While headphones with active noise cancelling (ANC) have been around for a long time, the technology has progressed a ton in the past few years and has become a lot 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 200 pairs of headphones with ANC, and below you'll find our recommendations. If you're looking for something in a specific price range, check out our picks for the best noise cancelling headphones under $200 as well as our best budget noise cancelling headphones.
The best ANC 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. With their ANC on, they also last over 37 hours continuously, and they're equipped with an auto-off timer to help conserve battery life when not in use. They also support multi-device pairing, meaning you can stay connected to two devices at a time.
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 doesn't block nearly as much background noise across the spectrum.
Our pick for the upper mid-range price point is the Sony WH-H910N/h.ear on 3 Wireless. These headphones have a great ANC system that blocks out ambient chatter and high-pitched noise. However, it struggles when faced with bass-range noise like a plane engine or passing subway car, making them better suited for the office than a commute. Their 40-hour continuous battery life will also last you several workdays without needing a recharge, but they don't support multi-device pairing.
Out of the box, these over-ears have a bass-heavy sound profile that provides an extra touch of thump, rumble, and punch to genres like EDM and hip-hop. The mid-range is well-balanced, but a wobbly treble range dulls the details in vocals, lead instruments, and sibilants like cymbals. Fortunately, their companion app comes with a customizable graphic EQ and sound presets, allowing you to fine-tune the sound how you want. They don't feel as well built as our top pick, the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, but are still comfortable enough for long listening sessions.
If you're looking for more affordable over-ears without sacrificing ANC performance, you'll want to consider the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless. Unlike the Sony WH-1000XM4 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.
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 finetune 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 Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless have an adjustable ANC system with three different presets: 'Transport' for bus and plane engines, 'Outdoor' for traffic sounds, and 'Indoor' mode for ambient chatter and AC units. Using 'Transport' mode, they can block out an outstanding amount of ambient noise, and with the ANC on, they last over 44 hours continuously. They also come with a 1/8" TRS cable, so you can use them wired, but you can't use the mic while wired.
These over-ears have a very v-shaped sound profile, meaning you can expect extra thump, rumble, and boom in your mixes. However, while vocals and lead instruments are bright, these sounds still get a bit bloated by the extra bass. Luckily, you can finetune them to suit your needs via their companion app's graphic EQ and presets. These headphones also support multi-device pairing, meaning you can connect to your smartphone and PC simultaneously. Unfortunately, there have been a lot of user reports mentioning that the headband or hinges cracked over time.
If you're on a tight budget, check out the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless. Yes, you've read it right: our list has three Anker picks in a row. This manufacturer dominates the low-to-mid-range over-ear market, especially for ANC. These are no exception, as they deliver a good overall noise isolation performance. Although they aren't as strong as 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, so you can't adjust their performance to your environment.
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 muddies 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.
If you're looking for a premium experience or are an iOS user looking to benefit from the Apple ecosystem, check out the Apple AirPods Max Wireless. These over-ears have great build quality with an aluminum exterior and plush removable ear cup padding. They also come in a few different colors, so you can find a look that matches your style. However, some users have reported condensation forming on the drivers, which can happen even if you're wearing them at your desk. Their design is also heavy, but they're still well-padded and decently comfortable.
These over-ears have a great noise isolation performance. While they don't surpass our top pick, their ANC can effectively block out a wide range of sounds. They create a lot of ear pressure when the ANC is on, so you'll want to keep this in mind if you're sensitive to this feeling. Thanks to their adaptive EQ feature that allows the headphones to adjust their sound according to the fit and seal of the headphones on your head, they have a fairly neutral sound. If you're an iOS user, you can also use the EQ presets available in your device's settings to tweak their sound and access Spatial Audio, which enables sound to follow your head movements.
If you're looking for more portable ANC headphones without sacrificing noise isolation, you'll want to look at the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless. These premium buds are the next generation of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless and have a slimmer design that's more comfortable. In addition, their ANC can block out more ambient noise than the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless, making them a solid choice for long commutes or shifts at the office. You can set a custom amount of ANC in their companion app if you prefer. These buds also last 6.7 hours continuously, and their carrying case holds three additional charges.
These buds have a slightly U-shaped sound profile, which is good for genres like pop or rock. They have a touch of extra bass, while vocals and instruments are bright. You can adjust them using the graphic EQ and presets in the app, though. Unfortunately, the case doesn't support wireless charging or multi-device pairing, which is disappointing at this price point. If you're an Apple user, you may want to check out the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) Truly Wireless instead. These buds have an H2 chip for seamless pairing with iOS devices and even have features like Spatial Audio to help immerse you in your audio. However, their ANC blocks out less overall noise.
Still looking for more earbuds? Check out our noise cancelling earbuds article!
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.
Aug 30, 2022: We've integrated the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 into the Sony WH-1000XM4's text and made minor changes across the article to ensure quality and accuracy.
Jul 25, 2022: We've restructured this article to better reflect what users are looking for in noise cancelling headphones. Renamed the AKG N700NC M2 the 'Best Upper Mid-Range Headphones'. Added the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 Wireless as 'Best Mid-Range Noise Cancelling Headphones' and the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless as 'Best Cheap Noise Cancelling Headphones'. We've also removed most of the earbuds on this list and replaced the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless with the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 3 True Wireless.
Jun 20, 2022: Checked that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are in stock.
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.