While headphones with active noise cancelling (ANC) have been around for a long time, the technology has progressed significantly in the past few years and has become much more common. ANC headphones can help keep you focused in a noisy office or block out engine noise on planes, trains, or buses. Not all ANC performs the same, and there are now many options in every possible price range, making it hard to know which ones are worth it.
We've tested over 220 pairs of headphones with ANC, and below are our recommendations. If you're looking for something in a specific price range, check out our picks for the best noise cancelling earbuds, the best noise cancelling headphones under $200, and the best budget noise cancelling headphones.
The best noise cancelling headphones we've tested are the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless. While they're the previous generation of the Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless, these premium over-ears offer a better noise isolation performance than their successor. Their ANC system does an outstanding job of blocking out the low rumble of bus engines, office chit-chat, and the hum of computer fans. You can even use their ANC while using a wired connection, and with their ANC on, they also last over 37 hours continuously. They're equipped with an auto-off timer to help conserve battery life when not in use and support multi-device pairing, meaning you can stay connected to two devices simultaneously.
These over-ears have a bass-heavy default sound profile that delivers immense thump, rumble, and boom to mixes. However, if you find that the bass overwhelms vocals and lead instruments, their companion app offers customization via a graphic EQ and presets. If you're looking for ANC headphones with a more neutral default sound, it's worth checking out the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless instead. While they still have a touch of extra bass, it's less exaggerated and bloated-sounding than the Sony. They're also more comfortable, thanks to their lightweight fit, which doesn't clamp as tightly on your head. However, their ANC blocks less background noise across the spectrum.
The best upper mid-range noise cancelling headphones we've tested are the Sony WH-H910N/h.ear on 3 Wireless. Although they don't feel as premium as the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, they have an ANC system that does a great job of blocking background sound. It can help reduce ambient chatter and high-pitched noise like the hum of a computer fan, but it isn't quite as powerful for bass-range noise like plane engines. As a result, their ANC performance is better suited for spaces like busy offices than buses and planes. That said, you can use their ANC while wired, and their 40-hour continuous playback time lasts through long days without stopping and recharging them.
Their bassy sound packs some punch and has enough thump and rumble to please electronica and hip-hop fans. If you want to adjust their sound, their companion app supplies a graphic EQ and presets. They have a comfortable fit, making them a solid choice for long listening sessions. Unfortunately, unlike our top pick, they only come with a double-lined carrying pouch, which won't protect them from impact damage if you accidentally drop them.
If you're looking for more affordable over-ears without sacrificing ANC performance, consider the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless. Unlike the Sony WH-H910N/h.ear on 3 Wireless, these over-ears have an adaptive ANC system, which detects your environment and automatically adjusts its performance. This feature does a fantastic job of blocking out noise across the spectrum, meaning you can enjoy busy commutes and cafes in peace. You can also switch to manual ANC via the companion app, which has five different levels if you want to customize the amount of ambient noise you hear and use the ANC while connected via analog.
Out of the box, these comfortable headphones have a V-shaped sound profile. It's a solid choice if you listen to a lot of rock and pop music, as they deliver extra thump and boom while cymbals are crisp. You can fine-tune their sound to suit your preferences using their companion app's graphic EQ and presets. They last over 27 hours continuously and support multi-device pairing, meaning you can stay connected to your PC and smartphone simultaneously.
The best ANC headphones we've tested at the budget level are the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless. Although they aren't quite as sturdy as the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless and some users have reported that their unit's headband or hinges crack with regular use, they deliver a comparable noise isolation experience thanks to their adjustable ANC system. They can easily reduce commuter noise like the rumble of engines and ambient chatter. Unfortunately, Anker removed the ability to use the ANC while wired in later product batches, so if you purchase them, you'll likely get a pair of headphones that don't support this feature. It's a huge downside if you want to use them for in-flight entertainment, but it's less of an issue if you use them wirelessly in your day-to-day life.
These comfortable over-ears have over 44 hours of continuous battery life with their ANC on, which is great for long days on the go. They also support multi-device pairing, meaning you can simultaneously stay paired with two devices. They have an excited sound out of the box, delivering intense thump, punch, and warmth to your mixes while ensuring that vocals and instruments are bright. You can adjust their sound to suit your tastes using their companion app's graphic EQ and presets.
If you're on a tight budget, check out the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless. This manufacturer dominates the low-to-mid-range over-ear market, especially for ANC. These headphones are no exception, delivering a good overall noise isolation performance. Although they're weaker than their successors when tackling the rumble of bus and plane engines, they do a better job cutting down office chit-chat and the hum of AC fans. They don't have ANC presets, but they support ANC while wired, which is handy if you want to watch in-flight entertainment.
These headphones have a V-shaped sound profile that delivers intense bass to the audio, while vocals and lead instruments are bright and sparkly. Their extra boom and punch muddy the rest of your mix, and, unlike the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless, they lack sound customization features to help you adjust them to your preferences. While they have a comfortable fit and last over 32 hours continuously, their affordable price point reflects their build quality. Their plasticky hinges feel hollow, making them the weakest point of their frame.
May 24, 2023: We've validated the picks on this list and made minor text edits for improved clarity.
Apr 18, 2023: Removed some of our picks to better focus on the price curve and make the article more concise. Text edits were made for clarity and brevity.
Mar 01, 2023: We've checked out picks for product accuracy and availability. However, there hasn't been a change in our recommendations.
Jan 25, 2023: We've shifted our picks around to better reflect the current market, as well as removed the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 Wireless and added the Sony WH-H910N/h.ear on 3 Wireless.
Dec 01, 2022: We've replaced the AKG N700NC M2 Wireless with the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless as the AKG are no longer available. We've also replaced the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 with the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless, which offer a superior noise isolation performance.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best ANC headphones to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones 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 headphones with an ANC feature. 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.