest proprietary noise cancelation system! The purpose of this system is threefold as the ANC strives to offer perfect sound quality while the world happens around you, and the additional microphones help isolate the sound of your voice and cut out the environmental noise.
As a result, these headphones are great for listening to your tunes in peace and have long phone calls. In terms of design, there’s nothing to stand out, but they are comfortable and quite elegant. The headphones are lightweight, and they don’t put pressure on your ears, but the overall wearing sensation is different for each person.
The sound quality is impressive due to the 40mm drivers with LCP diaphragms and Hi-Res Audio Compatible that helps reproduce a range of frequencies that goes up to 40kHz. Finally, the headphones can be easily packed, and they come with a neat and cool-looking protective case.
- Comfortable design
- Impressive audio quality
- World-leading ANC
- Easy to carry around
- Long battery life (up to 30h)
- Easy to control
- Takes a bit to learn the control gestures
- Charging cable is short
- You don’t get a charging adapter
- A bit on the large side
Shure AONIC 50
Premium Build Quality & Sound
From the heavily padded leather headband, cushioned earcups, and stainless steel arms to the adjustable ANC module, the AONIC 50 headphones scream quality. The padding combined with the ANC ensures your privacy even in crowded areas, but there’s also an Environment mode that allows you to hear the outside world with the flip of a switch.
The headphones support BT 5.0, for more reliability and have a range that goes up to 30ft. Furthermore, you can pair them with any compatible wireless device from phones and tablets to TVs and speakers. In addition, the headphones are designed with a premium built-in amplifier that supports multiple codecs such as Qualcomm aptX, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency audio, Sony LDAC, AAC, and SBC.
They are solidly built and can withstand transportation due to the flat-folding design. Also, they’re not just for music. You can use them for voice calls, voice commands, and more via the buttons on the earcup. And you get all of these, without wires, for about 20h on one charge!
- Solid build with premium materials
- Impressive sound capabilities
- Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity
- 20h battery life
- They are a bit heavy for long-term wear
- There is some bass distortion when the volume is turned up
Sennheiser PXC 550-II Wireless
Modern ANC Module & Foldable Design
Easily foldable and adjustable, the PXC 550-II headphones from Sennheiser are easy to carry around (especially if you have the special case). But that’s not the only reason why so many people love to have them on while on the street, on the commute, or on a plane!
The 550-II headphones come with an intuitive Adaptive Noise Cancellation module that matches the noise around and actively adjusts itself to provide the best listening experience without any disruptive noises.
Of course, they’re also easy to wear due to the padding on the ear cups and headband. And, since they are an over-the-ear design, the cushioning also helps with isolating you from the noise.
The surface of the earcups is touch-sensitive and you can use several gestures to control what’s happening with your audio experience. Also, you can chat with your favorite voice assistant, whether it’s Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri. This is possible due to the built-in triple microphone array.
Now, what about the quality of sound? Well, since it’s a Sennheiser product, it’s already understood that you won’t be disappointed. The sound is clear and rich, hitting all the right notes.
Lastly, you will not experience any drops in the Bluetooth connectivity and the battery is supposed to resist for up to 30h on one charge. Also, you have access to the Sennheiser Smart Control App, which is pretty good for making small adjustments.
- Foldable design with a case for easy transport
- Reliable BT connectivity with a good range
- The ANC module is useful in many situations
- Comfortable to wear for long periods of time
- Connects with voice assistants
- Touch-sensitive controls on the earcup
- The low battery warning is annoying
- The Sennheiser Smart Control App could be better
- It’s easy to forget they are ON
AKG N60NC Wireless
Ideal for Travelling
A compact design, ANC, and wireless build are the best factors for traveling headphones. The AKG N60NC headphones have all these and feature the detail and balance of superior studio-quality sound!
Furthermore, they fit nicely on flat surfaces and have a foldable design that protects the sensitive parts of the design from getting damaged while in your purse or backpack. Not to mention the carrying case, which ads value to the product.
The headphones are equipped with the latest technologies (AptX and AAC technology) that guarantee sound quality, regardless of connection type (wired or wireless). Also, the ANC module is ideal for shutting down the noise of the outside world, whenever you feel like it.
And you don’t have to worry about being left high and dry; the battery is designed to last for up to 15 hours of playtime (with BT and ANCE turned on) and 30 hours with just the ANC on. Of course, they also work in passive mode, and the quality is just as good!
- Comfortable fit
- Foldable design & carrying case
- Controls on the earcup
- Elegant and durable materials
- Amazing battery life
- Work in passive mode (wired connection)
- Solid build
- Controls on earcups are a bit flimsy
- No auto power off feature
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9 3rd Gen
Comfort, Durability & HiFi Sound Quality
The Beoplay H9 3rd Gen product is a step up from previous designs, which were also praised by users and critics alike. These headphones feature an incredibly comfortable design with a padded leather headband and memory foam ear cushions that let the skin breath.
On each earcup, there are anodized aluminum discs that bring the design together and serve a functional feature. The disc on the right earcup is a touch surface that lets you adjust the volume, change tracks, and take calls. There’s even a dedicated button for activating the Voice Assistant on your phone.
The ANC module reduces both high- and low-frequency background noises while Transparency Mode lets you listen to the surrounding world without removing the headphones. If you factor in the 25h battery life, the fact that there is a dedicated bass port for deeper sound, and the two microphones for clear conversations, the H9 3rd Gen is a clear winner!
Furthermore, the headphones can pair up with two devices at a time, and they can store up to 8 different connections for easy pairing. The range is 10m/33ft, but there’s also a wired connection (3.5mm port) for when you want to use them in passive mode.
- Comfortable design and fit
- Outstanding sound quality
- Long battery life
- Good range
- Touch controls on earcup
- Works with voice assistant
- Advanced ANC
- A bit pricey
- The headband can feel a bit tight at first
- No hard case
Bowers & Wilkins PX7
Fine-Tuned by Experts for your Comfort & Enjoyment
The PX7 headphones are quite impressive as they pack big drivers (43 mm) for the best possible sound quality on wireless devices. As expected, the sound is clear and powerful, rich in notes, and with accurate spatial representation.
When combined with the adaptive noise-canceling technology, you get to experience musical or audio bliss right in the middle of a crowded street or train. And, when you want to check in with reality, all you have to do is lift one ear cup and the music will stop. Put it back on and it will resume like nothing happened.
A 30h battery life and the possibility to connect two simultaneous devices at the same time make these some of the most impressive ANC headphones on the market. We should also mention that their structure is made from a carbon fiber compound that makes them lightweight and durable.
- The headphones respond to your moves
- Lightweight & durable structure
- Good battery lifetime
- The ANC module is quite efficient
- The sound quality is really good
- The fine-tuning app can be a bit difficult to master
- They are a bit pricey
Jabra Elite 85h
Ideal for Work & Fun Times
The design of the Jabra Elite 85h speaks about elegance and comfortable fit, and the technology tells you the story of a wide soundstage, with powerful bass and good representation across the spectrum (due to the 40mm speakers).
They fit well in both work and casual settings, and the SmartSound technology takes the guesswork (settings wise) out of your hands. They also connect with the Jabra app, for those users who want to have full control over the sound experience.
ANC is advanced and manages to cut most of the outside world’s disturbing noises, but HearThrough kicks in whenever you need to pay attention. These technologies are backed up by a 36h battery and a fast charging feature (you get 5 more extra hours with just 15 minutes of charging).
If you’re looking for a pair of headphones that also work for calls, you’re in luck! With six out of eight built-in microphones dedicated to enhancing call quality and eliminate background noise, you can join in work conferences, talk to friends and family, and more.
Finally, they are water and rain resistant and all the internal components are nano-coated to reduce interference from dust.
- Comfortable fit
- Elegant design
- Impressive sound quality
- Superior phone call quality
- Water and rain resistant
- Can be paired with the Jabra Sound+ app
- Connects with Voice Assistants
- Long battery life
- The charging cable is short
- The price point is a bit high
Wireless Earbuds with Advanced ANC Technology
With this design, Sony offers true freedom from headbands, wires, and over-ear headphones! The earbuds fit perfectly in most ears, and the high-end materials are nice to touch, removing any discomfort from the equation.
To deliver the best possible audio experience, Sony used 24bit Audio signal processing that delivers a wide soundstage, with clear notes and voices. Furthermore, the ANC system is supported by the HD Noise Canceling Processor QN1e, and the battery will last for up to 24h (with the charging case).
The Sony earbuds also feature smart listening, which adapts the sound and ANC use according to your activity. Furthermore, Quick Attention Mode and Wearing Detection lets you have conversations while wearing the earbuds and pause/play music by removing the earbuds.
The right earbud is equipped with touch controls that let you interact with the content you’re listening and voice assistants. Furthermore, these earbuds have built-in microphones for flawless phone conversations, whether you’re at the gym, in a park, or an office.
- Truly wireless design
- Outstanding sound quality
- Smart technology that adapts ANC as needed
- Touch controls
- Clear phone calls
- They connect with voice assistants
- No volume controls on the earbuds
- Noise Cancelling modes can only be changed from the app
- The software needs a bit of getting used to
Apple AirPods Pro
Enjoy Your Music in Public (Discreetly)
The Apple AirPods Pro assures a good fit in your ear, without any tugging or heaviness. The earbuds are sweat and water resistant, and users have access to several ear tips for a customized fit. Not to mention the easy connection with Siri, who is at a voice command distance.
Even though they’re small, the AirPods Pro is equipped with an advanced Active Noise Cancellation module that works wonders in combination with the natural seal provided by the tip. There’s also a Transparency mode that lets you listen to the world around without having to remove the earbuds. The mode can be easily activated with a press and hold movement on the right earbud.
The sound is rich and clear due to an ingenious combination between the H1 chip, a high dynamic range amplifier, and a custom speaker driver. Also, the adaptive EQ is set to automatically tune audio to the shape of your ear. This means that everyone will have a unique experience.
Lastly, the buds have a good battery life of about 4.5h on one charge, and about 24h with the wireless charging case.
- Sleek & elegant design
- Impressive sound quality
- Good ANC with Transparency mode
- Up to 24h battery life with the charging case
- The battery drains pretty quickly
- No volume controls on the earbuds
Sennheiser Momentum 3
The Perfect Headphones for the Modern Adult
Momentum 3 from Sennheiser are some of the most impressive noise cancelling over-the-ear headphones on the market.
First, the design is very chic and trendy, which is not easily achievable with this type of headphones. You can wear them on the street, in the bus or plane, or at the office without looking like you’re carrying an extra head (most over-the-ear designs are bulky). Also, we love the stainless steel headband that’s both perfectly designed to provide just the right squeezing force and looks amazing.
Due to the big and padded ear cups, there is a very efficient passive noise filtering. But, for those moments when you want some peace and quiet, they also have a well-designed ANC module that keeps most of the surrounding noise outside (with the possibility to switch to Transparency).
The sound quality is, of course, impressive with accurate and rich bass, mid-range, and treble representations. To control the audio content, volume, and other actions, there are some button controls on the left earcup that are easy to find and use. Lastly, the headphones remember their last connection and automatically pair with the device if they can find it.
- Modern-looking design
- Auto On/Off and Smart Pause functions
- Impressive sound quality
- Fine-tuning with the Sennheiser Smart Control app
- Good battery life (around 17h)
- You need to be careful during transportation (no flat-folding design)
- The joint that keeps the folding mechanism working is sharp
Microsoft Surface Headphones 2
Enjoy the Exquisite Surface Experience
True to their brand, the Surface Headphones 2 are sleek, extremely comfortable, and look so amazing on your head that you’ll see people turning their heads on the street!
But they’re so much more than a pair of gorgeous headphones! The sound is specially designed to make you feel wrapped in a bubble that’s perfectly customized to your needs. The ANC has 13 different levels, and you can crank up the volume or turn it down using the dials on the ear cup, with a smooth gesture.
You also have touch controls for voice calls, music control, and you can easily connect it with your Surface computer or tablet. Lastly, the battery lasts for up to 20h of full-time play on one charge (there’s also quick-charge).
- Amazing design & feel
- Very comfortable
- Touch-sensitive controls
- Adjustable ANC module
- Good battery life
- The sound needs to be customized out of the box
- You can’t turn the ANC off