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 those you might buy yourself. For a full breakdown of the headphones in our recent tests, check our headphone ratings

Best Overall

The Sennheiser PXC 550-II is one of the highest-scoring headphones in our ratings, with superb sound quality and noise-canceling that bests many of the most popular models on the market. At $250 or less, the PXC 550-II is as much as $100 cheaper than many competitors. But in our tests, it outperforms flagship models from manufacturers such as Sony and Beats, and gets the exact same score as the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700—one of our other top picks.

The PXC 550-II has appealing features, such as adjustable levels of noise-cancellation and an ambient sound monitoring mode thats let noise from your environment back in so you can hear your surroundings when necessary. It has touch-sensitive controls and an automatic pause feature that stops your audio when you take the headphones off.

Consumer Reports doesn't test battery life in headphones, but Sennheiser says this model will run for up to 20 hours with Bluetooth and noise-canceling turned on. It can be used over Bluetooth or with detachable USB or audio cables.

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Sennheiser PXC 550-II

Price: $200

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Noise reduction
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Over-Ear, Bluetooth, and Budget-Friendly

We're seeing more and more great, inexpensive noise-canceling headphones, and shopping on a budget doesn't mean you have to sacrifice performance. Case in point is the Anker SoundCore Life Q20. You can pick up this model for just $60, and our tests show it beats out models that cost hundreds more.

The SoundCore Life Q20 has great sound quality and outstanding noise cancellation. It doesn't sound quite as a good as top-rated models such as the Sennheiser PXC 550-II, and you won't get sought after features like adjustable levels of noise-canceling. But at this price, that's a sacrifice worth making.

Anker does include some appealing perks, though, such as the ability to work over Bluetooth or an audio cable, and a free app that adds features including a bass boost EQ setting. According to Anker, it has a generous 40-hour battery life when Bluetooth and noise-canceling are both turned on.

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Anker SoundCore Life Q20

Price: $50

Sound quality
Noise reduction
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True Wireless

Apple's AirPods Pro may come to mind first if you're shopping for true wireless headphones, where the earpieces aren’t connected by a cable. But with the WF-1000XM3, we think Sony has a better product, and it's often a little cheaper, too. It has outstanding sound quality and top-of-the-line active noise reduction.

These feature-rich earphones have variable noise cancellation, which you can adjust to let in more or less sound, and 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. But some users, particularly people with larger ears, may feel that the XM3 doesn’t fit securely.

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Sony WF-1000XM3

Price: $230

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Noise reduction
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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: This models tends to sell for about $200, and recently we've seen it on sale for far less. That's 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 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 noted is that the collar that connects them, while convenient, is a bit heavy. That extra internal space that comes with the collar design may account for an advantage, though; they have an advertised 14-hour battery life with the noise-canceling technology turned on. That's high for a portable model.

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JBL Everest Elite 150NC

Price: $200

Sound quality
Noise reduction
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Unbeatable Value

Looking for a deal? You can’t do much better than the price of 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: $45

Sound quality
Noise reduction
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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.