While headphones with active noise cancelling (ANC) have been around for a long time, technology has progressed a ton in the past few years and has become more and more popular. ANC headphones can help keep you focused in a noisy office, or help block out engine noise on planes, trains, or buses. Not all ANC performs the same, but since noise cancelling headphones have become so popular, there are now a ton of options in every possible price range, and it can be hard to know which ones are worth it.
We've tested nearly 100 pairs of headphones with ANC so far. Below, you'll find our recommendations for the best ANC headphones you can buy in 2020. If you're looking for something in a specific price range, check out our recommendations for the best noise cancelling headphones under $200, the best noise cancelling headphones under $100, as well as our best budget noise cancelling headphones.
The best noise cancelling headphones with Bluetooth that we've tested so far are the Sony WH-1000XM3. These popular wireless over-ear headphones are very comfortable thanks to their soft padding and look and feel very premium and well-built. Their battery lasts 27 hours, which is great, and you can get five hours of playtime from only a 15-minute charge, which is convenient.
Their ANC feature works exceptionally well and is the best we've tested to date. While most ANC headphones do a good job of blocking out background chatter or the high-pitched noises from an AC unit, many struggle with the lower rumble of bus and plane engines. This isn't the case with these, and they're some of the best headphones we've tested at blocking out all frequencies, making them a great choice for the office or your daily commute.
Unfortunately, their touch-sensitive controls don't work in colder climates, and their out-of-the-box sound profile is a bit bass-heavy. Luckily, these headphones are compatible with the excellent Sony | Headphones Connect app which gives you access to a graphic EQ to customize their sound. Overall, these are a great pair of ANC headphones and are among the best headphones we've ever tested.
If you want a pair of over-ear ANC headphones that are even more comfortable and have physical buttons, get the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. Their ANC doesn't work quite as well as the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless, and their companion app doesn't give you any EQ options, but they're lighter and more comfortable, and their physical controls will work in any weather conditions. While you can't EQ their sound, their out-of-the-box sound profile is very well-balanced and should be suitable for a very wide variety of genres.
If you want to be able to customize your sound or want the best ANC you can get, go with the Sony, but if you want a pair of headphones that still provide excellent ANC but are a bit more comfortable and have physical buttons, go with the Bose.
The best noise cancelling earbuds we've tested to date are the Apple AirPods Pro. These small in-ears have a new design with a shorter stem and a more typical in-ear fit than what you'll find on the previous AirPods models. They're very comfortable and easy to carry around thanks to their excellent charging case. You can expect over 5 hours of battery life on a single charge, on top of being able to fully recharge them five them with their case.
Their ANC is quite impressive for such small headphones. They do an excellent job of reducing ambient noise and are a great option for people that are on the move often and need to reduce the rumble of a plane or bus engine. They also barely leak audio, even at high volumes, so you shouldn't bother people surrounding you. Their overall sound signature is also very well-balanced and neutral, although some may feel like they're a bit bass-light.
Unfortunately, even though an interface with limited control is available on iOS devices, there's no EQ available to be able to customize their sound profile the way you want. Also, their microphone isn't the best as voices sound muffled and it struggles in moderately loud environments. Nevertheless, if you want the best noise cancelling headphones in a small form factor, these are one of the best options out there, even for Android users - if you don't mind not having customization options.
If you prefer the convenience of always having your headphones at arms' reach, go with the Sony WI-1000X. They aren't as portable or as comfortable as the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, but their ANC works just as well and their companion app gives more customization settings. While their out-of-the-box sound profile is quite well-balanced, their app gives access to a graphic EQ to change the way they sound. It also allows you to remap their physical buttons, giving you better control over the headphones. While they last longer off a single charge than the Apple, unfortunately, they don't have a charging case to keep them topped up while on the go.
If you want a comfortable pair of in-ears that you can easily toss into a pocket or bag, get the Apple, but if you like to easily hang your headphones around your neck when you aren't using them, or want to be able to customize your headphones, go with the Sony.
The best noise cancelling headphones with a wire that we've tested so far are the Bose QuietComfort 25. These wired over-ear headphones are very lightweight and comfortable and have an easy-to-use in-line remote. They feel quite well-made and come with a nice hard carrying case for bringing them around with you.
While their ANC doesn't work quite as well as the higher-end Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018, it still works very well and will help bring some peace to your daily commutes, as well as keep you concentrated at work. Their sound profile is fairly well-balanced and should be suitable for a wide range of genres, though unfortunately, they have no companion app to make any changes to their EQ or settings.
Since they're wired headphones, they don't require a battery to connect to your device but do use a single AAA battery to power their ANC feature. A single battery should last around 33 hours, which is great, and you can use them without ANC if your battery dies, which is nice. Overall, if you like the comfort of Bose headphones but don't need Bluetooth, these are a great option that will also save you a few bucks.
The best noise cancelling headphones under $200 that we've tested so far are the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. These over-ear Bluetooth headphones are quite comfortable and have an impressive, easy-to-use control scheme. They feel quite durable and their 30-hour battery means you can use them for several full work days before you need to charge them.
Unfortunately, their ANC doesn't work as well as the other options on this list, and while they'll help keep you concentrated in the office, they don't do much against the low engine rumble of buses or planes. On the bright side, they have a very well-balanced sound profile with a bit of extra rumble that will please fans of bass, though unfortunately, their companion app doesn't include any EQ settings.
Overall, despite not having as powerful ANC as the other options on this list, these headphones are excellent value for their price, and are among the best over-ear headphones we've tested to date.
Breaking the bank isn't always necessary to get great products, and the Mpow H10 is the best budget noise cancelling headphones we've reviewed so far. These over-ears are comfortable and have a great active noise cancelling feature for their price point. They even allow for about 23 hours of continuous listening, which is good. They can also be used wired if you ever want to reduce the latency or if the battery is dead.
Sound-wise, they're better suited for bass-heavy music. They have an exciting V-shaped sound profile with an overemphasis in both the bass and treble ranges. Their ANC is able to reduce a good amount of lower-end noises, such as engine rumble, which is great for your daily commute or if you often take a plane.
Unfortunately, their price reflects in the build quality. They're decently built, but feel very plasticky and the hinges make a very loud cracking sound when you fold them in. Also, their microphone isn't the best for making calls, especially not in noisy situations. However, if you're on a tight budget, their price-to-performance ratio is great and they're one of the best noise cancelling headphones available at such an affordable price.
05/01/2020: Minor text and structure changes; no change in recommendations.
04/03/2020: Replaced Mpow H5 with Mpow H10 as "Best Budget" to reflect current pricing.
02/03/2020: Apple AirPods Pro replaced Bose QuietControl 30 as "Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds"; alternative changed from Jabra Elite 65e to Sony WI-1000X with "Best Noise Cancelling In-Ear" category removed. Mpow H10 made "Best Affordable", replacing "Best Budget". AUKEY Latitude removed.
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 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.