Whether you’re trying to drown out background noise or just want the highest quality audio experience possible, the best noise-cancelling headphones on the market in 2021 will do the job, and then some.
Noise-cancelling headphones work in two main ways. First, active noise-cancelling technology, which identifies ambient sound around you, then uses what’s called phase cancellation to effectively block your ears from hearing it with additional sound at an inverted frequency. While this technology is quite adept at cancelling low-frequency background noise (like the hum of an aeroplane engine) there are limits to what it can do. That’s where passive sound cancellation comes in – features like rubber tips that fit snugly in your ears or big ear cups that wrap around your ears – which also help reduce noise transmission. The best noise-cancelling earphones in 2021 incorporate both.
Best Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones in 2021
The Sony WH-1000XM3 are exactly the headphones we’ve come to expect from the new Leading in noise-cancelling headphones.
If you like your bass beefy and meaty, we suggest you give them a try.
1. Sony WH-1000XM4
While they don’t look significantly different from their predecessors, the Sony WH-1000XM3, several new features including multipoint pairing, DSEE Extreme upscaling, conversational awareness and auto-play/pause using a built-in sensor all help the WH-1000XM4 claim the title of best headphones in 2021.
By every possible metric, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is a wonderful pair of wireless noise-cancelling earphones. They deliver exactly what they promise and then some thanks to their exceptional noise cancellation and cutting-edge codec support.
On top of the adjustments listed above, the Sony WH-1000XM4 assistance Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format that enables spatial audio on stereo headphones plus the LDAC codec that can send a bitrate of up to 990 kbps. The unfortunate bit there, though, is that it no longer supports aptX or aptX HD, so your Hi-Res Sound support mileage may vary.
2. Sony WH-1000XM3
The Sony WH-1000XM3 are exactly the headphones we’ve come to expect from the new Leading in noise-cancelling headphones.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 were the best noise-cancelling headphones in the world for two years running – and while they’ve been surpassed by the new Sony WH-2000XM4, there’s still loads to love about these over-ear cans.
For music lovers, the Sony WH-1000XM3 features aptX HD and Sony LDAC, two of the best ways to listen to Hi-Res songs from your phone without a wire. Plus, all of Sony’s flagship headphones offer both Google Assistant and Alexa support.
If you can get hold of the older, second-gen Sony WH-1000XM2, they’re still very much worth a look as a more affordable (if slightly lower-spec) model.
3. Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
This pair showcases the considerable talents of Sennheiser’s engineering team. The third-generation Momentum Wireless – both the 1st-gen and 2nd-gen versions were instant knock-outs when they arrived – build on those past successes. Indeed, these cans are a big improvement over their predecessors in the sound department, promising a lively, energetic and insightful listening experience.
Aside from entertaining sonics, you get plenty of features too, including excellent built-in controls. One thing to note: the claimed battery life is only 17 hours, compared to the above Sony’s 30 hours.
4. Bose 700
They don’t quite beat the Sony WH-1000XM4s in terms of battery life and price, but the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is still a brilliant pair of over-ear cans – and the best Bose headphones we’ve reviewed. Traditionally, noise-cancelling headphones have been designed to block out the environmental sounds around you, so that you can hear your music more clearly (or catch some shut-eye on a noisy flight). This can be effective if you’re listening to music. If you’re making a phone call however, the person you’re speaking to can still hear everything that’s happening around you.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 seeks to remedy this, by applying noise-cancellation to phone calls as well as music, which is a fantastic feature – that’s why these are the very best noise-cancelling headphones for making calls. The sound quality is undeniably good, with a vibrant, lively character and well-balanced soundstage.
If you’re trying to decide between buying the Sony WH-1000XM4s and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, we’d recommend going for the former because of that lower price and better battery life. That being said, you wouldn’t be making a mistake if you opted for the Bose cans instead – they sound great, look stunning, and the noise-cancellation is out of this world.
5. Bowers & Wilkins PX7
The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 are headphones that have a dark sound profile but are very well-designed. They have a sleek style and are quite comfortable to wear for a while. These headphones have become well-built and feel robust. They’re also noises cancelling headphone which blocks out a good amount of ambient sound. However, their microphone is bad and shouldn’t be used for calls, and they lack audio customization options inside their app. On the upside, their battery life is amazing and they’re compatible with aptX(HD) and aptX Adaptive, although we can’t currently test for those. Their ANC feature is quite good and blocks out a good quantity of ambient noise. They’re comfy to put on during long rides and their battery life will easily last you for entire long flights. However, they won’t be the easiest to carry around.
6. Jabra Elite 85h
The Jabra Elite 85h is versatile noise-cancelling headphones that can be used in a wide variety of daily uses. They have great audio reproduction and will be good for a variety of music genres. Their active noise cancelling (ANC) feature is decent and blocks ambient sound well, but it’s not quite on par with that of similar high-end ANC headphones. On the upside, they have a very comfortable fit and their microphone sounds better than most Bluetooth earphones. They will have amazing battery life and their wireless range maxed out our testing facility. Overall, these headphones offer great value and should satisfy almost all users. The Jabra 85h have deep and punchy bass, but it is slightly thumpy, which some may prefer. Their mid-range is nearly flawless and vocals and lead instruments will be accurately reproduced. The treble range is also very good, but it might lack a bit of detail and brightness on vocals and leads, and on some sibilants (S and T sounds). Overall, these headsets have a good audio reproduction that will be suitable for a wide variety of music genres.
7. Microsoft Surface Headphones 2
The Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 is the tech giant’s second pair of noise-cancelling headphones, and they offer a ton of great improvements over the original Surface area Headphones while retaining some of their best qualities.
Despite those improvements – which includes longer battery life and more comfortable design – the Surface Headphones 2 are considerably cheaper than their predecessors, making them the obvious choice if you’re trying to choose between the two.
That lower price also makes them a great alternative to the best headphones of 2020 and 2021, the Sony WH-1000XM3, especially as they’ve retained the winning design features of the original Surface Headphones, with built-in dials on each earcup to control your music and the active noise cancellation.
While the audio quality on offer here doesn’t quite live up to the standards set by the XM3s, the top Headphones 2 certainly hold their own. A warm, wide soundstage makes for an enjoyable listening experience and allows plenty of space for different instruments to grow within a track.
8. Bose QuietComfort 35/QC35 II
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II are great Bluetooth over-ear headphones for commuting and travelling with a few improvements over the previous model. The redesign doesn’t change much but adds a bit more functionality and a dedicated button for Google Assistant/Alexa, or to switch between noise-cancelling modes, which is a welcome addition. They’re still extremely comfortable headphones with a very well-balanced sound profile and a versatile, easy-to-use design. Unfortunately, their dedicated companion app doesn’t have any EQ settings, and they leak quite a bit at higher volumes.
9. Bose QuietComfort 35/QC35
The Bose QuietComfort 35 are good headphones for commuters thanks to their excellent noise isolation. They’re incredibly comfortable so you can wear them for hours, they have an above-average sound quality and a simple design that’s suitable for most use cases. They leak a bit less than the QC25 but unfortunately, they may still be distracting to the people around you at moderate volumes. They’re also not the most stable or breathable headphones for sports. The Bose QuietComfort 35 are versatile and offer a comfortable, well-built wireless design. They have a good sound and great noise cancelling, which makes them a great option for commuters and frequent flyers. They come with a regular audio cable for more latency-sensitive uses like watching a movie and gaming although they won’t be ideal for those to make use of cases, especially when using Bluetooth. They’re furthermore a bit leaky.
10. Sony WF-1000XM3
The Sony WF-1000XM3 may be costly, but the excellent ANC performance makes it easy to justify the earbuds. Sony’s tri-contact point mechanism keeps the earbuds in place without sacrificing comfort. A big drawback is the lack of high-quality codec support — no aptX or LDAC; however, the DSEE HX processing facilitates clear audio. If you want the best of what true wireless tech has to offer, get these.
11. Apple Airpods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro with Wireless Charging Case, sweat- and water-resistant wireless Bluetooth earphones that use optical sensors and a motion accelerometer to detect when they’re in your ears. The all-new, lightweight, in-ear design boasts a customizable fit while providing complete sonic performance. Use Active Noise Cancellation to keep you focused on enjoying your content, or switch to Transparency Mode to stay aware of what’s going on in the environment around you.
To ensure a rewarding listening experience, the AirPods Professional utilizes Adaptive EQ to automatically sculpt the tonal output to suit your unique ear shape. Their custom high-excursion drivers and high dynamic range amplifiers deliver clear, detailed sound with bass down to 20 Hz, all while keeping distortion low and upholding extended battery life. The flexible silicone eartips come in three sizes and advanced algorithms allow the AirPods Pro to analyze the fit and let you know if the current ear tip size is giving the ideal seal.
12. Microsoft Surface Headphones 1
Overall, Microsoft’s Surface headphones are surprisingly good, with a stunningly warm sound, and generous bass frequencies, which means your music will sound great whether you’re listening to dubby hip-hop or acoustic singer-songwriters.
One criticism of this warm sound is that it can take some of the attacks away from lower-mid frequencies, which some users may find a bit underwhelming. However, if sharp trebles and mids tend to give you listening fatigue, these could be the perfect headphones for you.
The calling card of these headphones is the active noise cancellation, which we felt worked really well, and we loved how easy it was to control this using the inbuilt dials on each housing.
Although we were initially unconvinced by the high price (particularly when you can buy quality cans from heritage audio brands for less), the features work so seamlessly that it feels justified.
13. Sennheiser HD 450BT
The HD 450BTs might look a bit plain, but it’s always unwise to underestimate Sennheiser – and so it proves here. Considering the mid-range price, these are solidly built, very comfortable cans that offer a great battery life and solid noise cancellation.
Sound is good, too. Smooth, rich and full-bodied, they provide an effortless listen that’s also lively enough to be engaging.
Their tonality is a little skewed towards the bottom end, sacrificing the midrange clarity that more neutral rivals, such as the AKG N60NCs, are capable of. That may not play into the hands of every music fan, but some will find favour in the Sennheiser’s modest bias.
14. Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC
The Lagoon ANCs are Beyerdynamic’s most concerted effort yet to grab some of the premium wireless, noise-cancelling, over-ear action. They do that by throwing in every feature you would expect, plus one you might not – Beyerdynamic’s Light Guide System, which illuminates the inside of each earcup depending on what the headphones are up to.
The Light Guide System is entirely useless, especially as there are voice prompts to let you know what the headphones are around. It manages to lower the tone of an otherwise-classy product to that of a provincial nightclub.
But look past that odd feature and there’s much to like. The delivery is winningly neutral and even-handed, packed with detail and fast-paced. The noise-cancelling is effective, too. With a little more excitement and dynamic range, these would be five-star headphones.
15. JBL Tune600BTNC
If you like your bass beefy and meaty, we suggest you give them a try.
If you’re on a tight budget, these JBL on-ear wireless noise-cancelling headphones are well worth considering. They serve up decent 22-hour battery life, feature built-in volume/playback controls and offer powerful, punchy sound.
The exciting dynamics are impressive for the money, even though the beefy bass can overwhelm at times. The plastic ear cups aren’t the finest quality, but that’s a minor grumble. Overall, these talented headphones offer good value for money and decent sonics.
16. Beats Solo Pro
The soggy bass response used to be a bit of an issue with Beats headphones, but these wireless noise-cancelling headphones are the most mature-sounding Beats we’ve heard. The Solo Pros have plenty of low-end thump, full-bodied tonality and offer an extremely well-balanced, entertaining and detailed sound.
They’re held back somewhat by loose timing and a lack of low-level dynamics when compared to class leaders such as the Sony WH-1000XM3, but the design, build and noise-cancelling ability of the Solo Benefits will be more than enough to tempt many buyers to open their wallets. An accomplished effort.
17. Shure AONIC 50
The Shure AONIC 50 sports a wireless, active noise-cancelling over-ear design, selling at a premium price to compete with the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose NC 700 Headphones.
Ultimately, while you won’t find every feature under the sun here, the Shure AONIC 50 are laser-focused on delivering the best sound quality of almost any noise-cancelling headphone – making them the very best noise-cancelling headphones for audiophiles.
18. Marshall Monitor II ANC
The Marshall Monitor II ANC is undoubtedly the brand’s best headphones yet; the audio quality on offer here far surpasses any of its previous models, with a balanced presentation, smooth mids, and a generally powerful, rock-ready sound. They feel comfortable, come with tons of cool rock heritage, and look stylish. That, alongside their good noise cancellation, easy controls and accompanying app, makes the Marshall Keep track of II ANCs a compelling alternative to the Sony WH-1000XM4.
They don’t quite win out in terms of sound quality or noise cancellation, but these over-ear headphones are still very good indeed.
19. JBL Tune 750BTNC
JBL is a popular name in the world of headphones and Bluetooth speakers, and rightly so. Solidly dependable, consumers know what to expect from the brand – decent sound quality for a decent price. That’s what we found with the JBL Live 650BTNC last year – and now, ready to take their place are the JBL Tune 750BTNC, a superior successor to the 650BTNC’s as a high-spec and well-priced set of over-ear headphones.
The JBL Tune 750BTNC sound great, look great, and they fit well. Reliable and easy to use, you might miss waterproofing and a few minor features – but at this price, it feels foolish to complain too readily.
20. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
The sound quality, battery life, and design of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 are truly brilliant – and they’re a really good alternative to the Sony WF-1000XM3, particularly if you prefer a more flashy design to adorn your ears.
We did find that those with smaller ears sometimes find them a little uncomfortable, however, and their high price just stops them from taking the top spot of this roundup.
Otherwise? Sennheiser has pretty much knocked it out of the park with these buds, offering great noise cancellation alongside smart looks and stunning sound.
21. Nura Nuraphone
If you haven’t found something quite to your liking so far, we have one last option for you to look at – the all-new Nura Nuraphone over-ear/in-ear hybrid. Their form factor means you’ve not only got an earbud sitting at the entrance of your hearing canal, but also an over-ear cushion seated over your entire ear. This effectively means you’ve obtained two physical barriers meaning that the noise from the outside world can’t get to your ears. While more traditional over-ear headphones do a better job offering useful features at a reasonable price, the Nuraphone will appeal to the even more experimental audio crowd looking to be on the bleeding-edge of the next big thing.
22. Audio Technica ATH-ANC700BT
ATH-ANC700BT QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones from Audio-Technica. Active noise cancellation is designed to greatly block out distracting ambient sound, giving you the ability to better enjoy your audio regardless of where you might be. The memory foam earpads are designed to fit over your ears, providing a certain degree of additional passive noise reduction.
The QuietPoint headphones connect to any Bluetooth-equipped device, such as a smartphone or smart TV, to wirelessly stream your favourite audio. If paired with a smartphone, you can utilize the integrated microphone to use the ATH-ANC700BT headphones to conduct phone calls or give voice commands to a digital assistant. Built-in controls on the earcup let you manage calls and audio playback with a touch. When you’re finished using them, just fold the earcups in to make them more compact and easier to transport in the included pouch.
23. Sony WI-SP600N Sports Headphones
Sony WI-SP600N are wireless in-ear sports headphones designed to deliver customizable audio performance, extended listening time, and lifestyle convenience for athletes, music lovers, and audio aficionados exercising, travelling, or studying inside or outdoors. The behind-the-neck design won’t interfere with comfort or ease of use and IPX4 waterproof rating means that perspiration and precipitation are of no concern. Bluetooth version 4.1 and NFC technology grant simple and effective wireless integration with your mobile device.
The 6.1mm dynamic drivers utilize neodymium magnets and produce a wide frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, while a selectable bass boost function provides enhanced low-frequency reproduction. Activate the digital noise cancellation to keep your hearing experience isolated from external noise or use the Ambient Sound Mode to stay aurally connected to the outside world.
A built-in rechargeable battery affords up to six hours of listening period or around 200 hrs of standby time via a full charge. Thanks to the in-line remote’s integrated microphone and buttons, you can take calls and control playback without accessing your smartphone. The WI-SP600N earphones include multiple eartips, arc supporters, and a micro-USB charging cable.
24. Sony WI-C600N Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphone
The Sony WI-C600N Wireless Noise-Canceling In-Ear Earphones from Sony feature active Artificial Intelligence Noise-Canceling (AINC) technology. AINC is designed to filter out unwanted sounds and adapt to a changing environment. Wirelessly stream your music from a Bluetooth-compatible mobile device, and quickly pair them with Bluetooth or NFC technology.
If you need to stay connected with your surroundings, two Ambient Sound modes let some of the worlds back in. The C600 earphones can also help you stay linked to others, thanks to a built-in microphone for hands-free calling and support for voice assistant software from Google and Amazon. Other convenient features, such as a silicone neckband and magnetic earbuds, help make the C600 wireless earphones your go-to daily earphones.
25. Audio Technica ATH-ANC500BT
ATH-ANC500BT QuietPoint Wireless Over-Ear Noise-Canceling Headphones, Audio-Technica has designed a pair of headphones that are meant to comfortably deliver clear audio without any distracting noise. Bluetooth technology is employed to wirelessly stream your favourite audio through powerful 40mm drivers, and active noise-cancelling technology is added to filter out ambient sounds in noisy environments. You can enjoy your clarified music or podcasts for up to 20 hours via the built-in LiPo battery. To help keep the ATH-ANC500BT headphones comfortable during such long listening sessions, Audio-Technica gave each earcup soft, memory foam padding.