The Best Noise-Canceling Headphones

When pairing productivity with the world of outside distractions, noise-canceling headphones can be a total game-changer. The ability to tune out external sound, regardless of environment, is useful for anyone taking their work on the go. Noise-canceling headphones are helpful for anyone that wants a portable quiet space and control of their auditory environment. 

Industry-leading sound system manufacturers like Sony, Apple, Beats, Bose, JBL, and beyond offer products that can easily block out external noise and hone in on whatever sound you choose to hear. Higher quality headsets have their perks: a more robust listening experience compared to others that may dull the sound or that may not be able to achieve the same degree of noise-cancellation. Battery life is also an important factor to consider when shopping for noise-canceling headphones, especially if you’re always on the go.

Is it worth buying noise-canceling headphones?

If your day-to-day life entails any amount of noise, chaos, kids, pets, travel, or any other distraction that makes focusing difficult, noise-canceling headphones are the perfect purchase. They block out external noise and play whatever sound you need to focus, sleep, relax, or otherwise. 

Noise-canceling headphones are good for your ears, too. If you’re in a potentially noisy situation with regular headphones, you may find yourself cranking up the volume to hear your chosen sound better. This can damage your ears. Noise-canceling headphones block out external noise so you can listen to your selected sounds at a reasonable volume without harming your hearing.

Here are some of the best noise-canceling headphones you can buy, whether you’re in the market for over-ear, earbuds, are on a budget, or need to sleep.

Best Over-Ear: Sony WH-1000XM4

  • Price: $298
  • Key Features: Industry-leading noise cancellation, excellent sound quality, USB-C charging option, both over-ear and earbud options.
  • Reasons to avoid: Expensive, bulky.

These top-notch Sony headphones bring just about everything you’d want to have in a set of headphones to the table. When it comes to noise cancellation, they use Dual Noise Sensor technology with two microphones on each ear cup to capture external noise, process it, and block it out, regardless of whatever external acoustics you’re dealing with. The headphones are ideal for commuters and those working from home. Just be careful when transporting them as they’re a bit bulky and fragile.

The Sony headphones recognize instrumentation, musical genres, and musical elements, restoring the high range sound often lost in compression for a better listening experience. Battery life is a pro of these headphones, which feature up to 30 hours of battery on one single charge. If they do run out of juice, just 10 minutes of charge time offers five more hours of playback. The headphones are technically two-in-one, as the pack also comes with Sony in-ear headphones, too.

Best noise-canceling earbuds: Beats Studio Buds

  • Price: $119.95
  • Best Features: Great sound quality, active noise cancellation, comfortable, lightweight, multiple color options, USB-C charging option.
  • Reasons to avoid: Don’t always fit snugly in all ear shapes.

These noise-canceling earbuds are a great option for anyone looking to have a lot of the features that come with the AirPod Pro at a lower price. The buds are lightweight and stemless, making them even smaller than Apple’s parallel. They are compatible with Apple’s Siri, though Android users will have to use the phone’s native voice assistant by tapping and holding the buds.

Control your own sound by choosing your preferred mode, either Active Noise-Canceling or Transparency mode. The earbuds have eight hours of listening time, but they can last up to 24 hours if you store them temporarily in their handy pocket-sized charging case, which can charge them twice over. And, for anyone who’s really moving, the earbuds are sweat and water-resistant.

Best for on the go: ​​Apple AirPods Pro

  • Price: $171.55
  • Best Features: Minimalist look, option to purchase AppleCare, active noise cancellation, transparency mode, water and sweat resistant, easy access to other Apple Devices.
  • Reasons to avoid: Noise-canceling is not as great as other brands. Some users struggle with finding well-fitting tips.

We would be remiss not to include the infamous AirPods on this list. These noise-canceling earbuds are equipped with 24 hours of total battery life using the case and over four hours of battery on a single charge. The Apple AirPod earbuds link seamlessly with Siri, meaning you can say “Hey Siri” without having to reach for your phone.

These popular earbuds bring new technology to the table: spatial audio, which is basically simulated surround sound directly in your ears. This gives music and sound a unique feeling of expansiveness or breadth that you don’t normally when listening via headphones. 

Best sound on a budget: JBL Live 660NC

  • Price: $99.95
  • Best Features: Adaptive Noise Canceling, Bluetooth, Ambient Aware technology, voice assistant, 50 hours battery life.
  • Reasons to avoid: Heavy and potentially uncomfortable for extended use. Noise Canceling isn’t great compared to more expensive options.

These headphones help to block out noise using the Adaptive Noise-Canceling mode. But for navigating busy streets or staying alert, use the Ambient Aware mode. The TalkThru mode allows users to talk with headphones on while listening to music by amplifying speech and lowering music.

Get the JBL App to connect the headphones and set preferred voice and sound options. The noise-canceling headphones offer a whopping 50 hours of battery life and four more hours with just a 10-minute charge. 

Best for sleeping: SleepPhones Wireless Sleep Headphones

  • Price: $99
  • Best Features: Made with comfortable fleece fabric specifically designed for sleep, headband style for ultimate comfort, Bluetooth connectivity.
  • Reasons to avoid: Volume buttons sometimes trigger during sleep, possible discomfort from electronic parts in the back, not apt for use during hot weather.

These SleepPhones headphones use ultra-thin speakers built into a soft headband to make listening to your favorite music, podcast, or meditation easy when sleeping. Speakers are movable for easy placement around ears, and you can take them out when washing the headband.

The speakers provide a clear, echo-free sound experience as you drift off into slumber. These headphones are also ideal for use on planes or when doing light exercise, such as yoga or walking. And for optimal fit, the headband comes in different sizes, too.

What should I look for when buying noise-canceling headphones?

There are many things to consider when selecting that perfect set of noise-canceling headphones. Make sure to consider what you plan to use the headphones for before shopping. Do you need noise-canceling headphones for work or exercise? Should they be water-resistant? Have noise-canceling and transparency options? Do you need noise-canceling headphones for sleeping?

And comfort is important, too. Do you prefer bulkier headphones or earbuds? Thankfully, there are enough options out there to satisfy any set of qualifications. Some key features to look for when shopping are battery life, size, Bluetooth range, the efficacy of noise cancellation, and overall sound quality. It’s a good idea to compare a few different options and read up on reviews to make the most informed decision before purchasing.

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