Best noise-cancelling headphones
When it comes to noise-cancelling headphones, there are two types to look out for: active and passive. Passive means that when the headphones are pressed against your head, some sound is cut out in the process of closing your ears off to the world outside. It’s not high-tech. Lots of headphones claim that this is some sort of advanced technique, but it’s nothing more than a few layers of foam trying their darndest to keep sound out.
Active noise cancellation, on the other hand, involves some pretty interesting processes to cancel out sound. Along with the padding which passively blocks sound, microphones planted in the ear wells of headphones actively analyze the ambient noise level and reflect sound waves back into your ear that work to zap the outside noise. The goal is to hear nothing but the music, or whatever it is you’re listening to.
Now that you know, you’re ready to choose a set. Let’s take a look at the best noise-cancelling headphones around.
1. Bose QuietComfort 25
Headphones that deliver an excellent value for all
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: .42 pounds | Cable length: 4.5 feet | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 35+ hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: No
Fans of the Bose QuietComfort 15 will be right at home with the new and improved Bose QuietComfort 25. For those who don’t know what all of the fuss is about, Bose has been in the business of making noise cancellation headphones for quite some time and the QC 15 were some of the best sounding ANC (active noise cancellation) headphones on the market.
Only to be outdone by itself, the new QC 25 earned top marks and our "Editor’s Choice" award. Compared to the executive style of the QC 15, the new model stopped taking things so seriously with a fresh design. For $300, these headphones offer awesome sound and ANC that runs for days on a single AAA-battery. The only downside compared to others in this guide is that the QC 25 offers no wireless options at the moment.
Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 25
2. Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
Incredible audio fidelity backed by a serious price
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: 4.6 feet | Frequency response: 16-22,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: 28 ohms | Battery life: 25+ hours | Wireless range: 30+ feet | NFC: Yes
If an exceptional set of noise-cancelling headphones is something you’re prepared to shell out for, consider the excellent Sennheiser Momentum Wireless.
Where to start? The audio performance is killer, only helped by the supreme comfort of the leather-coated memory foam earpads. Active noise cancellation kicks on automatically to help keep out noises from the outside world.
Finally, these headphones feature a 22-hour battery life, which is long enough to get you through a flight overseas, and some. The only kicker? These are $499, which is a lot to swallow. But for what you’re getting here, it’s worth it.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
3. Parrot Zik 2.0
App-powered Bluetooth headphones with many features
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: .59 pounds | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 20Hz-22kHz | Drivers: Two 1.5" drivers | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 6+ hours | Wireless range: 30+ feet | NFC: Yes
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a set of headphones that defies convention more than the Zik 2.0. They’re bold in design, but where they really go off the beaten path is their app-centric approach to delivering features.
Coming in at $399, these headphones pack incredible sound and oodles of app-powered features for the price. One of the cooler features made possible with the app is the noise cancellation, which is fully customizable. It’s up to you to decide how much sound you want to tune out of your listening experience. I’ve never had that much freedom with a set of headphones before.
Read the full review: Parrot Zik 2.0
4. Plantronics BackBeat Pro
Noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones with plenty of features
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: .74 pounds | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 24+ hours | Wireless range: 330+ feet | NFC: Yes
The Plantronics BackBeat Pro are a slick, professional looking option with the beat to back it. The BackBeat Pro is easy to recommend based on looks alone, but more importantly, it speaks for itself with some seriously sweet features like 24-hour battery life, great sound and noise cancellation.
Read the full review: Plantronics BackBeat Pro
5. Bose QuietComfort 20i
Bose brings noise cancellation to the earphone form factor
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: .09 pounds | Cable length: 4.3 feet | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 16+ hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: No
Huh, Bose is on our list again. We’re not biased here, it’s just that Bose has had a consistent presence in the space of making ANC headphones for some time. It’s just that with the QuietComfort 20i, they’ve brought earbuds to the discussion.
Similar in price and function in almost every way to the QC 25, the QC 20i offer a more discreet option to enjoy your content. And because those of us who prefer earbuds are on-the-go, Bose included "Aware Mode" which allows you to dampen the effect of the ANC at at a moment’s notice, perfect, as our reviewer put it, to ask for that "all-too-important Jack and Soda" when the flight attendant comes around. We also enjoyed that the in-line controls extend support to every major mobile OS.
Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 20i
6. Creative Sound Blaster EVO ZxR
An all-around headset offering quality sound and noise cancellation
Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: N/A | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz | Drivers: Two 1.9" drivers | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 8+ hours | Wireless range: 33 feet | NFC: Yes
If the design of the Bose QuietComfort 25 is a little too tame for you, check out the Creative Sound Blaster EVO ZxR. The name of these headphones is a bit of a tongue-twister, but you’ll get equally tripped-up running down the exhaustive list of features found in them too.
Active noise cancellation helps keep your immersion at an all-time high with support for listening over Bluetooth. You can even tap an NFC-enabled device for a super-quick wireless connection. But if you feel like keeping things wired, connecting a 3.5mm cable opens up support for PS4, Mac and PC. As mentioned earlier, the design is bold, but it matches the feature-set packed into the offering.
Read the full review: Creative Sound Blaster EVO ZxR
We’re constantly reviewing new noise-cancelling headphones, but let us know if there is a set that you’d like us to take a look at in the comments below.