The best noise-cancelling headphones make it possible to hear our favorite songs, movies, and podcasts in peace and quiet. They are designed to block out the unwanted noise of planes, trains, and colleagues, while delivering unmatched audio, great comfort, and stable battery life. Some even come with smart features that enhance the listening experience on all devices.
Living in an obnoxiously loud world that makes it difficult to hear music the way it was meant to be heard – with sonic precision and free of distractions –is where active noise-cancelling headphones come to the rescue.
Since there are a lot of sound silencers out there, it’s easy to pick a pair you’ll regret spending money on because it either looked cool or was available at a super-cheap price on Amazon. Don’t fall for it. We vetted several of the top brands to find the best options for you. This includes big names such as Bose, Sony, and Sennheiser, along with newcomers to the category like Apple, Jabra, and Samsung.
If you’re looking for some of the best noise-cancelling headphones to pair with your all-new iPhone or laptop, look no further. Let’s get into our top picks.
What are the best noise cancelling headphones?
Right now, the Bose 700 Headphones are considered the No. 1 best noise-cancelling headphones. The company’s latest model has set the new standard for noise neutralization on wireless headphones, featuring 10 levels of adjustable ANC and an eight-mic system that produces superior sound and call quality. These are also some of the coolest-looking headphones available with sleek aesthetics and touch controls to easily operate music playback. If you want something similar, but in true wireless form, it doesn’t get any better than Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, which harnesses the same innovative ANC technology and sound quality as the 700.
A close second on our best noise-cancelling headphones list is the Sony WH-1000xM4. Not only is the latest Sony flagship model the best-sounding pair on the list, but also has remarkable ANC that nearly rivals Bose’s technology. The extended battery life and special features via Sony Headphones Connect app make them an ideal Bose 700 alternative, but more so, an excellent option for music lovers who want to block out the ambient chaos around them. Those who want something similar for a lower price may want to also consider its predecessor, the WH-1000xM3. You should also consider the impressive WF-1000xM3 wireless earbuds for amazing noise cancellation and even better sound.
The Apple AirPods Pro stands out as the best overall true wireless model because of its amazing iOS integration, some of the best call quality in the category, and surprisingly good noise cancellation. These well-engineered buds can everything hush chatty neighbors and passing cars. Unique features like the Ear Tip Fit Test are beneficial for improving fit, sound, and isolation. There’s also the new spatial audio update that elevates the sound quality on Apple’s Bluetooth danglers.
Laptop Magazine is keeping tabs on upcoming releases scheduled for the holiday season as well, including heavily-rumored models Apple’s first-ever over-ear headphones, the AirPods Studio.
There is something here for every type of listener. Here is our ranking of the best noise-cancelling headphones based on performance, style, and purpose.
The best noise cancelling headphones you can buy today
New design? Check. Enhanced noise cancellation? Check. Stronger specs? Check. Special features? Check. Reasonably long battery life? Check. Great audio performance? Check. The Bose 700 makes the strongest argument for best noise-cancelling headphones by offering all of this and so much more. Granted, noise cancellation is where these wireless headphones really stand out. With 10 adjustable levels, these are, by far, the most powerful ANC headphones that Bose has made to date.
The technology not only works when you’re listening to music or podcasts; the eight integrated mics ensure that the sound quality when you’re making and receiving calls is just as good as when you’re using only your smartphone. Bose also added easy-to-use touch controls and a slick companion app to set your default digital assistant (e.g. Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri) and cycle through ANC levels. While battery life is standard at 20 hours, this is shorter than what most competitive models offer, though you can pick up the 700 charging case for $80 to gain an extra 40 hours and store the cans safely.
Also, anyone working remotely who wants to advance their virtual collaborations can pick up the 700 UC edition, a new model designed to work with third-party cloud services like Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Zoom.
See our full Bose 700 review.
Our recent face-off feature pitted the Sony WH-1000xM4 against the Bose 700 to determine the true king of noise cancellation, and though it came out on the losing end, it was by an incredibly small margin. Sony’s ANC technology is right up there with Bose’s, employing a series of advanced technologies (e.g. Dual Noise Sensor, QN1 processor, feedforward mics) to block out ambient noise at the highest level. Sound is more bountiful on the WH-100xM4 with the 40mm drivers pumping out emphatic and precise sonics to enjoy music selections from all genres. Adding to its sonic capabilities are the several customization options in the Sony Headphones Connect app to tweak the soundstage to one’s liking, from the adjustable EQ to the multiple presets to Sony’s 360 Reality Audio feature.
The only thing holding the headphones back from perfection are the touch controls, which have a tendency to misunderstand touch gestures and executing the wrong commands.
See our full Sony WH-1000xM4 review.
What if we told you Bose made wireless earbuds that feature the same active noise cancellation as the critically acclaimed 700 headphones? Well, they did. Introducing the QuietComfort Earbuds, an in-ear marvel that nearly replicates the 700’s ANC capabilities, and with half the mics. You still get 10 adjustable levels and the Bose Connect app lets you set three “favorited” ANC settings that can be cycled through on the left earbud. Bose even enhanced its Transparency Mode, blending it with noise cancellation to make ambient noises sound clearer. The company’s Active EQ technology and proprietary drives were stuffed into these buds to give listeners warm, pleasant audio. Connectivity is also spot-on, as Bluetooth 5.1 operates smoothly, and the Bluetooth button programmed into the charging case makes manual pairing a breeze.
Speaking of the charging case, it’s a big, hefty sucker that doesn’t hold much portable power. The standard playtime on the buds isn’t anything to brag about either; it’s just barely higher than the regular AirPods.
Read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.
No one thought Apple was capable of creating a solid pair of noise-cancelling wireless earbuds. Well, they proved the haters wrong, creating the absolute best mobile accessory for iOS/macOS devices: the AirPods Pro. The new sweat-proof design looks better and fits more securely in your ear, sound quality has been slightly improved, and the highlight feature — active noise cancellation — effectively reduces ambient sounds (just don’t expect a miracle). We’re also fans of the new force sensors on the stems, which uses pinch gestures to execute commands and is more responsive than the tap control scheme employed on previous AirPods models.
With the release of iOS 14 comes new features like automatic switching and spatial audio, which creates a three-dimensional soundscape that gives movies an extra layer of immersion. Add everything we loved about the original AirPods — excellent call quality, seamless pairing, a strong Bluetooth connection, and supreme comfort — and we have no reservations naming the AirPods Pros the best overall wireless earbuds.
See our full AirPods Pro review.
Audiophiles who like dynamic noise cancellation and sound quality need these cans on their heads. Sony rebuilt its Mark 3 headphones from the ground up, incorporating the all-new HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1, which enhances audio processing and ANC performance. What you get is natural, well-balanced sound with the company’s signature bass profile leading the auditory charge. You can expect thunderous lows that will rattle your skull. You can even go into the companion app and tailor sound to your hearing by messing around with the built-in EQ or by selecting one of several presets that work very well for their respective music genres.
The noise cancellation is just as impressive, muffling most high-frequency noises without compromising the overall sound. Steady battery life with quick-charging and adjustable EQ and ANC settings round out the WH-1000xM3’s superior hallmarks.
See our full Sony WH-1000XM3 review.
The first-gen Surface Headphones were a notable debut for Microsoft, and its follow-up is even better, welcoming a handful of upgrades and launching at a cheaper price than the original. One can’t discuss the Surface Headphones 2 without mentioning the all-new Matte Black colorway: it’s incredibly attractive. Sound and noise cancellation practically remain untouched, rewarding your ears with deep sonics and interruption-free listening, thanks to Microsoft’s powerful eight-mic system that helps filter out 75% of ambient noise.
Being able to adjust the ANC and volume levels via dial controls is awesome too. Where these headphones really shine are in the productivity features, such as voice dictation with Microsoft 365 to verbally jot down notes in Office programs (e.g. Word, PowerPoint, Outlook) and multipoint technology, which lets you connect to 10 devices simultaneously.
Battery life is decent, but Microsoft could have given us more to work with, especially since all of these features drain power quickly.
See our full Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 review.
At $80, the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 is the best noise-cancelling headphones deal you’re going to find. Aesthetically and sonically, this model is a major upgrade from the popular Life Q20 and has the largest playtime of any model in the class: 40 hours (with ANC on). Don’t want to kill the battery too quickly? No worries, because the headphones can be used in passive mode to gain an extra 20 hours of listening time. What’s cool about the Life Q30 is that it now supports the Anker Soundcore app, granting access to a customizable EQ and over 20 different presets that enhance the soundstage, depending on the content; we like Electronic for EDM tracks and Podcast for (you guessed it) podcasts. Sound has also been fine-tuned to deliver more detail and tonal balance in recordings.
The build quality feels and looks more premium than its predecessor. At the same time, these are some big cans that feel heavy on the head. It also would have been cool if Anker programmed more touch controls.
See our full Beats Solo Pro review.
If you want an AirPods Pro alternative with much better sound and noise cancellation that’s just as good, then the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 might be for you. The earbuds are kitted with 7mm custom drivers that deliver rich, well-balanced audio; you’ll enjoy deep bass and natural mids no matter the music genre. The increase in the battery life is a bonus, nearly doubling the playtime of the original version. We’re also smitten over the chic gray fabric charging case that holds an extra 21 hours. ANC impresses, minimizing ambient noise well enough to phase out distractions and maintain its superb audio quality. The technology also lends itself well to phone calls, making for loud and clear-sounding conversations.
Now, let’s discuss the elephant in the room: pricing. Yes, $300 is a lot to ask for, especially with the AirPods Pro 2 listed at $50 less. However, keep in mind you’re paying extra for Sennheiser sound and more playtime.
See our full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review.
The QC35 II sat atop of the ANC throne for quite some time, introducing noise cancellation that was unmatched when launched. With its more upscale sibling, the 700, coming into the picture, it’s easy to overlook this last-gen model, but you would be foolishly passing up an amazing offer. Currently listed at $209.99 on Amazon, the QC35 II is still a go-to for listeners who want to eliminate the mundane drones around them at an elite level.
Bose uses a set of microphones and proprietary algorithms to clear the QC35 II’s soundscape of unwanted noises across different frequencies. Buzzing vehicle engines and baby cries don’t stand a chance. The QC35 II’s profile accentuates bass, but also keeps mids and highs sounding crisp no matter the song. Best of all, the ANC feature works in both wireless and wired modes. Bose programmed the headphones with Google and Alexa integration as well to execute daily tasks via voice commands.
See our full Bose QuietComfort 35 II review.
You won’t find better noise-cancelling wireless earbuds for the price than the Sony WF-1000xM3, which remain on sale throughout the holiday season. They produce stellar sonics and have resilient ANC that works superbly to filter out unwanted noises in the streets or in your home. A plethora of features via mobile app and solid battery life also elevate its status among the elite. Deep, rich bass and tonal balance also give the WF-1000xM3 an edge over the competition. And if the recent rumors of aptX HD support are true, then we could be looking at the best-sounding buds on the block.
As great as the WF-1000xM3 sound, there is room for improvement. Sony could have done a better job with the call quality and touch controls, which aren’t the most responsive (using slide gestures actually works better).
See our full Sony WF-1000XM3 review.
How to choose the best noise-cancelling headphones for you
The best noise-cancelling headphones often come at a premium, so you’ll want to make sure you’re getting top-notch noise neutralization for your dollar. Seek out models that advertise active noise cancellation (not to be confused with passive noise cancellation). The difference is ANC uses microphones to pick up incoming ambient sounds and creates inverse waves that cancel them out in real-time, while PNC physically isolates these sounds through the headphone design.
Audio should be your second priority. Clearly, you want headphones that sound great when indulging in your music collection and jumping on Zoom calls. See if you can find headphones with powerful drivers, along with special features like adaptive sound (e.g. AirPods Pro) and customization settings to tweak the sound profile to your liking.
Next on the checklist is battery life. The standard playtime for ANC headphones is about 20 to 25 hours, though some manufacturers have launched models that can generate up to 35 hours or more. There are even some headphones that let you use ANC in wired mode (e.g. Bose 700).
Design plays a pivotal role as well, especially if you’re someone who spends a majority of their time on the road. Ideally, you want headphones that are lightweight and portable, and come with some sort of travel case to easily store them. They should also feel comfortable and provide a stable fit.
Connectivity should not be overlooked either. While Bluetooth 5.0 is the best way to go for fast and strong wireless performance, you may find certain models with less powerful Bluetooth protocols (e.g. Bluetooth 4.1/4.2) that can still operate reliably.
How we test the best noise-cancelling headphones
Laptop Magazine takes several factors into consideration when putting together our list of the best noise-cancelling headphones. This includes design, comfort, sound, and overall value. We also compare each model to similar ones in the noise-cancelling category in terms of features, fit, and pricing.
Noise-cancelling headphones are worn over the course of a week for 2 to 3 hours at a time. We assess how accurate and powerful the noise cancellation is by testing these headphones in both indoor and outdoor environments where ambient sounds are produced at high levels. In addition, our reviewers listen to songs across multiple music genres (e.g. classical, hip-hop, jazz) to analyze audio quality, along with clarity, depth, and volume. Furthermore, we test these models on streaming music services that offer hi-res audio.
Lastly, we test battery life, digital assistant support, ease of setup, wireless range, and any app-enabled features compatible with mobile devices, laptops, desktops, and gaming consoles.
After testing is completed, our reviewers rate each model on a five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Any product considered truly exemplary is awarded a Laptop Magazine Editor’s Choice badge.