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 popular. 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, but since noise cancelling headphones have become so popular, there are now many options in every possible price range, and it can be hard to know which ones are worth it.
We've tested over 190 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 noise cancelling headphones we've tested are the Sony WΗ-1000MX4 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 more neutral-sounding ANC headphones out-of-the-box, it's worth checking out the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless instead. While they still have a touch of extra bass to their sound, it's less exaggerated and bloaty 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.
The AKG N700NC M2 Wireless are the best upper mid-range noise cancelling headphones we've tested. These over-ears stand out from the other picks on this list, thanks to their high sound quality. Their sound profile is rich with a touch of extra bass, but the extra thump and warmth won't bloat or muddy the rest of your mixes. Vocals and lead instruments are still clear and accurately reproduced, but if the extra bass is still a deal-breaker, you can fine-tune their sound using their app's parametric EQ and presets.
These over-ears have an adaptive ANC system that automatically adjusts its level to better suit your environment. They can block out office chatter well, although they can't cut down as much bass range noise like rumbly bus engines as the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless. Their over 20 hours of continuous battery life is a lot less than the Sony too, but they won't have problems lasting through long days on the road. When it comes to design, they have a comfortable fit and feel well-built. Some users have reported that the hinges of their unit broke over time, which is a bit disappointing, given their price point.
The best mid-range noise cancelling headphones we've tested are the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 Wireless. Thanks to their adjustable ANC, these over-ears do a great overall job of cutting down commuter-related noise like bus engines as well as ambient chatter. That said, unlike our upper-mid-range pick, there's a noticeable drop in sound quality when you turn the ANC off. As a result, your audio sounds thin and hollow instead of full. On the upside, even with the ANC on, they last over 44 hours continuously, and they come with an audio cable with an in-line mic, so you can still take calls when using them wired. You can also pair them with up to two devices at a time, and they have a comfortable fit suitable for long listening sessions.
Although their sound isn't as balanced as the AKG N700NC M2 Wireless, these over-ears have a bass-heavy sound profile that's ideal if you like genres like EDM and hip-hop. You can even fine-tune their sound via their companion app's graphic EQ and presets. These over-ears support LDAC too, which is Sony's proprietary codec for hi-res audio via Bluetooth. Using it can help improve sound quality compared to the default codec.
The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless are the best ANC headphones at the budget level we've tested. They're the previous generation of the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 Wireless, but they're worth considering if you're looking for similarly great headphones at a lower price point. Like their successor, they have an adjustable ANC system with three different presets: 'Transport' for bus and plane engines, 'Outdoor' for wind and 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 that you can use them wired, but keep in mind that, unlike the Q35s, 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 use reports mentioning that the headband or hinges cracked over time.
The best cheap noise cancelling headphones we've tested are the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless. Yes, you've seen it right: our list has three Anker picks in a row. This manufacturer dominates the lower-end over-ear market, especially with 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 any 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.
The Apple AirPods Max Wireless are the most premium noise cancelling headphones we've tested. If a sleek, high-end experience is what you're looking for, these over-ears have great build quality with an aluminum exterior and removable ear cup padding. 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 well-padded and decently comfortable.
These over-ears have superb noise isolation performance and can block out different noises. While they don't outperform our top pick, the ANC can still block out a wide range of sounds effectively. 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. They have an adaptive EQ feature that allows the headphones to adjust their sound according to the fit and seal of the headphones on your head, resulting in 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.
The best noise cancelling earbuds we've tested are the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3. While this list focuses on over-ear headphones, you still may prefer lightweight earbuds to over-ears. These buds offer an excellent overall noise isolation performance in a smaller, more portable format. Their adaptive ANC automatically adjusts itself to suit your environment's noise levels. As a result, they block out more of the low rumbles of bus and plane engines than other premium earbuds like the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless, and offer outstanding performance at cutting down ambient chatter. With their ANC on, they have over eight hours of continuous playback time, and their carrying case supplies an additional three charges if you need them.
These headphones have a bass-heavy sound profile that delivers extra thump, rumble, and boom to mixes. Although their 3-band graphic EQ is a bit basic, you can use it to adjust their sound to suit your preferences. If you want to wear these buds to the gym, their stability fin design keeps them from falling out during a tough workout. They're a bit bulky in design, and the fins can have an uncomfortable fit, depending on your ear shape.
Still looking for more earbuds? Check out our noise cancelling earbuds article!
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.
May 27, 2022: We've restructured this article to provide better picks. Added the Anker Soundcore Life P3 Truly Wireless, AKG N700NC M2 Wireless, and Apple AirPods Max Wireless and moved the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless to Notable Mentions. Removed the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless, and Bose QuietComfort 20/QC20 from Notable Mentions.
Apr 27, 2022: Verified 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.