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 buy the company lore, in the 40 years since, noise-canceling headphones have gone from niche and luxury products to a must-have for many consumers.

Not only have their performance and sound quality improved but also the prices of noise-canceling headphones have come down, and today a few competitors rival Bose for the top spot in the category.


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There are 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 in-demand features including Bluetooth, variable noise-cancellation, smart assistant compatibility, and even true wireless design.

Consumer Reports buys every product we test at retail, and if you’re a CR member, you can find a full breakdown of the more than 150 headphones in our ratings

Best Overall

Bose is still the manufacturer to beat in the noise-canceling department, and the Bluetooth-enabled over-ear Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II holds true to tradition; it's one of the best-scoring headphones in our tests for both noise-canceling and sound quality.

The headphones come with integrated call, volume, and playback controls, and a dedicated smart-assistant button, which can also be used to cycle through the model’s variable noise-canceling function and let in more or less ambient sound.

By switching off Bluetooth and using the included detachable audio cable, you can double the already generous 20-hour operating time (note that CR doesn't test battery life in headphones). The ear cups swivel flat for easy storage, and the headphones come with a carrying case and a mini-plug-to-airplane-jack adapter.

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Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II noise-canceling headphone

Price: $300.00

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

The best noise-canceling headphones don’t come cheap, but you do have some great budget options. Chief among them is the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC. It delivers fantastic noise-canceling capability, can be used via a wired or Bluetooth connection, and can be found selling for as little as $150.

It has high-quality sound as well, though it doesn’t match the best headphones in our ratings. The HD 4.50 BTNC has integrated volume, playback, and call controls that work with paired Bluetooth devices. With Bluetooth and noise-cancellation turned on, the headphones boast a 19-hour battery life, says the manufacturer.  

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Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC noise-canceling headphone

Price: $180.00

Sound quality
Noise reduction
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Outstanding Quality at a Great Price—With Strings Attatched

If you don't mind connecting to your music source via wire, the Audio-Technica SonicPro ATH-MSR7NC is one of the best-valued noise-canceling headphone models on the market right now. This over-ear model usually costs around $280—already a good deal—but we've seen it dip below $200, which is impressive given the SonicPro's exceptional audio quality and noise-canceling ability. The headphones have integrated controls for calling, volume, and music playback, plus a detachable audio cable, so you can unplug them from the music player and still enjoy the noise-cancellation. According to the manufacturer, the battery life is 30 hours.

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Audio-Technica SonicPro ATH-MSR7NC noise-canceling headphone

Price: $280.00

Sound quality
Noise reduction
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Uncompromising Performance on the Go

The in-ear Bose QuietControl 30 performs almost as well as the company’s over-ear model, with superb scores for sound and noise-cancellation in a portable, wireless package.

The earphones employ a hybrid ear insert/earbud design, which seals the ear canal without extending deep inside it. 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 that pushes the earphones into the variable noise-canceling category.

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Bose QuietControl 30 noise-canceling headphone

Price: $300.00

Sound quality
Noise reduction
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Truly Wireless

The Sony WF-SP700N has a true wireless design, meaning the earpieces aren’t connected by a cable. These earphones deliver dependable noise-cancellation and audio quality, and they feature controls for variable noise-cancellation, Google Assistant, volume, calls, and playing or pausing music playback. However, there’s no integrated option for skipping tracks. The earphones are advertised as water-resistant, though CR doesn’t test this feature. The advertised 3-hour battery life is short but not unusual for true wireless models. The model has a novel quick-charging function, and the carrying/charging case has a built-in battery that can recharge the earphones twice.

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Sony WF-SP700N noise-canceling headphone

Price: $180.00

Sound quality
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 point 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; the collar that connects them, while convenient, is a bit heavy.

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JBL Everest Elite 150NC noise-canceling headphone

Price: $200.00

Sound quality
Noise reduction
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