If you work in a busy office or have a noisy commute, noise cancelling headphones can help bring a touch of peace and quiet to your day. You can use them to listen to your favorite albums or audiobooks at a lower volume, or just enjoy the silence. With so many different models to choose from on the market, it can be difficult to know what's best for your needs.
We've tested over 400 headphones 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 wireless noise cancelling headphones we’ve tested so far are the Sony WH-1000XM3. They have one of the best Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) features we've seen to date and are comfortable, well-built, and highly customizable.
Out-of-the-box, they have a warm, thumpy sound profile that's sure to please fans of bass. You can also tweak the way they sound with their excellent companion app, Sony | Headphones Connect. This app not only gives you access to some great EQ options, but you'll also find more customization options like room effects, different audio codecs, and adaptive noise cancelling.
While their 27-hour battery life is superb, they don't have a proper auto-off timer like the Bose 700 Headphones. Their touch-sensitive controls also don't work as well in freezing temperatures, which can be a deal-breaker for those who live in colder climates. That said, their unparalleled ANC performance makes them a better option if noise isolation is your main priority.
If you want noise cancelling headphones you can wear for hours on end and prefer a no-nonsense, simple design, then get the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. Their noise cancelling isn't quite on par with that of the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless, and they're not as customizable, but they're considerably more comfortable. They also have physical buttons which makes them easier to use in nearly all weather conditions.
If you're looking for the cream of the crop in active noise cancelling, go for the Sony, but for a no-fuss, more comfortable pair, the Bose are the way to go.
The best noise cancelling earbuds we've tested so far are the Apple AirPods Pro. Their impressive active noise cancelling reduces the hum of bus and plane engines as well as chattering voices, making them good in public spaces.
Whether you're getting your reps in at the gym or typing away in your cubicle, these earbuds are versatile enough to take with you wherever you go. Well-balanced in their sound reproduction, they're great for nearly all genres of music. They're also very comfortable, lightweight, and stable, making them good for more strenuous activities at the gym. While the battery life is just over 5 hours, the case provides five additional charges. If you're in a hurry, under a half-hour of charging can get you about 3-4 hours of battery life.
Unfortunately, if you're an Android user, not all features will be available. They're still a solid choice but if you're using these earbuds with your Apple ecosystem, you'll get the full range of features such as the ability to remap your controls. However, their great active noise cancelling can certainly outweigh the lack of customization available.
If you like keeping your earbuds on you all day and prefer something with lots of customization options, then get the Sony WI-1000X. Their in-ear design is less comfortable than that of the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, but their companion app gives you tons of features you can tweak to fit your needs. They also last longer on a single charge and can even be used passively, which is very rare for wireless earbuds.
Get the Apple if you prefer the more compact format of truly wireless earbuds, but if you want something that will stay at arm's reach throughout the day, then you'll want to go for the Sony.
The best wired noise cancelling headphones we've tested so far are the Bose QuietComfort 25. They have the same lightweight, comfortable design as the popular Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018 at a fraction of the price. Their noise cancelling is excellent and their balanced sound makes them great not only for a wide variety of music, but for audiobooks and podcasts too.
These wired headphones use AAA batteries, which can be convenient during a road trip where you don't have access to a wall charger, especially since they'll provide nearly 33 hours of playback with a fresh set. They also come with an in-line remote that's compatible with either Apple or Android devices, depending on which variant you choose.
While you can still use them passively if they run out of power and you don't have batteries on you, they do lose a bit of audio quality. They also leak quite a bit of sound, which can be an issue if you work in a noise-sensitive office. If you don't listen to your music very loud, though, you shouldn't have a problem.
The best ANC headphones under $200 we’ve tested so far are the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They have a comfortable, ergonomic design with super easy-to-use physical controls and a sturdy build quality. Their battery performance is outstanding and they have tons of connectivity options, too.
These headphones have an exciting sound profile that's sure to please fans of music with a lot of low-bass like EDM and dubstep but is versatile enough for other genres too. Their battery lasts a whopping 30-hours on a charge, and they have a bunch of power-saving features like an auto-off timer and smart pause to help them last even longer.
While these headphones have decent ANC, it's not as good as that of some of the more premium recommendations on this list. They still perform very well for their price though and are an excellent value overall for anyone looking to buy affordable noise cancelling headphones.
The best budget noise cancelling headphones we’ve tested so far are the Mpow H5. For their affordable price, their noise cancelling is a suitable choice for those shopping with their wallets in mind.
These headphones have a decently balanced sound profile for their price. Their build quality feels durable and the hard case is a nice touch if you're prone to dropping things. These headphones also have a solid battery life: they measured up to 12 hours of continuous playtime, which should be enough to get you through your work day. You can also pair them with up to two devices, unlike the Mpow H10 Wireless, which are the next generation of Mpow headphones.
Unfortunately, they leak a lot of sound, so your colleagues at the office will be able to hear your music if you listen to it at high volumes. If you have a bit more to spend, the H10 have better noise cancelling and a more balanced sound. However, if you're trying to save a few dollars, the H5 provide decent bang for your buck.
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.
03/04/2020: Switched Mpow H10 with Mpow H5 to reflect budget price. Moved Mpow H10 Wireless into the notable mentions. Minor text and structure changes.
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. "Best Noise Cancelling under $100" category also removed with Mpow H10 made "Best Affordable", replacing "Best Budget". AUKEY Latitude removed.
11/29/2019: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.
10/31/2019: Removed 'Customizable Alternative' to "Best Noise Cancelling Headphones Under $200". Added Anker SoundCore Space NC as 'More Expensive, Better-Built Alternative' to "Best Noise Cancelling Headphones Under $100".