The best noise-cancelling headphones 2017

Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar's round-up of 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. Now, you can find them lining airplane aisles the world over, not to mention buses, trains and nearly any other form of transportation prone to loud, low rumbling.

It's not hard to see why they're so popular: 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. 

1. Sony WH-1000XM2

Crystal clear noise-cancelling headphones that are better than Bose

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

Superb noise-cancelling
Great-sounding audio
30-hour battery life
Hinges are fragile
Touch controls

The Sony MDR-1000XM2 are an excellent revision of an already great pair of headphones: They sound great, deftly wield noise cancellation technology and cost just as much as a pair of Bose QC35s. They might have a slightly shorter battery life than Bose’s flagship over-ear headphones, but Sony’s MDR-1000XM2 outclass the QC35 in terms of performance and feature-set.  

You’d want to pick these Sony headphones over the Bose because not only do they provide the same level of awesome noise-cancellation, but they have three neat tricks that Bose just doesn't have on its headphones: One is an ambient noise mode that only lets in mid-to-high frequency tones (announcements over a loudspeaker, for instance) and another being Quick Attention mode that allows you to let in all outside noise without taking off the headphones. (The latter is perfect when giving a drink order on a plane or speaking to a coworker for a brief moment before diving back into your work.) The last trick Sony has up its sleeve is the LDAC codec. Alongside the widely adopted aptX HD standard, LDAC enables Hi-Res Audio playback using the 1000XM2.

Great-sounding, feature-packed and just as affordable as the competition? The Sony MDR-1000XM2 are our all-around pick for best noise-cancelling cans.

Read the full review: Sony MDR-1000XM2

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

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

Philips presents a more elegant noise-cancelling solution with its NC1. These on-ear headphones aren't wireless like our top pick, 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.

Read the full review: Philips Fidelio NC1

Bose QuietComfort 35

3. 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

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

Coming in at the number three spot is the Bose QuietComfort 35. They're 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. Of course, they also come with a cable in case you want to use them with a device that doesn't support Bluetooth. 

At $349 (£289 / 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.

Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 35

Sennheiser Momentum Wireless

4. 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

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

A few years ago, the Bose QuietComfort 25 are the best noise-cancelling headphones we've ever used. The lows, mids and highs came through clear as day, never stepping over each other. Music of all sorts sounded predictably incredible. With the noise-cancellation turned on, we never felt further immersed and concentrated than when we let the QC25 engulf our ears.

But that was a few years ago and time has moved on since. Bose has released not just one sequel to these headphones, but two: the QC35 and QC35 II with Google Assistant built in, both of which we'd recommend above the QC25.

But, it's not all bad. If you don't mind using the older, wired headphones, the QC25s are a finely-tuned set of cans that provide over 35 hours of very good noise-cancelling performance with one AAA battery. 

Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 25

Best noise cancelling headphones

5. 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

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.

Read the full review: Sony MDR-1000X

6. 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

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. 

Read the full review: AKG N60NC Wireless

7. 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

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. 

Read the full review: Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC

8. 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

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. 

Read the full review: Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

9. 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

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.

Read the full review: Sennheiser PXC 550

Best Noise Cancelling Headphones

10. 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

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.

Read the full review: Samsung Level On Pro Wireless Headphones

We're constantly reviewing new noise-cancelling headphones, but let us know on Twitter if there is a set that you'd like us to take a look at.