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 and 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 a ton of options in every possible price range, and it can be hard to know which ones are worth it.
We've tested over 140 pairs of headphones with ANC. Below, you'll find our recommendations for the best ANC headphones you can buy. 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 Bluetooth noise cancelling headphones that we've tested are the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless. These well-built, comfortable, and stylish headphones are the next generation of the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless. They have a similarly powerful noise isolation performance but new features that you can use to customize your audio experience.
Right out-of-the-box, they have a thumpy, bass-heavy sound profile. However, if you prefer to tweak them to your liking, their companion app offers a graphic EQ and presets. They have good controls with several unique features like Speak-to-Chat, which pauses your audio and lets in ambient sound when you start talking. When you cover the right ear cup, it triggers their Quick Attention feature, which also lets in ambient noise so that you can stay aware of your surroundings without having to pause your music. You don't have to worry so much about battery life either, as they offer over 37 hours of continuous battery life as well as an auto-off timer.
Unfortunately, they're a bit bulky, which can make them a little less portable when you're on-the-go. Their integrated microphone also has a disappointing recording quality, making your voice sound thin, muffled, and lacking detail. They also have quite a bit of latency, making them less than ideal for watching movies or playing video games. On the upside, they have NFC and multi-device pairing, so you can easily switch between your computer and smartphone.
If you're looking for a pair of even more comfortable headphones, try the Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018. Unlike the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, they don't offer sound customization features like a graphic EQ or presets but they have a lightweight build that doesn't clamp as tightly on your ears. They have a superb noise isolation performance, and while they don't reduce bass-range noise like bus engines as well as the Sony, they can still cut down a significant amount of this noise. They also have a very well-balanced sound profile, which makes them suitable for most audio genres. Their touch of extra bass should especially please fans of thump and rumble.
If you like to customize your headphones' sound to better suit your needs, consider the Sony. However, if you value comfort over all else or if you're looking for something with a more neutral sound profile right out-of-the-box, check out the Bose.
The best noise cancelling earbuds we've tested are the Apple AirPods Pro. These truly wireless headphones are equipped with an ANC feature that helps them block out an amazing amount of ambient noise, from the low-pitched rumble of bus and plane engines to the chatter of nearby coworkers, not to mention the higher-pitched hum of an AC unit. They're also impressively well-built and have a very stable fit, so they should stay in place even during intense workout sessions.
These in-ears have a well-balanced sound profile that makes them a good option for a variety of audio content, especially compared to the bass-light Apple AirPods 2 Truly Wireless 2019. While they provide a little over five hours of battery life on a single charge, they come with a case that supplies nearly 32 hours of total playback time and have a standby mode to help conserve battery life when not in use. Since they use Apple's proprietary H1 cheap, Bluetooth pairing with Apple devices is quick and seamless.
Unfortunately, they aren't the best option for making phone calls since their integrated mic makes your voice sound thin, muffled, and distorted. They also don't offer any sort of sound customization options, like an EQ or audio presets, which is a little disappointing for premium earbuds. Still, their sturdy build quality, comfortable fit, and excellent noise isolation capability help place them among the best earbuds and in-ear headphones that we've tested.
If you're looking for noise cancelling earbuds that won't break the bank, try the Amazon Echo Buds. While they're not as comfortable or well-built as the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, the Amazon offer an excellent ANC feature at a budget-friendly price. Their ANC is slightly weaker than the Apple when it comes to bass and mid-range sounds like bus engines or ambient chatter, but they can still block out quite a lot of noise around you. They also have a somewhat balanced sound profile that delivers a touch of extra thump and rumble. You can tweak their sound profile using their 3-band graphic EQ in their companion app.
If you're shopping for more comfortable in-ears with an ANC feature that can reduce a bit more bass and mid-range noise, check out the Apple. However, if you're shopping on a budget and you prefer to customize a sound profile to your liking, get the Amazon.
The Razer Opus are the best noise cancelling headphones under $200 that we've tested. These very comfortable over-ears deliver a fantastic noise isolation performance suitable for a variety of environments. Their ANC can cut down the rumbles of bus or plane engines while you travel as well as reduce ambient chatter at work.
They have a great build quality and come with a hard case so that you can take them with you on-the-go. Thanks to their very well-balanced and neutral sound profile, they're versatile enough for all audio genres. If you prefer a different sound, their companion app has a graphic EQ as well as presets so that you can find a sound that best suits your needs. Their over 32 hours of continuous playback time should last through long days at the office too and they have an auto-off timer to help conserve battery life when not in use.
Unfortunately, although their integrated mic does an alright job of capturing speech, it struggles to separate your voice from ambient noise around you. They also don't support multi-device or NFC pairing, which is a little disappointing. That said, their powerful ANC performance and customizable sound profile make them a worthwhile investment. They're even among the best office headphones we've tested.
The best noise cancelling headphones under $100 that we've tested are the Anker Soundcore Life Q30. These Bluetooth-enabled over-ears, helped in part by their highly effective ANC system, do a remarkable job of blocking out ambient noise across the frequency spectrum, from the low rumble of bus and plane engines to the high-pitched hum of an AC unit. Their 44-hour-plus battery life is more than sufficient for a couple of days at the office or several long overnight flights.
They feel quite well-made and are comfortable enough to wear for extended periods. Their bass-heavy sound profile makes them a good option for hip-hop and EDM music, but their companion app features a graphic EQ to let you customize this if it's not to your liking. Since they can pair to two devices simultaneously, you can stream music from your phone while remaining connected to your computer.
Unfortunately, these over-ears leak quite a bit of audio, so you may annoy people nearby if you like to listen to content at high volumes. They're also quite bulky, which makes them a bit of a nuisance to carry around, though they do come with a sturdy carrying case. If you're looking for a pair of relatively affordable wireless headphones with remarkable noise isolation performance, these are a good option.
The TaoTronics SoundLiberty 94 Truly Wireless are the best budget noise cancelling headphones that we've tested. These truly wireless in-ears have an excellently performing ANC that can block out a significant amount of bus or plane engine noise as well as ambient chatter. They also don't leak too much audio, so you can listen to music at high volumes without disturbing others around you.
While they have a somewhat boomy sound profile that's suitable for genres like EDM or hip-hop, their mid-range is balanced enough for the reproduction of lead instruments and voices. If you like to run, they're also rated IPX5 for water resistance, although we don't currently test for this, and they have a comfortable as well as stable in-ear fit that helps keep them in place while you move. They have low latency on both iOS and Android, so you can stream video from your phone without too much audio lag.
Unfortunately, they don't have a companion app and lack sound customization features like a graphic EQ or presets. Their 3.8-hour battery life is a bit low too, and they probably won't make it through your entire shift at work. Luckily, they have three additional charges in their carrying case, recharge quite quickly, and have an auto-off timer to help conserve battery life. While they're fairly bare-bones in terms of extra features, their wallet-friendly design delivers an excellent noise isolation performance suitable for most uses.
Feb 24, 2021: Replaced the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless with the TaoTronics SoundLiberty 94 Truly Wireless as they offer more value to our users. Also checked the validity and availability of our picks.
Dec 23, 2020: Replaced the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless with the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 Wireless to reflect pricing changes.
Nov 27, 2020: Replaced the Mpow H10 Wireless with the Anker SoundCore Life Q20 Wireless as 'Best Budget Noise Cancelling Headphones'. Added the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless to Notable Mentions.
Oct 02, 2020: Replaced the Sony WH-1000XM3 Wireless with the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless. Removed the Sennheiser PXC 250 II.
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.