Your guide

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

There’s nothing worse than being flanked by coughing neighbors and crying babies during an international flight. Fortunately, there are enough active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones on the market to hush your surroundings. 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. AKG N700NC
  3. Bose QuietComfort 35 II
  4. AKG N60NC
  5. Jabra Elite 85h

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

1. Best all-around: 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.

Reasons to buy the Sony WH-1000xM3:

  • 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.
  • Noise-cancelling performance is top-notch and they fold up for transport, making these the ideal companion for commuters and frequent flyers.
  • Sony WH-1000xM3 supports an array of high-quality Bluetooth codecs: LDAC, aptX HD, aptX, and AAC.
  • Microphone quality is great, too; it outperforms the Bose QC 35 II in this department.
  • Touch controls are intuitive and you can adjust the headphones to allow outside noise in.

2. Best noise-cancelling performance: AKG N700NC

AKG N700NC noise cancelling headphones folded into the carrying case.

The velour headband of the AKG N700NC looks great but doesn’t provide enough cushioning for long listening sessions.

Reasons to buy the AKG N700NC:

  • 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.
  • You can rotate the ear cups up toward the headband and stow them in the included case for travel.
  • Ambient Aware mode makes it easy to temporarily hear your surroundings. AAC is supported, which is great for iPhone users though not so much for Android users.

3. Best comfort: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Bose QuietComfort 35 II noise-cancelling headphones on a grey couch arm.

The Bose QC 35 II headphones allow users to remap the “action” button on the left ear cup to control ANC levels instead.

Reasons to buy the Bose QuietComfort 35 II:

  • As is the standard for Bose, the QC 35 II 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.
  • Although noise-cancelling performance isn’t as good as the previous two headphones, it’s still top-notch.
  • Just like the Sony cans, these support both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
  • AAC is supported to provide lag-free, high-quality audio to iOS devices.

4. Best on-ears: 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.

Reasons to buy the AKG N60NC:

  • Just like the larger AKG headset, these are well-designed and boast great battery life.
  • The headphones reproduce a neutral-leaning sound, which means they handle virtually all genres of music well.
  • The compact, lightweight design makes these a great pick for everyday listening.

5. Best style: 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.

Reasons to buy the Jabra Elite 85h:

  • 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.
  • Automatic ear detection works reliably to pause music when the headset is removed.
  • They operate via Bluetooth 5.0 and support multiconnect for connecting to two devices simultaneously.

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.

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