For many years, Bose was the gold standard for noise-canceling headphones. But other companies have steadily chipped away at Bose's lead and now it's a competitive category with plenty of compelling noise-canceling options at different prices. I've collected the best ones below, all of which I've fully reviewed or used hands-on over a period of time. I'll be updating this list as more top noise-canceling headphones are released.
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Sony's WH-1000XM3, the third generation of Sony's excellent wireless noise-canceling headphones, is more comfortable and features even better performance. With a strong battery life, it's currently our top-rated noise-canceling headphone, edging out the Bose models on some key points.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, the long-awaited successor to its QuietComfort 35 II models, may not be a quantum leap forward but they offer slightly better sound, call and noise-canceling quality. Alas, they cost $400, but they're a strong all-around performer with up to 20 hours of battery life.
When Bose released its new flagship Noise-Cancelling 700 Headphones it didn't drop the QuietComfort 35 II from its headphone line up and it remains a top noise-canceling headphone. While I think the 700 performs better overall, there are people who prefer the QuietComfort 35 II. It frequently goes on sale for less than its price so definitely look for it at a discount.
When Jabra first announced its new Elite 85h ($300, £280 or about AU$435 converted) over-ear premium wireless headphones, it touted how it would be equipped with always-on (hands-free) voice assistant control using Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant. Alas, that feature didn't make it into the final product -- apparently it affected battery life too much -- but the Elite 85h is nevertheless an excellent noise-canceling headphone that makes music sound great, with good audio quality, is comfortable to wear and also works well as a headset for making calls.
Bang & Olufsen's Beoplay H9 doesn't get mentioned much in the discussion of top noise-canceling headphones because at $500, it's a really pricey pair of headphones. The latest third-generation version has been upgraded in a few significant ways that make it better than the earlier H9i. Battery life has improved to 25 hours, there's now a dedicated button for your voice assistant, the padding on the ear cushions and headband is cushier and the touch controls have been tweaked.
While they aren't water-resistant, Sony's new WF-1000XM3 true wireless earphones feature excellent sound, great to listen to music with, and something you won't find in Apple's AirPods: active noise cancellation. At $230, they're not cheap, but with a battery life lasting up to 24 hours, they are among the best new true wireless earphones of 2019.
While its noise-canceling feature and comfort levels aren't quite on par with competing models from Bose and Sony, JBL's Live 650BTNC ($160) measures up well in terms of sound. These over-ear headphones are worth considering if you don't want to spend $300 or more on a noise-canceling headphone.
A lot of people don't think of the Beats Studio3 Wireless as a noise-canceling headphone but it does feature active noise-canceling and impressive sound. It's a little bit of an underrated headphone, with good battery life, quality audio and comfortable ear pads, and now that it's been out for a while it sells for less than its list price and sometimes significantly less.
Truth be told this is the headphone I usually take with me on plane trips. It takes up very little room in a bag, doesn't need a battery and is good for watching in-flight movies, whether they be on the airline's in-flight entertainment system or on your own device. They offer surprisingly good noise cancellation. Just don't forget your headphone adapter dongle if you have a phone or tablet that's missing the headphone jack. Note that this headphone has been out for a while. Since it's a wired model, it's unclear whether Bose will update it, but look for it on sale.
If you can't afford some of the premium models on this list, a headphone like the Sennheiser HD 4.50. It offers great sound and a decent noise-canceling feature in an attractive, comfortable design that often sells for less than $150.
When it comes to noise-canceling headphones, most people go for a full-size model. But if you're looking for something a little more compact, the AKG N60NC is an excellent on-ear headphone that also happens to feature active noise cancellation.