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The 7 Best Noise Cancelling Over-Ear Headphones - Winter 2019
Reviews

Best Noise-Cancelling Over-Ears
313 Headphones Tested
  • Store-bought headphones; no cherry-picked units
  • Retest after major updates
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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 cancelation (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 300 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best noise-canceling over-ear headphones to buy in 2019. If you’re looking for our top noise-canceling picks in general or for certain budget options, check out our recommendations for the best noise-canceling headphones, the best noise-canceling headphones under $100, and the best noise-cancelling in-ear headphones.

  1. Best Noise Cancelling Over-Ear Headphones: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.4
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    7.9
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    7.7
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    7.1
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    7.8
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    6.0
    TV
    Score components:
    5.6
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    The best noise-cancelling over-ear headphones that we’ve tested so far are the wireless Bose QuietComfort 35 II. They are among the most comfortable over-ear headphones we’ve tried, and they sound great. They have impressive noise isolation, a great wireless range, and a very good rechargeable battery. They 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.

    The Bose QC35 II are a very good sounding pair of noise-cancelling over-ear headphones. They have truly excellent bass that delivers the thump and rumble necessary to enjoy bass-heavy music genres like EDM and hip-hop. Plus, their mid-range is neutral, and their treble 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 are good at masking out office chatter as well. Their battery life is great, lasting around 20 hours and they only take about 2 hours to fully charge. 

    Unfortunately, the QC35 II have only average leakage performance, which means they seep a bit of sound into their environment at higher listening levels. This shouldn’t be an issue in louder environments like on an airplane but could be bothersome to others if you like to crank up the volume in the office. The Microsoft Surface Headphones are a strong contender, especially since they offer significantly better leakage performance and a much better control scheme, but they lack the unparalleled comfort and sound quality of the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II. The QC35 II are outstandingly comfortable over-ear headphones that not only isolate noise remarkably well but also have impressive sound and have earned their place among our top picks for travel and our overall best closed-back headphones as well.

    See our review

  2. More Customizable Alternative With Better Isolation: Sony WH-1000XM3

    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    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 don’t sound quite as good, but they offer superior leakage performance and a better companion app.

    The Sony WH-1000XM3 lack the clear, neutral sound of the Bose QC35 II, but if you live for deep, powerful bass, you may prefer the sound of WH-1000XM3. These headphones also have better noise isolation and have significantly improved leakage performance compared to the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II. Where the WH-1000XM3 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 canceling feature of the WH-1000XM3.

    If you want to consider another alternative, the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless are also decent noise isolating headphones, but they don’t deliver the same level of isolation as the Sony WH-100XM3.

    See our review

  3. More Fashion-Forward Alternative: Beats Studio3 Wireless

    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you’re looking for a trendier look, then get the wireless Beats Studio 3. They may not isolate noise as well as the Sony WH-1000XM3 nor the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, but they have a more stable fit and a more stylish design. They also offer great leakage performance, which makes them a decent choice for quiet listening spaces, like an office.

    Unfortunately, they sound pretty average compared to our top picks. They have great wireless range, though, maintaining a stable connection up to 50 ft indoors and have a very good battery that lasts up to 23 hrs on a charge. They’re decent headphones, and definitely worth considering if you’re a fan of the signature Beats look.

    See our review

  4. Best Mid-Range Noise Cancelling Over-Ear Headphones: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.3
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    7.7
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    7.4
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    7.1
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    7.5
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    6.2
    TV
    Score components:
    5.9
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want sturdy, comfortable noise-cancelling wireless headphones but find the Bose QuietComfort 35 II to be too cost-prohibitive, then get the wireless Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. They may not be as comfortable as the QC35 II or have as good noise isolation as the Sony WH-1000XM3, but they are still among some of the best Bluetooth headphones we’ve reviewed. They sound very good, are well-built, and have decent isolation performance.

    The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 are comfortable over-ear headphones that fit well around the ears and aren’t too heavy. They have an awesome battery that charges in just over 2 hours and provides 30 hours battery life on a single charge, which is perfect for long days. They have an impressive control scheme that is easy to use, and they are well-built. 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, even better than the QC 35 II or the WH-1000XM3, 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 Quiet Comfort 35 II, but they offer great value and are a solid choice.

    See our review

  5. Alternative with a More Stable Fit: JBL E65BTNC

    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    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. The JBL E65BTNC 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 BackBeat Pro 2, 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 E65BTNC, their battery lasts about 4 hours longer and they have a similar sound profile.

    See our review

  6. Best Budget Noise Cancelling Over-Ear Headphones: Mpow H5

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    6.7
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    7.3
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    6.5
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    6.8
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    6.7
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    6.0
    TV
    Score components:
    5.8
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you have a tight budget and the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 are too expensive, then get the wireless Mpow H5; they're the best noise cancelling over-ear headphones in the budget category. These headphones are also among our best budget noise-canceling headphones and offer exceptional value for their price. Their noise isolation is a bit disappointing, but they come with lots of active features for budget headphones and sound pretty decent too.

    They have a straight-forward design with metal accents. They have decent durability and stability and their control scheme is easy to use. These headphones sound above-average too, with great bass and a good mid and treble range. Though their bass is good, they’re not the best for fans of more vocal-centric music like pop or jazz. They have a decent battery that lasts for 12 hours and good wireless range (35 ft).

    Since the Mpow H5 only do an average job at reducing disruptive frequencies, their noise isolation performance is rather poor for noise-canceling headphones. That said, these headphones cost far less than the top noise-canceling picks, so considering how much they cost, they’re not bad. All-in-all, the Mpow H5 are comfortable headphones that are sure to please more budget-conscious individuals on the hunt for decent sound.

    See our review

  7. Budget Alternative with Greater Noise Isolation: Cowin E7

    Type : Over-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : Yes
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you’re looking for greater noise isolation than what the Mpow H5 offers, then get the Cowin E-7 Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones. Though they’re a bit more expensive than the Mpow H5, they don’t sound nearly as good, even though they have decent isolation performance. On the upside, their battery lasts significantly longer, which is a big plus for long car rides or international flights.

    Although they cost more than our top budget pick, they 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 are also below-average sounding headphones, with rather poor treble. 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, the Cowin E7 are average headphones for most users, but their long battery life and decent isolation make them an okay choice for commuting and traveling.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Microsoft Surface. A unique design with an excellent control scheme and good noise isolation. Somewhat limited customization options and not as comfortable as the QC35 II. See our review
  • Bose QuietComfort 35. Very comfortable over-ear headphones with very good sound. Older model replaced by the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. See our review
  • Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless. Well-designed headphones with lots of customization options, but they don't isolate as well as our top picks. See our review
  • Sennheiser HD 4.50. Comfortable headphones that sound pretty good with nice customization features for Android. Don't sound quite as good as the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. See our review
  • JBL Everest Elite 700. Sturdy headphones with good noise isolation and awesome bass. Not as comfortable as the BackBeat Pro 2 and a bit too tight on the head. See our review
  • Bose QuietComfort 25. Similar in sound and comfort to the QC 35 II, except wired. Have a longer battery life, but use AA batteries and ANC causes more self-noise. See our review
  • Sony WH-1000XM2. Excellent noise-cancelation and good sound in a polished design, but XM3 are more comfortable and have less self-noise. See our review
  • AKG N700NC. Beautiful headphones with a premium look and feel. Bose QC35 II sound slightly better, have significantly better noise isolation and are much more comfortable. See our review
  • Sony WH-H900N. Nice headphones with very good sound, but mediocre noise-canceling for ANC headphones. BackBeat Pro 2 provide better value. See our review
  • Skullcandy Venue. A lightweight and easy to use noise canceling headset, with an exciting sound profile. Decent isolation but not as good as some of our other mid-range picks and their tight fit won't be as comfortable for everyone. ​See our review
  • Bowers & Wilkins PX. Gorgeous headphones that are remarkably well-built with great isolation but average-at-best sound. Bose QC35 II sound much better and are more comfortable. See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best noise-canceling 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-canceling 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. 

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