Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones
We live in an obnoxiously loud world that makes it difficult to enjoy music the way it's meant to be heard: with sonic precision and free of distractions. That's where active-noise-cancelling headphones come in.
These sound silencers make it possible to hear our favorite songs, movies and podcasts in peace and quiet. They can block out the ambient chaos that surrounds us on daily commutes while improving our focus at the office.
Currently, our favorite model is the recently launched Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700, which is the new gold standard for noise-cancelling headphones. They offer vastly better noise cancellation than their predecessor, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, along with intuitive touch controls and a sleek new design.
But the noise-cancelling-headphones market doesn't revolve around Bose; there are plenty of other heavy hitters out there. The Sony WH-1000XM3 has proved to be a sonic powerhouse with superior noise cancellation. Other models, like the Jabra Elite 85h and the Microsoft Surface Headphones, have won us over with their numerous features and strong wireless performance. There's also the very affordable and well-received Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC for listeners on a budget.
Want to know which noise-cancelling headphones are best for you? Here, we break down and categorize our top picks.
If you're looking for a laptop to pair with your new noise-reduction cans, check out our Best Laptops of 2019 page. There's also our Best Tablets of 2019 roundup for media lovers who want something more portable and versatile for travel.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
New design? Check. Reasonably long battery life? Check. Great audio performance? Check. The Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 offer all of this and so much more, including easy-to-use touch controls and a slick companion app. But the noise cancellation is where the Bose 700 really stands out. With 10 adjustable levels, these are by far the best active noise canceling (ANC) headphones Bose has made to date. But the noise cancellation doesn't work only when you're listening to music or podcasts; the eight integrated mics also ensure that the sound quality when you're taking and receiving calls is just as good as when you're using only your smartphone.
Size and Weight: 8 x 6.5 x 2 inches, 8.8 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth Range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Pros: Slick, attractive design; Excellent noise cancellation on calls and music; Precise, balanced audio; Smart, intuitive buttons and touch controls
Read our full Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 review.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II
The QC35 II remains 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.
Size and Weight: 7.1 x 6.7 x 3.2 inches, 8.2 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC on); 40 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Pros: Top-tier noise cancellation; Crisp, full audio; Alexa and Google Assistant support; Strong connectivity; ANC works in wired mode
Cons: Subpar digital assistant integration; Unchanged design
Read our full Bose QuietComfort 35 II review.
Jabra Elite 85h
You want to talk versatility? The Jabra Elite 85 has a standout feature for every possible use. Let's start with 35 hours of noise-cancelling performance and wireless listening. Jabra programmed the headphones with physical and touch controls, along with on-ear detection gesture and voice command access to the big three: Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. Smart Active Noise Cancellation adapts to environments to reduce high amounts of ambient noise. The Jabra Sound+ app optimizes sound using a customizable EQ and special calling options. Lastly, the ear cups have a nano-coating to protect the internals from water damage.
Size and Weight: 7.6 x 8.8 x 3.2 inches, 10.4 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 36 hours (NC on); 41 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Pros: Best-in-class battery life; Intelligible ANC and controls; Remarkable sound reproduction; Personalized sound via mobile app; Tri-digital assistant support
Cons: Bulky and heavy design; Distorted bass in listening modes
Read our full Jabra Elite 85h 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. 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.
Size and Weight: 10.4 x 7.3 x 2.9 inches, 9 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 30 hours (NC on); 38 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Pros: Class-leading sonics; Surprisingly good noise cancellation; Responsive touch controls; Extensive battery life; Sleek and slender design
Cons: Cheaper feel; Mediocre call quality
Read our full Sony WH-1000XM3 review.
Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC
A midrange pair of headphones with superior sonics and solid noise cancellation might seem unrealistic to some, but the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC is an exception to the rule. There's much to admire here besides its affordability, including a relaxed fit, simple controls, and clean, tight sound. Sennheiser's NoiseGard technology doesn't match Bose's or Sony's ANC power, but it can silence outdoor rackets and up to 70% of airplane rumble. And what's not to love about the luxe design, which is highlighted by a matte-black finish with accented chrome?
Size and Weight: 10.2 x 7.1 x 3.9 inches, 8.4 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 19 hours (NC on); 25 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Pros: Neutral sound; Easy-to-use controls; Significantly less costly than other models; Decent battery life
Cons: Noise cancellation affects audio; No travel case
Read our full Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC review.
Microsoft Surface Headphones
Microsoft's first venture into the high-end-headphones space is a successful one that combines numerous smart features and quality sound into a distinctive over-ear design. The Surface Headphones were engineered for optimal listening with adjustable noise-cancelling levels and ingenious dial volume controls. Open sound with powerful bass is to be expected. Microsoft even equipped its cans with eight mics to better neutralize sound, which it does well, especially in drafty conditions. Connectivity is another strong point; you can pair the headphones with up to 10 devices.
Size and Weight: 8 x 7.7 x 1.9 inches, 10.2 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 15 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth Range: 35 feet(11 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes
Pros: Eye-catching design; Intuitive controls; Spacious sound; Windows-friendly features
Cons: Short battery life; Cortana app required for most features
Read our full Microsoft Surface Headphones review.
Credit: Laptop Mag