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The 7 Best Noise Cancelling Headphones - December 2018
Reviews

Best Noise Cancelling Headphones
288 Headphones Tested
  • Store-bought headphones; no cherry-picked units
  • Retest after major updates
  • Easily comparable results
  • No ads; unbiased reviews
Learn more about our approach to product reviews here.

Active noise canceling headphones are geared towards listeners who wish to have a well-isolated listening experience and block the ambient noise of loud environments. These headphones actively cancel out the noise around you so that you can listen to your favorite albums or audiobooks at a lower volume, or just enjoy the silence.

So far, we've tested 284 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best noise cancelling headphones you can buy in 2018. See also our recommendations for the best noise cancelling earbuds, the best budget noise cancelling headphones and the best noise cancelling headphones under $100.

  1. Best Noise Cancelling Headphones: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.4
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    7.9
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    7.7
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    7.1
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    7.8
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    6.0
    TV
    Score components:
    5.6
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    The Bose QuietComfort 35 II are the best noise cancelling headphones we’ve reviewed so far. They are fairly similar to the first Bose QuietComfort 35 model, but with control upgrades, a slightly more neutral sound and a better isolation performance that you can set to high or low depending on your environment and use case.

    The QC 35 II are one of the most comfortable headphones we’ve tested so far and they perform well in practically every category. They have a well-built and lightweight design, and a fairly neutral sound profile that still packs quite a bit of bass. This makes them a good wireless option for critical listeners with long listening sessions and their amazing noise canceling feature makes them an excellent choice for commuting and office work.

    Unfortunately, they are a bit leaky at higher volumes, so be careful not to blast your music since the people around you will hear what you're listening to. They also don’t have all the customization options of the Sony WH-1000XM3 so they won't be as versatile for different users. Nevertheless, the QC 35 II are one of the best active noise canceling headphones on the market and the combination of good sound and a comfortable, easy-to-use design should satisfy most people.

    See our review

  2. Alternative with more Customization Options: Sony WH-1000XM3

    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you prefer a more feature-packed headset with better customization options than the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, then get the Sony WH-1000XM3 instead. They're a more comfortable update to the Sony WH-1000XM2, however, they're still not quite as comfortable as the Bose. They're also not as easy-to-use out-of-the-box and have a more bass heavy default sound.

    On the upside, they look and feel more premium than the Bose QC 35 II. They also have a longer battery life and come with an excellent EQ so you can tweak the sound profile of the XM3 to your liking, unlike the QC35s. They also provide an auto-calibrating noise canceling feature that outperforms that of the Bose in most conditions. Overall the QC 35 II are the easier-to-use and more comfortable option but if you want more control over your settings and like to tweak your headphones, then the WH-1000XM3 are the better choice. If you don’t like the bulkier over-ear design, we suggest looking at the more portable, but less isolating Marshall MID ANC on-ears.

    See our review

  3. Best Mid-Range Noise Cancelling Headphones: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.3
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    7.7
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    7.4
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    7.1
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    7.5
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    6.2
    TV
    Score components:
    5.9
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want over-ear noise canceling headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II or the Sony WH-1000XM2 but find them a bit too expensive, then get the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They do not block noise as well as the first two recommendations or even their alternative, the Sennheiser HD 4.50.

    On the other hand, they have a good, bass-rich audio reproduction that sounds exciting on most tracks without being muddy or boomy. They have an excellent wireless range, easy to use and tactile controls and an amazing battery life that will last a really long time since they also have an auto-off feature to save power in case you forget to turn them off.  They even support aptX LL (low-latency) so you can use them to watch TV or for gaming, provided you have the right Bluetooth transmitter.

    They won't be as customizable as the Sennheisers or the JBL Everest Elite 700, but overall, they provide a good overall performance for their price range and are a great value for anyone looking to buy a noise canceling headphone under $200.

    See our review

  4. Alternative with better isolation: Sennheiser HD 4.50

    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you have a really noisy commute, then the noise canceling performance of the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 may not cut it. In this case, get the Sennheiser HD 4.50 instead. Their build quality feels a bit flimsier than the BackBeat Pro 2. They're not as easy-to-use, do not come with as many codec options, and have less range and shorter battery life. They're also less comfortable than the Plantronics or the Bose QC 35 II, since they're tighter on the head.

    On the upside, this makes them a bit more stable than the other over-ears on this list for physical activities. They also have more customization options including an EQ, so you can change their sound profile to match your taste and preferences. They also isolate better in noisy conditions so they will be a bit more suitable for commute and travel.

    See our review

  5. More portable alternative: Jabra Elite 65e

    Type : Earbuds
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want a good, mid-range noise-canceling headset but find over-ears like the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 or the Sennheiser HD 4.50 a bit too bulky, then get the Jabra Elite 65e. They won't block noise as well as the Sennheisers and their sound quality, though decent on human ears, was a bit difficult to match on our testing equipment, which means they may sound a bit inconsistent if you do not get the right fit for your ears.

    On the upside, they have a comfortable around-the-neck earbud design, a bit reminiscent of the Bose QuietControl 30. They have above-average noise cancellation for noisy environments, low leakage and a surprisingly good microphone for making calls. This makes them a suitable option for the office and commuting, but they're also versatile enough for most use cases thanks to their sturdy and flexible neckband build quality, great controls and portable design. 

    See our review

  6. Best Budget Noise Cancelling Headphones: Mpow H5

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    6.7
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    7.3
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    6.5
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    6.8
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    6.7
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    6.0
    TV
    Score components:
    5.8
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 are out of your budget, get the Mpow H5. They don’t have the same great sound quality and feel more cheaply made than the Plantronics, but their performance is quite surprising for their budget price and they have a good 12-hour battery life that should last you a whole day without any problem.

    They're fairly well-padded and should be comfortable for most, but they are a bit tight on the head for some. They also come with a great hard case to protect the headphones from scratches and impacts when they're in your bag, which is surprising for a product in this price range.

    Unfortunately, they don’t isolate much noise even if they are noise canceling headphones, which is a bit disappointing. Also, although they sound pretty good, they do have quite a bit of high-bass which makes them slightly boomy and muddy overall. If you’re looking for more noise isolation in the budget range, get the Cowin E7 Pro (however, they are more expensive and can't be connected to 2 devices simultaneously like the H5). The H5 also have a decently premium look and feel, especially when compared to the Mpow 059 at around the same price range.

    See our review

  7. More Portable Alternative: Jaybird Freedom

    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Balanced Armature

    If good, passive isolation is enough for most of your use cases and commutes and you want something a bit more portable than the Mpow H5, then get the Jaybird Freedom. Since they're not noise-canceling, they won't be as good as the high-end over-ears for canceling low-frequency noise like the rumbling sounds of an engine. They're also in-ears which won't be as comfortable as the over-ears for everyone.

    However, they passively isolate as well as some of the noise canceling headphones on this list. They're also more compact so you can have them on you at all times and they have a decent and customizable sound. They're a great budget option for sports but thanks to their good passive isolation, they're also a good recommendation if you just want to block out ambient noise. 

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Bowers and Wilkins PX. Excellent noise canceling and great design. A good alternative to the Bose QC35II and Sony WH-1000XM3. See our review
  • Sony WH-1000XM2. A good noise-canceling headset for most use cases.  Sounds and isolates as well as the WH-1000XM3 but they're not as comfortable and have no auto-off timer. See our review
  • Bose QuietControl 30. Great isolation, portable and comfortable noise-canceling earbuds but the neckband design is not for everyone and they are considerably more expensive than the Jabra Elite 65e. See our review
  • Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless. Versatile headphones with a customizable sound. Mediocre noise-canceling for an ANC headphone. See our review
  • Beats Studio3 Wireless. Sleek and comfortable over-ear headphones with a decent sound quality and a much better isolation than the original studio wireless. See our review
  • Parrot Zik 3.0. Noise canceling headphones with a customizable sound and high isolation. Very short battery life and confusing pairing procedure. See our review
  • Bluedio T4. Good overall performance but incredibly high latency and mediocre comfort level. See our review
  • Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7NC. A good-sounding and well-built noise canceling headphone. But their isolation is mediocre and they're slightly pricey for their relative lack of features. See our review
  • Beoplay H9. Excellent build quality and great design. Average sound quality and a mediocre-at-best noise-canceling performance for the price. See our review
  • JBL Everest Elite 700. Good headphones but the Plantronics BlackBeat Pro 2 are better for much cheaper. See our review
  • Jabra Elite Active 65t. A good portable truly wireless headset for most use cases, with strong passive isolation. Not active noise canceling. See our review.
  • Sony WH-H900N.  A well-designed noise-canceling headphone with a  well-balanced sound quality. Mediocre at best isolation and worse in most aspects than the WH-1000XM2. See our review
  • Sony WI-SP600N. A good sports alternative with a decent noise canceling feature. Average sound quality with overemphasized bass and more expensive than the Jaybird Freedom. See our review  

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best noise canceling 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).

If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for noise-canceling 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. 

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