Best Noise Cancelling Headphones in 2021 – Reviews & Buyers Guide

When you’re listening to music or anything else and you want to tune out the rest of the world, you need the best noise cancelling headphones in order to do so. Whether you like something small and simple that you can just rest inside of your ear or you want full-sized over the ear headphones, you’ve got plenty of options for noise cancellation.

When it comes to choosing the best noise cancelling headphones, we’ve got you covered! You want to know that you are getting dependable sound quality and that the noise cancelling properties really work. We’ve done all of the research and digging for you to try to find you the very best options!

3 Best Noise Cancelling Headphones – Main Photo

In this guide, we will share with you all of the best noise cancelling headphones, complete with reviews. We’ve got some helpful tips for choosing your noise cancelling headphones as well as a complete buyer’s guide with other useful information.

Whether you’re looking for active noise cancelling, passive noise cancellation, in ear headphones or large headphones, we’ve totally got you covered with all of the best noise cancelling headphones solutions.

How to Choose Noise Cancellation Headphones

How to Choose Noise Cancellation Headphones
Image by T_ushar on Pixabay

Before we set you loose on all of the best noise cancelling headphones out there, we think it’s vital to get you some information about making a great decision as well. This part of our guide is designed to help walk you through specific details to know and be aware of before you buy.

Sound Quality

The sound quality is perhaps one of the most important elements of choosing your noise cancelling headphones. It really does not matter if you’re looking for wireless earbuds, over the ear headphones, or even a budget option. In the end, they need to sound great.

We made every effort to really make sure all of these best noise cancelling headphones sound amazing. You want solid noise cancellation that you can depend on but you want that audio quality in your ear to be amazing as well. It doesn’t matter how much noise is cancelled out if you don’t have the good sound quality from the headphones, right?

Here, we’re looking for things like great sound. Is the sound balanced well with the ability to hit bass and high notes? Are you hearing a lot of feedback or static in the headphones? Is there extra noise in the music that has nothing to do with outside noises?

What about wind noise? All of these questions are relevant and important so make sure you think about them when you’re choosing headphones. Another thing we want to point out here is that your opinion of great sound might differ from another’s so always keep that in mind.

Check out reviews and details to make sure there isn’t something about the headphones that isn’t going to work for you as far as sound goes.

Headphone Style

Obviously, your comfort is important here. You may be adamant that you need an over ear design. Or perhaps you are the opposite and want true wireless earbuds instead. Maybe you’ve never tried over ear headphones but you’re curious, or the other way around.

The headphone style that you choose for the best noise cancelling headphones is going to really be up to you. Again, this is all about your comfort and preference. If there is a style you prefer or want to try out, go with that.

You can find noise cancelling technology in every style of headphones so don’t feel like you’re stuck with bulky over ear headphones when you prefer something like an ear bud instead. You’ve totally got options here!

You should be comfortable with your headphones and that starts with the style of the headphones being the style that you want and are looking for.

Active Vs. Passive

As you check out the best noise cancelling you’re going to see terms like active and passive and you may end up choosing between these two categories as well as you narrow down headphones.

Active and passive noise cancelling technology works differently and therefore your listening results might also be different.

ANC headphones, or active noise cancellation headphones, is actually a specific feature or technology within the headphones that actively find all of the noises and then produce a sound opposite of that noise to then cancel it out. It picks up background noises, including the noises of the headphones operating.

Ultimately, active noise cancellation is meant to cancel just about any sound imaginable and they are quite effective at doing so. However, what you should know is that the battery life on these often is much shorter because of all of the background work the headphones are doing to cancel out any and all noise. The result is generally excellent noise cancellation for excellently focused sound from your headphones.

Then, you have passive noise cancellation or passive noise isolation. This is noise cancellation that really has nothing to do with the technology inside of the headphone but rather just the build of the headphones or earbuds.

Passive noise isolation is typically going to be found in over ear headphones because it’s all in the physical design of the headphone. They are made to block out your background noise and other external noises in an effort to isolate the sound you are hearing. You still get solid noise cancellation but it comes in a totally different way than active cancellation does.

In the case of passive noise, cancellation, you’re going to look at the physical features of the headphones to know just how effective they are. Things like leather earpads, clamping in the headband, a tight fit over your ears, dampening earcups, in-ear sealing, and more will all still lead to excellent noise cancellation when done right.

The Best Noise Cancelling Headphones Reviewed

We’ve covered some of the basics so let’s take a look at the options. Once we get through these, we have some additional tips in the buyer’s guide that might help you make a final decision as well. We’ve searched the market to try to find the very best options out there. We hope that you can find something that appeals to you here.

Take a look at these.

1. Best Overall: Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones WHCH710N

Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones WHCH710N

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If you want some of the best noise cancelling headphones, you can definitely find just that in these headphones from Sony. These are made with smart noise cancellation so they work on an active and a passive level. Sony incorporated Dual Noise Sensor Technology that senses the world around you and cancels things out to give you ambient noise clear for listening and enjoying.

These are truly wireless headphones with active noise and strong noise cancellation. Surrounding noise shouldn’t be an issue and you can enjoy the clear and detailed sound with ease. The battery life on these is phenomenal with up to 35 hours of listening time with this class leading battery life. They charge quickly too!

The nice thing about these is you can sync them to your phone so you can take calls and have the microphone and everything without having to switch to your phone. From music playback to phone calls, these best ANC headphones are not gonna let you down. Of course, with Bluetooth, everything is wireless but you also have NFC one-touch technology on these headphones, which can be very handy.

Let’s not forget the comfort details either. These over ear headphones are made for the ultimate comfort. They hug your ears comfortably and they have adjustable metal sliders so you can customize your fit to your own needs as well.

Specs:

Driver Size:30 mm
Impedance: 72 ohms
Active/Passive: Active noise cancellation
Bluetooth/Wired: Bluetooth and wireless
Battery Life: 35 hours

Key Features (On a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the highest)

  • Audio Performance: 10
  • Noise Cancellation: 10
  • Compatibility: 10
  • Comfort: 10
Pros:
  • These wireless noise cancelling headphones have some of the best noise
  • Better battery life than most with up to 35 hours
  • No unwanted sounds thanks to dual noise sensor technology
  • Optimal audio quality you can depend on
  • Very comfortable to wear and adjustable to your needs
Cons:
  • The mic is really only compatible with phone calls so not recommended for game play

Why We Like It: Sony is one of the leading digital publisher companies on the market and these over ear headphones lend you good noise cancellation with awesome audio quality. They are comfortable and you can listen for hours without needing to recharge.

2. Budget Pick: Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Hybrid Headphones

Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Hybrid Headphones

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If you need budget noise cancelling headphones that you can depend on, take a look at these. Soundcore are incredibly affordable and they are of awesome quality. They’re incredibly popular on the market for wireless noise cancelling headphones and have more than 30,000 reviews with a 4.5-star rating.

These are made to play deep bass as well as clear highs. The over ear head phones use memory foam ear cups that rest against your ears and surround them with clear and reliable sound. The audio quality really hones in on the details so you can enjoy ambient sound or you can enjoy major bass and more. The audio experience is high resolution so everything is clear and balanced for fully enjoying those long listening sessions.

These offer excellent battery life with up to 40 hours of playtime with each charge. The over ear cans are made with memory foam and soft materials to give you all of the comforts you could possibly want while also blocking out the outside world.

You can even get these in different color options, including black, silver, or dark blue. The noise cancellation on these best headphones is a hybrid design. They sport 4 different microphones that help to detect those ambient outside noise details and cancel them out. There is both a feed forward as well as a feedback microphone. which is where hybrid technology comes into play.

Specs:

Driver Size: 40 mm
Impedance: 16 ohms
Active/Passive: Active noise cancellation
Bluetooth/Wired: Bluetooth/wireless
Battery Life: 40-60 hours

Key Features (On a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the highest)

  • Audio Performance: 10
  • Noise Cancellation: 10
  • Compatibility: 10
  • Comfort: 10
Pros:
  • Comfortable build quality design
  • The best noise cancellation headphones on a budget
  • Very good value for the money
  • Tune out the outside world while you listen
  • The perfect headphones for simplicity and reliability
Cons:
  • The ear cup material might make your ears warm when using
  • Since these are a lower price, you might notice cheaper parts or even imperfect construction details

Why We Like It: If you want quality audio without spending a massive amount of money, you can get just that right here. These best noise cancellation headphones will drown out ambient sounds when you want them to thanks to the active noise cancelling hybrid technology. Tons of reviews and high ratings really speak for themselves here.

3. Best Value: Bose QuietComfort Noise Cancelling Headphones

Bose QuietComfort Noise Cancelling Headphones

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Of course, we couldn’t go without having the Bose QuietComfort noise cancelling headphones included in our countdown. The Bose QuietComfort earbuds are in ear models that are light and comfortable. They still operate on an ANC level so your audio will be perfect in your ears.

The Bose QuietComfort earbuds come in four different color options so you can go with black, white, silver, or blue. This gives you a little bit of choice for your listening pleasure. Bose QuietComfort earbuds are in ear models that definitely stand out against their competition. They do cost a bit more but the value is some of the best when you really drill down into the details.

These are active noise cancelling earbuds. Bose noise cancelling is above par when compared to other ANC headphones on the market. The Bose QuietComfort earbuds are engineered with what is considered to be some of the best technology in the world. Bose QuietComfort earbuds also have transparency mode. Transparency mode is almost an ambient mode where you can allow in outside noises or even just some of those noises.

These are comfortable to wear and even come with three sizes of ear tips so that you can adjust them to whatever works best for your ears. The silicone also offers passive noise cancellation for your ambient mode options.

Specs:

Driver Size: unspecified
Impedance: unspecified
Active/Passive: Active noise cancellation
Bluetooth/Wired: Bluetooth/wireless
Battery Life: Up to 12 hours

Key Features (On a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the highest)

  • Audio Performance: 10
  • Noise Cancellation: 10
  • Compatibility: 10
  • Comfort: 10
Pros:
  • Ambient listening mode capability that you can adjust
  • Active noise cancellation paired with passive
  • Bose noise cancelling headphones are superior quality
  • Three inner ear sizes so you can find what’s best
  • IPX67 waterproof design
Cons:
  • The battery life is unfortunately a bit on the short side with only about 6-12 hours. You can extend that slightly by the case

Why We Like It: These Bose noise cancelling headphones are certainly one for the books. You can reduce noise outside or still let the external sounds in if you need to. Enjoy music playing your way. The design is comfortable, long-lasting, and reliable as well.

4. Sony WH 1000xm4 Wireless Over Ear Noise Cancelling Headphones

Sony WH 1000xm4 Wireless Over Ear Noise Cancelling Headphones

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We showed you a basic option from Sony earlier but if you’re willing to spend a little bit more, take a look at the Sony WH 1000xm4 Over Ear head phones. These come in blue, black, and silver colors so you can choose whatever works for you. No matter which you go with, the over ear design is comfortable and the sound is awesome.

With the Sony WH 1000xm4, you will find that these are an industry-leading option. You can clearly hear all of the words, notes, and details in whatever you may be listening to and cut out all of the surrounding noise that might distract you.

These headphones have even won awards. The Sony WH 1000xm4 were awarded the best of the year reviewed headphones. They also won the 2021 CES innovation award. You can listen on your phone and then change devices in just a single touch of a button. It’s a smooth transition and super easy to operate. You can also take and make calls with excellent sound on both ends of the call.

These offer up to 30 hours of battery time with your charge. They also charge super fast with only about 10 minutes needed to give you 5 hours of playback. By the way, you don’t even have to press pause when you take them off. They have wear detection so when you remove them, your sound is automatically paused for you.

Specs:

Driver Size: unspecified
Impedance: unspecified
Active/Passive: Active noise cancellation
Bluetooth/Wired: Bluetooth/wireless
Battery Life: 30 hours

Key Features (On a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the highest)

  • Audio Performance: 10
  • Noise Cancellation: 10
  • Compatibility: 10
  • Comfort: 10
Pros:
  • 10 minutes of charge time can get you 5 hours of playback on the battery life
  • No more ambient sounds interrupting your focus plus ambient listening mode if wanted
  • Sony WH 1000xm4 are industry-leading headphones
  • Reacts with smart features when you remove headphones
  • Compatible with Alexa and talk to text features
Cons:
  • The touch controls are sensitive and easy to accidentally trigger
  • Pairing and settings all have to be controlled through the app, which can be inconvenient sometimes

Why We Like It: Innovative technology meets active noise cancellation and clear sound reliability in the Sony WH 1000xm4. It really doesn’t get much better than that when you think about it. These wireless noise cancelling headphones are definitely a best noise cancelling selection for the books. They are award winning for a reason.

5. Sennheiser Momentum 3 Best Noise Cancelling Headphones

Sennheiser Momentum 3 Best Noise Cancelling Headphones

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Here is another premium option for your spatial audio needs. The Sennheiser Momentum headphones are some of the best noise canceling headphones out there. These ANC headphones look great and sound great. You really can’t go wrong here and you will find that they easily outrank a lot of others out there. They are a premium model so they do cost just a bit more.

The sleek Sennheiser Momentum headphones are ANC headphones that come in black or silver. Much like the Sony option we just shared, these have that auto on and of as well as a smart pause feature so they can sense when you take them down and press pause for you. They are noise cancelling headphones that will give you transparency when you need it so you can direct your own sound.

The battery life is decent with up to 17 hours. It could be better but it’s not bad at all. These are also compatible with Bluetooth 5.0, which is pretty awesome. You can use the one tap to talk feature and take full advantage of the voice assistant. Use your wireless noise cancelling headphones from Sennheiser Momentum for calls, audio, or anything else you might need.

The ear pads are soft and comfortable but also made with breathable materials for your ears. They use genuine leather so even the longest sessions are comfortable. The active noise cancellation adapts to you, so you always get the best sound.

Specs:

Driver Size: 45 mm
Impedance: unspecified
Active/Passive: Active noise cancellation
Bluetooth/Wired: Bluetooth/wireless
Battery Life: 18 hours

Key Features (On a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the highest)

  • Audio Performance: 10
  • Noise Cancellation: 10
  • Compatibility: 10
  • Comfort: 10
Pros:
  • Some of the best noise cancelling headphones for customization
  • The sound quality hits all of the notes
  • Smart technology recognizes when to pause or turn off
  • Up to 18 hours of battery life
  • Very easy to pair up and work with
Cons:
  • The touch buttons can be sensitive or sometimes not pick up your touch easily

Why We Like It: We’re here to bring you the very best noise cancelling headphones and these certainly fit the bill. You get excellent sound quality and a lot of compatibility and personalization ability. Background noise will be almost nothing and the battery life is also pretty great for ANC headphones.

6. Sennheiser True Wireless Earbuds

Sennheiser True Wireless Earbuds

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Next up, we have the true wireless earbuds from Sennheiser. The brand has already proven its worth so why not check out the in ear option as well? This particular option is ANC headphones but the same exact style does have noise isolation with passive technology for a little bit less if that is your preference for this solution.

These come in black or white and you get superior sound with actually no compromise to the quality. They offer built in bass boost as well as an equalizer in the noise cancelling ear buds. They even have a True Response transponder, which is where the name true wireless earbuds come from for this option. You can enjoy the active noise cancelling earbuds as they are or adjust for transparency when you need to be more aware of your surroundings.

You can use the earbuds together or independent of each other if you prefer. The touch controls are customizable to allow you to get your sound exactly the way that you prefer it. These have an excellent battery life with up to 24 hours of play time. Of course, this does depend on whether or not you have the charging case. Typical use without it is 8 hours with 16 hours of battery life extension with the case.

These are designed to be comfortable and ergonomic. They come with 4 ear pieces so that you can use the size that you need or want for your ears. They are compact and so easy to carry around with you whenever or wherever you need them. They are even IPX4 splash resistant to give you a little added security for travelling and being on the move.

Specs:

Driver Size:
Impedance:
Active/Passive: Active noise cancellation
Bluetooth/Wired: Bluetooth/wireless
Battery Life:up to 24 hours with a case

Key Features (On a scale from 1-10, with 10 being the highest)

  • Audio Performance: 10
  • Noise Cancellation: 9
  • Compatibility: 10
  • Comfort: 10
Pros:
  • Sound quality is phenomenal
  • Choose from an active or passive design if you prefer
  • Transparency mode when you need to be more aware
  • Up to 24 hours of battery life
  • Comfortable to wear and use
Cons:
  • These may be too big for very small ear canals, even with the smallest tips

Why We Like It: The brand has proven that they know what they are doing even before these best noise cancelling headphones were shared here. They cancel and you can get your settings to just about anything you need or want them to be. They have phenomenal sound and that’s one of the things that counts the most.

Buyer’s Guide

Buyer's Guide
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Now that you’ve seen a lot of options for the best noise cancelling headphones, let’s drill down a bit more into the details. This part of our guide is simply designed to guide you through the decision process. We’ve already told you some specifics to look for but now we want to provoke thought before you make a final decision.

These tips are primarily to get you thinking about what you really want out of your headphones so that you can narrow down the choices and find what is right for you.

Battery Life

The battery life basically demands how long you can or cannot use your nest noise cancelling headphones. If it’s too short, you won’t be able to accomplish anything without stopping for a charge. Here’s the thing. everyone has different expectations for battery life.

Maybe you absolutely must have a solid 8+ hours of playback. You’re in luck here as most of these offer far above that amount of time. Or maybe you want to know that you can use them a few times without a charge. Some of the options out there can go 30+ hours before they have to be charged.

You may or may not have a preference here but you definitely want to be aware of the options. Wireless earbuds tend to lose their battery life faster and have to be charged more often. If you plan and can remember to charge, this probably won’t be a huge issue for you.

Of course, the type of battery life that you need really also might depend on when and where you use your headphones and how much you use them in a setting without being able to charge. Pay attention to these details as it will most definitely have an impact on how you choose your noise cancelling headphones in the end.

Comfort

Your comfort is absolutely essential. If you want to or have to wear your best noise cancelling headphones for an extended length of time, you don’t want to be miserable during that timeframe. Comfort can mean different things for different people so consider what is important to you in this detail.

We think there are several different aspects to consider when it comes to the comfort detail. For example, some over ear options can be incredibly warm on your ears. They might cause your ears to sweat or hold in the heat and after a little while, this can be really uncomfortable. If your ears don’t tend to get hot, then this may not be an issue for you.

Some over ear options are designed to cover the ear without making your ear toasty so you might just be able to check the materials and breathability. Some people are super sensitive to this though and tend to get hot with any over ear style so you may need to consider simply using ear buds instead in this instance.

Comfort goes beyond this element though. While it’s a part of it, you have to think about fit and how the headphones stay in place (or maybe don’t stay in place). Our guess is that you want those headphones to stay put when you’re moving. A lot of people use them for working out so that means they have to stay where they are meant to be.

You certainly don’t want to have to worry about them falling out while you’re working or having to worry about headphones slipping and sliding so you’re constantly adjusting or anything else.

As you can see, there are several elements to think about with comfort. You might have some specific thoughts for your own comfort but you can also learn a lot from reading what other people are saying. If reviews mention fit or comfort, pay attention to that to know what tried and true users are saying before you buy.

What Does Noise Cancellation Really Mean?

What Does Noise Cancellation Really Mean?
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When it comes to expectations for your noise cancelling headphones, it’s important to be realistic. Your headphones will have limitations. It really doesn’t matter if they are active or passive or anything else. The noise cancelling aspect can only go so far.

What you will find is that noise cancelling means that you can expect outside noises to be limited or reduced. Noises that are expected or consistent are much easier to cancel out for these headphones. They are intuitive to regular noise and background noise.

However, the noise cancelling becomes less effective when noises are inconsistent or unusual. That being said, active noise cancelling is able to cancel the most because the technology listens for those oddities and then produces an opposite sound for the noise cancelling effect. They won’t be perfect and usually you can even adjust the settings if you want to still be aware of your surroundings.

Passive noise cancelling is more about the build. These are more about masking the sounds by covering your ears with quality materials. You can refer to the difference in ANC versus passive noise cancelling in that section near the beginning of this guide.

Noise cancelling doesn’t necessarily mean that you will hear silence apart from the music or audio you are listening to. What this means is that you will cancel out most other sounds so that you can better enjoy your audio.

Budget

We all have different budget abilities and we tried to work with that philosophy as we found you great options to choose from here. You will find a variety of price ranges in the best noise cancelling headphones.

There are times where you truly do get what you pay for but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find good noise cancelling headphones if you’re on a tighter budget. There are reliable options in every aspect of the budget realm so plan your budget and then commit your search accordingly. Obviously, you need to find a solution that fits your budget capabilities.

Some of the more expensive headphones are truly the very best out there. But we want you to know that the best noise cancelling headphones for you don’t have to be the most expensive. You can find a great option even with our budget pick or other choices in this guide as well.

Choose what works for you and your budget!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it Worth Buying Noise Cancelling Headphones?

Noise cancelling headphones really do have a specific task and they do it well. While they might not eliminate every single little noise, they do significantly reduce outside noises and eliminate the majority. They are worth the spend if you want to enjoy listening with fewer distractions. Whether you are working out or perhaps working online in a coffee shop, you can’t go wrong here.

What are the Best Noise Cancelling Headphones?

You can’t go wrong with any of the choices we listed here. Our best overall pick was a Sony brand but we also picked all of these options as the best noise cancelling headphones for a reason. Choose the budget pick, the best value, or even one of our other alternatives in the list and you will have great headphones at your disposal.

Can You Test Noise Cancelling Properties?

The short answer is yes. You can test noise cancelling qualities but you may need to know what you’re doing. You can certainly check out YouTube videos and guides that walk you through how to do this. Be prepared to use other speakers for the test.

The best way to test is to generate what is called pink noise through a set of speakers. Then you put on your headphones and measure how much of that noise makes it through to you. In order to measure, you really need something like True RTA or some other spectrum analysis software.

There are other ways to test your headphones simply by playing something with your headphones on. If you want to put your headphones to the test, we recommend looking up a how-to and following the steps.

Conclusion

We hope that you find this guide to the best noise cancelling headphones to be a valuable resource. There are a lot of different options out there but we hope that you can find your own best solution right here in this guide.

We made every effort to bring a variety of choices to this guide. The one thing that is the same about each choice is that they were carefully chosen to provide you with what should truly be one of the best options on the market.

Which options stand out to you?

Expert Tip

If you have small ear canals, plan to use over ear head phones instead of in ear. It seems like no matter how small the tips get, they simply still don’t seem quite small enough for some of those really small ears out there.

Did You Know?

Noise cancelling headphones don’t actually cancel out every last bit of noise around you. They are designed to eliminate the majority of outside noises and reduce your noise and distraction but it’s still possible for noises to sometimes seep through in the end.

Amazon Recommends:

SaleBestseller No. 1
Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones WHCH710N: Wireless Bluetooth Over the Ear Headset with Mic for Phone-Call, Black
  • Cancel out the world with smart noise cancellation
  • Noise cancellation automatically senses your environment with Dual...
SaleBestseller No. 2
Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Industry Leading Noise Canceling Overhead Headphones with Mic for Phone-Call and Alexa Voice Control, Black
  • Industry-leading noise canceling with Dual Noise Sensor technology
  • Next-level music with Edge-AI, co-developed with Sony Music Studios...
SaleBestseller No. 3
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, Noise-Cancelling, with Alexa Voice Control - Black
  • Three levels of world-class noise cancellation for better listening...
  • Alexa-enabled for voice access to music, information, and more

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