Last Updated: June 2018
The best noise canceling headphones are all about keeping the clamor of the outside world away, leaving you in solitude to enjoy your Spotify playlist or one of those ubiquitous true-crime podcasts. Perfect for plane rides, commuting on the train, or just blocking out your neighbor’s dog, a trusty set of the best noise canceling headphones are a solid investment in your own sanity. But just keeping the background noise where it belongs isn’t enough. After all, once you’re in seclusion the music needs to sound great, too. Here’s a rundown of some of the best noise canceling headphones you can turn to when the outside world just won’t shut up.
Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II Noise Cancelling Headphones
Bose has solidified its reputation in the noise-canceling headphone market to the point the brand is synonymous with the technology; there’s a reason you’ll see them on so many heads in an airplane. The second series of the QuietComfort 35 line still offers what is arguably the best noise cancellation available from a wireless set of headphones, but adds a convenient new button on the left ear cup for activating Google Assistant (yes, it’s also available on iOS), getting the news, or even making calls. The QuietComfort 35 IIs also sound great whether you’re listening to audio or spoken word, and since you’ll likely use these while traveling, they also fold down into a very manageable travel size.
Sony WH-1000XM2 Noise Cancelling Headphones
The Sony WH-1000XM2 is a strong competitor—perhaps even on equal footing—to the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II noise canceling headphones. But while both headphones have truly excellent noise cancellation, the WH-1000XM2 has a super cool feature where you can simply place your hand on the right ear cup and allow outside noise into the headphones. This is a pretty ingenious way to handle those pesky situations like when another human suddenly demands to speak to you. These cans also pump out wonderful audio, and the touch controls allow easy access to skipping tracks, adjusting volume, making calls, or even activating Siri on your iPhone.
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7b Noise Cancelling Headphones
While they won’t cancel noise like the Bose QC35 II and the sound quality won’t live up to the Sony WH-1000MX2, these wired Audio-Technica cans are still a high-quality option for a pair of cheap noise canceling headphones. Audio-Technica claims its QuietPoint technology (which, importantly, is still active noise-cancellation as opposed to passive in some cheaper headphones) will actually reduce 90 percent of environmental noise. Plus, these headphones are still plenty comfortable with big, cushy earcups and a lightweight design. And for the price, you won’t cry nearly as hard when you realize you left them on your connecting flight from Milwaukee.
Bose QuietComfort 25 Noise Canceling Headphones
What’s this? Another pair of Bose noise canceling headphones? Yes, because as we stated earlier, Bose pretty much rules the noise canceling headphone roost. And while the QuietComfort 25 is three-gens older than the new QC35 II, this wired set of headphones is still without a doubt one of the best noise cancellation sets on the market. In fact, the active noise cancellation may even be just a touch better on the QuietComfort 25 than on the newer pair, according to reviews. Deep bass tones sound fantastic on these headphones, and you can expect many, many hours of noise cancellation with just a single AAA battery. Even better, you can save some serious cash over the pricier QuietComfort models.
Bowers & Wilkins PX Noise Canceling Headphones
If you’re looking for a high-end pair of noise canceling headphones with a few neat tricks up their sleeves, the Bowers & Wilkins PX are a solid option. Obviously, the design is really slick, and the audio and noise cancellation are great (albeit these won’t block the outside world quite as well as the Bose or Sony options above). The angled audio drivers in the PX are actually the same used in B&W’s P9 HiFi headphones—and those cost $900. One cool and unique feature on the PX is the ability to pause the audio by simply lifting one of the earcups off your ear. No more fumbling for controls or missing part of your podcast when the flight attendant asks what you would like to drink. They’re expensive, yes, but are great if you’re equally – if not more so – concerned about audio fidelity as well as noise cancellation.
Beats Studio3 Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones
The purchase of Beats by Apple has lead to some interesting—and especially for iOS users—great developments. The latest version of the company’s Studio Wireless noise canceling headphones retain much of the same look of its predecessor while adding Apple’s W1 chip into the mix. The result is super easy connectivity to Apple devices and long 22 hour battery life (double the capacity of the previous Beats Studio model) on a single charge. You can also take advantage of the Studio3’s Fast Fuel option, which allows you to get three hours of battery life on just a 10-minute charge. That’s perfect for those quick layovers, by the way. The adaptive noise cancellation is decent and the audio quality retains the great low-end found in high-end Beats models.