Your guide

A picture of the Sony wh-1000x-m3 headphones.

As coronavirus continues its spread, many of us are now working from home more than ever. For those stuck at home, you might find things can get pretty loud! Whether it’s your neighbors, your pets, or your kids —  you’ll want to consider getting an active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphone. We’ve put together a quick guide to the best noise-cancelling headphones for any situation.

Read the in-depth list at SoundGuys

Best noise-cancelling headphones:

  1. Sony WH-1000xM3
  2. Shure Aonic 50
  3. Bose Headphones 700
  4. AKG N60NC
  5. Jabra Elite 85h

Editor’s note: We will update this article as more noise-canceling headphones are released.

1. Sony WH-1000xM3

A photo of a man wearing wireless noise-cancelling headphones.

These headphones support aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC for high-quality streaming.

Sony’s flagship headset supports both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa integration. This means you can have your notifications read aloud, set reminders, and more, all without your phone. You aren’t afforded hands-free access to your virtual assistant, though; for that, you’ll need to hold out for the Sony WH-1000XM4 headset. As far as noise cancelling performance is concerned, these are at the top of their game and reign supreme for most consumers who want a jack-of-all-trades headset.

A chart detailing the noise canceling performance of the Sony WH-1000XM3.

The Sony WH-1000XM3 do a spectacular job at blocking low frequency sounds that tend to ruin your music.

A slew of Bluetooth codecs are supported by the WH-1000XM3: LDAC, aptX HD, aptX, and AAC. This means that no matter what operating system you favor, you’ll enjoy high-quality wireless audio. Plus, Sony retained the 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can listen to lossless FLAC files without missing a beat. This is a must-have if you subscribe to streaming services like Deezer, Tidal HiFi, or Amazon Music HD. Microphone quality is great, too, as it outperforms the Bose QC 35 II in this department.

2. Shure Aonic 50

Shure Aonic 50 noise cancelling headphones lifestyle

Source: SoundGuys
SoundGuys The Shure Aonic 50 noise-cancellinlg headphones retail for just over $400 and are available in black and brown.

If you want pure performance from your noise-cancelling headphones, get these. They beat out Sony and Bose alike when it comes to filtering out low-end noise. Why didn’t we choose the Shure Aonic 50 as our top noise-cancelling pick? Even though performance and sound quality are excellent, the fact is that Sony’s headset is still the best all-around pick for most listeners especially since it’s $100 cheaper than Shure’s.

Shure Aonic 50 isolation

Source: SoundGuys
SoundGuys The Shure Aonic 50 noise cancelling is excellent and aided by high-density memory foam earpads.

If you have the budget and view noise cancelling headphones as an investment, the Shure Aonic 50 is a smart choice. The ANC technology effectively blocks out humming A/C units, chatty roommates, and more. In times when many of us are forced to work from home, these noise-cancelling headphones could be your greatest productivity tool. Microphone quality is also great and certainly good enough for any conference call or video chat that you may have marked on your calendar.

Shure Aonic 50 microphone demo:

Shure equipped these Bluetooth 5.0 ‘phones with every Bluetooth codec you could want (aptX, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, AAC, and LDAC), so you can enjoy high-quality audio no matter what smartphone you use.

3. Bose Headphones 700

The Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 headphones feature a sliding adjustment headband now.

You can now slide the earcups into place thanks to the new sliding adjustment which seems more intuitive than the clicky ones of previous models.

As is the standard for Bose, the Bose Headphones 700 are supremely comfortable. If you’re taking a long flight and don’t want to worry about potential hot spots forming on your head, these are the best pick. Noise-cancelling performance is some of the best around—though, not quite as effective as Sony’s ANC technology. That said, Bose did make big improvements over the QC 35 II headset, and we appreciate the updated, modern design.

This isolation graph of the Bose 700 headphones shows that they do a good job at cancelling ambient noise below 1000Hz, though they're still not the best.

The more blue/green that you see, the more noise that was cancelled. The Bose 700 headphones do a good job with low end ambient sound, but struggle with low end when compared to the Sony’s

These support both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, so you can easily make calendar events, set timers, dictate texts, and more without reaching for your phone. Gesture control takes a little getting used to but the touch panel ear cups are great at registering commands. AAC is supported but no aptX here, and Bose went with a weird 2.5mm input rather than the standard 3.5mm input for wired listening.

4. AKG N60NC

A photo of a man wearing the AKG N60 NC noise cancelling headphones.

These are a comfortable pair of on-ear ANC headphones.

Just like the larger AKG headset, the AKG N60NC are well-designed and boast great battery life. Although on-ear headphones with glasses aren’t nearly as comfortable as their over-ear counterparts, these are a unique exception. Most on-ears feel like the Beats Solo Pro, with painful clamping force applied to keep the headset on and block outside noise, but AKG masterfully balances fit and comfort with the N60NC.

A chart showing the noise-canceling performance of the AKG N60 NC.

The AKG N60 NC cancels out a stupendous amount of noise for on-ears

The headphones reproduce a neutral-leaning sound, which means they handle virtually all genres of music well. Again, this is wholly dependent on being able to achieve a proper fit. If external noise breaks through the physical and ANC barrier, bass reproduction is the first to go. Generally speaking, the compact, lightweight design makes these a great pick for everyday listening.

5. Jabra Elite 85h

The Jabra Elite 85h ANC noise-cancelling headphones folded on a stack of books.

The Jabra Elite 85h headphones are a slightly more affordable alternative to top-tier ANC headphones.

The Elite 85h is the only pair of noise-cancelling headphones to be treated with a water-resistant nano-coating. This protects the internals from moisture and makes them a viable option for working out, so long as you don’t absolutely drench them in sweat. High-quality Bluetooth codec support is lacking, AAC and SBC only, but the Jabra mobile app lets you quickly EQ the sound to your liking. Plus, it affords other perks such as Bluetooth multipoint support which is effectively implemented and works smoothly across two devices at a time.

Jabra Elite 85h attenuation 1

The Jabra Elite 85h does a good job at attenuating keyboard clicks but can’t quite combat engine roars and the like.

Automatic ear detection works reliably to pause music when the headset is removed, which is great when you’re caught in an accidental conversation. The plush memory foam earpads are comfortable with or without glasses, and battery life is great; SoundGuys clocked just under 35 hours of playtime on a single charge. ANC performance isn’t the best of the bunch, but it’s certainly better than nothing and can protect your hearing in a pinch.

What you should know about the best noise-cancelling headphones

Master & Dynamic MW65 noise cancelling headphones against a vintage camera.

The Master & Dynamic MW65 ANC headphones are a great, but pricey option.

  • Noise-cancelling headphones actively filter out external noise by way of destructive interference. Not only does this improve audio clarity, but it may prevent noise-induced hearing loss since you’re less likely to increase the volume to unsafe levels.
  • Since these picks are so effective at blocking out your surroundings, you’ll want to keep an eye out for options with Ambient Aware mode if you spend a lot of time outside. This feature relays surrounding noise through the headset, keeping you aware when you need it.
  • Wireless audio quality isn’t as good as wired, but high-quality Bluetooth codecs help improve it. If you have an iPhone, the only codec that matters is AAC. Android users should stick to aptX and aptX HD.

Why you should trust SoundGuys

SoundGuys is our sister site that focuses solely on all things audio. The team has a broad understanding of audio and respects that certain aspects are objective and quantifiable without disregarding the importance of subjective enjoyment. When it comes to consumer audio, SoundGuys strives to cut through the muck, granting readers more time to enjoy their music. Ultimately, the team hopes to educate readers with each post and pique the interest of fellow audio geeks.

Next: Best true wireless earbuds