Music makes life better — that’s pretty much a fact. Many of us won’t even leave our homes without a trusty pair of headphones. Even if you don’t like to listen to music all too much, you still have videos, audiobooks, and podcasts. All of those things require headphones when you’re on the go. It’s one thing to grab your headphones on your daily commute to work or school.
If the trip is not going to be long, pretty much any type of headphones will do. But what if you’re going away for a while? Long car rides, train rides, or perhaps even a flight? While all of those are rather time-consuming, plane travel is something else entirely.
When you’re trying to listen to music on an airplane, you need to be prepared for one thing: noise. A whole lot of noise. Planes are hardly silent, and oftentimes you may struggle to hear your favorite tunes over the sound of the engine. On a short flight, you may be able to cope. But how do you deal with long flights?
The answer is simple: get yourself a pair of the best noise-cancelling headphones. These are special headphones of many different kinds. They may be huge over-the-ear types, slightly smaller on-ear headphones, or simply very well-fitting earbuds. No matter the type, they actively work to remove you from the majority of noise that surrounds you.
With the right pair of headphones with noise cancelling, you’re able to withdraw yourself from the world around you and either relax or focus on your task. On plane rides, noise cancellation is especially important and plays a big role in whether you’ll enjoy your trip.
We know all about headphones, and we’re here to put that knowledge to good use. Check out our comprehensive guide to save yourself both time & money as you learn all about the best headphones you can buy.
Is it worth buying noise cancelling headphones?
This is a good question and we’re going to elaborate. However, if you’d like to get right to the point and don’t need to be convinced, the short answer is: yes! Noise cancelling headphones are worth buying for lots of reasons. We cover them below.
Headphone noise cancelling is rather popular all over the world. In fact, most headphones and earphones may have some form of noise cancelling qualities. Some brands that tend to pay a lot of attention to noise cancellation are Sony, Bose, and Bowers & Wilkins. However, in the majority of headphone models, this feature is rather weak and does not play a big role in the performance of your product.
Being able to escape the noise has many advantages. Your headphones noise cancelling features work towards keeping you focused and immersed in the music. This is appreciated by people from all walks of life. As an example, those who work in loud areas with lots of other people often tend to go for maximum noise cancellation.
Even if you’re just sitting home enjoying your favorite game, cans that allow you to focus on the task at hand will make your scores just that even better. Lastly, travel definitely calls for a very specific pair of noise-cancelling headphones. You’ll be searching for something with superb battery life, great comfort, but also many noise cancelling qualities.
One thing to remember: there’s a huge difference between noise cancellation “on paper” and a design that actually works to minimize outside noises. Similarly, and this may surprise you: there’s also a lot of variation between noise cancellation and noise isolation. These terms mean two different things, and one is not better than the other.
Before we can answer your question about the best headphones with noise cancellation, let’s talk about the definition of cancellation vs isolation.
What is “noise cancellation”?
Noise cancelling headphones make use of built-in microphones to listen to the sound that surrounds you. If you’re in a noisy place, the sound received by the microphones is then fed back to the headphones as an inverse wave. This turns the active noise into silence, so instead of hearing traffic or an airplane engine, you may simply hear nothing except the sound of your music.
While this sounds pretty amazing when you read about it, it’s important to keep your expectations in check. No headphones will ever rid you of all active noise. There are some extremely isolating models that come close to that, but this is mostly due to their build and not just the noise-cancelling technology.
This type of technology does a good job with low droning sounds. Some notable examples are car engines, airplane engines, etc. However, when it comes to mid-range sounds, you’re still likely going to hear them. If you’re sitting next to someone who’s being loud, noise cancellation may help a bit, but it won’t remove the noise entirely the way it does with low droning sounds.
This technique is modern and mostly appears in noise-cancelling headphones that are more on the higher-end of the price ranges. The best of these models almost makes you feel like you’re in a completely quiet place. We talk about some of them below.
What is “noise isolation”?
Noise isolation is pretty much exactly what it says on the label. The earphones that are referred to as noise-isolating do not come with any sort of special technology that removes the sound waves. Instead, these headphones and earbuds will block ambient noise by creating a tight seal around your ear or within your ear canal.
The amount of isolation you may earn largely depends on the type of headphone you may go for.
- Over-ear headphones and on-ear types offer some isolation, but not the most of all models. The reason for that is that there is only so much these headphones can do for you in terms of sealing your ears away and keeping you from noise. They do create a barrier all-around your ear, but it can’t be too tight for two simple reasons. One, it gets really uncomfortable really fast; two, your ears need a little breathing room too.
- With in-ear options such as earbuds, noise reduction may be slightly better. However, all of this depends on how good a seal you can get. What this means is that you need to look for earphones that come with several sets of ear tips. These ear tips come in different sizes, which allows you to pick one that fits your ear the best. This creates a tighter seal and thus, better noise isolation.
Do I need noise isolation or noise cancellation?
To summarise, if you want to completely block out a certain type of sound such as engines and traffic, you need to get noise cancelling headphones. However, if you simply want a bit of isolation while maintaining a certain level of situational awareness, you should get ones with noise isolation.
Noise cancelling headphones are definitely worth buying. No other type of headphone will keep you as removed from outside factors. They’re a fantastic investment and a great help both to audiophiles and casual users.
What are the best noise cancelling headphones on the market?
Picking the right pair of headphones is no easy task when you want noise-cancellation. This is because, while many manufacturers claim otherwise, most headphones don’t really offer that much in the way of true noise cancellation.
Of course, depending on the build, your headphones will block out some sounds. However, if you want to get a good overview of the true quality of sound and noise reduction, you should consult an expert. This may help you find the best noise-cancelling headphones on the market.
We’re here to make shopping easier for you. Don’t spend your money on a product that you can’t be sure about. We’ve done all the research to remove some of the necessary legwork & help you familiarize yourself with the different headphones. Here are our favorite recommendations.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones QuietComfort 35 II
If you’ve already done some research yourself, we can bet that you’ve run into the name “Bose QuietComfort 35 ii” more than once. These over-ear headphones are at the very top of the list when it comes to models that truly have noise-canceling features.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II offers realistic noise cancellation that works the way we described above. When enabled, this feature gathers the active noise from the outside and cancels the sound waves responsible for it. This means that annoying sounds that frequently happen during airplane travel will not reach you.
While keeping you safe from the loud hustle and bustle all around you, these headphones make sure that you can control them easily. They’re one of few pairs that are connected to Amazon Alexa. This feature puts you in charge of more than just the basic options. To hear the news, check your calendar or even Google something, all you have to do is ask Alexa. Keep your phone safely in your pocket and let your noise-cancelling headphones do all the work for you.
This model comes with Bose’s complimentary Bose Connect app. Adjusting various settings has never been easier than it is here. You can adjust how much noise should be canceled out, share your music, manage the number of Bluetooth connections, and update your headphones to the latest firmware. All of this can be done through your phone or tablet.
Lastly, they have a great battery life of up to 20 hours. This is a massive improvement over some of the old Bose noise cancelling older models and should cover just about any flight, even with a layover in between!
- Three adjustable levels of the best noise cancellation
- 100% true wireless headphones
- Dual-microphone for rejecting noise
- Amazon Alexa enabled
- Latency-free Bluetooth connection
- Complimentary Bose Connect app
- Very comfortable to wear
- Renowned Bose noise cancelling capabilities
- Balanced sound ideal for music, a podcast or an audiobook
- High price point
- Not foldable
Sony WH-1000XM3 Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones
The second pick on our list, Sony WH-1000XM3, excels both in terms of noise-cancellation and in providing a number of other fantastic features. Let’s break it down into bite-sized points.
The built-in microphone in these over-ear headphones serves a dual purpose. For one, it allows you to take phone calls. We’d refer to the audio quality as “premium”. This means that the person you’re calling will be able to hear you crystal clear with no interruptions, call drops, or static.
For plane travel, taking calls plays second fiddle to the best noise reduction, or in this case, cancelling. Sony offers a virtually soundproof experience that allows you to fully tune out the outside world. The proprietary HD noise canceling processor QN1 keeps you safe from all the annoying active noise and also works to provide the best possible sound experience.
These will be comfortable to wear even on longer flights or trips, as the ear cushions were made with great care. They’re soft to the touch and ergonomically shaped so as to reduce the pressure that is applied to your ears when you wear them for a long time. The headphones themselves are relatively lightweight, so your ears won’t feel squished.
Sony WH-1000XM3 also supports Amazon Alexa, which means that you can make and take calls, switch your music, but also check the news or manage your appointments without as much as touching the headphones or your mobile device.
Sony WH-1000XM3 made sure to make these as easy to transport as possible. When you get them, you also receive a handy carrying case that the headphones fold into neatly. They also have a great battery life that supports longer adventures — you can listen for up to 30 hours on a single charge!
- Amazon Alexa compatible
- Touch-free and controlled by voice
- Proprietary processor improves noise cancelling
- Quick attention mode allows you to quiet down the right headphone with just a touch of hand
- Touch controls included if you don’t like to use the voice assistant
- Foldable and comfortable to wear for hours on end
- Carrying case included
- Smart listening function auto-adjusts noise reduction
- They’re not too cheap
- You can only pair these with one device at a time
Apple AirPods Pro
No one in 2020 will be able to write a guide on noise-cancelling headphones without mentioning the AirPods. For the last few years, they have been all the rage on the true wireless earphone market. Here’s why.
The AirPods Pro provides active noise cancellation that keeps you immersed in a world of your own. As they are earbuds, they do this in two ways. The first is the proprietary Apple technology that actively turns noise into blissful silence. The second stems from the fact that these earphones go directly into your ear and block out a fair amount of noise just based on that.
To make it easier to find a great fit, these AirPods Pro come with three sizes of tapered silicone ear tips. The ear tips are soft and offer you some breathing room, but it’s important to try them all out to get a good fit. This doesn’t just improve your listening experience — a secure fit helps make sure that you don’t accidentally lose one of the Pods.
Thanks to Apple’s transparency mode, you can take advantage of the noise-canceling features, but you don’t HAVE to. It’s possible to allow most of the noise through if you’re in a place that requires a fair amount of situational awareness.
Other than various travels, AirPods are very well suited to sports. If you like to go to the gym with music in your ears, you’re going to like the fact that these are 100% waterproof and sweat-resistant.
It should come as no surprise that AirPods have access to Apple’s Siri. All you have to do is say “Hey Siri” to gain access to the full-range of Apple’s voice assistant features.
- Siri compatible
- Comes with three sizes of earbuds
- True wireless – zero cords
- Automatically tunes the music to the unique shape of your ear
- Double noise cancellation
- Top-notch sound quality
- Transparency mode for when you don’t want to reduce noise
- Up to 24-hours of battery life with the included charging case
- Water and sweat-proof
- Only compatible with iOS
What are the best noise cancelling headphones 2020?
As new pairs of headphones are released every single week, it’s not easy to stay on top of the latest trends. The headphones described above all appear in most rankings as the best models both in 2020 and 2019. However, if you’re looking for some more recommendations, check out our best headphones in 2020.
TaoTronics Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
These comfortable over-ear wireless headphones make for a great, if slightly cheaper, alternative to the ones listed above. With thousands of sold products, TaoTronics are currently some of the most popular headphones on the market.
All it takes is one touch of a button to enable the excellent noise-cancelling features in this pair. They actively block out ambient noises that tend to interrupt your enjoyment of music. Trains, planes, or cars no longer pose a threat to your top-notch sound experience.
When we say “top-notch”, we really mean it. For a mid-range model, these offer quite immersive audio that’s entirely latency-free. Some wireless headphones are riddled with issues such as drops or lag, but the latest Bluetooth technology here prevents that.
The battery life is quite exceptional and measures at about 30 hours on a single full charge. It’s worth noting that you can use these for more than just listening — you can also take calls. The sound quality both on your and your partner’s end is pretty great.
- Possibility to take calls
- Touch controls
- Comfortable to wear even for hours
- Three ANC modes
- Immersive sound experience
- Fast charging — 5 minutes grant up to 2 hours
- Long battery life
- Lightweight build
- The sound quality cannot match Bose or Sony
- At full volume, the bass doesn’t sound as great
COWIN E7 PRO
If you’re looking to get a pair that falls somewhere in the lower end of the price range, these wireless headphones might be your favorite pick. They offer a great price-to-performance ratio.
Unlike many other models, COWIN actually makes these in a number of fun colors. You don’t have to settle with the elegant black. There’s also blue, green, pink, purple, red, and white to choose from.
This model comes with a built-in professional ANC (active noise cancelling) technology. These headphones will go a long way in reducing noise regardless of where you are. You can use that feature in both the wireless and wired mode.
The 45mm proprietary audio drivers provide a good listening experience. You’ll be able to discern each and every note. These headphones, while relatively cheap, have decent sound reproduction and are capable of hitting both the bass and the high notes.
They have a built-in microphone for taking calls, highly stable battery life of over 30 hours, and a comfortable, semi-lightweight build that sits well on your ears. For a pair of cans at that price point, you’d be hard-pressed to find something better.
- Comes in a variety of gorgeous colors
- Highly improved sound quality due to the 45mm audio drivers
- Active noise reduction at the touch of a button
- Accurate bass reproduction
- Soft ear cushions
- Built-in microphone for taking calls
- Relatively lightweight, but sturdy, build
- For some people, these are on-ear as opposed to over-the-ear
- Not foldable
What are the best noise cancelling headphones 2019?
There is a lot of wisdom in searching for headphone models that were at the top in 2019. Being a year old, these products have already dropped in price since their release. However, as their technology remains very modern, they still provide fantastic audio.
Headphone rankings change each and every day, so we’re going to follow our own recommendations as we tell you about the best headphones in 2019.
Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2
For immersive audio and supreme ANC qualities, we recommend that you look into getting a pair of Plantronics. These semi high-end headphones combine a number of much-desired features in one stylish package.
The set of powerful speaker drivers is capable of providing a rich, accurate listening experience. If you’d consider yourself a beginner audiophile, you’re likely going to be satisfied with the crisp highs and deep lows that these headphones are able to provide.
If you’re in a noisy area, you can simply turn on the noise reduction feature and let your headphones transform noise into relaxing silence. They do a good job with this feature, allowing you to tune out the rest of the world.
You can use them for up to 24-hours on a single charge which should cover most of your travel needs. When the time comes to recharge, the process is quick and you can still listen to them via a cabled connection.
They’re easy to transport, and not just due to their protective case. The ear cups swivel to make Plantronics semi-foldable and easy to carry around safely.
- Immersive, natural audio quality
- Strong audio drivers
- Great ANC
- Up to 24-hours of listening on one charge
- Wireless range of up to 100 meters/330 ft
- Bluetooth 4.0 is compatible with most devices
- Sturdy travel case included
- The noise cancellation cannot compare to Bose
- Bluetooth 4.0 is no longer the latest version
ENACFIRE F1 True Wireless Earbuds
If you don’t like the idea of having to wear a massive set of cans on top of your head for hours on end, true wireless buds might be a better option for you. For a pair with noise cancellation, we’d recommend ENACFIRE.
Thanks to a specialty Qualcomm chip, these buds provide the latest audio technology and thus, a great sound quality. They don’t overdo it by boosting the bass or the trebles too much. Instead, their aim is to offer a realistic audio experience that tries to reproduce the song as it was meant to be heard.
They’re true wireless earphones, which means that they don’t come with any sort of a neckband or cord. This makes them super-comfortable, although somewhat more prone to getting lost. Luckily, they come with a charging case that makes it easy for you to store them.
For a set of earbuds, their battery life is pretty great and offers up to 8 hours of listening on a single charge. They’re also IPX8 waterproof, so if you’re the sporty type, you can take them to the gym to break a sweat.
We like them for how comfortable they are and how well they do with both noise canceling and overall sound quality.
- True wireless
- Latency-free due to the latest Bluetooth technology
- 8 hours of battery life
- Accurate sound reproduction
- Easy touch control on the earbuds themselves
- Super-lightweight and comfortable
- Effective noise cancellation
- Waterproof, sweatproof
- Bluetooth 5.0, while great, is not compatible with older devices
- Charged by micro USB
Regardless of where you’re going, it’s natural to want to bring your music with you. However, in noisy environments such as urban areas or even on an airplane, some headphones simply may not keep up.
Luckily, these days more and more brands, such as Bose, Bowers & Wilkins or Sony, follow the trends and provide great performance in terms of noise reduction. Give it a try and get yourself a pair of headphones that can keep up with your lifestyle!