Best Noise-Canceling Headphones of 2021

BEST NOISE-CANCELING HEADPHONES COMPILATION

NAMES FEATURES WHERE TO BUY

Soprosny WH-1000XM4

Industry Leading Noise Canceling Overhead Headphones with Mic for Phone-Call and Alexa Voice Control, Black GET IT ON AMAZON

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Bose Noise Cancelling Wireless Bluetooth Headphones 700, with Alexa Voice Control, Black GET IT ON AMAZON

Apple AirPods Max

New Apple AirPods Max – Silver GET IT ON AMAZON

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Cancelling Earbuds – True Wireless Earphones, Triple Black, the World’s Most Effective Noise Cancelling Earbuds GET IT ON AMAZON

Apple AirPods Pro

Apple AirPods Pro GET IT ON AMAZON

Anker SoundCore Life Q30

Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones with Multiple Modes, Hi-Res Sound, 40H Playtime, Fast Charge, Soft Earcups, Bluetooth GET IT ON AMAZON

Earfun Free Pro

Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones, Wireless Over Ear Bluetooth Headphones, 40H Playtime, Hi-Res Audio, Deep Bass, Memory GET IT ON AMAZON

Mpow X3

Wireless Earbuds Active Noise Cancelling, Mpow X3 ANC Bluetooth Earphones w/4 Mics Noise Cancelling, Stereo Earbuds w/Deep Bass, 30Hrs ANC Earbuds w/USB-C… GET IT ON AMAZON

EarFun Air Pro Wireless

Earbuds, Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling, Bluetooth 5.0 Earbuds with 6 Mics ENC, Stereo Deep Bass, 32H Play Time with USB-C Charge GET IT ON AMAZON

 

INTRODUCTION

If the last year has taught us anything, it’s the value of a great pair of noise-canceling headphones. They block out your neighbor’s lawn mower when you’re working from home and help your kids attend online classes with limited distractions. If you’re here, you’re either looking to replace an old pair of headphones and dive into the the noise canceling pool for the first time. There are a lot of options out there — I’m here to help you narrow down your choices.

Below, I’ve rounded up all the best noise-canceling headphones available, all of which I’ve fully reviewed or used hands-on over a period of time. Check out our other pnblication like sound card for pc, rowing machine, running headphone, streaming device, kid toy electric ride, digital camera,

BEST NOISE-CANCELING HEADPHONES BUYERS GUIDE

  1. Waterproofing. Although a ‘normal’ pair of headphones can work well for exercise, if they fit well enough, they’re just not built to stand up to heavy rain when running or, more importantly, sweat when doing any exercise. And sooner or later, sweat or heavy rain will find them. And it will kill them. All the headphones here are sweatproof and rain resistant, but not suitable for immersion (ie: swimming, or running in Manchester).
  2. A secure but comfortable fit.  You can get all sorts of fitness-oriented designs that wrap tightly around your head, over and around your ears, and then deep into your cranium. However in my experience, the best types of running headphones are actually either true wireless or lightweight Bluetooth in-ears with tips that go into the ear as usual, but with additional, curved, tapered ‘hooks’ that sit under the antihelix of your ear. For those of you who aren’t ear doctors, that is the crater of cartilage that sits above your earhole. Of that type, pioneered (I think) by Monster and Bose, the Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 are the best but again, Powerbeats Pro is the gold standard here, with a different approach that involves using spectacles-style, over-ear hooks.
  3. Decent sound quality. Most people want to be able to hear/feel their tunes as they workout and be motivated by them, whilst blocking out the gym/the world. They don’t necessarily want to be picking out hitherto undetected nuances in the string quartets of Brahms or the early works of Fleetwood Mac. So while three or four of the running headphones here sound really good, most just sound ‘good enough’, usually with a sound that favours bottom-end and mid-range tones.
  4. Situational awareness. This is all-important for some people, who feel that effectively deafening themselves leaves them in danger of traffic or muggers when road running. If you are one of these people, have a look at the bone-conducting  Aftershokz Aeropex headphones below. It is lighter and louder than its predecessor, although not ideal when the sound levels are above normal.

 

Soprosny WH-1000XM4

Sony’s earlier WH-1000XM3 model was great. But if it had a weakness, that was voice calling, particularly in noisier environments. The WH-1000XM4 model has improved in that area and also adds multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect to two devices — such as your phone and PC — at the same time. That means that if a call comes in while you’re using the headphones with your computer, the audio will switch to your phone when you answer the call.

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 probably still have a slight edge for voice calls, but the 1000XM4 headphones are arguably a tad more comfortable and also have some other slight improvements to noise cancellation and sound that make this model a great all-around choice.

PROS CONS
multipoint Bluetooth pairing Voice calling is weak
comfortable

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, the long-awaited successor to Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II model, may not be a quantum leap forward, but these headphones offer slightly better sound and noise cancellation along with top-notch headset performance for voice calls. They’re a strong all-around audio performer with up to 20 hours of battery life and a more durable design than their predecessor (some find the QuietComfort 35 II headphones slightly more comfortable).

At launch, but they’ve recently come down in price. We’ve seen the white version dip as low while the black and silver versions. That said, the new Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones, their closest competitor, has also seen nice discounts.

PROS CONS
top-notch headset Not found
Good performance for voice calls

Apple AirPods Max

Yes, they’re expensive, but the AirPods Max deliver richer, more detailed sound than lower-priced competitors from Bose and Sony. They also feature arguably the best noise canceling on the market along with premium build quality and Apple’s virtual surround spatial audio feature for video watching. While they’re heavy, they manage to be surprisingly comfortable, though I did have to adjust the mesh canopy headband to sit a little more forward on my head to get a comfortable secure fit when I was out walking with them. They should fit most heads well, but there will be exceptions.

PROS CONS
comfortable secure fit expensive
Good performance for voice calls

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

It took Bose quite a while to get them into stores, but the new  noise-canceling QuietComfort Earbuds are finally here. In many ways, they’re excellent true wireless earbuds, particularly when it comes to their sound and to their noise canceling, which is arguably the best out there right now in a set of earbuds. In performance they clearly have a leg up on Apple’s best-selling AirPods Pro true wireless noise-canceling buds. However, the AirPods Pro’s smaller design, somewhat more comfortable fit and superior voice-calling capabilities make it hard to declare the Bose the straight-up champ. Ultimately, it depends on what your priorities are.

PROS CONS
QuietComfort Earbuds Not found
true wireless noise-canceling buds

Apple AirPods Pro

Even if they don’t sound quite as magical as you’d hope a model would, the Apple AirPods Pro still manage to be a great pair of true-wireless earphones with noise cancellation. That’s largely due to their winning design and fit, improved bass performance and effective noise canceling — and now they’ve been updated with spatial audio, a new virtual-sound mode for watching movies and TV shows (only works with iPhones and iPads running iOS 14).

PROS CONS
QuietComfort Earbuds Not found
true wireless noise-canceling buds

Anker SoundCore Life Q30

As far as sound, comfort level and build quality, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than Anker’s SoundCore Life Q30 for the money. It doesn’t quite have the clarity or bass definition as some of the top premium models, but it’s less than a third of the price and gets you about 75% of the way there in terms of sound (it’s well balanced overall with punchy bass and there’s an app that allows you to tweak the sound). Noise canceling is good for the price, though not up to the level of the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. Battery life is rated at an impressive 40 hours with USB-C charging.

The only area where the Q30 falls a little short is for voice calls. It picks up your voice fine in quieter environments but it just doesn’t reduce background noise all that well.

Compared to the Q20 (see below), the Q30 does offer improved sound (it’s not a huge difference, but it definitely is a notch up) and a more premium design.

PROS CONS
offer improved sound Not found
true wireless noise-canceling buds

Anker SoundCore Life Q20

Anker’s SoundCore Life Q20 headphones are arguably the best value in the category of noise-canceling headphones. Not only do these over-ear headphones sound quite decent for their regular list price but they’re also comfortable to wear thanks to the secure earcups.

No, they don’t sound as good as premium Bluetooth headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones, but the audio quality is pretty good, which is all you can ask of noise-canceling headphones at this price. The sound quality is fairly well balanced with a reasonable amount of clarity and plump bass that’s not bloated or muddy (there’s a bass boost or BassUp mode if you want an extra helping of bass with your music). Also, the noise cancellation is acceptably effective and they’re solid as a headset for making calls. Battery life is good at 40 hours. A simple carrying pouch is included.

PROS CONS
offer improved sound Not found
Battery life is good at 40 hours

Earfun Free Pro

 

 

From a design standpoint, the Earfun Free Pro seems identical to the Fiil T1XS. The Earfun Free Pro has better features, however, including active noise cancellation with a transparency mode, wireless charging and Bluetooth 5.2 (apparently, in some parts of the world there’s a Fiil T1X Pro that adds noise canceling). They’re rated for 7 hours of battery life without the noise-canceling function on, or about 6 hours with it on. They’re IPX5 water-resistant, which means they can withstand a sustained spray of water.

These sound pretty impressive for their moderate price, with decent clarity and bass, and I recommend them and the Mpow X3 (see below) to folks looking for budget true wireless noise-canceling earbuds. These also work pretty well for making calls and they currently cost less than the Mpow X3. Don’t expect stellar noise canceling, but it is somewhat effective.

PROS CONS
sound pretty impressive Not found
wireless charging and Bluetooth 5.2

Mpow X3

The Mpow X3 wireless earbuds sound shockingly good for their modest price, with good clarity and powerful bass, and they even have active noise cancellation that’s fairly effective. Mpow seems to be regularly tweaking its earphones, which were recently updated with better battery life, an improved transparency mode and slightly better touch controls.

They did fit me comfortably and securely and I got a tight seal from one of the sets of XL ear tips. They’re fully waterproof (IPX8) and get up to seven hours of battery life at moderate volume levels with USB-C charging. (The charging case looks like a fat version of the standard AirPods case.) Call quality is good — they have a sidetone feature that lets you hear your voice in the earbuds — but I’ve used other earbuds with better noise reduction during calls.

PROS CONS
sound pretty impressive Not found
with good clarity and powerful bass

CONCLUSION

If you are still here it means you’re ready to get a noise cancelling headphones. There are also several other supremely good true wireless alternatives. Most notably Elite Active 75t. Those who don’t like a tight fit might like the excellent-sounding RHA TrueConnect, while those on a budget should look no further than Anker Soundcore’s Liberty Neo – they’re cheap to start off with, and can often be found further discounted.