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Best Noise-Canceling Headphones to Buy Right Now

Thomas Germain

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

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.

Their performance and sound quality have improved, and the prices of noise-canceling headphones have come down. And today, a few competitors rival 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 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. If you’re a CR member, you can find a full breakdown of the more than 150 headphones in our 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 earphones 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, though 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.

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. And while they don’t sound quite as good as top-scoring models like the Bose 700, that’s a sacrifice worth considering, given that they can be purchased for less than half the price.

JBL hasn’t skimped on features, either. The 650BTNC earphones 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.

Outstanding Quality at a Great Price—With Strings Attached

If you don’t mind connecting to your music source with a wire, the Audio-Technica SonicPro ATH-MSR7NC is one of the best values in 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 an integrated button for calling and music playback, plus a detachable audio cable, so you can unplug them from the music player and still enjoy the noise cancellation. There’s no volume control, though, so you’ll need to reach for your device to turn up the sound. According to the manufacturer, the battery life is 30 hours.

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.

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, calls, and music playback. However, there’s no integrated option for volume control. 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.

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.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the Audio-Technica SonicPro ATH-MSR7NC features integrated volume controls; it does not. The article also said that the Sony WF-SP700N has volume controls but lacks an integrated option for skipping tracks. The opposite is true; the earphones have track-skipping controls but no volume controls.

Inside CR's Anechoic Chamber

On the “Consumer 101” TV show, host Jack Rico and a high school marching band put Consumer Reports’ anechoic chamber to the test to find out what it sounds like when you remove all echoes from music.



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