The Best Noise Cancelling Headphones

The Best Noise Cancelling Headphones

Active noise cancellation first appeared in headsets for pilots. The high level of noise and continuous humming could cause permanent hearing damage. ANC systems radically improved the situation and allowed the crew to communicate easier. Today, you and I can enjoy noise cancelling headphones such as Bose 700, and benefit from the NC functionality in headphones in any noisy environment, on the road, at work, or when we travel.

Active Noise Canceling (ANC) headphones most often come in the form of over-ear designs, but there are also in-ear models (AirPods Pro, Bose QC20, WF-1000XM4) available on the market. Regardless, for pure noise-canceling performance, our best rated noise-canceling headphones include models that also benefit from significant passive noise insulation that can maintain its comfort for more extended periods.

We've compiled a List of Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones in 2019

Headphones with active noise cancellation ANC make listening to music much more enjoyable in noisy places. They are the perfect headphones for the city, office, travel, and everyday use. When buying headphones, it is worth checking their noise-canceling effectiveness by figuring out the average decibels reduction. You won’t have to do any of that, as you will find which headphones with active noise reduction are worth buying in our guide.

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What are noise-cancelling headphones?

Noise-canceling headphones are a type of headphones that use algorithms to achieve noise reduction. At present, there are two kinds of noise-canceling headphones, respectively:

  1. Active noise-canceling headphones
  2. Passive noise-canceling headphones.

The active noise cancellation function neutralizes outside noise by generating a reverse sound wave equal to the external noise via the noise cancellation system, thus achieving noise reduction. Passive noise-canceling headphones benefit from external noise insulation thanks to the excellent soundproofing of the closed-back enclosure and thick earpads cover your ears completely, and other soundproof materials to block external noise

Sony WH-1000XM3

Headphones with the most powerful noise-canceling system to date

Why we like it: The third variant of Sony’s leading noise-canceling headphones series provide a better than ever sound reproduction, and its noise reduction feature is unequivocally the most powerful among many notable competitors since its inception, surpassing every wireless headphone with ANC.

The WH-1000XM3 has an incredibly spacious and natural soundstage, the sound is wonderful: warm, balanced with a plethora of details and clarity. We adore these Sony headphones for how beautiful they sound but also for how effective the active noise-reduction system is, reducing the ambient sounds to a large degree: the crowd talking, children screams, and blocking a broad range of noise frequencies from the entire spectrum.

They’re more lightweight and far comfortable, weighing only 255 grams. The ease of use of these headphones is heavily amplified by the diverse controls on the back of both earcups. With two mechanical buttons, you can switch on/off the Bluetooth pairing (which unfortunately doesn’t support multipoint connection), and the other button powers on the active noise reduction. The surface touch gesture controls are very responsive and practical, where clear voice announcements assist you at each adjustment made (whether you navigate between tracks, change the volume or play/pause the music).

Verdict

It’s easy to recognize the improvements made in the bass range – the tremor-like rumbling sound of the bass feels very strong as opposed to its predecessor, 1000XM2. Although the elegantly crafted Sony headphones embody a very pronounced, but clean mid-bass, the precision in the treble and the warmth in the vocals are both in line with the lower frequencies resulting in a melodic mixture.

There’s a slight difference in construction between this model, and the past generations of noise cancellation headphones in the XM series, the new ergonomic shape adopted by the WH-1000XM3 provides with a more rounded headband that ensures better contact with your head and more comfort.

Key Features

  • Extremely complex and versatile
  • Accurate 3D audio imaging
  • Resourceful sound spectrum with excellent bass and crystal clear sound
  • Fairly precise detatchable microphone

Alternatives:

Upgrade:

Budget Version:

 

Bose ANC 700

Excellent all around NC headset

Why we like it: Bose 700 is the latest noise-canceling headphone created by Bose, and also a very innovative creation that has captured the public interest quite quickly because of its shockingly quirky design.

The 5.0 Bluetooth Bose headphones offer 10m of wireless range, sound as fantastic as they look when you put them on your head, and you can balance the sound in the Bose Music app based on your likings. Inside this application, many flattering features that are provided ensure the NCH 700 a truly versatile and innovative identity. The app offers you control over the standard settings: manage music playback, switch between tracks, and adjust the volume. But also more latest aspects such as: how much of your voice you want to hear in a phone call, noise-canceling power adjustment, ambient aware mode, and which digital assistant to use by default. These are all helpful and intuitive features. Daily, they make interactions smooth and effortless, with only a few easy-to-use mechanical buttons and a touch control system.

Unlike many headphones with active noise canceling cluttered with several buttons on both earcups, Bose attains a beautiful, yet minimalistic look that Matt D’Avella would adore. The sleek and clean-cut Bose 700 are an elegant symbol of high-status that can undoubtedly make a prominent fashion statement. If you’re highly into great-looking accessories and style and care a lot about the way you present yourself, these headphones can add the lacking flair to your character – Eventually, various more modern qualities and unparalleled music quality.

Verdict

Along with the new Bose headphones appearance, a few mechanics have also changed: the clamping pressure seems a bit more substantial, while the headband size-adjustment is somewhat annoying for people with bigger heads since they’ll have to continuously adjust the headphones every time they snap them on and take them off, which might be quite burdensome after hundreds of iterations.

The charging, same as with the QC 35 II, is done via a micro USB-C cable (the headphones have to be powered off while the battery recharges). But with a battery that can power your wireless noise-canceling headphones with every feature enabled for approximately 20 hours, you’ll be able to enjoy them for more than 2 days without a recharge.

Key Features

  • Extremely complex and versatile
  • Accurate 3D audio imaging
  • Resourceful sound spectrum with excellent bass and crystal clear sound
  • Fairly precise detatchable microphone

Alternatives:

Upgrade:

Budget Version:

 

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Best NC Headphones for Traveling

Why we like it: The Bose QuietComfort QC 35 II is yet another excellent noise-canceling contender that appears regularly on the headphones buying guides for travelers.

With the recent launch of Bose 700, the QC 35 II has downgraded a position from being the best Bose noise-canceling headphone. The difference between the two come in different dimensions, whereas the newly released Bose headphones possess a slightly improved noise-canceling (adjustable on levels, and more effective in the higher frequencies) and a class-leading microphone system, the QuietComfort has a warmer sound, and also a bit less neutral which sounds more fun, less analytical, with pronounced vocals and punchy bass as in a W-shaped sound signature.

On plane travels, commute or inside your office – where the noisy environment is the most bothersome – its noise reduction remains very competent and reliable, freeing you of unwanted sounds for 20 hours plus. Its sound is fantastically rendered with high accuracy and crisp treble, and the qualities are well-preserved in the wireless mode almost the same. While the sound profile is similar to its predecessor, the wireless latency is much better than QC 35 which doesn’t carry the same reliable Bluetooth connection that QC 35 II happily benefits of.

Verdict

Almost all features are overall great, the soundstage is spacious and the sound is balanced on the whole audio spectrum. But the premium experience of using these wireless over-ears comes from the intuitive onboard controls with multilingual voice guidance, which are seamless to use and helpful, one of these options provides you multiple Bluetooth pairing (consider this feature if you often switch between many devices).

The audio management is straightforward too, by pressing a few buttons you can skip through your songs, change the volume, and navigate between tracks or manage calls. Siri can help too! Perhaps you’d like to use Google’s Digital Assistant if you’re more enthusiastic about using this option.

Key Features

  • Extremely complex and versatile
  • Accurate 3D audio imaging
  • Resourceful sound spectrum with excellent bass and crystal clear sound
  • Fairly precise detatchable microphone

Alternatives:

Upgrade:

Budget Version:

 

Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

Best budget noise-cancelling headphones

Why we like it: The Plantronics Backbeat Pro II is a fantastic upgrade of the previous headphone for travelers: Plantronics Backbeat Pro, except with a more refined design, lighter construction, and better sounding. Many of the elements that digital nomads or avid travellers want are reinforced in this set of wireless headphones: complete control from responsive smart sensors, the comfort, passive and active noise isolation, multiple Bluetooth pairing methods (aptX, A2DP, 4.0 EDR), multipoint pairing technology, crystal clear sound, and great autonomy.

For a reasonable price, these headphones offer everything your ideal budget NC headphones should have. In our objective judgment, the sound reproduction is fantastic. But listening to each contender, the music sounds amazing in all of them, yet the Plantronics Backbeat Pro II ranks somewhere in-between the noise-canceling headphones from above in terms of music – still in the same league though with a wide soundstage and precise instrumental separation.

It has a neutral sound (starting from the second half of the bass frequencies until the end of middle treble), undoubtedly more neutral than Sony’s and Bose’s headphones, which is preferred by audiophiles who love a balanced or neutral sound profile. The overall sound is mildly recessed – the quantity is not significant enough that it would require extreme amounts of volume to compensate.

Verdict

Plantronics promises 25 hours of battery that is more than the average autonomy of the competitors, which should be enough for two days or more of listening to music with everything enabled (unless you don’t travel all the time, it should be able to deliver its goods for a whole lot more).

Its nicely-padded earcups are very comfortable, but when you turn on the active noise reduction feature, the bass from music becomes more pronounced – the music still remains appreciable even under this condition (some bass-heads will probably love the “feature”), while a small portion of the highs also receives a bit of the same attention, thus too much volume makes the sounds in that region annoying.

Key Features

  • Extremely complex and versatile
  • Accurate 3D audio imaging
  • Resourceful sound spectrum with excellent bass and crystal clear sound
  • Fairly precise detatchable microphone

Alternatives:

Upgrade:

Budget Version:

 

Alternatives

The Jabra Elite 85h is an incredibly powerful wireless headphone that has beautiful aesthetics and great-sounding, as the primary reason people buy headphones with noise canceling is to travel around the world and enjoy music in silent and comfort, even though the Elite 85h has the huge advantage of 40 hours with NC engaged over Bose QC 35 II, they are also heavier (the weight of 300 g becomes unpleasant immediately) and slightly more expensive.

The Everest Elite 750NC is a nice pair of wireless headphones, very comfortable to wear with a homogenous sound response, but short autonomy (15 h), the ANC is effective yet not reliable: the bass becomes excessively rough while activated, whereas the mids and highs aren’t the most accurate.

The Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 deemed as the budget version of the BackBeat Pro 2, have almost the same build quality, stereophony, and noise reduction effectiveness for a smaller price, but our budget pick performs slightly better.

The Parrot Zik 3 is a well-built headphone with rigorous construction with a decent battery life of 8 hours with all the modules activated, although we do have better solutions for any of those qualities. (To date, this headphone is not as available in online stores as when we reviewed it)

The AKG N60 NC Wireless is also a great mid-end pair of headphones which passive isolation and ANC function are very competent, but they’re a bit pricier than our current budget choice, and you can’t turn ANC off in Bluetooth mode. Nonetheless, for $50 more, the sound of N60 is fantastically balanced, accurately rendered and detailed, though the lack of presence in treble is quickly sensed.

The AKG N700NC sounds impressively good in the upper end of the spectrum but has inexistent deep-bass, a bit heavier and less comfortable than Bose QC 35 II (also pricier), and contains a few flaws. (Update: AKG N700NC M2 is an upgrade version of the standard N700NC which is slightly better, though still not as competent as Bose QC 35 II)

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