We are currently hiring in our offices in Montreal for various positions. See openings here
Updated

Best Active Noise Cancelling Headphones - Spring 2017
Reviews

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 cancelling headphones we have tested so far.

Best Noise Cancelling Headphones

Usage Ratings
7.4Mixed Usage
Show Help
What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
6.9Critical Listening
Show Help
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.9Commute/Travel
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
7.2Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
7.7Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

The best noise cancelling headphones we've tested so far are the Sony MDR-1000x. They will isolate you 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. Overall they're a sturdy, reliable and versatile pair of headphones for most situations and use cases.

See our review

Runner-Up

The QuietComfort 35 are a bit more comfortable than the MDR-1000x. Therefore, if comfort is one of your major priorities, then the QuietComfort 35 may be a better option for you. They don't isolate as well as the MDR-1000x and aren't as well built, but they're a lot easier to use and have a more consistent audio reproduction. 

See our review

Best Mid-Range Noise Cancelling Headphones

Usage Ratings
7.0Mixed Usage
Show Help
What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
6.1Critical Listening
Show Help
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.4Commute/Travel
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
6.9Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
7.4Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

If you want a bit more customization options and control over the noise canceling level of your headphones, then get the Zik 2.0. The newer model, the Zik 3.0, is slightly better in most aspects but isolation and price. So if you don't have the budget for the Zik 3.0 and care more about isolation than the slight software benefits of the newer model, the Zik 2.0 are a good recommendation for most casual listeners.

See our review

Runner-Up

Most of the headphones on this list are big, slightly cumbersome over-ear headphones that are not the most portable. If you want an easy to carry pair of noise cancelling headphones that still delivers an excellent isolation performance, then you should get the QuietComfort 20. They do not have as many features as the Zik 2.0 or the wireless QuietComfort 30, but they're cheaper and will fit in almost any pocket. Unfortunately, they do not have the best sound which may be a deal breaker for more critical listeners.

See our review

Best Budget Noise Cancelling Headphones

Usage Ratings
6.8Mixed Usage
Show Help
What it is This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
Score components:
6.8Critical Listening
Show Help
What it is The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
Score components:
7.1Commute/Travel
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
Score components:
6.6Sports/Fitness
Show Help
What it is How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
Score components:
6.8Office
Show Help
What it is How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
Score components:

If you're on a tight budget but still want affordable headphones that deliver a good isolation, then the Panasonic RP-HC 56 are a decent option. These noise cancelling in-ear headphones don't 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 OK to use in loud environments.

See our review

All Reviews

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
  • 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 are no perfect headphones and the level at which you play your music will naturally drown the ambient noise of lower amplitudes. 

 

Questions Found an error?

Let us know what is wrong in this question or in the answer.

Email:

Questions & Answers

5 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
3
Do you have any plans to add the Denon Globe Crusier AHGC 20 to your test field? Would love to see how these compare to the Bose and Monoprice units you've tested.
Thanks for you suggestion. We weren't planning on reviewing the AHGC 20, but we will consider it.
2
I'm looking forward to the gaming headsets. I'm in the market for a good gaming headset, mild music/movies/youtube, and the microphone and how well they filter out ambient/external noises.
Once we start reviewing gaming headsets, we should be able to cover all the areas of interest you mentioned. However, it will be some time before we get to gaming headsets, since in the coming months we will be mostly focused on open-back headphones, and sports/fitness earphones.
2
Please review Sony Playstation Gold Wireless. I find these headphones perform surprisingly well in all areas.
Thanks. We haven't started reviewing gaming headsets yet, but are planning to do so in the near future. We will add your suggestion to our list of gaming headsets.
0
In your research, have you found any plug-in, wired noise-canceling headphones? All of the noise-canceling headphones I've seen are either powered by traditional (i.e., AA or AAA) or rechargeable (usually via a USB cable) batteries. That's fine for travel, however, my only use for these headphones is at work, where I'd much rather utilize either a traditional 120V power outlet or a USB cable to power the noise cancelation. As such, if it wasn't plugged into an outlet or my computer, noise cancelation would not function (but audio could still be played in the former case, presumably if there were two cables coming from the headphones -- one audio and one power).
We have just recently added a new battery test, that also checks if the active headphones can continue streaming audio, wirelessly or plugged-in, while charging. As long as you don't mind having two cables, the PXC 550 would be the best recommendation overall, to use in the office, for their comfort, noise canceling, sound, and ability to play audio when connected to a direct power source. The QuietComfort 20 are also a good, completely wired option that work, while charging, but for more comparisons, please check our new battery test article.
0
I'd like to get an inexpensive pair of headphones for listening to podcasts while mowing the lawn. I want ANC to eliminate/reduce mower noise so I can listen at a reasonable volume. It looks like there aren't really any reasonably priced (under $1000) options that do a good job of noise cancellation though. Would the Plantronics Backbeat Pro be any good? What about the CB3 Hush?
Both in our measurements and subjective tests, the Sony MDR-1000X performs best in Noise Cancelling. However, we don't have a reference for the noise profile and loudness of a lawn mower, so it may or may not be adequate. Our other recommendations would the Bose QuietComfort 35 and QuietControl 30.
Questions Have a question?

Before asking a question, make sure you use the search function of our website. The majority of the answers are already here.

:
:
A valid email is required. We answer most questions directly by email to prevent cluttering the site.