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Best noise-cancelling headphones in 2020

best noise-cancelling headphones
(Image credit: Regan Coule/Laptop Magazine)

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

best noise-cancelling headphones: Bose 700

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1. Bose 700

The best overall noise-cancelling headphones

Size and Weight: 8 x 6.5 x 2 inches, 8.8 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC on);40 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Slick, attractive design
Excellent noise cancellation on calls and music
Precise, balanced audio
Smart, intuitive buttons and touch controls
Battery life is the same as older Bose headphones

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. 

best noise-cancelling headphones: Sony WH-1000xM4

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2. Sony WH-1000xM4

Champion sound paired with excellent ANC

Size and Weight: 9.94 x 3.03 x 7.27 inches, 8.95 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 30 hours (ANC on), 38 hours (ANC off) | Bluetooth Range: 40 feet (12 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Class-leading sonics
Powerful active noise cancelling
Plethora of sound customization options
Longer battery life than Bose models
Finicky touch controls

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.

best noise-cancelling headphones: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

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3. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

The best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds

Size and Weight: 1.54 x 1.02 x 1.06 inches, 0.3 ounces (per bud) | Battery Life (Rated): 6 hours, 12 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Best-in-class noise cancellation
Great audio quality
Chic, elegant design
Bluetooth 5.1
Bulky, heavy case

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.

best noise-cancelling headphones: Apple AirPods Pro

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4. Apple AirPods Pro

The ultimate AirPods

Size and Weight: 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches, 8.8 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 4.5 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Extremely comfortable
Seamless pairing
Clear, balanced sound
Decent noise cancellation
Battery life could be better

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

best noise-cancelling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM3

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5. Sony WH-1000XM3

Excellent sound paired with great noise cancelling

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: 30ft. (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Class-leading sonics
Surprisingly good noise cancellation
Responsive touch controls
Extensive battery life
Mediocre call quality Read our full

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.

best noise-cancelling headphones: Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

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6. Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

Productivity headphones with strong sound and ANC

Size and Weight: 8 x 7.68 x 1.89 inches, 10.2 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 15 hours (NC On) | Bluetooth Range: 35 ft. (10.6 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

13 levels of active noise cancellation
Spacious sound
Microsoft 365 integration
User-friendly controls
Battery life could be better

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.

best noise-cancelling headphones: Anker Soundcore Life Q30

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7. Anker Soundcore Life Q30

Best noise-cancelling headphones value

Size and Weight: 7.8 x 7.09 x 3.07 inches, 9 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 40 hours (ANC off), 60 hours (ANC off) | Bluetooth Range: 50 feet (15 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Unbeatable battery life
Surprisingly good sound and ANC
Loaded with special features
Huge and heavy
Extremely limited touch controls

Anker has stepped up to the challenge of creating solid noise-cancelling headphones for a super-low price, and the Life Q30 is exemplary. This update to the company’s popular ANC model is what we have been anticipating. You get mobile app support for audio personalization and a more premium design that would place it in somewhere in the sub-luxury category ($150 and above) if not for the low MSRP. Speaking of which, the price point may be the headphones’ best feature, welcoming all of the aforementioned upgrades, along with 40 hours of playtime (ANC on) and an extra 20 hours in passive mode, for just $80.

Better build quality often equates to more heft and bulk, which is accurate in the case of the Life Q30. The headphones can become uncomfortable when worn for longer stretches like 2 hours or longer. It would have also been great if Anker added other practical features such as touch controls.

See our full Anker Soundcore Life Q30 review.

best noise-cancelling headphones: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

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8. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

Next-gen wireless earbuds with Sennheiser sound

Size and Weight: 3.02 x 1.72 x 1.3 inches, 0.2 ounces (per bud) | Battery Life (Rated): 7 hours, 28 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth Range: 800 feet (243 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Sennheiser sound
Long battery life
Strong active noise cancelling
More expensive than the AirPods Pro
Protruding shape makes for an unstable fit

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.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

9. Bose QuietComfort 35 II

The former king of ANC

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

Top-tier noise cancellation
Crisp, full audio
Strong connectivity
Subpar digital assistant integration
Unchanged design Read our full

Despite being the oldest model on our list of the best noise-cancelling headphones, the QuietComfort Series II is still a popular choice and one of the top performers in its class. You’re getting the same strong connectivity and digital assistant integration as the Bose 700, along with the same battery life, which isn’t much to brag about, but standard for three-year-old cans. You’ll enjoy emphatic lows with some crisp-sounding mids and highs. But you’ll want to pick up the QC35 II for its superior noise cancellation; it works both in wireless and wired modes, and keeps ambient sound to a minimum across the frequency spectrum.

Bose left the design untouched from the previous version, an area that wasn’t well received the first time around due to its flimsy and plasticky frame. On the plus side, this makes the headphones super light and comfortable to sport for long hours.

See our full Bose QuietComfort 35 II review.

best noise-cancelling headphones: Sony WF-1000xM3

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10. Sony WF-1000XM3

Powerful noise cancellation in a small, sleek package

Size and Weight: 7.8 x 5 x 2.4 inches, 1.6 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 16 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth Range: None | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Stellar audio performance
Great noise cancellation
Tons of personalization via companion app
Touch controls could use some work
Poor call quality

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

best noise-cancelling headphones: Shure Aonic 60

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11. Shure Aonic 60

Extremely comfortable headphones with premium sound

Size and Weight: 10.8 x 10.8 x 3.2 inches, 11.8 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 20 hours (NC on) | Bluetooth Range: 800 feet (243 meters | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Mature, comfortable design
Deep, rich audio
High quality ANC
Up there in price
Bulky and heavy

Shure took time developing its first-ever wireless ANC headphones and the results show. The Aonic 60 blends full, balanced audio and strong noise cancellation into a sturdy, well-built design. Music sounds lively, thanks to the 50mm neodymium drivers that operate superbly even on the Flat equalizer preset. Access to the ShurePlus Play app extends audio customization, allowing you to select from five presets (De-ess, Flat, Loudness, Low Boost and Vocal Boost) or create your own sound profile. ANC is just as impressive and hushes common distractions like loud TVs and trains passing to keep you peacefully tuned into your jams. We’re also fans of the cushy comfort the large earcups provide.

As with most first attempts, the Aonic 60 has flaws, primarily its large and weighty construction, which looks handsome, but can be burdensome to wear after an hour. The starting price of $400 also makes the headphones out of reach for audiophiles on a budget.

See our full Shure Aonic 60 review.

best noise-cancelling headphones: Beats Solo Pro

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12. Beats Solo Pro

More balanced audio, now with noise cancelling

Size and Weight: 7 inches (height), 9.4 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 22 hours (NC on), 40 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Very good sound quality
Effective noise cancellation
Super-simple pairing
No 3.5mm headphone jack
Tight clamping force

Beats headphones get a bad rap for being more style than substance. While the company’s original noise-cancellers, the Studio 3, was a solid pair of sound blasters, they didn’t exactly live up to their promise as a potential category leader. The Solo Pro certainly changes that argument. This sleek pair of on-ears pumps out refined, balanced sound and features effective noise cancellation and a nifty transparency mode that filters in more ambient sound so you can be aware of your surroundings. You get a decent amount of battery life to work with at 22 hours, but Beats’ Fast Fuel technology helps speed up the recharging process when necessary, generating 3 hours of playtime on a 10-minute charge.

Apple also brings its H1 chip to the Solo Pro, which enables seamless pairing and a fun audio-sharing feature for when you want to listen with friends who also own pair of Beats headphones or AirPods. 

See our full Beats Solo Pro 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.