In-ear headphones tend to be better known for noise isolation since they physically block the ear canal from the outside world. However, in-ear headphones aren’t always the most comfortable, and some people prefer the fit and feel of over-ear headphones. Active noise cancellation (ANC) has come a long way in recent years, and it’s now easier than ever to get great-sounding over-ear headphones that also isolate disruptive ambient sound.
We’ve tested 327 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best noise cancelling over-ear headphones to buy in 2019. If you’re looking for our top noise cancelling picks in general or for certain budget options, check out our recommendations for the best noise cancelling headphones, the best noise cancelling headphones under $100, and the best noise cancelling in-ear headphones.
The best noise cancelling over-ear headphones that we’ve tested so far are the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They’re outstandingly comfortable and they sound great. These are very good headphones for most situations that require neutral audio reproduction and adequate noise cancellation, like critical listening, commuting or traveling, and even everyday use in the office.
These headphones deliver the thump and rumble necessary to enjoy bass-heavy music genres like EDM and hip-hop, but are balanced enough for classical, jazz, or even podcasts to sound clear and detailed. They achieve very good noise isolation, effectively blocking out rumbling low frequencies like bus or plane engines, and can help mask out office chatter as well. They also have a very good rechargeable battery that provides 20 hours of continuous playback on a charge.
The Bose have okay leakage performance, but they seep a bit of sound into their environment at higher listening levels. This shouldn’t be an issue in louder environments like an airplane, but could be bothersome to others if you like to crank up the volume in the office. The Microsoft Surface Headphones leak significantly less sound and have a much better control scheme, but they lack the unparalleled comfort and sound quality of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They are versatile, well-rounded headphones and have earned their place among our top picks for travel and our overall best closed-back headphones as well.
If you want even greater isolation and more customization options, then get the wireless Sony WH-1000XM3. They’re not as comfortable as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and they don’t sound quite as good, but they offer superior leakage performance and a better companion app. Where these headphones really shine, though, is in their companion app, Sony | Headphones Connect. This well-designed app offers a ton of customization features and even gives you live data on the impressive adaptative noise cancelling feature of the WH-1000XM3.
These headphones lack the clear, neutral sound of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, but if you live for deep, powerful bass, you may prefer the sound of the Sony. These headphones also have better noise isolation and leakage performance than the Bose. If you prefer great-sounding headphones out of the box, you’ll likely prefer the Bose, but if you enjoy taking the time to fine-tune your headphones exactly how you want, go for the Sony WH-1000XM3.
If you want more eye-catching headphones, then get the wireless Beats Studio3 Wireless. They may not isolate noise as well as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, but they have a more stable and stylish design. They also offer great leakage performance, which makes them a decent choice for quiet listening spaces, like an office.
These headphones sound decent in general, but not as good as the Bose QC 35 II or the Sony WH-1000XM3. They’re still decent headphones, though, and are definitely worth considering if you’re a fan of the signature Beats look. However, if you prefer better sound quality, consider the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless. They’re stylish noise cancelling headphones with a more balanced sound but aren’t as comfortable as the Beats Studio3 Wireless.
If you want sturdy, comfortable, noise cancelling wireless headphones but find the Bose QuietComfort 35 II too cost-prohibitive, then get the wireless Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They may not be as comfortable as the Bose or have as good noise isolation as the Sony WH-1000XM3, but they’re still among some of the best Bluetooth headphones we’ve reviewed. They’re well-built, comfortable and have a great control scheme that is easy to use.
These headphones have an amazing battery that charges in just over 2 hours and provides 30 hours of battery life on a single charge, which is perfect for a weekend getaway. These headphones are definitely geared towards more bass-heavy music since their low-bass is quite overemphasized, but they are still well-suited for a wide variety of genres.
Unfortunately, they don’t isolate noise as well as the more expensive options out there, but they still do a decent job. On the upside, they have very good leakage performance, meaning you can raise your volume to mask out more sound without bothering those around you too much. The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 don’t rival the comfort and sound quality of the Bose, but they offer great value and are still a solid choice.
If you’re looking for a more stable fit and a better microphone, get the wireless JBL E65BTNC. They don’t sound as good as the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 and their battery life isn’t as exceptional. That said, they’re a good pick for those who prefer a more stylish design.
These headphones sound good, but their treble is a bit underemphasized and their bass is quite heavy, which makes them better for bass fans. They have a better microphone than the Plantronics, though, and they even come with an in-line mic that is compatible with different gaming systems for added versatility. If you’re interested in similar headphones with a slightly different look and a better battery, check out the Skullcandy Venue. Though they’re not as well-built as the JBL, their battery lasts about 4 hours longer.
If you have a tight budget and the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 are too expensive, then get the Mpow H5. They don’t isolate noise as well as the Plantronics, but they come with lots of active features for budget headphones and sound pretty decent too. They’re among our best budget noise cancelling headphones and offer exceptional value for their price.
They have a straightforward design with metal accents. They have decent durability and their control scheme is easy to use. These headphones have good bass but aren’t ideal for fans of more vocal-centric music like pop or jazz. They have a decent battery that lasts for 12 hours and they support multi-device-pairing, which is a nice touch at this price.
Unfortunately, these headphones inadequately reduce disruptive frequencies, which is rather disappointing for noise cancelling headphones. If noise isolation is your top priority, consider the Anker SoundCore Space NC. They’re significantly more expensive, but they isolate noise quite well. However, the Anker have a dark sound that lacks clarity. The Mpow H5 cost far less and sound better. All in all, these are comfortable headphones that are sure to please more budget-conscious individuals on the hunt for decent sound.
If you’re looking for greater noise isolation than what the Mpow H5 offer, then get the Cowin E7. They don’t sound nearly as good as the Mpow, even though they’re a bit more expensive, but they have decent isolation performance. Their battery also lasts significantly longer, which is a big plus for long car rides or international flights. They’re also less expensive than the Anker SoundCore Space NC.
Unfortunately, the Cowin feel cheaply made. The headband and ear cups are well-padded, but the plastic used in their build feels low-quality and has a glossy finish that is prone to scratching. They also sound mediocre and have rather poor treble performance. On the upside, their microphone has better recording quality than the Mpow H5, which makes them better for taking calls on-the-go. All in all, these are pretty unremarkable headphones, but their long battery life and decent isolation makes them an okay choice for commuting and traveling.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best noise cancelling over-ear 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 over-ear 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.