Best phone headphones: 25 pairs tested

Sony XBA-NC85D

Price: £300

Sony XBA-NC85D

Sony's heritage in the headphone space is well-known - and these rather pricey buds are the latest in the long line of noise cancelling options from the Japanese brand.

Their design is striking, and for good reason: they're noise cancelling, but without a separate box on the wire - it's all in the buds themselves.

To that end, they're pretty large and slightly cumbersome - although the fit is excellent and provides good noise isolation even before the quiet noise cancelling kicks in.

However, the headphones won't work when the battery dies, so you can face some lengthy, boring train journeys - and the noise cancellation is prone to the odd bit of hissing here and there too.


A little too expensive to be recommended - the weight and lack of passive playback grate, and while the overall functionality is good, it's not quite enough to warrant shelling nearly £300 out for them.

BlackBox C20

Price: £110

BlackBox C20

The less-known brands traditionally are those many steer clear of - but with these BlackBox offerings, you get a more than acceptable noise cancelling experience.

From the easy to clip microphone section to the impressive in ear fit, we're fans of these buds - and that's before we get to the quality noise cancellation too.

They raise the volume a fair bit when you activate the noise cancelling, which feels like a bit of a cheap trick initially - but on the tube and in the air, it offers almost total silence from the outside world/

The headset is a little plasticky, and the AAA battery would be nicer as a chargeable pack... but there's not much else we can criticise here.


Headphones that you might not recognise are no longer to be feared. The BlackBox name won't let you down here, and the new C20 range is excellent at keeping up with your smartphones needs.

Audio Technika ATH-ANC9

Price: £280

Audio Technica

These headphones feel like they should arrive at the cheaper end of the market - with plastic construction and a creaky build, the price tag is somewhat confusing.

However, the options are great: different noise cancelling modes that switch between office, aeroplane and study rooms are a little different to the competition.

The noise cancellation is good too, as the pads are plush and don't tire your ears over use - although the large volume disparity when turning noise cancellation on and off grates somewhat.

Vocal tones are slightly lost in the bass as well, but at least the switch to jump in and out of noise cancellation mode is easy to hit... it's surprising how annoying that can be.


Build quality lets down a decent performance from these cans - the overall functionality is nice, but not really something we'd recommend fully for the price, especially with the better-specified and similarly-priced Sennheiser MM 550-X's on the go.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.