A woman wears a pair of the best noise-canceling headphones on a plane.

The story goes that Amar Bose, founder of the audio company that bears his name, got the idea for noise-canceling headphones one day in 1978 when he couldn’t hear his music over the roar of a plane engine. Whether or not you believe the company lore, in the 40-odd years since then, noise-canceling headphones have gone from niche luxuries to must-have equipment for many consumers.

In the past few years, noise-canceling performance and sound quality have improved, and the prices of noise-canceling headphones have come down. And today, several competitors rival Bose for the top spot in the category.

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You’ll find a lot of options on the market, but every pair listed below is recommended by our testing engineers for sound-blocking performance. Of course, the best noise-canceling headphones are more than souped-up earplugs; they earn high marks for audio quality as well, and some come with features including Bluetooth, variable noise cancellation, smart assistant compatibility, and even true wireless design.

Consumer Reports buys every product we test at retail, so the models that make it into our labs are no different from one you might buy yourself. For a full breakdown of the headphones in our recent tests, check our headphone ratings

Best Overall

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are the long-awaited successor to the company’s flagship QuietComfort 35 Series II headphones, and the two models are almost identical in performance: Both deliver superb sound quality and noise cancellation.

However, the Bose 700 headphones have a much slimmer profile when folded up, and they have a few updated elements, including more integration with digital assistants, touch controls, and sensors for Bose’s “augmented reality” apps. Bose has kept some of the best-loved features from its older models as well, such as adjustable levels of noise cancellation, a monitoring mode to let in sound from your environment, and an advertised 20-hour battery life. According to Bose, call quality is improved, as well; CR doesn’t test call quality in headphones.

With all that in mind, the older QuietComfort 35 Series II headphones are great, and they’re still widely available. If you don’t mind forgoing the latest features, you can pick them up for less.

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Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Price: $340

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Over-Ear, Bluetooth, and Budget-Friendly

It’s getting easier to find great noise-canceling headphones on a budget, and this option from JBL is one of our top picks. We’ve seen the Live 650BTNC sell for less than $150, a small marvel, given their performance. They deliver outstanding noise cancellation and great audio quality. The 650BTNC doesn’t sound quite as good as top-scoring models like the Bose 700, but that’s a sacrifice worth considering at half the price.

JBL hasn’t skimped on features, either. The headphones come with a detachable audio cable for use with wired devices, a quick-charge function, the ability to simultaneously pair with multiple devices, and a generous 20-hour battery life, according to JBL. A free app adds functionality.

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JBL LIVE 650BTNC

Price: $200

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Truly Wireless

Sony continues to make waves with its popular line of noise-canceling headphones, and the WF-1000XM3 is one of the best performing models yet. It has outstanding sound quality and top-of-the-line active noise reduction to match—and does it all with a true wireless design, meaning the earpieces aren’t connected by a cable.

These feature-rich earphones have variable noise cancellation, which you can adjust to let in more or less sound. A “monitor” mode actively pipes in audio from your surroundings. Those settings can be activated using integrated touch controls, which also operate playback and skipping tracks.

According to Sony, the XM3 has a 6-hour battery life, can be recharged up to three times on the go with the portable charging case, and includes a quick-charge feature. A free app adds functionality. However, some users, particularly people with larger ears, may feel the XM3 doesn’t fit securely.

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Sony WF-1000XM3

Price: $180

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Portability for Bargain Hunters

This wireless, in-ear JBL Everest Elite 150NC has admirable audio quality and terrific noise-reduction abilities, according to our testers. The price is notable as well: If you shop around, you can pick up these earphones for as little as $200, which is a steal for a noise-canceling model that performs so well.

The earphones feature an integrated variable noise-canceling control that lets you choose between more or less ambient sound, and they have an advertised 14-hour battery life with the noise-canceling technology turned on. The free My JBL Headphones app provides additional functionality, such as a 10-band graphic equalizer.

The earphones clip together magnetically for easy storage, but one caveat our testers note is that the collar that connects them, while convenient, is a bit heavy.

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JBL Everest Elite 150NC

Price: $200

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Uncompromising Performance on the Go

The in-ear Bose QuietControl 30 earns superb scores for sound and noise cancellation in a portable, wireless package. The earphones have a hybrid ear insert/earbud design, which seals the ear canal without extending deep inside it for a fit that may work better for some users. A cable connecting the earpieces is housed in a collar you wear around your neck, which our testers note is typically comfortable, unless it interferes with clothing. The QuietControl 30 is rated for 10 hours of operating time and features controls for playback, calls, volume, and an ambient sound-monitoring mode.

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Bose QuietControl 30

Price: $300

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Unbeatable Value

Looking for a deal? You can’t do much better that the $50 price for the Monoprice BT-300ANC. These headphones don’t have the latest features—like a monitor mode or adjustable noise cancellation—but they deliver where it counts: above-average sound quality and fantastic sound-blocking abilities.

The BT-300ANC features integrated controls for calls, volume, and playback, and the ear cups fold in and swivel flat for easy storage and transport. According to Monoprice, the battery will run for 8 hours between charges with both Bluetooth and noise cancellation turned on. You can keep the music going even longer by switching off Bluetooth and using the detachable audio cable, which is included.

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Monoprice BT-300ANC

Price: $40

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How to Choose Headphones

With so many types of headphones, how do you know which pair is right for you? On the “Consumer 101” TV show, Consumer Reports expert Elias Arias explains everything you need to know.