6 Best Noise-Canceling Headphones of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

Tune out distracting chatter, loud appliances and that roaring airplane hum with these well-made and comfortable earbuds and headphones.

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Updated on January 23, 2024
15 Headphones and Earbuds in Cases on Table Top

Noise-Canceling Headphones and Earbuds

Noise-canceling headphones and earbuds help tune out distracting chatter, loud appliances and that roaring airplane hum. See which noise-cancelling headphones and earbuds blocked the most sound during testing and find out which noise-cancelling headphones are the most-comfortable on HGTV.com.

Photo by: Deanne Revel

Deanne Revel

Our Top Noise-Canceling Headphone Picks

Tested by Deanne Revel

While earplugs are great for better sleep at night, there's a lot of noise in our daily lives we can't control, from sharing an office space or hosting virtual meetings at home to blocking out the overwhelmingly loud hum on a plane. Noise-canceling headphones and earbuds can be clutch to cut through the chatter of people, machinery and loud environmental sounds. And for sensory-avoiding people, it can help reduce triggers at home and on the go. We've tested top brands in every budget and style to narrow down the best quality noise-canceling headphones and earbuds. Take a look at our picks below, from a tried-and-true classic to a budget dupe that seriously surprised us.

Four headphones and two earbuds on table top.

Best Noise-Canceling Headphones

Noise-canceling headphones and earbuds help tune out distracting chatter, loud appliances and that roaring airplane hum. See which noise-cancelling headphones and earbuds blocked the most sound during testing and find out which noise-cancelling headphones are the most-comfortable on HGTV.com.

Photo by: Deanne Revel

Deanne Revel

How We Tested

To find the best noise-canceling headphones, we identified 15 products with the highest customer ratings across multiple retail sites. We tested each of the 15 products, both earbuds and headphones, with a three-part evaluation rubric that covered comfort and fit, sound quality, noise-cancellation range, ease of use and overall value for price. Each product received a grade out of 100 and the highest overall scores determined the winner for each category.

To test the best performance for noise-cancellation as well as ambient noise settings, each product was used while playing multiple genres of music, running various home appliances with varying sound levels, and observing someone whisper, talk and yell while another tester wore each product. Headphones and earbuds with phone call functionality were also tested for speaker clarity and sound quality.

Finally, each product was tested on battery life, charge time and any claims made for quick charging by the manufacturer. See which headphones were our favorites down below.

$329.99 $229.99
What We Like
  1. MVP for sound quality, noise cancellation and comfort
What We Don't Like
  1. Battery life isn't nearly as long as others tested

Bose has been the frontrunner for noise-canceling headphones for years and the QuietComfort series continues to outperform the rest. For great sound quality, noise-canceling abilities and a price tag under $350, this is the best buy. The headphones feel like butter when wearing (even with glasses on). And they fit like a glove, too, no matter your head size. These are the Cadillac of comfort and the best combo of active noise-canceling tech and passive noise-canceling design, with headband padding, ear cushioning and a secure fit over the ear. We tested the more expensive, more modern-looking Bose headphones, but the sound quality and noise-canceling abilities weren't enough to convince us they were any better than the classic. Plus, we appreciated that the buttons on the QuietComfort are raised. Unlike sleek touch panels that often have to be tapped over and over, the classic buttons and toggles make each setting easy to locate and use.

Even without playing music, the ANC setting nearly eliminated appliance sounds and voices. And with music, we had a tester scream and it just looked like they were mouthing words dramatically. The ambient "aware" setting for Bose was also the most accurate we tested at reducing overall background noise while still allowing music to play or human voices to pass through clearly. The only reason these headphones didn't earn a near-perfect score when testing is because of the limited battery life. Newer brands coming to market have more than half the amount of playtime on one charge. But 20-22 hours is still more than enough for a day at the office or a long-haul flight. And for the superior noise-canceling abilities, it's worth the time to recharge more often.

  1. Battery Life Up to 24 hours
  2. Battery Charge Time 2.5 hours
  3. Headphone Style Over-ear
  4. Features Built-in microphone, foldable design, adjustable headband, automatic shut-off, carry case included
What We Like
  1. Incredible sound quality
What We Don't Like
  1. Heavy to wear

We absolutely loved the Apple AirPods Max Headphones for a secure over-the-ear fit, incredible sound quality and ease of use for Apple users. In some ways, Apple could have beat out Bose. But two major factors lost points in our testing: heavy price tag and heavy product. Select colors start just shy of $500 when on sale and other colors are well over $500. And despite the cool silhouette and great bells and whistles for Apple users, these headphones are just too heavy. We found that the weight becomes uncomfortable and begins to put pressure on your neck.

And unlike other premium noise-canceling headphones, they don't come with a proper case. They do come with a high-tech slipcover that instantly puts headphones in a low power mode to save power, but it's not enough protection for throwing in an airplane carry-on or school backpack. That said, for short intervals at the home or office, they're definitely the most stylish headphones we tested. And we were blown away by the music quality and phone sound quality. If you're looking for a splurge gift for an audiophile, this is a solid runner-up. But it's not the best option for petite heads or people with low mobility.

  1. Battery Life Up to 20 hours
  2. Battery Charge Time 2 hours
  3. Headphone Style Over-ear
  4. Features Automatic pairing, built-in microphone, Siri voice assistant, customizable fit, smart case included
$69.99 $52.99
What We Like
  1. Style dupe for Bose
What We Don't Like
  1. Flimsy plastic pieces

While Anker (known for their portable phone chargers and speakers with amazing battery life) is trying to cover the budget end of the headphone market with several products under $100 and $75, we just weren't impressed with the sound quality. And that was before testing the ANC functions. What did surprise us? These $70 headphones from a brand we've never heard of but had glowing reviews on Amazon and now sells pretty much exclusively at Walmart. Say hello to Srhythm. The NC25 headphones are a total dupe for Bose QuietComfort — down to the packaging design.

They are, however, more flimsy and feature more lightweight plastic pieces, but the earpieces have that ultra-cushioned padding. And the overall fit of the headband is similar to the Bose band. These were the only budget noise-canceling headphones to pass the comfort test while wearing glasses. As for performance, the ANC settings were pretty solid at reducing appliances and human voices. The sound quality for music of multiple genres was surprisingly better than name brands like Anker, JBL and even Beats.

What we didn't love is that the ear pieces don't go fully over the ear for a better PNC design. But at less than $70, these check most of the boxes without having to splurge. If you're looking for an inexpensive pair of noise-canceling headphones for a kid or teen to travel with, this is a great buy.

  1. Battery Life Up to 50 hours
  2. Battery Charge Time 2.5 hours
  3. Headphone Style Over-ear
  4. Features Foldable design, long-lasting battery life, built-in microphone, storage case included
What We Like
  1. Most comfortable earbuds tested
What We Don't Like
  1. No color options

In truth, none of the earbuds we tested had as good noise-canceling performance as over-the-ear headphones and that just comes down to the design difference. But if any noise-canceling earbuds can tackle the airport and flight, it's the Apple AirPods Pro. These blocked most background noise without even playing music, and with music, voices were very faint. We also noticed the transparent mode for hearing voices while still playing music was the most clear of all earbuds tested. These were the most secure and comfortable earbuds we tested and would be the best noise-canceling earbuds for working out. We wiggled and jumped all around and they didn't budge. And we appreciated that you can customize the fit with multiple-sized earpiece covers.

Most noise-canceling earbuds come with a custom charging case, and the Apple case isn't as bulky as others so it's very purse and pack-friendly. Our only complaint is that, like other Apple products, a lighting cord isn't included. So you have to buy one or share a cord from another Apple product. Setup, however, is an absolute breeze for Apple users. If you hate reading instructions, you'll love these.

  1. Battery Life Up to 30 hours with charging case, up to 6 hours without
  2. Battery Charge Time 30 minutes
  3. Headphone Style In-ear
  4. Features Sweat- and water-resistant, built-in microphone, Siri voice assistant, in-ear detection, four earpiece tip sizes included, MagSafe charging case included
What We Like
  1. More budget-friendly than Apple
What We Don't Like
  1. Not as comfortable fit

JBL had some of the worst-performing over-the-ear noise-canceling options, but these earbuds edged ahead of other brands and came the closest to Apple AirPods in noise-cancellation and sound quality. They're a solid buy if you don't want to splurge on Apple or you're not an Apple user and are looking for the best alternative to Apple AirPods. At less than half the price of Apple AirPods Pro, these JBL earbuds canceled most background noise. Human voices were still faint even with music. The ambient-aware setting wasn't as clear-sounding as other earbuds we tested. However, the manufacturer's claims of "perfect calls" lived up to the hype, and the clarity was incredible.

Right out of the box, the fit isn't as secure as Apple AirPods Pro. But there is a fit test in the JBL app as well as an ear canal test for customized sound settings. They're bulkier in design so they're not as discreet as wearing AirPods. But unlike AirPods, these earbuds come in several different colors.

  1. Battery Life Up to 30 hours with charging case, up to 10 hours without
  2. Battery Charge Time 30-45 minutes
  3. Headphone Style In-ear
  4. Features Built-in microphone, water-resistant, three pairs of ear tips included, charging case included
What We Like
  1. Incredible well-rounded sound with bass
What We Don't Like
  1. Lengthy setup and pairing process

One of the biggest complaints about noise-canceling headphones, especially from music fans, is the overall sound quality. When active and ambient modes are on, music can sound slightly compressed or muffled. And layers of music might sound missing, especially bass. While Bose and Apple have great sound quality out of the box, these Sony headphones have the best sound quality after setup. True to its name, the sound delivers that missing bass. Music buffs will appreciate being in total control of customizing audio settings and equalizer thanks to the Sony app. There's also a 360-degree live performance setting which mimics music in the round and creates a more immersive audio. It's like surround sound for headphones. These headphones had a solid noise-canceling performance, even with screaming. The way these intertwine people talking with music playing while on ambient mode is clearer than others we tested.

The headphones had a great, firm fit and still felt comfy with glasses. They would have earned an even higher score if not for the lengthy setup and pairing process. If you're willing to get in the weeds with the app and to take the time to customize each setting, you will love these.

  1. Battery Life Up to 30 hours
  2. Battery Charge Time 3.5 hours
  3. Headphone Style Over-ear
  4. Features Foldable design, Google voice assistant, built-in microphone, enhanced bass, adjustable headband, carrying case included

What to Look for When Shopping for Noise-Canceling Headphones

  • Style: Noise-canceling headphones now come in both over-the-ear and earbuds styles, though there are more brand, color and style options for over-the-ear designs.
  • Sound Quality: Unfortunately, active noise-canceling headphones, or ANC, headphones do affect overall sound quality compared to regular headphones, and sometimes people feel a whooshing sensation in their ears as the headphone internal microphones produce their own sounds to counteract the external noise. This is most noticeable in the absence of heavy bass or vocals that sound compressed.
  • Battery Life: On average, noise-canceling headphones play 30-40 hours of music on one charge, while noise-canceling earbuds play 15-20 hours of music on one charge. However, many earbuds come with a charging case that can increase play time to 40-50 hours.
  • Comfort: Most noise-canceling headphones feature a padded headband as well as cushioned earpieces. And many noise-canceling earbuds are now offering customizable earbud covers to ensure a better in-ear fit.
  • Voice-Calling Abilities: Many noise-canceling headphones and earbuds feature Bluetooth functionality for pairing your headphones with your phone. This allows you to make or receive calls directly from your headphones without picking up your phone.
  • Warranty: In the U.S., most brands offer a one-year limited warranty to cover any manufacturer defects. For Apple products, you can extend the warranty for two years and cover accidental damage with AppleCare+, which is around $30.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do noise-canceling headphones work? Surprisingly, noise-canceling headphones work by producing more sound. Tiny microphones in the headphones listen for external sounds around you and combat this noise with a counteracting soundwave. But some people can be sensitive to this and end up feeling disoriented or dizzy from a faint whooshing sensation in their ears.
  • What's the difference between passive, active and adaptive noise cancelation? Passive noise cancellation (PNC) refers to the sound-blocking design of headphones like over-the-ear covers and padding. Active noise cancelation (ANC) refers to the technology used to counteract external sounds. A great pair of noise-canceling headphones feature both PNC and ANC design. Adaptive noise cancellation, or an ambient setting, allows some sounds to come through while blocking others. This typically allows you to hear human voices clearly while still reducing external sounds like machinery.
  • Do noise-canceling headphones block all noises? Unfortunately, noise-canceling headphones don't completely eliminate sound, but they do significantly reduce overall sound. The most common noise that headphones tend to struggle with is higher frequency sounds like a baby crying or a high-pitched vacuum. They do, however, work exceptionally well on lower frequencies like the hum of a plane engine or the thumping of a dryer drum.

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