17 Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones and Earbuds

Looking for the best noise-cancelling headphones of 2019 and 2020, are you? Well, you’ve definitely come to the right place and at just the right time. That’s because brands like Sony and Apple have stepped up their game to deliver brilliant isolation and pure sonic bliss. Of course, we still have to give it up for Bose, without whom headphone noise cancellation would be but a fading trend.

Meanwhile, you might be asking yourself: what the heck is noise cancellation anyway? And are there different types of noise cancellation headphones? We answer both those questions before diving into our list of the best noise-cancelling headphones of 2019 and early 2020. Pick up your favourite pair and tune out the world around you.

What are Noise-Cancelling Headphones?

We all know how intrusive the outside world can be, especially when we’re trying to have a conversation, think clear thoughts, or fall asleep. Whirring fans. Airplane engines. Construction workers. Annoying meatheads. They can all create potential and perennial distractions. That’s exactly where noise cancellation comes in.

Using either active noise control (ANC) or soundproofing, noise-cancelling headphones reduce persistent external sounds. ANC works by adding a second sound that’s specifically designed to counteract the first sound, while soundproofing uses physical noise barriers. Comparatively speaking, active noise-cancelling headphones (which use ANC) are like sophisticated sound wave mechanisms while passive noise-cancelling headphones (which use soundproofing) are kind of like glamorised earplugs.

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Meanwhile, neither active nor passive noise-cancelling headphones will completely eliminate external sounds. While we’re on the subject, ANC isn’t always adept at handling spontaneous noise like a crying baby or a dog barking. As a result, annoying sounds will still seep in on occasion, though typically in semi-muted form. That rings true on even some of the best noise-cancelling headphones.

Nevertheless, noise cancellation in headphones generally works and works well, wrapping your ears and skull in an immersive and isolating bubble. It’s then no surprise that the best noise-cancelling headphones are frequently used as sleeping aids during rides in planes, trains, and automobiles alike. They also happen to deliver music, should you be so inclined.

Types of Noise-Cancelling Headphones

As with all modern gadgets, headphones can take a variety of forms, including wireless. That’s especially true nowadays, as the best wireless noise-cancelling headphones continue to surge in both their effectiveness and popularity. With cables or without them, there are a few types of noise-cancelling headphones from which you can choose. They are as follows:

  • Circumaural (over-ear): This type completely encloses the wearer’s ears
  • Supra-aural (on-ear): This type uses pads to press up against the wearer’s ears, as opposed to enclosing them
  • In-Canal: This type goes physically inside the ear (i.e. an earbud)

The Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Who’s ready to cancel some noise, headphone style?! When you do, you’ll want to rock one of the following pairs. Let’s get into it.

1. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Bose’s latest and greatest picks up where the iconic QuietComfort 35 II left off. The improvements to fidelity, call handling, and noise cancellation are perceptible, albeit not substantial. One nifty feature is that the headphones apply noise cancellation to calls on both ends, meaning the person with whom your speaking won’t get distracted by external noises either. Meanwhile, the visual layout is top of the line.

Type: Circumaural (over-ear)
Connection: Stereo 3.5mm, Bluetooth
Price: AU$600

Buy it here

2. Sony WH-1000XM3

If only the best wireless noise-cancelling headphones will suffice, look no further than Sony’s WH-1000XM3. Improving upon its predecessor in any number of ways, these optimal beauties deliver prime ergonomics, a long battery life, stunning sonics, brilliant isolation, and so much more. This is everything you want in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and at a price that can’t be beat.

Type: Circumaural (over-ear)
Connection: Bluetooth
Price: AU$388

Buy it here

3. Apple AirPods Pro

As if being some of the world’s most popular wireless buds wasn’t enough, the Apple AirPods Pro also features active noise cancellation. In addition to that, they’re cleverly discreet and indisputably convenient. Oh, and did we mention the improved bass and exceptional call quality? Sure, the battery degrades over time and the price is relatively high, but you knew all that as soon as you saw the word “Apple.”

Type: In-Canal
Connection: Bluetooth
Price: AU$399

Buy it here

4. Sony WF-1000XM3

Want to stick it to the standard Apple AirPods? Then pick up the Sony WF-1000XM3, which features powerful acoustics, a handsome aesthetic, an all-day battery life, and active noise cancellation, amongst other things. Some folks are calling them the best wireless earbuds of 2020 and those folks aren’t wrong.

Type: In-Canal
Connection: Bluetooth
Price: AU$399

Buy it here

5. Jabra Elite 85h

An impressive newcomer, the Jabra Elite 85h checks all the necessary boxes and then some. Quick to charge and built to last, it uses SmartSound technology to automatically adapt to your external surroundings and then apply ANC. Throw on these sleek and comfortable cans for a personalised and powerful experience. They just might very well become your favourite pair of Bluetooth headphones.

Type: Circumaural (over-ear)
Connection: Stereo 3.5mm, Bluetooth
Price: AU$499

Buy it here

6. Sennheiser Momentum 3

No discussion of premium audio gear is complete without the name Sennheiser, who knocked one out of the park with the Momentum 3. Sporting plush pads of sheepskin leather, these wireless headphones amount to love at first use. Sealing the deal are features such as customisable noise cancellation, superior acoustics, long-lasting battery, and built-in Tile tracker. As a slightly inferior (and way more expensive) alternative to the Sony WH-1000XM3, this one will do just fine.

Type: Circumaural (over-ear)
Connection: Stereo 3.5mm, Bluetooth
Price: AU$600

Buy it here

7. Bose QuietComfort 35 II

If you’re not already familiar with these iconic headphones, the words “quiet” and “comfort” should get you up to speed. True to form, the seminal stunners deliver superb noise-cancellation, swift access to Google Assistant, and so much more. For global travellers and daily commuters and anyone in between, you can do no wrong in picking up a pair. This is the timeless art of aural isolation.

Type: Circumaural (over-ear)
Connection: Stereo 3.5mm, Bluetooth
Price: AU$500

Buy it here

8. Beats Solo Pro

If you’ve seen HBO’s “The Defiant Ones,” then you know that Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine created Beats as a direct response to noise-cancellation and its tune-out template. A few years and a few billion dollars later, the brand has released its first pair of on-ear headphones with pure active noise cancellation, which can be turned off with the tap of a button. These are also the first full-size Beats headphones to charge via lightning. Find your colour and get rolling in superior style.

Type: Supra-aural (on-ear)
Connection: Bluetooth
Price: AU$430

Buy it here

9. Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9 (3rd Gen)

Bang & Olufsen makes beautiful products and the Beoplay H9 is certainly no exception. Now in its 3rd generation, these luxurious cans tout a 25-hour battery life, one-touch voice assistance, and all sorts of cushy flourishes. Naturally, that’s joined by some of the best noise cancellation money can buy…lots and lots of money. What, you thought these things would be cheap?

Type: Circumaural (over-ear)
Connection: Stereo 3.5mm, Bluetooth
Price: US$500

Buy it here

10. JBL Live 650BTNC

Over on the (far) more affordable side of the spectrum, we have the dependable JBL Live 650BTNC. Expect some genuine bang for your buck from these clean-looking bad boys, which rank among the best wireless noise-cancelling headphones for their respective price range.

Type: Circumaural (over-ear)
Connection: Stereo 3.5mm, Bluetooth
Price: AU$250

Buy it here

11. Beats Studio3 Wireless

It might come as a surprise, but the Beats Studio3 Wireless does indeed feature ANC…not that anyone really uses it. You’re more likely to snag these stylish headphones for the impressive sound, cosy fit, and respectable battery life. But hey, the extra perks don’t hurt.

Type: Circumaural (over-ear)
Connection: Stereo 3.5mm, Bluetooth
Price: AU$450

Buy it here

12. Sennheiser HD 4.50

You can never have too much of a good thing in this world, and by that we mean you can never have too many pairs of Sennheiser headphones. The best part? These wireless noise-cancelling headphones are quite affordable. They’re comfortable, too.

Type: Circumaural (over-ear)
Connection: Stereo 3.5mm, Bluetooth
Price: AU$330

Buy it here

13. AKG N60NC

One might describe the AKG N60NC as the Goldilocks of on-ear headphones, in that they’re not too big and not too small. Further bolstered by crystal clear acoustics and high-performing ANC, they’re just right indeed.

Type: Supra-aural (on-ear)
Connection: Stereo 3.5mm, Bluetooth
Price: AU$350

Buy it here

14. Philips Fidelio NC1

Compact, foldable, comfortable, and long-lasting, the Philips Fidelio NC1 delivers first-class sound with a first-class look to match. Equipped with four microphones, it uses a highly unique ANC system, which combines two separate feeds to cover the widest possible frequency range. These headphones might not be wireless or all that recent, but don’t let that stop you from snagging a pair.

Type: Supra-aural (on-ear)
Connection: Stereo 3.5mm

Check it out

15. Bowers and Wilkins PX Wireless

There’s more than first meets the eye to the PX Wireless from Bowers and Wilkins, which automatically adapts when you throw it on or take it off. Also featured is great sound, adaptive noise cancellation, and a 22-hour battery life. While a little late to the party, these headphones jumped ahead of the pack by way of the USB-C charging port.

Type: Circumaural (over-ear)
Connection: Stereo 3.5mm, Bluetooth
Price: US$300

Buy it here

16. Microsoft Surface Headphones

Packing powerful bass, intuitive touch controls, clean acoustics, and terrific call quality into a minimalist profile, the Microsoft Surface Headphones stack up well against their better-known counterparts. The noise cancellation works best when you’re listening to music.

Type: Circumaural (over-ear)
Connection: Stereo 3.5mm, Bluetooth
Price: AU$500

Buy it here

17. Nura Nuraphone

Melbourne’s own Nura crafted these wondrous headphones, which launched to fame on the back of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign. Winner of Best of Innovation at the 2019 CES, Nuraphone customises the aural experience based on each listener’s specific hearing profile. And that’s merely scratching the surface in terms of what this audio gear has in store. We can’t promise they’ll be the best wireless noise-cancelling headphones in your arsenal, but they’ll certainly be the most unique and by a wide margin.

Type: Hybrid In-Canal/Circumaural (over-ear)
Connection: Bluetooth
Price: US$399

Buy it here

General FAQ

What are the best noise cancelling headphones in 2019?

Equal parts affordable and optimal, the Sony WH-1000XM3 is the best noise-cancelling headphones of 2019.

Are noise cancelling headphones worth it?

If you're sensitive to exterior sounds and distractions, a pair of quality noise-cancelling headphones will go a long way.

Which Bose noise-cancelling headphones are best?

Some might say that the Bose QuietComfort 35 II is as good as it gets, but the brand itself would tell you that Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 is the best.

Which is better Beats or Bose?

Determining whether Beats is better than Bose or vice versa might boil down to what you want out of your headphones. Beats headphones tend to deliver louder sound and heavier bass while Bose headphones tend to be smoother.

Is Noise Cancelling safe?

While noise cancellation poses no risk to your hearing, there are potential hazards involved when you drown out exterior sounds like cars and people. Generally speaking, however, noise cancellation is perfectly safe.

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