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 over 350 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 best noise cancelling headphones we’ve tested so far are the Sony WH-1000XM3. 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. 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 audio codec options. They have an excellent 27-hour battery life and support NFC for easier Bluetooth pairing.
Although their touch-sensitive control scheme is fairly easy to use once you get the hang of it, it doesn’t perform as intended 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, but their ANC isn’t as strong as that of the Sony. If cold-weather performance isn’t a concern for you, these are comfortable, well-built premium headphones that are suitable for most uses thanks to their customizability.
If you plan on wearing your headphones for hours and prefer the ease-of-use of a physical control scheme, then get the Bose QuietComfort 35. You can’t customize the way they sound like the Sony WH-1000XM3, but they have a very balanced sound and are among the most comfortable headphones we’ve tested so far. Unfortunately, a recent firmware update decreased their ANC performance considerably, and they’re also a bit leaky at higher volumes. The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 have better noise cancelling and leak less sound, but they’re not quite as comfortable as the QC 35 II and they’re even harder to use than the Sony.
Get the Sony if you want great ANC and customizability, but if you’re looking for noise cancelling headphones that blend great sound with a comfortable, easy-to-use design, you’ll want to go for the Bose.
The best wired noise cancelling headphones we've tested so far are the Bose QuietComfort 25. They're very comfortable headphones with a lightweight design that you can wear for hours with little fatigue or discomfort. They have excellent ANC and cancel noise especially well in the mid-range, which means they're a good choice if you want something specifically for blocking out lively chatter. They sound very well-balanced too and are suitable for all kinds of music, from hip-hop to classical.
These headphones use AAA batteries, which can convenient during a road trip where you don't have access to a wall charger but isn't ideal if you don't have batteries on you. Although they can be used passively when the battery's dead, they lose a bit of audio quality. Thankfully, they give you nearly 33 hours of playback before the batteries run out. Unfortunately, they leak quite a bit of sound, which can be an issue if you work in a noise-sensitive office, but if you don't listen to your music very loud, you shouldn't have a problem.
The best noise cancelling earbuds we’ve tested so far are the Bose QuietControl 30. 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 Bose QuietComfort 35 II, which makes them a decent choice for use while commuting or at the office.
Although they look nice, the rubber sleeve that protects the neckband and in-line remote tends to split and peel off with time. The Sony WI-1000X feel better-built and are also more customizable thanks to the Sony | Headphones Connect app, but they’re less comfortable and their battery performance is inferior, so if you’re looking for the best ANC earbuds for an upcoming trip, the Bose are worth taking a look at.
If you like the convenience of wireless earbuds but need something with a decent microphone, then get the Jabra Elite 65e. They don’t sound as good or isolate as much noise as the Bose QuietControl 30, but they’re better-built and their Bluetooth microphone performs much better. They have a very complete control scheme that provides access to not only call/music and ANC control, but also mic muting and talk through. While they have great bass, they’re not ideal for more vocal-centric music. Thankfully, you can customize the way they sound with the Jabra Sound+ app.
Get the Bose QuietControl 30 if you want ANC earbuds that perform better straight out-of-the-box, but if mic performance is a priority for you and you’re concerned about build quality, you’ll want to go for the Jabra Elite 65e.
The best noise cancelling in-ear headphones we’ve tested so far are the Sony WI-1000X. They’re well-built wireless in-ears with a neckband design that feels pretty durable. Like the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless, they’re compatible with the Sony | Headphones Connect app for access to a ton of customization options and they have good 10-hour battery life. They have a good audio reproduction and you can EQ the way they sound in the app.
While their neckband design ensures your music is always at arm’s reach, it’s not for everyone, especially since it’s very rigid. They also don’t have the most stable fit, so if you need to run to catch your bus you might want to hold onto the neckband so they don’t go flying. If you like a neckband design, though, they’re well-performing noise cancelling in-ears overall.
The best noise cancelling headphones under $200 we’ve reviewed so far are the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They’re well-built, comfortable over-ears with a simple physical control scheme that’s very easy-to-use. They 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, and they have an amazing 30-hour battery life. 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, their app doesn’t provide an EQ. They also don’t block noise as well as some of the more premium ANC models we’ve tested. but they provide fantastic value for their price. They 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 and have even worse ANC performance. The Pro 2 perform well for their price overall and provide good value for anyone looking to buy decent noise cancelling headphones.
If you're looking for noise cancelling headphones under $200 that you can customize to better suit your tastes, then get the JBL Live 650 BTNC. They don't have the same remarkable battery performance of the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2, but their compatibility with the JBL Headphones app gives you access to a great parametric EQ so you can tweak the way they sound to your liking. They also have a dedicated Bluetooth Sync button and come with an in-line microphone you can use to take calls wired without using the battery. Unfortunately, their noise cancelling is even worse than the Plantronics, so they won't be ideal if you need really good noise isolation.
Get the Plantronics if you prefer something with a longer-lasting battery, but if you're all about customizability you'll want to go for the JBL.
The best affordable noise cancelling headphones we’ve tested so far are the Mpow H10. Their ANC is decent and they isolate noise fairly well across the board. They 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 H5, 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.
The best noise cancelling headphones in the budget category we’ve tested so far are the Mpow H5. They’re fairly well-built, especially for their price, and have a reasonably comfortable yet stable fit. They sound decent, with a reasonably balanced audio reproduction that works for most genres of music, and are easy-to-use. They have a good 12-hour battery life, can connect to two devices simultaneously, and even come with a great hard carrying case, which are all great features at this price point.
Unfortunately, their noise cancelling isn’t the best. They do isolate a bit of noise overall, but not as much as the TaoTronics TT-BH060. Our TaoTronics unit had heavily mismatched drivers, though, and a dark and muffled sound quality. If you don’t need very much noise isolation and care more about having lots of active features, then the Mpow are a decent choice.
If you prefer the compact form factor of wireless earbuds, then get the AUKEY Latitude Wireless. They don’t have ANC like the Mpow H5, but their in-ear fit isolates even more noise passively. 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. Unfortunately, their great noise isolation comes at the expense of comfort since their earbuds fit quite deeply in the ear canal.
If you prefer over-ears, you’ll want to stick with the Mpow H5, but if you want something more portable with even better noise isolation, go for the AUKEY Latitude.
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.