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, the QuietComfort 35 II 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 like to be able to fine-tune your listening experience your way, then get the Sony WH-1000XM3. They're not quite as comfortable as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, but they feel better-built and have a more premium look. They also have a longer battery life and are compatible with a great graphic EQ, so you can tweak their sound to your liking. They also have an auto-calibrating noise cancelling feature that outperforms that of the QC 35II in most conditions.
Although these headphones are fairly easy-to-use, their touch-sensitive control scheme has a bit of a learning curve and takes some getting used to. It also doesn’t function properly in freezing temperatures, which can be a deal-breaker for those living in colder climates. They also have a more bass-heavy default sound profile than the Bose QC 35II and sound slightly veiled out-of-the-box. Overall, the QC 35 II are the easier-to-use and more comfortable option, but if you want more control over your settings and like to customize your headphones, then the Sony WH-1000XM3 are the better choice.
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, the BackBeat Pro 2 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, the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC 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 find over-ears like the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 a bit too bulky, then get the Jabra Elite 65e. Their noise cancelling isn’t as powerful as that of the similarly designed Bose QuietControl 30 or Sony WI-1000X, but they still isolate well overall. They’re comfortable, they sound decent, and they have a pleasantly complete control scheme. They also have a surprisingly decent in-line microphone that outperforms the majority of Bluetooth mics we’ve tested so far, making them a good option for phone calls.
Unfortunately, their ear buds are a bit big, which means some people, especially those with smaller ears, may have a harder time getting a good seal. Thankfully, they come with multiple tip sizes and stability fins for you to find the best fit possible. If you’re looking for something more sports-oriented, consider the Sony WI-SP600N, but they have weak ANC and a slightly dark sound.
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 portability of in-ear headphones and want great passive isolation at a low price, get the AUKEY Latitude. Some may find their in-ear design a bit fatiguing over time, but they have outstanding isolation performance and do a very good job at blocking out ambient noise passively. They sound decent for budget in-ears and have magnetic earbuds, which is a nice feature at this price point.
Unfortunately, these headphones have a mediocre-at-best battery, since they only achieve about 7 hours of continuous playback and don’t have any power-saving features. They’re also not very comfortable since they enter the ear canal fairly deeply. The Jaybird Freedom are a more comfortable, customizable alternative, but they don’t isolate quite as well as the AUKEY Latitude and are a bit more expensive.
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.