When it comes to headphones, a very popular term you’ll hear thrown around frequently is “noise cancelling”. Aside from studio headphones, in our experience they’re the most popular phrase there is in the audio listening realm. So what’s the best pair of noise cancelling headphones today? How do they work? Are they worth it? We took the time to research, review, compare and contrast the top 10 best noise-cancelling headphones in the market (all types).
What are noise cancelling headphones?
Perhaps you’ve heard that noise isolating vs noise cancelling headphones debate before. We’ve seen the best headphones come in many different types, shapes, sizes, personalities. To put it simply, noise cancelling technology (we’re talking true ‘ANC’) blow all others out of the water. Depending on what you consider “noise”, these types of headphones basically have built-in technology to “isolate” the sounds coming out of your main source. In our case, “noise” is anything in the background outside of you and your music\TV show\movie and more; your partner or friends yelling (and you need to tune them out ASAP), tires screeching, bus sound FX, or really any other type of elemental, environmental sounds (also known as ambient noise) that aren’t supposed to be included in what you’re trying to hear. Noise cancelling works in a few ways — some incorporate a small microphone built-in to the headphones to capture the outside noises and mute them, while others have circuitry built-in to block ambient noise in a 180 degree wave (deflects them from entering into the waves of your audio source).
Noise cancelling headphones are great for those who travel, need some peace and quiet at home, or really any individual(s) who want to hear what they want. If you’re producing or recording music, we recommend you jump over to our studio headphones article since those are more accustomed to sound accuracy of the source. Otherwise, below is our checklist for factors you should keep in mind while reading our list of the 10 best noise cancelling headphones.
Selecting the best noise cancelling headphones
- Price-point – There’s a big range here when it comes to the best noise cancelling headphones. If you hadn’t already checked our first pick, they can get a bit costly. However, we did find a few budget-friendly models for you to keep in mind in case you wanted to save some money — just keep in mind the less money you spend, the more quality you’ll be sacrificing.
- Wired or wireless? Which connectivity are you looking for (or have decided on after reading)? Perhaps both? We have quite a few wireless pairs in here, but did just publish a Bluetooth noise-cancellation headphones guide that you may like instead. Otherwise, there is a mixture of both below.
- What type of headphone? There are many different types of headphones out there, so which is best for you depends on what your needs, uses and preferences are. The most popular (which are included in here) are over-ear and in-ear (earbuds). We’ve included some of both, although over-ear are generally more popular. Our best noise cancelling earbuds can help you out further if that’s what you’re here for, otherwise there are a few listed below as well.
- Special features? Each pair of headphones has their own little personality, and the extra features each possesses may make them stand out to you. Some special features you may find in these include Bluetooth capability (check on the listening time), in-line remote control, built-in microphone (and ability to take calls), color options, extra-comfortable material (cushions, headband), swiveling ear cups, and more. What features catch your eye?
The top 10 best noise cancelling headphones
Bose QuietComfort 35
As previously stated, the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones is one of the pairs of noise cancelling cans out there right now. This is a wireless pair if you were interested in that type of connectivity, and they sync well to any device with NFC and Bluetooth. The EQ system comes with volume optimization so you can enjoy well-balanced audio on different levels and tweak them as you will. There is also a dual-mic system that will enable you to experience clean and noise-free calling even when you are surrounded with noise, wind and other unwanted sounds. The Bose QuietComfort 35 comes with rechargeable Li-ion batteries that will enable you to have up to 20 hours of wireless listening or 40 hours wired by its 12 inch long cable (also comes in the box to give you some options). To ensure user comfort, the QuietComfort 35 is wrapped with a soft material called ‘Alcantara’ (similar to suede). They were also the victor in CNet’s best noise cancelling headphones article. If you have the money, this is one of the best pair of wireless, over-ear noise cancelling headphones in the market today.
Sennheiser Momentum 2
The Sennheiser Momentum 2 are pretty famous in the headphone world. If you weren’t digging the higher price-point of the QC35 and wanted a high-quality wired pair of noise cancelling over-ear headphones, check these out. We’re huge fans of Sennheiser headphones and with these, you will enjoy perfect outside noise muffling thanks to their technically advanced design and elements such as corrective 18 Ohm Neodym transducers and big diaphragm that ensures recognizable sound quality with strong bass and clear details. You also have an in-line remote to control your calls, music and volume (compatible with all iOS devices). The build elements are impressive as well – they come with stainless steel sliders, soft ear cushions, and a high-quality, elegant leather cover. The 3.5 mm stereo jack plug is low profiled and can be used on a wide array of devices such as iPhone, iPod, iPad and Android devices. They’re pretty affordable if you were looking for a middle price-point pair of headphones that still offers some supreme build and audio quality. This Momentum 2 user review has some more useful info on the pair.
Up next, if you are looking for another pair of the best noise cancelling headphones and the previous two were a bit too expensive for your budget, the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B should definitely be among the top choices. We can’t count how many times A-T has made an appearance in one of our headphone guides. This pair is lightweight, compact, and built with advanced technical abilities that enable noise reduction up to 90%. The ATH-ANC7B gives us comfortable earcups with cushioned padding, ability to fold-flat (great for storage and traveling), as well as hefty 40 mm drivers (neodymium magnet systems) for great sound fidelity. It will provide clear sound across all frequencies with noticeable bass, decent mid range as well as treble. The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B comes with a very high sensitivity of 109 dB, which delivers some high volume from all different music sources. They’re a solid pair that lands within the lower price-range, so grab these if you wanted to save a few bucks while still grabbing some cans with some impressive specs.
Phiaton BT 220 NC
Now we start to enter the realm of noise cancelling earbuds. The Phiaton BT 220 NC are wireless and bring together some advanced elements in this product group. They come with active noise cancellation to successfully minimize outside noise up to 95% and with the apt-X technology, enable you to experience some great in-ear music quality. They are equipped with Bluetooth 4.0 for easy connectivity with an array of mobile devices and there is also built-in NFC technology. Besides advanced technological elements, the Phiaton’s BT 220 NC comes with a fashionable and attractive design for added aesthetics to the user. They have a Li-ion rechargeable battery that enable up to 17 hours of wireless music listening and 30 hours when wired. As one of the best wireless noise cancelling earbuds in the game backed up by a lot of user reviews, you won’t be disappointed if you grab this pair.
AKG N60 NC
The AKG N60 NC are up there when it comes to positive user reviews, and although still in the higher price-point, are known for their superior technical features. They are incredibly effective in turning off outside noise and can function up to 30 hours wireless (and up to 50 hours wired), thanks to its high-quality Li-ion rechargeable batteries. They are designed using solid materials (memory foam for comfort, aluminum for durable quality and leather for fashionable style) with additional features such as a unique folding mechanism, special travelling pack, USB charging cable, single button remote/mic, and a universal cable. The AKG N60 NC frequency response is 10 Hz – 22 kHz, which ensures clear sound quality across a pretty broad range, and the 3.5 mm (1/8″) stereo mini-jack enables multi-functional connectivity to a variety of devices if you aren’t in the mood for wireless connectivity. This pair was also mentioned in PCMag’s best noise cancelling headphones review.
The Sony MDR-ZX110NC would be our pick for one of the best budget-friendly pairs of noise cancelling headphones in the market today. Even at a super cheap price, they enable you to experience some decently clear sound quality free of outside noise. They come with a 12-22,000 Hz frequency response for a broad range, and although not beastly quality, give you a taste of some clear bass, treble and mids. These are also pretty lightweight, designed with the usage of quality materials (they aren’t Bose make or anything, but aren’t too cheap either). You have a Y-shaped cord (3.94 ft. length), 1.18 dynamic drivers, and a simple design without many bells and whistles. If you were looking for a basic noise cancelling model without a bunch of additive features to attain only the essentials for your listening endeavors, grab this pair.
Bose QuietComfort 20
Here we have the famous QC series in an earbud version. The Bose QuietComfort 20 are active noise cancelling in-ear headphones that will enable you to enjoy amazing quality of sound without outside noise disturbance. They come with an ‘aware mode’ that combines with the noise cancellation circuitry to instantly tune out your surroundings. They also have their Bose ‘StayHear tips’ that will safely and securely fit at all times pretty comfortably (you can see those little fins in the picture) — you can probably use them for exercise as well unless you’re into the heavier activities. You also have a built-in remote and inline microphone so that you can conveniently switch between controlling functions and responding to calls. These headphones are compatible with iPhone, iPod, iPad as well as Android devices. The in-ear headphones lastly come with unique ‘TriPort ‘and ‘Active EQ’ technology for enhanced and clearer sound quality. Although a bit pricey, we recommend this pair if you wanted the absolute best earbuds that fall within this category. We like this QC 20 review for more info.
The BÖHM B-66 are up there when it comes to popularity and although the brand name isn’t as widespread as others in this guide, provide some high quality sound and build. Thanks to their Bluetooth 4.0, you can use them wirelessly as you please — they will last you for about 16 hours of wireless audio listening and the rechargeable Li-ion batteries charge within 3 hours to enable you to swiftly use them again. The 40 mm stereo drivers deliver some great quality bass, mids and decent highs thanks to their 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency range. They’re compatible with a variety of mobile devices, both Android and Apple. We recommend this one if you were looking for a solid pair of Bluetooth noise cancelling over-ear headphones that didn’t cost you an arm and a leg. You have a few color options available and they’re stated to have about a 33 ft. wireless range which isn’t too shabby at all.
Bose QuietComfort 25
As you can tell, we’re big fans of Bose’s QC series (in fact, Bose literally invented “noise cancelling headphones” back in 1987). The Bose QuietComfort 25 in particular is another one of the best pairs from this line in regard to technical quality and aesthetically sound elements. Along with the built-in and needed active noise cancellation, they also comes Bluetooth and NFC connectivity with Apple and Android devices, which provides a number of choices for taking calls and listening to music. These are lightweight and comfortable headphones with a built-in inline microphone and remote for convenient switching between music and calls. The noise reduction is great with these and the sounds stated to be pretty deep. We recommend this one if you wanted a pair of Bose noise cancellation headphones that were relatively affordable as compared to the others mentioned in this guide thus far.
Last but not least, we have an often overlooked yet popular model to check out before you make your decision — don’t forget to take into account the Cowin E-7. They’re priced at a pretty affordable number considering the others we listed in here, and they’re equipped with our beloved active noise cancelling technology. You’re getting 30 hours of wireless play time, a built-in mic, optional 3.5 mm audio cable (in case it dies on you or you don’t want to worry about it), as well as 90 degree swiveling ear cups to help with keeping them safe on your desk or if you intend to travel with them. If you weren’t concerned with brand name, they will definitely enable you to switch off the outside world when you want to listen to music or chat with family, friends or colleagues on the phone while saving you some money at the same time.