Noise canceling headphones are geared towards listeners who wish to have a well-isolated listening experience and block the ambient noise of loud environments. Below are our recommendations for the best noise canceling headphones we have tested so far.
Best Active Noise Canceling Headphones $300+
The Sony MDR-1000x are excellent noise canceling headphones. They isolate incredibly well in loud environments thanks to the adaptive noise canceling that outperforms that of the QuietComfort 35. They're comfortable and sound quite balanced but struggle a bit reproducing very high frequencies. However, overall they're a sturdy, reliable and versatile pair of headphones for most situations and use cases despite being slightly bulky.
The QuietComfort 35 deliver the excellent noise canceling of the QuietComfort 25 in a wireless design. They're incredibly comfortable headphones, with an above-average sound that will please fans of bass. However, they leak quite a bit, making whatever you are listening to audible to the people around you at higher volumes.
Best Active Noise Canceling Headphones $150 to $300
Samsung Level Over-Ear Wireless block enough ambient noise to use them in moderately loud environments like on public transportation or a noisy flight. They're not the most portable headphones, due to their bulky size. However, they have a good suite of active features for most use cases and a decent enough sound to satisfy most casual listeners.
The Parrot ZIK 2.0 are feature-packed, noise-cancelling headphones. They are superbly designed, comfortable and score well in every tested category. With the release of the Zik 3.0 these headphones are at a discounted price. Their isolation is a little better than the Zik 3.0, but they have a few bugs that have been fixed in the newer model that may be more appealing for some.
Best Active Noise Canceling Headphones $75 to $150
The AKG K391-NC are an older model using USB-mini instead of a Micro-USB port to charge their battery. They also take quite a bit of time to charge fully. However, on the upside, they have a long battery life, are easy to carry around and have a satisfying sound quality and a decent amount of noise cancellation. This makes them good headphones for regular commuters or to travel with.
The Samsung Level On Wireless are a well-rounded pair of headphones. They're lightweight, comfortable and wireless. They deliver a decent audio reproduction and isolation performance. Sadly, they leak at higher volumes and have a flimsy build quality that doesn't seem too durable,
Best Active Noise Canceling Headphones below $75
The Panasonic RP-HC56-K are decent, affordable in-ear headphones with one of the best isolation performances we've measured so far. They do not have the best sound and tend to distort a lot at higher volumes. However, their noise cancellation and in-ear fit reduce a significant amount of ambient noise, which make them a good option for loud environments.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best noise-cancelling headphones to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
A few examples of noise-cancelling headphones that didn't make the cut:
- Denon AHGC20. Great noise canceling but a poor and uneven audio reproduction and they're very pricey. See our review
- Plantronics BackBeat PRO. A great substitute to the level over. Good sound, great build quality, and control scheme but mediocre-to-average noise canceling. See our review
- Bose QuietComfort 25. The wired version of the QC35. Great comfort and noise isolation but a bit pricey for what they offer. See our review
- Bose QuietComfort 20. Good noise isolation and comfortable ear bud design. A bit pricey. See our review
- Parrot Zik 3.0. Sturdy and stylish design. Good, customizable sound. Slightly worse isolation than the ZIk 2.0. See our review
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for noise-cancelling headphones. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no perfect noise-cancelling headphone and the level at which you play your music will naturally drown the ambient noise of lower amplitudes.