Best noise-cancelling headphones 2020: Bose, Sony and more ranked
The best noise-cancelling headphones ensure there's always a quiet coach
Live in a city? Busy commute? Work in a noisy office? All of these do your stress level no favours. So, buying a pair of the best noise-cancelling headphones around is one way to turn down the cortisol and get back a little piece of zen.
UPDATE:If you're working from home and have a partner, family or pets around the house too, a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones is essential if you want to be able to get anything done. Luckily, our list of the best noise-cancelling headphones below includes plenty of devices and some of them have had some pretty impressive discounts recently. The one that's getting the most attention is the Amazon discount on the Sony WH-1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones, which knocks the price from £330 to £253.
The best models with active noise cancellation use microphones that sit on the outside to monitor the noise level. And they actively cancel out that sound with extra waves piped through the drivers.
The extent they can zap engine noise and the sound of big crowds is mind-blowing. But which pair should you buy?
Here are some of the best options available right now. Upvote the set you’d pick.
- These are the best wireless headphones around right now.
Best noise-cancelling headphones
1. Sony WH-1000XM3
Has Sony finally toppled Bose in the active noise cancellation stakes? Some think so.
The Sony WH-1000XM3’s strong combo of active and passive noise cancellation makes the world seem much more peaceful. They nail just about every other aspect of headphone tech too.
Their sound is fantastic, they are comfortable and look great. Audio quality is a cut above Bose’s, with greater precision.
The battery lasts ages too, up to 30 hours, and that is with noise cancellation switched on.
2. Sony WF-1000XM3
Once again Sony proves that it is the master of audio with these fantastic in-ear ANC headphones. Battery life is around the 6 hour mark but there is a handy carry case that means together you get around 24 hours' battery out of these earbuds. The controls are great, as is the look - these are superb as both a True Wireless pair of earphones and as an ANC option.
3. Bowers & Wilkins PX7
One of the most beautiful pairs of headphones we have seen, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 are a stunning pair of noise-cancelling cans. They feature 30 hours of playback, ANC that allows three lots of noise cancelling and much more. They audio clarity is fantastic and if it wasn't for the expensive price, these would be an absolute no brainer. If you can afford them though, then they are a great buy
4. Bose QC35 II
The Bose QC35 II are noise cancelling royalty. Bose’s QuietComfort range is the most famous of all, and with good reason.
These headphones are incredibly comfortable and seem to effortlessly zap the stress of noisy environments like airplane cabins. There’s a reason these headphones are so popular with frequent travellers.
The sound is sweet and ear-charming, a bit warmer and softer than a detail-obsessed hifi-style pair. But we can’t imagine anyone not liking how the Bose QC35 II sound.
5. Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC
Want a budget option? You might not expect it to come from a venerable brand like Sennheiser, but it does.
The Sennheiser HD 4.0 BTNC are grown-up looking full-size noise cancelling headphones at less than half the price of the most famous models.
They have Sennheiser’s own NoiseGard noise-zapping tech, which is effective if not quite Bose-grade. These are a good choice if you want a lower-price ANC headphone from a brand people actually recognise.
6. Marshall Monitor II ANC
They aren't out until March but we have been lucky enough to use the Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones for some time now and are utterly impressed by both the design and the sound. There are better headphones on this list if you are looking purely for the noise cancellation but what the Marshall's deliver is impressive - we wore them to a recent F1 launch and they blocked out most of the motor sound. Google Assistant is a nice added extra, while the Marshall look works well on these cans. If you want you noise-cancelling headphones to make an impression on your head and on your ears, then the Marshall Monitor II ANCs are for you.
7. Apple AirPods Pro
While the price might put some people off - they are around the same price as some ANC over the ears - these are a vast improvement on the first AirPods. The ANC, for a pair of in-ears, is really quite decent. And the way they work seamlessly with the iPhone and other Apple products is just, well, very Apple. Yes, the silicone tips may need some getting used to (especially for current AirPod users), we are so glad Apple made the leap.
8. Lindy BNX-60
These headphones have been around for several years now. Their price gives them real staying-power. The Lindy BNX-60 are a budget take on the Bose QC35 II.
You get a comfortable design, active noise cancellation, Bluetooth wireless. And very solid sound quality for the price.
The Lindy BNX-60 don’t decimate background noise like the best from Bose and Sony, but they do take the edge off the noise of your commute. You won’t have to turn up your music volume anywhere near as often. You can’t argue with their price either: these headphones are an undeniably good deal.
9. Bose Quietcontrol 30
There are several great Bose alternatives if you want full-size headphones. But in-ears? Bose still makes the best.
The Bose QuietControl 30 are the latest. These are wireless neckband earphones with excellent noise cancellation for an in-ear, not that far off the QC35 II’s performance.
Just make sure you are ready for the neckband. It’s chunkier than that of most wireless pairs.
10. Jabra Elite 85H
Jabra is a one of the less celebrated headphone heroes. But nowadays it makes some of the best pairs around. The Elite 85H are Jabra’s first high-end ANC headphones.
They look a bit like the Sony WH-1000XM3’s cousin. Similar contours, but this pair has fabric cup coatings for a different look. And battery life that tops out at 36 hours is amazing.
Sound quality is great, they have particularly good call mics, for those few who still make regular phone calls. And noise cancellation is strong too, if not quite at the Sony and Bose level.