Headphones with active noise cancelling (ANC) are geared towards listeners who wish to block the ambient noise of loud environments and have a well-isolated listening experience. 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 345 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best noise cancelling headphones you can buy in 2019. See also our recommendations for the best noise cancelling earbuds, the best budget noise cancelling headphones, the best office headsets, and the best noise cancelling headphones under $100.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II are the best wireless noise cancelling headphones we’ve reviewed so far. They are fairly similar to their predecessor, the Bose QuietComfort 35, but feature an upgraded control scheme and improved noise cancelling that you can adjust depending on your needs. These are among the most comfortable headphones we’ve tested so far and have a lightweight yet solid design that feels durable.
These headphones perform well in practically every category. They have a well-balanced, neutral sound that still packs quite a bit of bass. Their 20-hour battery life is great and they make use of an auto-off timer to help save power. This makes them a good wireless option for critical listeners with long listening sessions. Their amazing noise cancelling feature also makes them very good travel headphones and they’re suitable for even the noisiest commutes.
Unfortunately, they are a bit leaky at higher volumes, so you might not want to blast your music at the office since you might disturb your colleagues. Their companion app also doesn’t feature an EQ, so they may not be ideal if you’re not a fan of their neutral sound profile. Nevertheless, these are among the best active noise cancelling headphones on the market and their blend of good sound with a comfortable, easy-to-use design should satisfy most people.
If you’re looking for noise cancelling headphones that you can customize to your heart’s content, then get the Sony WH-1000XM3. They may not sound as balanced as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II when you first try them on, but their companion app provides significantly more customization options. When you pair them with the Sony | Headphones Connect app on your phone, you get access to a nice graphic EQ, various room and positioning effects, as well as different Bluetooth audio codec options. These headphones also have one of the best ANC features we’ve tested so far and can isolate an outstanding amount of noise across the board.
They have a touch sensitive control scheme that’s fairly easy to use once you get the hang of it, but some people have difficulty with touch sensitive controls, especially in colder weather. The Jabra Elite 85h have a physical control scheme that provides better feedback and can be used without a problem in below zero temperatures, even with gloves. They also have a more neutral default sound profile, but their ANC isn’t as strong as that of the Sonys. Overall, they are comfortable, well-built premium headphones that are suitable for most uses thanks to their customizability.
If you’re looking for noise cancelling headphones with a smaller footprint, consider the Bose QuietControl 30. They may not sound quite as good as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, but they provide a decent experience overall and are definitely worth considering. They have a comfortable neckband design that’s fairly easy to use and a stable earbud fit that stays put even during a light jog. They have great noise isolation and leak even less sound than the QC 35 II which makes them a decent choice for use while commuting or at the office.
Unfortunately, these headphones don’t feel as well-built as other premium noise cancelling earbuds, like the in-ear Sony WI-1000X. Though they look nice, the rubber sleeve that protects the neckband and in-line remotes tends to split and peel off with time. The Sony feel better-built and are also more customizable thanks to the Sony | Headphones Connect app. They’re less comfortable, though, and their battery performance is inferior, so if you’re looking for the best ANC earbuds for an upcoming trip, the Bose QuietControl 30 are definitely worth taking a look at.
If you want over-ear noise cancelling headphones like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II or the Sony WH-1000XM3 but find them too expensive, then get the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They're the best noise cancelling headphones in the mid-range category. They don’t block noise as well as some of the more premium ANC models, but they provide fantastic value for their price. They’re well-built, comfortable over-ears with a simple physical control scheme that’s very easy-to-use.
These headphones have an exciting bass-rich sound that brings out the deep thump and rumble of more bass-heavy genres like EDM or hip-hop without being boomy or muddy. They have an amazing 30-hour battery life and can be used while charging. They even support aptX-LL (low latency), so you can use them to watch TV or while gaming, provided you have the right Bluetooth transmitter.
On the downside, the Plantronics Hub app doesn’t provide an EQ. These are also rather bulky headphones and don’t have the sleekest look. If you prefer a more neutral sound and streamlined design, you may want to consider the Plantronics Backbeat Go 810, but they’re less comfortable. Overall, though, these are one of the best wireless noise cancelling headphones we've tested.
If you have a really noisy commute, then the noise cancelling performance of the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 may not cut it; in this case, get the Sennheiser HD 4.50 instead. They’re less comfortable than the Plantronics since they fit more tightly on the head, but this makes them less likely to fall off if you need to run to catch your bus. They have more customization options, like an excellent parametric EQ, and they isolate better in noisy conditions.
Unfortunately, they feel a little flimsy for their price. They’re not as well-built as the Plantronics and aren’t as easy-to-use either. They support multi-device pairing and NFC, but don’t come with as many codec options. They’re a decent choice overall if you need the extra isolation and the customization, though, and are a fair choice for commuters on-the-go.
If you prefer earbuds for their portability, then get the Jabra Elite 65e. Their battery doesn’t last as long as that of the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2, but their earbud fit provides better isolation and their neckband design ensures that your favorite tracks are always at arm’s reach. They’re impressively well-built and have a very complete control scheme that provides access to not only call/music and ANC control but also mic muting and talk through.
They have great bass, which makes them a decent choice for bass-heavy genres like hip-hop or dubstep, but they lack emphasis on vocals and instruments and their treble is uneven. They’re also not the most portable around-the-neck headphones since their neckband isn’t very flexible. Consider the Sony WI-C600N as an even more portable option, but they’re not as well-built as the Jabra.
If you’re looking for decent noise cancelling headphones that won’t break the bank, get the Mpow H10. They're the best active noise cancelling headphones in the budget category. They feel a bit cheaply made, especially compared to the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2, but they perform fairly well overall, especially considering their price. They’re simple wireless ANC headphones with a comfortable over-ear design that can be folded into a more compact format.
They reproduce audio fairly well for budget headphones and sound alright overall. Their mid-range is a bit recessed, which affects the intensity and projection of vocals and lead instruments, but this likely won’t be an issue for most people, especially those who prefer bass-heavier music genres like rap or EDM. They have a great 23-hour battery life, can be used while charging and feature a standby mode to help save power when not in use.
Although they have much better noise cancellation than the Mpow H5, they leak a lot of sound. Though this shouldn’t be a problem on a loud flight, you may disturb your colleagues with the sound of your music. They also don’t feel as well-built as the Mpow, which are cheaper. However, they’re more comfortable and have a significantly better battery. They provide a satisfactory listening experience all around and provide excellent value for their price.
If you prefer the compact form factor of wireless earbuds, then get the AUKEY Latitude Wireless. They don’t have active noise cancelling like the Mpow H10, but they isolate even more noise, especially in the mid and treble ranges. They also hardly leak any sound, so they’re a good option if you like to listen to your music a bit loudly but don’t want to bother anyone. They sound decent and are easy-to-use.
On the downside, their great noise isolation comes at the expense of comfort. They have a pronounced in-ear design and their earbud tips protrude quite deeply into the ear canal, which can cause discomfort over time. That said, they fit very securely and are a good choice if you’re looking for earbuds that won’t fly out if you need to run to catch your bus.
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 (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.