Noise canceling headphones are geared towards listeners who wish to have a well-isolated listening experience and block the ambient noise of loud environments. Below are our recommendations for the best noise cancelling headphones we have tested so far.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones
The best noise cancelling headphones we've tested so far are the Sony MDR-1000x. They will isolate you incredibly well in loud environments thanks to the adaptive noise canceling that outperforms that of the QuietComfort 35. They're comfortable and sound quite balanced but struggle a bit reproducing very high frequencies. Overall they're a sturdy, reliable and versatile pair of headphones for most situations and use cases.
The QuietComfort 35 are a bit more comfortable than the MDR-1000x. Therefore, if comfort is one of your major priorities, then the QuietComfort 35 may be a better option for you. They don't isolate as well as the MDR-1000x and aren't as well built, but they're a lot easier to use and have a more consistent audio reproduction.
Best Mid-Range Noise Cancelling Headphones
If you want a bit more customization options and control over the noise canceling level of your headphones, then get the Zik 2.0. The newer model, the Zik 3.0, is slightly better in most aspects but isolation and price. So if you don't have the budget for the Zik 3.0 and care more about isolation than the slight software benefits of the newer model, the Zik 2.0 are a good recommendation for most casual listeners.
Most of the headphones on this list are big, slightly cumbersome over-ear headphones that are not the most portable. If you want an easy to carry pair of noise cancelling headphones that still delivers an excellent isolation performance, then you should get the QuietComfort 20. They do not have as many features as the Zik 2.0 or the wireless QuietComfort 30, but they're cheaper and will fit in almost any pocket. Unfortunately, they do not have the best sound which may be a deal breaker for more critical listeners.
Best Budget Noise Cancelling Headphones
If you're on a tight budget but still want affordable headphones that deliver a good isolation, then the Panasonic RP-HC 56 are a decent option. These noise cancelling in-ear headphones don't have the best sound and tend to distort a lot at higher volumes. However, their noise cancellation and in-ear fit reduce a significant amount of ambient noise, which make them OK to use in loud environments.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best noise-cancelling headphones to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
A few examples of noise-cancelling headphones that didn't make the cut:
- Denon AHGC20. Great noise canceling but a poor and uneven audio reproduction and they're very pricey. See our review
- Plantronics BackBeat PRO. A great substitute to the level over. Good sound, great build quality, and control scheme but mediocre-to-average noise canceling. See our review
- Bose QuietComfort 25. The wired version of the QC35. Great comfort and noise isolation but a bit pricey for what they offer. See our review
- Parrot Zik 3.0. Sturdy and stylish design. Good, customizable sound. Slightly worse isolation than the ZIk 2.0. See our review
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for noise-cancelling headphones. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones and the level at which you play your music will naturally drown the ambient noise of lower amplitudes.