The Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones 2017

Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones Buying Guide: The best noise-canceling headphones you can buy in 2017.

Far from being the niche product of a few years ago, noise-cancelling headphones have since exploded onto the mainstream.

It’s not hard to see why. When they work well, noise-cancelling headphones massively reduce background noise, meaning that the rumble of a plane’s engines or a train carriage don’t get in the way of your music.

This not only makes your music clearer and easier to hear, but it also means you can listen to it at a lower volume, which your ears will thank you for.

Even in their most basic form these headphones are still much better than a traditional pair of headphones in terms of keeping outside sound at bay, but if you opt for one of our top picks for the best noise-cancelling headphones, you’ll get a pair that will also make your music sound pretty good in the process.

Talk about a win-win.

How to buy noise-cancelling headphones

So what do you want to look for when looking for a pair of the best noise-cancelling headphones? Look for anything with the words “active noise-cancellation technology” on it.

Active noise cancellation involves some pretty interesting processes to cancel out sound. Along with the padding which passively blocks sound, microphones planted in the ear wells of headphones actively analyze the ambient noise level and reflect sound waves back into your ear that work to zap the outside noise. The goal is to hear nothing but the music, or whatever it is you’re listening to.

Active noise cancelling headphones are more effective at what they do, but the downside is that this noise cancellation requires batteries in order to function, which means you’ll have to remember to keep them charged.

Now that you know all that, you’re ready to choose a set. Let’s take a look at the best noise-cancelling headphones around:

  1. Bose QuietComfort 25
  2. Philips Fidelio NC1
  3. Sony MDR-1000X
  4. Bose QuietComfort 35
  5. AKG N60NC Wireless
  6. Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC
  7. Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2
  8. Sennheiser PXC 550
  9. Samsung Level On Pro
  10. Bose QuietControl 30

 

Sennheiser Momentum Wireless

1. Bose QuietComfort 25

Headphones fit for a king and an excellent value for all

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.68 pounds | Cable length: 3.94 feet | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 20+ hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: Yes

$279
Stunning noise-cancellation
Simple, seamless design
Full, robust sound
From 2014
Colors cost extra
Wired headphones

The Bose QuietComfort 25 are the best noise-cancelling headphones we’ve ever used. We say that as a publication who strives for maximum performance per dollar when purchasing headphones. We say that as someone who believes that, in most circumstances, you can find a cheaper product that performs as well, if not better, than a more expensive option if you do some research.

But, in the case of the Bose QuietComfort 25, that’s simply not true. They are still the best noise-cancelling headphones on the planet in 2017.

If you want the same level of excellent noise-cancellation as the Bose QC35s but want to save a bit of money, consider opting for the last-generation QC25s. (The biggest sacrifice you’ll be making is wireless.)

Nevertheless, the QC25s are a finely-tuned set of headphones that provide over 35 hours of very good noise-cancelling performance with one AAA battery.

 

Philips Fidelio NC1

2. Philips Fidelio NC1

Executive looks and great sound reproduction

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: .74 pounds | Cable length: 3.9 feet | Frequency response: 7-25,000Hz | Drivers: Two 1.5″ Neodymium drivers | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 107 dB | Impedance: 16 ohm | Battery life: 25+ hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: No

$239.90
Brilliant, electric sound
Great build quality and battery life
Some sound leakage
Still wired

Philips presents an elegant noise-cancelling solution with its NC1. These on-ear headphones aren’t wireless, but that’s hardly a reason to knock them. Coming in at $299, the same price as Bose’ QuietComfort 25, the NC1 are a more compact set that’s high on comfort and battery life.

You get a lot for the money here. In the box comes the headphones, a hard case for storage and the headphones rock a rechargeable battery that provides noise cancellation for close to 30 hours. But best of all, the sound performance is extremely well balanced and warm.

 

Best noise cancelling headphones

3. Sony MDR-1000X

Noise-cancelling headphones that care about Hi-Res Audio

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 275 grams | Frequency response: 4Hz – 40kHz | Drivers: 40mm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 103dB | Impedance: 46 Ohms | Battery life: 20 hours | Wireless range: 30 feet | NFC: Yes

$248
Quick Attention mode
Noise cancellation
Lengthy battery life
Finicky Ambient Noise mode

The MDR-1000X are definitely the closest competitor to Bose’s QuietComfort series we’ve ever had the pleasure of testing. Some high-end codecs (LDAC, AAC and aptX) help the 1000X sound even better than the QC35s, but ultimately the noise cancelling is a bit less effective in Sony’s pair of cans.

What should drive your decision on whether to buy the MDR-1000X is your music player – if you’re a Sony Xperia owner, you’d be hard-pressed to find a pair of headphones that sound as good as these with noise canceling tech built-in. Even if you’re not, Sony’s wares are still worth a listen – and maybe a purchase – if you aren’t too put out by its $400 (£330 / AU$700) price tag.

 

Bose QuietComfort 35

4. Bose QuietComfort 35

Bose has cut the wires off its flagship noise-cancellers with great success

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 0.68 pounds | Cable length: 3.94 feet | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 20+ hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: Yes

$300
Broad and clear soundstage
Amazing noise cancellation
Active EQ an acquired taste
Boring looks

They’re a little more expensive then the Philips NC1, but the Bose QC35 headphones offer wireless connectivity, so you can be free from cabling as well as background noise.

They’re also a much better sounding pair of headphones than Bose’s previous (wired) attempt, the Bose QC25s, and their battery life is long enough for all but the longest of flights.

They also come with a cable in case you want to use them with a device that doesn’t support Bluetooth.

At $349.95 (£289.95 / AU$499) the QC35s sit firmly at the premium end of the spectrum, but if you want the best noise-cancelling headphones available right now at any price then there are few out there that can compete.

 

5. AKG N60NC Wireless

Wireless noise-cancellation from the mid-range master

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 199.4g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 10-22,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: 111dB SPL/V@1kHz | Impedance: 32 ohms | Battery life: 15 hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: No

$165
Great sound
Compact design
On-ear form-factor gets uncomfortable
Initially confusing controls

If you prefer on-ear noise-cancellation, then the AKG N60NC Wireless are a great pair of headphones.

At their mid-range price point the headphones offer fantastic value for money, with great sound quality and a level of noise-cancellation performance that’s on a level with the much more premium entries on this list.

These are a fantastically compact pair of headphones, and offer a very complete package for the price.

6. Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC

Noise-cancelling headphones with plenty of features

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 238g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: 18 – 22,000Hz | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 113dB SPL/V@1kHz | Impedance: 18 ohms | Battery life: 20 hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: Yes

$199.95
Great noise cancelling
20-hour battery
Travel-friendly design
NoiseGuard tricky to activate
Headband lacks padding

With noise-cancelling tech just as effective as that in headphones from rival Bose, and with a more musical sonic ability, the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC are a definite contender for the noise-cancelling crown. More affordable and easy to travel with, these lightweight headphones are a great value all-rounder, whether for flights, commuter trains or busy offices.

Design-wise, the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNCs seem a more slimmed-down, lighter and more focused effort than the bulky and expensive alternatives from Bose and Sony; and crucially, the HD 4.50 BTNCs are just as good with audio, and almost as good on noise-canceling. Whether you’re after noise canceling for long-haul ravel, for the commute, or just to stay more productive in a noisy office, the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNCs are worth considering.

 

7. Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

A traveler’s best friend

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 1.9 pounds | Cable length: 3.94 feet | Frequency response: 5-40,000 Hz | Drivers: 1.57 inch | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: 103 dB/mW | Impedance: 32 ohms | Battery life: 20+ hours | Wireless range: N/A | NFC: Yes

$174.99
Incredible 24 hour battery life
Multi-point Bluetooth
Amiable sound
Bass overwhelming at times
Styling not for everyone

With the second generation Plantronics BackBeat Pro, Plantronics went back to the drawing board to fix many of the issues owners complained about the original. The BackBeat Pro 2, therefore, manage to keep all the great things about the original and improved upon its shortcomings, like its bulk and weight.

In terms of value, the BackBeat Pro 2 are basically a steal. With the BackBeat Pro 2, you’re getting a travel headphone with incredible battery life, supreme comfort, the ability to pair two device as once and, most importantly, good sound quality for the cost. If you don’t want to drop $350 (£290, AU$500) on the Bose QuietComfort 35 or $400 (£330 or AU$700) on Sony’s flagship MDR-1000X, the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 should be on the top of your shopping list.

 

8. Sennheiser PXC 550

Great sound quality and noise-cancellation, but at what cost?

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: .7 pounds | Cable length: 3.6 feet | Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz | Drivers: 40mm Dual-Layered Diaphragm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 8 hours | Wireless range: 30 meters (98ft) | NFC: Yes

$374.95
Great sounding
aptX connectivity
Unresponsive touch controls
Noise cancellation could be better

The PXC 550’s greatest strength is their sound. Other wireless noise-cancelling headphones might offer a better user interface or better noise-cancellation technology, but ultimately none of the above match up to the sound quality of these Sennheisers.

However, that said, there are a couple of irritations that prevent us from being able to fully and unreservedly recommend them, such as unresponsive touch controls  These annoyances aren’t quite deal-breakers, but there are definitely other noise-cancelling headphones out there that don’t suffer from the same issues.

 

Best Noise Cancelling Headphones

9. Samsung Level On Pro Wireless Headphones

Samsung crashes the wireless noise-cancelling party

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: .7 pounds | Cable length: 3.6 feet | Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz | Drivers: 40mm Dual-Layered Diaphragm | Driver type: Dynamic | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 8 hours | Wireless range: 30 meters (98ft) | NFC: Yes

$142.95
Comfy faux-leather earpads
Extra features for Samsung owners
Plastic, fragile bridge
Short-range wireless

The Samsung Level On Pro Wireless are one of the few headphones we’ve tested that feel like they’re meant as a package deal for another device. Yes they’ll work with every Bluetooth and 3.5mm jack-equipped handset on the market, but you’re better off sticking to a Samsung device in order to squeeze every ounce of aural goodness from the Ultra High Quality (UHQ) audio codec.

It’s one of the comfiest pair of cans on the market, and they’re also much cheaper than a lot of the competition. If it had a better sound quality for the vast majority of cell phone users it would be an easy recommendation but, as it stands, really makes the most sense at checkout when purchased alongside Samsung’s Next Big Thing.

 

Bose QuietComfort 20i

10. Bose QuietControl 30

Noise-cancelling comes to in-ears

Acoustic design: Closed | Weight: 23g | Cable length: N/A | Frequency response: N/A | Drivers: N/A | Driver type: N/A | Sensitivity: N/A | Impedance: N/A | Battery life: 10 hours | Wireless range: 33 ft | NFC: Yes

$289.99
Excellent noise-cancellation
Comfortable earbuds
Not great sounding
Divisive neckband

The Bose QuietControl 30s are the only in-ear headphones on this list, after all, it’s much easier to block out background noise when you’ve got two thick cushions sitting around your ears.

Given the limitations, Bose has done a fantastic job on the noise-cancellation of the QC30s, which is frankly better than a lot of over-ears out there.

The downside is that these aren’t the best sounding headphones on this list, but if you’re willing to make that compromise then it’s hard to find fault with them.

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