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.

More on Headphones

Not only have performance and sound quality improved, but noise-canceling headphones have come down in price, and today there are a few competitors rivaling Bose for the top spot in the category.

There are a lot of options on the market, but every pair listed below is recommended by our testing engineers for noise-canceling performance. Of course, these 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

Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II

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

These 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 an included, detachable audio cable, you can double the already generous 20-hour operating time. The ear cups swivel flat for easy storage, and the headphones come with a carrying case and a mini-plug-to-airplane-jack adapter.

Quick Take

Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II noise-canceling headphone

Price: $300.00

Sound quality
Noise reduction
Unlock Noise-canceling Headphone Ratings

Sony WF-SP700N

The Sony WF-SP700N has a true wireless design, meaning the earpieces aren’t connected by a cable. These earphones deliver admirable 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 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.

Quick Take

Sony WF-SP700N noise-canceling headphone

Price: $180.00

Sound quality
Noise reduction
Unlock Noise-canceling Headphone Ratings

Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC

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, it can be used wired or through Bluetooth, and you can find it for as little as $180.

The headphone 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.  

Quick Take

Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC noise-canceling headphone

Price: $180.00

Sound quality
Noise reduction
Unlock Noise-canceling Headphone Ratings

Bose QuietControl 30

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.

Quick Take

Bose QuietControl 30 noise-canceling headphone

Price: $300.00

Sound quality
Noise reduction
Unlock Noise-canceling Headphone Ratings