Active noise canceling headphones are geared towards listeners who wish to have a well-isolated listening experience and block the ambient noise of loud environments. 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 64 noise-cancelling headphones and below are our recommendations for the best ones you can buy in the early months of 2018.
Best Noise Cancelling Headphones: Sony WH-1000XM2
The best noise cancelling headphones that we've tested so far are the Sony WH-1000XM2. They isolate as well as the MDR-1000X in loud environments and their adaptive noise-cancelling outperforms that of the Bose QuietComfort 35.
The WH-1000XM2 offer a few improvements over the previous model: a more consistent sound profile, softer pads, and app support that provides a lot of customization options. They're still not as comfortable or as practical for everyday use as the QC35 but they have the best active noise-cancelling performance for any over-ear headphone.
More Comfortable Alternative: Bose QuietComfort 35
If comfort is one of your major priorities when purchasing a headphone, then get the Bose QuietComfort 35 instead. They're more comfortable than the Sony WH-1000XM2 and have a good performance in most test categories, making them a versatile headset for most use cases and environments.
They don't isolate as well as the Sony WH-1000XM2 and their app doesn't offer as many customization options but they're a lot easier to use and have a more consistent audio reproduction overall.
Best Mid-Range Noise Cancelling Headphones: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2
In the mid-range category, the best noise cancelling headphones are the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They are cheaper and have a better overall performance than the JBL Elite 700. They also outperform the Sennheiser HD 4.50 but won't be as isolating.
They block enough noise for moderately loud environments and commuting and they're the best option for their price, build and sound quality ratio.
Alternative for a Better Companion App: JBL Everest Elite 700
If you want the highest isolating headphones in this price range, then get the JBL Everest Elite 700. The noise-cancelling is better than the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 and they come with one of the best companion apps.
They're not the most comfortable headphones but on the upside, the app is easy to use and intuitive while giving you a level of control over the noise cancellation and sound quality that not many headphones can reproduce.
Best Budget Noise Cancelling Headphones: Cowin E7
If you're on a tight budget but still want affordable headphones that deliver a decent isolation and sound quality, then we recommend the Cowin E7.
The Bluedio T4 has a slightly better performance when it comes to sound and build quality, but their incredibly high latency is not ideal for watching videos. Overall, the Cowin E7 are well-rounded headphones which are easy to recommend if you're looking for a pair of cheap wireless noise canceling headphones.
- Sony MDR-1000x. Excellent noise cancelling and good design. The Sony WH-1000XM2 is the more up to date variation with app support. See our review
- Bose QuietControl 30. Great isolation, portable and comfortable noise-cancelling earbuds but the neckband design is not for everyone. See our review
- Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless. Versatile headphones with a customizable sound. Mediocre noise-cancelling for an ANC headphone. See our review
- Sennheiser HD 4.50. Versatile noise-canceling wireless headphones with above average noise canceling. Slightly worse than the Plantronics Backbeat Pro 2 overall. See our review
- Beats Studio3 Wireless. Sleek and comfortable over-ear headphones with a decent sound quality and a much better isolation than the original studio wireless. See our review
- Parrot Zik 3.0. Noise cancelling headphones with a customizable sound and high isolation. Very short battery life and confusing pairing procedure. See our review
- Samsung Level Over Wireless. A good alternative to the Backbeat Pro 2. Bulky design and slightly worse build quality. See our review
- Bluedio T4. Good overall performance but incredibly high latency and mediocre comfort level. See our review
- Denon AHGC20. Great noise canceling but a poor and uneven audio reproduction and they're very pricey. See our review
- Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7NC. A good-sounding and well-built noise canceling headphone. But their isolation is mediocre and they're a slightly pricey for their relative lack of features. See our review
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 (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one 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.