Whether you’re traveling for business constantly, or you just like some peace and quiet while listening to your favorite music or podcasts, finding a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones can be a challenge. Especially now that there are so many to choose from. Here are our five picks that we think are pretty great, and also won’t break the bank.
1. Top Choice: Sony WH-1000XM3
Sony WH1000XM3 Headphones
The Sony WH-1000XM3 contains a dedicated HD Noise Cancelling Processor and close-fitting ear pads for silence close to what you’ll experience only inside your own home. This include passing voices and the ambient sounds you’d normally hear walking through a city. The noise cancellation is automatically adjusted via Sony’s Adaptive Sound Control, which detects how much noise there is around you, and Quick Attention allows you to quickly turn the feature off to participate in conversations.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 also features LDAC transference of sound for excellent high-audio experiences, and a Unique Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing feature to sound great at high altitudes. The headphones also feature voice assist in the form of Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa accessible through the app, as well as easy-to-use touch features. The Sony WH-1000XM3 can be connected to your audio source with a cable.
“A really good set of active noise cancelling headphones is worth its weight in gold,” says sound Sound Guys in their review “and the Sony WH-1000XM3 is among the best out there.” CNET points out that the Sony WH-1000XM3 is more comfortable and lighter than its predecessors, adding the headphones “offers slightly improved noise cancelling and performs better as a headset for making calls.” Headphone Review is a little more exuberant in their review, saying the Sony WH-1000XM3 is a home run. “They look great, are very comfortable, offer excellent noise cancellation, and sound good too. In fact, we would argue that these are the best noise cancelling headphones on the market, beating out even the likes of the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones, which have long remained the go-to.”
2. Affordable Option: Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless
The Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC boasts Sennheiser’s NoiseGard active noise cancellation, giving you the silence you need to enjoy your favorite music or podcasts. This cancellation in conjunction with both state-of-the-art wireless technology and audio codecs brings you a variety of options to listen with, and listen in high quality. The Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC features integrated microphones for easy phone calls, as well as on-board buttons to seamlessly switch between tracks or adjust volume. When you’re done, the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC folds up and fits nicely into its carrying case.
Reviews for the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC essentially call the pair a cheaper alternative to the Bose QuietComfort 35. CNET says they boast “effective noise cancelling that sounds great and costs significantly less than Bose’s QuietComfort 35. It works well as a headset and offers decent battery life.” Headphone Review agrees, saying the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC “offer a nice design, are reasonably comfortable, and sound great,” while TechRadar praises them for being “exceptionally lightweight and comfortable to wear, and the narrow cushioned ear-cups block out a lot of sound even with NoiseGuard completely deactivated; switch on NoiseGuard and the silence impresses.”
3. The Luxury Option: Bowers & Wilkins PX Noise-Cancelling Headphones
The Bowers & Wilkins PX Noise-Cancelling Headphones give listeners 22 hours worth of battery life, as well as an adaptive form of noise cancellation that best suits your listening environment. Adjust how the Bowers & Wilkins PX Noise-Cancelling Headphones sound via the PX app, which also allows you to switch between noise cancellation and simply having a great pair of Bluetooth headphones. The headphones feature a USB-C input for charging, as well as a 3.5mm jack for optional plug-in listening.
What HiFi praises the headphones as ones that shine in “a world dominated by Beats and EarPods,” specifically calling out their excellent “wireless sound quality, impressive noise-cancelling and a rewarding user experience.” Digital Trends says they enjoyed the headphones’ “rich sound, highly competent noise cancellation”, while The Verge notes the Bowers & Wilkins PX “are more than just good looks and nice materials, more than just the latest tech in a pretty package. With generous battery life, deeply immersive and emotive sound, and a compact enough shape to be carried everywhere, I now consider them essential.”
4. Most Popular: Bose QuietComfort 35 II
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II sets itself apart from the pack with not only built-in Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, but the Bose AR. The AR technology interfaces with fellow Bose products to give you an experience far beyond just noise-cancelling headphones. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II allows users to choose exactly how much noise cancellation they’re looking for in any given situation, while the headphones’ overall performance can be adjusted via the Bose mobile app or the headphones’ action button. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II can be connected to your audio source with a cable.
What HiFi praises the Bose QuietComfort 35 II as “the smartest pair of headphones around at the moment”, adding their functionality is something “rivals simply cannot match.” CNET says while Bose QuietComfort 35 owners may not need to upgrade, “the addition of a dedicated Google Assistant button gives the already excellent wireless noise-cancelling headphone an extra bit of personality.” Sound Guys makes more mention of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II’s features, saying “the music sounds fine, but what you’re really paying for is all of the cool new features.”
5. Stylish Alternative: AKG N700NC
The AKG N700NC allows you to control exactly how much noise you’re letting in thanks to its Ambient Aware technology. Combined with its padded adjustable headband, you’ll be able to control your listening experience comfortably with the AKG N700NC. The headphones are also designed to be portable, not only thanks to their wireless connectivity, but also with their flat and foldable design and accompanying travel case. The AKG N700NC are perfect for someone always on the go with their 20-hour battery life, as well as ability to make clear phone calls.
CNET sums up their feelings about the AKG N700NC by saying the pair’s noise-cancelling is effective, it “sounds excellent for a wireless noise-cancelling headphone, is built sturdily and is comfortable to wear.” Sound Guys makes mention of the AKG N700NC’s competition, saying “competitively priced premium headphones are a worthy adversary for Sony and Bose. AKG’s bass-leaning sound will appeal to nearly everyone, and the ANC technology can quiet nearly any environment.”
6. Compact On-Ears: AKG N60 NC
Much like the AKG N700NC, the AKG N60 NC also feature a flat, foldable design to allow easy transportation. The AKG N60 NC give listeners 15 hours of battery life, as well as the option to plus in via the included cable. The AKG N60 NC also feature Ambient Aware technology for adjustable noise cancellation, and excellent sound quality via Bluetooth AptX and AAC technology.
Sound Guys take a pretty humorous approach to their review of the AKG N60 NC, saying while they’re not fans of Bluetooth headphones, they’re comfortable and “isolate very well for a set of on-ears (a design that typically struggles), which helps the N60 NC Wireless shine in noisy environments like a subway, flight, or noisy street.” What HiFi says the AKG N60 NC retains the greatness of its wired counterpart, “and make a great alternative for those looking for something smaller than the over-ear noise-cancellers often recommended.” Headphone Review praises the AKG N60 NC’s performance, saying “we would argue that as far as Bluetooth on-ear headphones with ANC go, you can’t do better than these headphones.”
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