Bottom profile of Sony WH-1000XM3Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central

Best Noise-Canceling Headphones Android Central 2020

With the elimination of the headphone jack from many newer phones, wireless headphones are surging in popularity, and noise-canceling is one of the most highly requested features. Though once a premium feature found only in extremely expensive headphones, these days noise-canceling is available in Bluetooth headphones of all price ranges and form factors. The Sony WH-1000XM3 ANC headphones have class-leading noise-canceling properties and great battery life.

Best Overall: Sony WH-1000XM3

Sony WH1000XM3 in useSource: Daniel Bader / Android Central

Without a doubt, the WH-1000XM3 is the best active noise canceling (ANC) headphone on the market, period. If you need ANC, the WH-1000XM3 will undoubtedly come up in your conversation or Google search. In fact, the ANC is so good that the second-best ANC headphone on the market is a distant second. On a flight? Commuting on a bus or train? Walking down the block? The WH-10000XM3 has your back.

In addition to the stellar ANC, the WH-1000XM3 are really just great headphones. The battery lasts up to 30 hours on a single charge with fast charging capabilities when your headphone is dead. Unfortunately, when charging you won't be able to listen to the WH-1000XM3, whether wired or wireless.

The sound signature out of the box is very bass-heavy. The sound is so bassy that it often drowns out the rest of the frequencies and can sometimes cause headaches if you're not used to that level of bass. Fortunately, you can customize the sound with Sony's smartphone companion app. The app lets you tweak the mids and highs pretty well, but has a generic "clear bass" slider for the bass.

Comfort-wise, the WH-1000XM3 is above-average. For most people, they'll be excellent, even after several hours of listening making them perfect for travel and long flights. But, if you have a big head beware that they can get uncomfortable after a few hours of usage.

Pros:

  • Long battery life
  • Customizable sound
  • Fast charging
  • Class-leading ANC

Cons:

  • No simultaneous charging & listening
  • Expensive

Best Overall

Sony WH-1000XM3

Best in class

The WH-1000XM3 are overall great headphones with great sound, battery life, and comfort. They're just a bit expensive.

Best Runner Up: Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

Demonstration of touch gestures on Bose NCH 700sSource: Bose

It's taken them a few years but Bose has finally updated its flagship ANC headphone line. The Bose NCH 700 are equal to or better in almost every way compared to their predecessor, the super popular QC35 II. First, let's talk about sound quality. The NCH 700 takes a small leap in this regard. The NCH 700 reduce the treble ever so slightly so it's no longer piercing and sharp while maintaining a relatively flat and balanced sound signature.

Battery life is above-average with up to 20 hours of usage on a single charge. Fortunately, when your battery is dead you can simply plug in the USB-C charging cable and continue to listen to your NCH 700, whether that's over Bluetooth or wired.

In terms of comfort, the NCH 700 perform well. Some may argue the NCH 700 have the best comfort when it comes to an ANC headphone and I'd have to agree. The clamping force isn't too strong, and the ear cups and headband are super soft. While comfort is excellent, the portability got notably worse with the NCH 700 when compared to the QC35 II. The NCH 700 no longer fold which is a big deal for a travel headphone. This means when not in use and stowed away, the headphone and included charging case will take up more space in your carry on.

But when you take them out and actually use them, the ANC from the NCH 700 are fantastic. They're not as good as the Sony WH-1000XM3 but easily take second place for the best ANC performance currently on the market. It blocks out most bass-heavy engine noise, and some mid-range sounds such as people talking. It struggles ever so slightly on higher-pitched wines that come from smaller plane engines or electric cars. However, you do get up to 11 steps of ANC, giving you one of the most versatile ANC headphones on the market.

Pros:

  • Great battery life
  • Superb sound quality
  • Excellent comfort
  • Superb ANC performance

Cons:

  • Non-foldable design

Best Runner Up

Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

Comfortable as heck

If you're looking for awesome comfort and sound, and good battery life, the Bose NCH 700 is right up your alley.

Best Sound Quality: Bowers & Wilkins PX

Bowers & Wilkins PXSource: Android Central

If sound quality is your top priority, look no further than the Bowers & Wilkins PX. The soundstage here is one of the best we've ever heard on a closed-back headphone, let alone an ANC set. The sound quality is decent with an emphasis on bass and treble, something that's common on a lot of consumer headphones. The bass is boosted which will give you some thump and rumble, while the treble is also boosted but not enough to make it piercing or sharp.

Unfortunately, all this great sound quality comes at a sacrifice. The ANC is mediocre at best on the PX and you basically should avoid enabling it at all costs because enabling it hurts the sound quality. However, passive isolation does well in its place. Comfort is only decent here, too: the clamping force is super strong so you'll sometimes feel like its squeezing your head. Fortunately, the PX are super stylish and if you're looking for some style points, they're some of the best-looking headphones around.

Battery life is great here with up to 20 hours of usage. The headphones support USB-C for charging, charging and listening at the same time, and can even use the USB-C port for USB audio. This means you can plug your PX into your headphone jack-less phone through its USB-C port and enjoy high-quality, lag-free audio, while simultaneously charging your headphones at the same time.

Pros:

  • Superb sound quality
  • USB-C for charging and listening
  • Great battery life
  • Premium build / stylish design

Cons:

  • Can get uncomfortable after a little usage
  • ANC performance could be better

Best Sound Quality

Bowers & Wilkins PX

Stellar sound

The Bowers & Wilkins PX feature excellent sound quality with an exceptional soundstage but sacrifice comfort and ANC.

Best Battery Life: Jabra Elite 85h

Jabra Elite 85hSource: Daniel Bader / Android Central

Wireless headphones can be annoying, especially when it comes to charging. They become yet another device in your life that needs to be charged. However, the Elite 85h ease that tension by having ridiculously long battery life. The Elite 85h gets you up to 35 hours of battery life on a single charge. Yep, you read that right — 35 hours. On top of that, the Elite 85h are comfortable, which is a perfect combination with that huge battery. And yes, you can charge and listen to them at the same time.

The sound quality is good, too. The default sound signature is a bit dull and boring but fortunately, you'll be able to customize that through Jabra's companion smartphone app. In there, you'll also find options to customize how much ANC, which overall is solid. It's not bad, but not terrible either. You'll hear a sizable hum while on flights and some engine noise while taking the bus or train.

The Elite 85h does have some nifty tricks up its sleeve though. To turn on/off the headphone, simply swivel the right ear cup. Your audio automagically plays and pauses when you either remove or put the Elite 85h on your head.

Pros:

  • Ridiculously long battery life
  • Customizable sound
  • Excellent comfort
  • Smart features

Cons:

  • ANC is average at best

Best Battery Life

Jabra Elite 85h

Great battery life

With the Jabra Elite 85h, you get incredible battery life and comfort with a customizable sound.

Best Budget Over-Ear Headphones: COWIN E7

COWIN E7Source: COWIN

Most will argue that good ANC on headphones is expensive. However, the COWN E7 prove them wrong. You get great battery life and solid ANC at a crazy low price.

Starting with battery life, the E7 get a whopping 30 hours on a single charge, which is better than some of the more expensive ANC headphones. This will easily last you at least a week with standard usage and will easily be enough for most flights. The ANC isn't too bad, either. Surprisingly, it compares to the highly-rated Bose NCH 700. It blocks out consistent noises like engine noise while struggling with more inconsistent sounds like conversations.

Sound quality is average. They have a boosted bass, which is often overpowering and gives a bit too much thump and rumble. The same can be said about the mid-range where the overall presence is a bit boosted. The treble is super recessed and mostly not present. This means that instruments such as hi-hats from drums, bells, cymbals, and some female vocals will sound a bit muted.

Comfort is relatively good, even if the headphones are on the heavier side overall. Aside from weight, the E7 will comfortably sit on your head and we didn't notice any fatiguing or comfort issues when using the E7 for several hours at a time.

Pros:

  • Long battery life
  • Good ANC performance
  • Great comfort

Cons:

  • Sound quality could be better
  • Heavier than most over-ears

Best Budget Over-Ear Headphones

COWIN E7

Excellent battery life at a low price

If battery life and cost savings are your main concern, the E7 from COWIN are your best bet.

Best Earbuds: Sony WF-1000XM3

Sony WF-1000XM3Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central

When it comes to earbuds, there aren't many noise-canceling ones out there, let alone ones that include ANC and are true wireless. Yet, here we are with the Sony WF-1000XM3. If you're looking for great ANC and ultra-portability, look no further.

The WF-1000XM3 brings the same great ANC tech it uses in its over-ear equivalent, the WH-1000XM3. The WF-1000XM3 are easily the best wireless (and true wireless) ANC earbud on the market. The ANC will surprise you, being able to block out a ton of noise including engine noise and some more inconsistent sounds like walking.

Sound quality is a departure from the classic Sony sound. It's flat and balanced for the most part with only minor bumps that most people won't be able to hear. And just like its older brother, you'll be able to customize the sound of these earbuds through the companion smartphone app. You'll get the same basic "clear bass" slider and some more granular EQ options for the mids and highs.

Comfort-wise, the WF-1000XM3 are good. They're comfortable and won't have an issue staying in your ear, but the design itself is rather large and bulky. Some other truly wireless earbuds can blend in, but people will know you're wearing earbuds with the WF-1000XM3.

Battery life is excellent. You'll get up to 26 hours with the included charging case and up to six hours with the earbuds alone. The charging case charges over USB-C, and, as most truly wireless earbuds do, the WF-1000XM3 has a fast-charging mechanism that gives you several hours of listening within a 15-minute charge. Unfortunately, the case doesn't support wireless charging.

Pros:

  • Long battery life
  • USB-C for charging
  • Class-leading ANC
  • Solid sound reproduction

Cons:

  • Buds are a bit large
  • Lacks wireless charging case

Best Earbuds

Sony WF-1000XM3

True wireless ANC

The WF-1000XM3 are the best ANC earbuds on the market, period.

Best for Apple Users: AirPods Pro

AirPods ProSource: Daniel Bader / Android Central

First and foremost, let's discuss ANC performance. Both the Sony WF-1000XM3 and AirPods Pro feature really good ANC performance, especially considering the form factor. The Sony WF-1000XM3 has slightly better ANC performance, although the AirPods Pro's ANC is more consistent. The AirPods Pro are able to block out most low and midrange noise and struggle in higher-pitched tones, but that's typical of ANC headphones and earbuds.

In terms of sound quality, AirPods Pro are pretty good. The sound is a vast improvement over older generations of AirPods with a more balanced sound signature. However, unlike the WF-1000XM3, Apple doesn't offer any sort of EQ options which means what you hear is what you get.

Comfort-wise, the AirPods Pro are some of the best when it comes to in-ear earbuds. This is mostly thanks to the proprietary ear tips found on the earbuds. Rather than using standard ear tips, which require the tips to attach onto a plastic bit that then shoves in your ear, the AirPods Pro use a proprietary locking mechanism to attach directly to the buds' driver. This allows the ear tips to completely mold to your ear. The earbuds come with three ear tip sizes in the box, which should help with getting the right fit.

Battery life is where the AirPods Pro could see an improvement. They currently feature 4.5 hours of battery life on the buds' end (with ANC on). The included charging case nets you an additional 19.5 hours, totaling up to 24 hours. The case supports Qi wireless charging for a truly convenient package but, unfortunately, uses Lightning for wired charging.

The biggest downside to the AirPods Pro is when it comes to pairing them to non-Apple devices. You lose automatic play and pause, the ability to use one earbud at a time, and any sort of customization, which is a bummer. However, you can still use the force sensor to play, pause, skip tracks, and toggle ANC and transparency mode.

Pros:

  • Superb comfort
  • Great sound
  • Excellent ANC performance
  • Wireless charging case

Cons:

  • Lightning for charging
  • Lack of convenience features on non-Apple devices
  • Bud battery life could be better
  • Proprietary ear tips

Best for Apple Users

AirPods Pro

Convenient ANC

AirPods Pro feature superb ANC, sound quality, and comfort, though battery life could be better.

Best Neckbuds: Bose QC30

Bose QC30Source: Bose

Unsurprisingly, the best neckbuds around come from Bose. The noise-canceling capabilities mimic those of the older generation QC35 II. This means that the QC30 perform really well, only getting beat by the more recent high-end headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM3 and Bose's own NCH 700. This means that the ANC is good but newer headphones will out-class it easily.

Similar to the WF-1000XM3, there aren't many neckbuds that also support ANC so the QC30 was an easy pick. Being a neckbud, the earbuds will wrap around your neck with a cable connected to each earbud. The QC30 comes with multiple ear tips in the box so you should be able to find and ear tip that works for you. When they're in your ear, they work like a charm with no issues with comfort or ear fatigue, even over long periods. Obviously, when you're not using the QC30, you can simply let them dangle around your neck.

The sound quality is pretty good as expected with most Bose headphones. There's a small boost in the bass to give it a slightly warmer sound signature but otherwise, it's rather balanced. Fortunately, you won't hear any reduction in sound quality when it comes to having the ANC on. When it comes to battery life, the QC30 perform well for its class. They last up to 10 hours on a single charge which means you'll be able to get through a full workday and then some without worrying about having to recharge the bud.

Our biggest gripe with the QC30 comes with the Bose companion app. It's not the greatest. You can control the amount of ANC you want with the app, but that only applies to how much isolation you want when the built-in microphone is active. And that's pretty much all you can control.

Pros:

  • Great battery life
  • Superb sound quality
  • Excellent ANC performance

Cons:

  • Smartphone app could be better

Best Neckbuds

Bose QC30

Neckbuds with ANC

There aren't many neckbuds with ANC out there so the QC30 from Bose are an easy choice if you have the budget.

Best Budget Neckbuds: Phiaton BT 100 NC

Phiaton BT 100 NCSource: Phiaton

Despite saying that the QC30 are one of the few neckbuds out there with ANC, the BT 100 NC from Phiaton are a solid choice if you're on a budget.

The ANC is pretty good for the price. They won't blow you away but they're great if you're planning to use them on your commute. You'll still hear some environmental noise but most of it will get blocked out. With ANC enabled, you should expect around 7-7.5 hours of audio playback on a single charge. When not in use, you'll get around 15 hours of standby time with ANC enabled. Not the best in terms of battery life, but again, great for the price.

Sound quality is good, too. They feature boosted bass and besotted treble, giving them a consumer-friendly sound. The bass isn't too overpowering and the treble isn't elevated too much to the point where they start to sound too piercing. The BT 100 NC also feature vibrations for notifications, which is neat if you don't own a smartwatch or don't always have your phone on you. It lightly buzzes to let you know when a phone call is coming through.

In terms of comfort, they're pretty much as expected when it comes to a neckbud. They do, however, get uncomfortable after several hours of usage with the included ear tips. Fortunately, you can use third-party ear tips as the BT 100 NC use standard ear tip sizes.

Pros:

  • V-shaped sound signature
  • Good battery Life
  • Great ANC performance
  • Vibrates on notifications

Cons:

  • Comfort could be better

Best Budget Neckbud

Phiaton BT 100 NC

Budget neckbud tunes

For the price, you can't complain about these neckbuds. The Phiaton BT 100 NC perform great in almost every category.

Bottom line

If you can afford them, Sony's WH1000XM3 are the best noise-canceling headphones on the market, with handy gesture controls, great sound, deafening noise-canceling, and long battery life. You might also love the slightly more comfortable Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, though they are a bit more expensive.

If either of those headphones too rich for your blood, though, you can't go wrong with any of the alternatives such as the Phiaton BT 100 NCs which are ultra-portable and convenient.

You may not need active noise cancelation in your headphones, but if you do, you can't go wrong with any of the above picks.

How to choose the best noise-canceling headphones

WH-1000XM3 laying on a table with ear cups facing outwardSource: Daniel Bader / Android Central

Contrary to popular belief, active noise cancelation isn't just for commuting and flying. They're also great in office environments and even as daily purpose headphones if you simply need to block out the environment around you.

Choosing the right set of noise canceling headphones can be hard as it's more than just ANC you're looking at. For example, comfort, whether or not the ANC negatively effects the sound quality, and battery life are huge factors when choosing the right noise-canceling headphone.

Sound Quality

When it comes to audio equipment, sound quality should be in your list of top three most important things. If you don't like the way it sounds, it won't matter if it's super comfortable or if the battery lasts forever.

In terms of sound quality, the Sony WF-1000XM3 takes the cake, easily. They're truly wireless, and the ANC performance is exceptional. They're a bit big, but the sound quality is fantastic with a sound signature that sticks to being relatively balanced all around. Not only that, but the companion smartphone app lets you customize the sound even further if you'd like more bass, mids, or treble.

The Bose NCH 700 is our runner up. In a similar fashion, it offers a relatively balanced sound signature. However, the NCH 700 have no way of customizing the sound. So if you don't like the way it sounds, you're out of luck here.

Best active noise-canceling headphones, ranked by sound quality

  1. Sony WF-1000XM3
  2. Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700
  3. Bowers & Wilkins PX
  4. AirPods Pro
  5. Sony WH-1000XM3

Comfort

Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700Source: Bose

Comfort is also equally as important because if your headphones sound great but hurt your ears or your head after 20 minutes, what's the point in having them?

Unsurprisingly, the Bose NCH 700 takes the top spot. Bose is notoriously known for having really great comfort in its noise-canceling headphones and the latest addition is no exception. With the Bose NCH 700 you can easily wear them for 10 hours or more without any discomfort.

Despite being earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM3 and AirPods Pro are equally as great. Both earbuds come with multiple tip sizes, which will help tremendously with finding a level of comfort. Combine that with the compact size of a truly wireless earbud and both Apple and Sony have hit a home run here.

Sony had a lot to do when making the WH1000XM3 and that includes comfort. Its previous ANC headphone, the WH1000XM2, weren't all that great when it came to comfort. Fortunately, Sony put in the R&D and the WH1000XM3 is surprisingly comfortable. The ear cups and headband are super soft and there's not much exposed plastic that touches your head. You can easily wear the WH1000XM3 for 10 hours or more at any given time.

Best noise canceling headphones, ranked by comfort

  1. Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700
  2. AirPods Pro
  3. Sony WF-1000XM3
  4. Sony WH1000XM3
  5. COWIN E7

Noise isolation

It sounds kind of silly to rank noise isolation on a post about noise-isolating headphones so we'll keep this short and sweet.

The top three on this list are all really solid. The WH-1000XM3 remains king with its class-leading ANC and if you want the best ANC, you go WH-1000XM3, period. Runner up is the Bose NCH 700. While not as good as the WH-1000XM3, they're pretty close. Whichever you decide to go with is totally up to you and depends on which sound signature you like better.

Our next two picks on our list are the Sony WF-1000XM3 and AirPods Pro. Both feature fantastic ANC performance for their relatively small and portable form factor. Neither beat over-ear headphones in any stretch of the imagination but are great if you want covenient ANC.

Best noise-canceling headphones, ranked by noise isolation

  1. Sony WH-1000XM3
  2. Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700
  3. Sony WF-1000XM3
  4. AirPods Pro
  5. Bowers & Wilkins PX

Smart Features

Jabra Elite 85hSource: Daniel Bader / Android Central

There's not much you can do when it comes to over-ear headphones and smart features. The most over-ear headphones typically do is bundle in a digital assistant of sorts whether it be Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, or both.

However, the three that stick out are the Bowers & Wilkins PX, Jabra Elite 85h, and Sony WF-1000XM3. These headphones feature an auto-play/pause feature, which is rare among noise canceling headphones, let alone over-ear ones. The Sony WF-1000XM3 are basically required to have this feature as they are a set of truly wireless earbuds.

The Bose QC30 are awesome as well. They're neckbuds, but the ANC adapts to the environment around you. Combine that with the versatility thanks to being a neckbud and the QC30 actually become one of the most portable ANC earbuds on the market.

Best noise canceling headphones, ranked by smart features

  1. Bowers & Wilkins PX
  2. Jabra Elite 85h
  3. Sony WF-1000XM3
  4. Bose QC30
  5. COWIN E7

Battery Life

Battery life is something that gets wired headphone lovers heated. That's because with a set of wired headphones you don't have to worry about "another thing to charge." However, if you have long battery life you basically forget that you even have to charge the thing in the first place.

The top three on our list all get the same roughly 30 hours of battery life on the single charge. If you're looking at battery life specifically, the Jabra Elite 85h, Sony WH-1000XM3 and COWIN E7 all perform excellent in this regard. You'll probably want to look at other potential features between these three headphones.

The Bowers & Wilkins PX barely takes number four with up to 22 hours of battery life on a single charge while the Bose NCH 700 is our fifth pick for having a "short" 20 hours of battery life.

Best noise-canceling headphones, ranked by battery life

  1. Jabra Elite 85h
  2. Sony WH-1000XM3
  3. COWIN E7
  4. Bowers & Wilkins PX
  5. Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

Microphone Quality

If we're being honest here, microphone quality when it comes to noise canceling headphones kind of suck. Most companies focus on having great microphone quality for the ANC itself or an ambient sound mode, but when it comes to the actual microphone you use to make calls, ANC headphones are decent at best.

Surprisingly, the AirPods Pro take our top spot for microphone quality. The microphone on the earbuds block out a superb amount of environmental noise and are able to isolate your voice really well, even in louder environments. The AirPods Pro are the exception to the rule in this case.

That being said, the Bose NCH 700 and the Bose QC30 are our next two picks. They're okay when it comes to blocking out environmental noise and isolating your voice, but the person on the other end might have some issues hearing you in louder environments.

The Jabra Elite 85h make this list because they're not half bad when it comes to isolating your voice and reducing the environmental noise. They perform similarly to all of the Bose headphones but maybe one notch worse.

All other noise canceling headphones on this list struggle quite a bit when it comes to microphone quality, unfortunately. You're probably better off taking off your headphones and using your phone's built-in microphone and speakers to take calls with everything else on this list.

Best true wireless earbuds, ranked by microphone quality

Single WF-1000XM3 and AirPod Pro (right bud)Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central

  1. AirPods Pro
  2. Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700
  3. Bose QC30
  4. Jabra Elite 85h
  5. Bowers & Wilkins PX

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Peter Cao likes to spend most of his days enjoying music and playing video games. While at work, he focuses on analyzing, testing, and reviewing all types of headphones and audio gear.

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