9 of the best noise-cancelling headphones for flying, blocking out noisy neighbors, and more
Listening to music can have a profound effect on your state of mind — which could be part of the reason we buy headphones like they’re candy. Listening to music (or podcasts, or audiobooks) can be an integral part of getting through that daily commute or transatlantic flight.
But if the incessant sound of jet engines, the distracting laugh of a coworker in the next cubicle, or the deafening bang of nearby construction seems to prevent you from reaching that euphoric place, the best solution is to invest in some noise-cancelling headphones.
Active noise-cancelling headphones can electronically remove the sound coming from your surroundings. They work by using internal microphones that listen to what’s happening in the world around you, then inverting the noise and sending it into the loudspeaker. The idea is, both the output and the input will cancel out, leaving you with near-silence— or the music you want to listen to.
Now that you know how it works, let us introduce you to some of the best noise-cancelling headphones out there, according to reviews from t he thousands of people who’ve purchased them already.
Cable length: 12 inches
Battery life: 16 hours
It’s no secret that everyone and their mother has heard of Bose headphones. People love them because the active noise cancellation is pretty much best-in-class, not to mention they practically invented the noise-cancellation headphone category.
There are two versions of this pair of in-ear headphones by Bose, the standard ones pictured above and the QC20i model that comes with two additional buttons that work with iPhone music control and Siri voice commands.
At a glance, the Bose QC 20 headphones appear to be like any other pair of regular earbuds, but if you take a closer look, you’ll see a few differences. There’s a control module that allows you to turn the noise cancellation on or off and they have a built-in rechargeable battery that provides up to 16 hours of listening time.
You can use the noise blocking features to keep ambient noise at bay until the battery dies, after that, they function pretty much like regular headphones. To make sure you know how much juice you have left, Bose included a battery indicator light next to the power button. Each of the earpieces has two tiny noise cancellation microphones built inside. While noise cancellation mode is active, all four of these mics pick up external sound to determine the proper amount of low tones required to tune it out. By pressing the Aware button on the remote, you can allow some of the outside noise in, perfect for when you quickly what’s going on.
Check out what this Amazon reviewer had to say about the Bose QC headphones:
I have an original pair of Bose over-the-ear QC-15s, which are comfortable, provide okay sound, and great noise reduction. I ordered these in-ear QC-20s primarily because they’re far less bulky to carry on an airplane. But holy @#$#$ are they amazing. The sound quality is outstanding, and the noise reduction blows away my old over-the-ear QC-15s, which I didn’t think was possible. They’re also quite comfortable. The little in-line switch that lets you selectively disable noise reduction is a nice touch; I’m surprised at how helpful it is/how many times I’ve used it already. I think these are the best headphones I’ve ever owned, of any kind. Numerous reviews here point to their relative fragility, and although mine are still new, I’m treating them gingerly and feel they need it. For example, the square-cornered/sure-to-snag-on-anything battery pack is *hard-wired* to the unit on both sides; there’s no plugs/jacks and thus no safe breakaway capability. I hope these things hold up as good as they sound; for now, they’re simply awesome.
Weight: 8.3 ounces
Battery life: Up to 20 hours of wireless play time; up to 40 hours of listening in wired mode
Detachable cord: yes
Part of what makes this pair of over-ear headphones so great is the hardware button that can be used to access the Google Assistant. Play music, receive texts, and get answers without ever glancing down at your smartphone; just tap the button, and the assistant will read you your notifications. If you aren’t a Google user, no need to worry. You can still use the Action button to adjust your level of noise cancellation between three different settings.
QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones are the result of more than 40 years of Bose’s noise-blocking obsession, and you can totally customize the amount of sound you want to let in by downloading the Bose connect app. This pair continuously measures and reacts to outside noises, so there’s nothing between you and the music you love.
Here’s what Amazon customer John S. had to say about these Bose headphones:
These are amazing and Bose is great! I purchased these headphones for their noise-cancellation abilities. I am an application developer and wear them at work because I am easily distracted. I don’t even listen to music with them… they just cancel just about all background noise, including random chatter from the annoying marketing department. I also use them for WebEx and Skype calls with clients. The built-in microphone is great and the noise-cancellation is helpful during those calls as well. Battery life is extremely good. I can go an entire week without having to charge the headset. It comes with an 1/8″ cable that will allow you to listen to music even when the batteries are dead. An added feature is that the bluetooth feature will allow you to connect to and hear audio from two sources at the same time. This is great if you want to connect to your iPhone and laptop at the same time.
Read the full review here.
Weight: 7.7 ounces
Battery life: 24 hours
Bluetooth range: 330 feet
Detachable cord: yes
We reviewed the Plantronics Backseat Pro 2 in 2016, and the consensus was that these headphones are great. Here are some of the tech specs that we love:
Sensors that detect when you’ve removed them from your head — automatically stopping/starting the music accordingly.
Super comfy design allows for long wear time.
The ear-cups turn inwards to make the headphones fit better when you wear them around your neck.
Appearance: fantastic. I know a lot of people consider wood grain a strange choice but I think these pull it off. I ride NYC subway every day and half the people I see with ANC headphones are wearing Bose which aesthetically are a bit boring to my eyes. These headphones stood out quite a bit. All other plastics are of high quality and the headband is amongst the best I’ve ever seen. Perforated mesh is incredibly comfortable and breathable. The faux leather on the cups also has a very pleasant feel to it as well as ample padding. Button clicks feel very solid and you get used to the control scheme in under a day. The placement of controls is very well thought out. LED lights for battery indication are also a nice touch that reminds me of old macbook batteries.
Functionality: probably the best I’ve seen on any bluetooth headset/headphones. The first time you take the headphones off and they auto-pause the music feels like magic. Everyone I’ve shown it to was impressed. Ambient sound mode is very helpful. Paired easily with both my Macbook and my iPhone and switched seamlessly between the two. Voice prompts are very clear and brief enough not to be annoying. The only downside is the iPhone app for these which frankly doesn’t do much. Not that you’d need it as all the functionality you need is already built into the headphones themselves.
Read the rest of his review here.
Weight: 9.8 ounces
Battery life: up to 30 hours
Bluetooth range: 30 feet
Detachable cord: yes
Sony WH 1000xM2 headphones can automatically detect your activity — whether you’re on a noisy plane or sitting during your daily train commute — then balance the noise cancelling levels accordingly. If you want to control the sound yourself, you can download the Headphones Connect App and customize them to your preference. The headphones’ right ear cup lets you control your songs and the volume, access your phone’s voice assistant, and make phone calls.
I tried on both 1000xM2 and Bose QC 35 and honestly think that both are great headphones. Sony 1000XM2 has more features and longer battery life so I am very content with my purchase.
Weight: 9 ounces
Battery life: 14 hours with ANC and BT enabled; 35 hours with ANC only
Optional headphone jack: yes
Colors: black, cream, and grey
B&O didn’t come to play. Relax and listen in absolute comfort with these Bang & Olufsen headphones. These wireless headphones let you enjoy an incredible 30 hours of playback time, but if your battery dies, there’s a jack plug so you never have to go without your music. They have a built-in proximity sensor that automatically stops playback when you remove your headphones and resumes when you put them back on. (Cool, right?)
The H8i headphones come in a classy black, cream, and grey, with a modern minimalist design. The band that goes across the top of your head is outfitted with lambskin leather, and the earbuds feature a modern anodized aluminum disc.
Amazon reviewer Jeanne Bourgeois writes:
I have been a film editor and post-production sound engineer for many years so manufacturers often ask me to beta test and evaluate their audio and video products. When I’m editing video or audio I often have to wear headphones for 10-12 hours at a stretch so I take headphones very seriously… you might even say that I’m a professional headphone-wearer. Over the years I’ve product-tested close to a hundred headphones from $20 – $1000 and thanks to B&O I have a new favorite! My previous fav was the Senneheiser HD700 which is a remarkable pair of headphones, but these new BeoPlay H8 headphones have some features that elevate them to the top of my list.
Read their full review here.
Weight: 2.4 ounces
Battery life: 8 hours
Bluetooth range: 30 feet
Who knew you could have noise cancellation headphones for under $30? We did. And not only are these totally affordable, but they have a 5-star rating on Amazon too. These noise-cancelling earbuds by Rosaxton have the shortest battery life on the list at just 8 hours. They also takes an hour and a half to charge fully, but they’re water-resistant and durable so you can use them while you work out and not worry about sweat damage. There’s a 30-foot Bluetooth range, and the earbuds come with three different sized ear-tips so you can get the fit you want.
Amazon customer Daniela Serrano writes:
Quit paying for brand names and try these. UPDATE after couple days of use they broke in because they sound a lot better also I switched ear tips which probably made a difference too. Would buy again and definitely recommend.
Weight: 7.58 ounces
Battery life: 40 hours (and a 5-minute charge gets you 3 more hours)
Bluetooth range: 300+ feet
Colors: Rose cold, gold, white, red, purple, green (and lots more)
This set of Beats headphones uses what Apple calls Pure ANC (Adaptive Noise Cancelation) to give you the uninterrupted sound you want. ANC is a form of noise cancelation that uses advanced algorithms to monitor the sounds around you and adjust the level of noise cancellation to best match your environment. What makes it really cool is that it adjusts for sound leakage caused by your hair, glasses, the shape of your ear, and movement of your head. Of course, you can turn Pure ANC off if you want your battery to last longer.
If you hold down the button under the logo on the Solo 3 headphones, you have access to Siri, Google Voice, and S-Voice for Samsung users. An additional added feature known as Fast Fuel can give you three hours of playback on just five minutes of charging.
Available in more than a dozen fun colors, including rose gold, ultra violet, red, and more, there’s a reason you see these headphones on people every time you get on the subway. They’re just plain awesome.
Weight: 6.9 ounces
Battery life: runs on AAA battery
Colors: black and white
Bluetooth or wired: wired
Yep, another pair of Bose Headphones. Why? Because people adore ’em. The primary focal points of the QC25 are noise cancelling capabilities and comfort. With a built-in volume control, an adjustable headband, and a microphone for taking calls, this pair of over-the-ear wired headphones are perfect for getting the most out of all your audio experiences.
With an average Amazon customer rating of 4.2 stars and more than 3,000 reviews, these noise-cancelling headphones are optimized to work with most Apple devices and include a stylish case for easy transport. (The ear cups collapse inward so the headphones can be stored more easily.) They are available in either black or white.
Amazon reviewer Kevin Butler had this to say in his review:
what sets apart the Bose QC25 is the noise cancelling feature. as I stated I am a college student and I use public transportation to get back and forth to school, I also use the school’s library when doing homework or using the computers. when I listen to my music on the bus I turn on the noise cancelling feature and it feels as if I am in a quiet room.the library can get pretty noisy as well so I put them on and voilà, the chatter from nearby patrons goes away. I don’t have to turn the music up as loud to drown out the outside noise which saves my ears some damage in the long term. for that reason alone is why i use the QC25 far more than the others. furthermore, the case for the QC 25 is the best, compact and stylish. Makes it much easier to throw in my laptop case and take it with me on the go.
Battery life: 15 hours of playback with both Bluetooth and Active Noise Cancellation turned on, up to 30 hours of playback with just ANC turned on
Weight: 1.47 pounds
PCMag gave these headphones 4 out of 5 stars, and Amazon customers seem to agree. The AKG N60C On-Ear headphones have up to 30 hours of battery life and are designed for easy transport. The lightweight black earphones can be folded down to fit comfortably into your pocket, so you can have them whenever you’re ready to rock out.
More than 70% of customers give them a 5-star rating on Amazon. The top positive review is by Oliver Guballaon, who writes:
The noise cancelling is top notch. Not disappointed in the least with my purchase. As far as sound goes, the quality is on par with my previous pair of wired AKG N60 Mac’s. Would highly recommend these pair to anyone looking for a compact set of wireless noise-cancelling headphones.