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Best Noise Canceling Headphones At Every Budget

May 7, 2024
Stephanie Valente
Written by
Stephanie Valente
Stephanie Valente
Lead Editor
Reviewed by
Lead Editor
Lead Editor

Soundly conducts in-depth research to guide prospective hearing aid wearers. Our work is funded through reader support. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.

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It’s safe to say that most of us want to suppress unwanted background noise before it even starts. Which means that you’ll want to invest in a solid—and high-quality—pair of noise canceling headphones. (Are earbuds more of your thing? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered right here.) 

I’m a fan of over-ear headphones for deep work and creative projects (aka, working on my novel). For me, they’re comfortable to wear for prolonged periods like reading and writing, plus they drown out ambient noise and unwanted sounds with finesse. 

Not to mention, I love the surround sound-style feel of listening to music with headphones so it feels as if I’m really immersed in my current Spotify playlist.

While I reach for noise canceling headphones in my daily life, they also come in handy on commutes and travel (by train or plane). And they’re an essential when it comes to adding a little bit more tranquility into my day whether I’m at home or on the move.

Why choose noise canceling headphones?

Simply put, noise canceling is a personal preference. If you’re easily distracted by outside noise or over-stimulated, noise cancellation is a must-have feature when it comes to headphones or earbuds. To add to that—even if the above doesn’t apply to you—having that feature on deck is helpful in any environment you might be in. Whether you’re taking calls in busy coffee shops, on a walk, or want to isolate ambient noises in your home, it’s an important feature to have (and odds are, you probably use it more than you realize.)

💫 What does an audiologist have to say about noise canceling headphones? According to Dr. Amy Sarow, lead audiologist at Soundly, “Noise cancellation is another great feature that also makes it easier for children [and adults] to listen at safe levels, without the urge to turn volume up over the background noise.”

What is Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)?

Noise cancellation is a popular term thrown around in headphone round-ups. So what is it really? And don’t all headphones have this feature? 

Basically Active Noise Cancellation—also known as ANC—is a system that utilizes relies on built-in microphones which picks up both external and internal sounds, an ANC chipset that inverts these soundwaves, and an internal speaker that emits counteractive waves to cancel out external noise—a process akin to mathematical equilibrium. 

Want a more direct example? Think of it as a math equation in which you’ll add +2 from outside to -2 from the inside, resulting in zero (i.e., a balanced silence). Which means that your headphones with ANC technology work to quell sound waves as they come in while increasing in-ear sound that’s filtering in.

You might be wondering: Aren’t all headphones with noise cancellation created equal? While the proprietary technology is available, how the headphones are designed (fit and function) and how that technology is disseminated to your ears can vary wildly. 

What should I look for in earbuds with ANC?

Of course, you’re on the hunt for an everyday pair of headphones with active noise cancellation so that is non-negotiable. But there’s more features to keep in mind.

Here’s a few things to consider in your next pair of noise canceling headphones:

  • Price: A budget assists in ensuring that you remain within the appropriate price range when selecting earbuds that align with your lifestyle and requirements.
  • Connectivity: Connectivity stands as a vital feature facilitating smooth, enjoyable, and convenient transitions between tasks and during listening sessions.
  • Noise cancellation: While this may be the primary feature you're searching for, it remains crucial. This mode enables streaming of audio at safe volume levels and ensures a clear, consistent channel for calls, listening, and other activities.
  • Passive noise cancellation: The minimization of external noise is accomplished through the physical construction of the earbuds, rather than relying on electronic methods. This encompasses the design of the ear cups and a secure fit, aiding in the attenuation of ambient noise.
  • Adaptive active noise cancellation: The microphone and speakers automatically adapt to your environment.
  • Transparency mode: Stay connected to your surroundings effortlessly, even while on a call or with the earbuds in place.
  • Adjustability: Options and settings allowing you to manually adjust the background noise level to your preference, either directly or through a companion app.

Finalized your budget? Now you’re ready to read on and get our five best recommendations for noise canceling headphones.

Apple AirPods Max
$500

Apple AirPods Max

Apple AirPods Max

$479.00
Listen to a demo
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Fit: Over-Ear
Connection: Wireless
Battery Life: Up 20 hours of listening
EQ Adjustments: Via app settings or presets
Passthrough Sound: Yes
IP Rating: None

First things first: Apple is known for a rich audio experience. That being said, the AirPods Max prioritize a world that’s all about hearing what’s around you (or not, depending on your mood). With ANC to block outside noise and Transparency Mode to filter in the environment at your discretion, plus design tactics like personalized spatial audio that allow for a sound experience that works with your unique ear shape and the knit-mesh canopy and memory foam ear cushions.

Customer Review | “For me, these have been the best noise canceling headphones I've ever had. I've had so many, but these feel completely immersive. When I hit the noise canceling button, I cannot hear anything beyond what's in my ears. I really like that. But, I also like that when I change it I can hear my surroundings too--that's important when I'm out and about. For me, I also like the fact that it easily works within the entire Apple ecosystem--of which I am a fan.” - VC

Soundly Scorecard
+
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Pros

Sound quality, construction, noise cancelation

Cons

Price

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On Amazon
Bose QuietComfort Noise Canceling Headphones
$400

Bose QuietComfort Noise Canceling Headphones

Bose QuietComfort Noise Canceling Headphones

$349.00
Listen to a demo
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Fit: Over-Ear
Connection: Wireless
Battery Life: Up to 24 hours of listening
EQ Adjustments: Via smartphone app or sound settings
Passthrough Sound: Yes, and an ANC passthrough mode
IP Rating: IPX4

Let’s get down to brass tacks: The Bose QuietComfort Noise Canceling Headphones are often lauded as the best pair on the market. Renowned for its commitment to high-fidelity and crystal clear sound quality, Bose takes this prowess and notable sound even further with their renowned noise canceling wireless headphone set (released in September 2023). Loaded with effective and world-class active noise cancellation (you can personalize it depending on your activity or mood), a hard working microphone (wind and noisy environments, be gone), crisp sound and deep bass make this pair a truly immersive listening experience. There’s also two listening modes—Quiet and Aware—for full noise canceling or full awareness of your surroundings, tilted ear cups for the perfect fit, and a lightweight stainless steel headband for comfort.

Customer Review | “I bought these because I wanted to have headphones that blocked outside noises while enjoying listening to my music. These do not disappoint! You can enjoy the noise cancellation even if you’re not listening to music if you’re wanting to read in a noisy environment for example. I have never had any headphones quite like this before. You can choose between Aware mode that allows outside noise to filter in if you need to be more aware of your surroundings and Quiet mode that hushes most noises around you. The ear cups make a nice seal around your ears that cuts out a lot of noise even without the noise cancellation enabled. With the Quiet mode enabled and music turned on, the world around you becomes silent. You can see people’s mouths moving but hear nothing.” - Amazon Customer

Soundly Scorecard
+
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Pros

11 levels of noise canceling, lightweight, one touch for Spotify access

Cons

Can be cost prohibitive, some features only available for iOS users

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On Amazon
Sennheiser Consumer Audio Momentum 4 Wireless
$300

Sennheiser Consumer Audio Momentum 4 Wireless

Sennheiser Consumer Audio Momentum 4 Wireless

$284.95
Listen to a demo
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Fit: Over-Ear
Connection: Wireless
Battery Life: Up 60 hours
EQ Adjustments: Via smartphone app or sound settings
Passthrough Sound: Yes via DSP/internal processing
IP Rating: None

Long battery life and noise cancellation make a perfect pair. Released in March 2024, this pair of Sennheiser headphones, that is—and this set is loaded with personal touches (thanks to the Sennheiser Smart Control App so you can make the sound totally-you), a 42mm transducer system, touch controls, ANC and Transparency Mode so you can engage with the world around you as much or as little as you need to, four digital beamforming microphones for high-quality voice pick-up and wind noise reduction. What’s not to love?

Customer Review |“They're super slick, very stylish, but most importantly the noise cancellation is AMAZING. I was walking to work one afternoon. For context, I pass over train tracks every day on my way to work. I was listening to country music and switching my song, staring directly down at my phone. I was completely immersed in my music with the noise cancellation on when I felt the ground shaking. I looked up to the literal train around 100 feet away from me. I had to sprint to make it off the tracks.” - Sofi

Soundly Scorecard
+
No items found.
Pros

Long-lasting battery, noise cancellation, personalized sound

Cons

Some reported connectivity issues

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On Amazon
Skullcandy Hesh ANC Headphones
$200

Skullcandy Hesh ANC Headphones

Skullcandy Hesh ANC Headphones

$134.99
Listen to a demo
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Fit: Over-Ear
Connection: Wireless
Battery Life: Up 22 hours of listening
EQ Adjustments: Via Skullcandy app
Passthrough Sound: Yes
IP Rating: None

You don’t have to empty your wallet or skimp on audio quality with this pair of Skullcandy Hesh ANC headphones. The headphones are built with custom 40mm drivers, which delivers high-quality audio, serious bass (with a bass slider button for adjustment), and a 4 Mic digital active noise canceling functionality so you can drown out noise as it comes in.

Customer Review |“I got these to replace my last pair of Skullcandy Hesh Evo headphones, which finally died after several years of almost 24/7 use. I get overwhelmed by noise, especially at stores, so I frequently wear them while they're off, just to muffle the noise. I will say they are sound dampening, not fully 100% noise cancelation. Which is perfect for me, if someone is speaking directly to me I can hear them, but I can't hear the screaming child 3 isles down. I will admit I'm not a huge sound nerd, but these are definitely the best quality headphones I've owned. That's not saying a ton, but I mainly listen to music and I can understand the lyrics much better than any other headphones I've had. They're also super comfy.” - Lance Ronald

Soundly Scorecard
+
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Pros

Comfort, bass, budget-friendly

Cons

Noise canceling isn’t adjustable, mixed reviews on ANC

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On Amazon
Soundcore Space One
$100

Soundcore Space One

Soundcore Space One

$99.00
Listen to a demo
pause
Fit: Over-Ear
Connection: Wireless
Battery Life: Up 40 hours with ANC, up to 55 hours without
EQ Adjustments: Via the Soundcore app
Passthrough Sound: No
IP Rating: Unknown

Noise cancellation on a budget has arrived. And that solid option? Say hello to Soundcore Space One, a set under $100. Currently on sale at Amazon for $79 (even less than the $99 retail price), these headphones come with enhanced noise cancellation and adaptive noise canceling so you can enjoy serenity wherever and whenever. In fact, the capabilities of this device is particular on point as the headphones are reported to reduce noise up to 98%. And, don’t fret over the listening experience either as Soundcore packs in high-res audio with LDAC to make any streaming experience rich and robust. 

Customer Review |“These headphones have become my secret weapon against mid to high-frequency sounds, turning chaotic study environments into focused sanctuaries. The adaptive noise-canceling is nothing short of magic, blocking out up to 98% of external sounds. No more distractions during crucial study moments in the library or coffee shops. The 40mm drivers and LDAC support deliver an auditory experience that takes my music and study playlists to a whole new level, unveiling details I didn't know existed.” - Brandon Le

Soundly Scorecard
+
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Pros

Battery life, ergonomic design, sound quality

Cons

Some reported issues with fit

Read More Reviews 👉
On Amazon
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Final Thoughts

In conclusion, noise-canceling headphones are a handy sidekick for anyone who needs to drown out—or amplify—the busyness of life. Whether it's for deep work sessions, immersive music experiences, or simply finding tranquility in a noisy world, these headphones can be a sanctuary for the ears. With features like active noise cancellation, personalized sound adjustments, and comfortable designs, they cater to various preferences and budgets, ensuring that everyone can find their perfect sonic refuge. Consider brands like Bose, Seinnheiser, Apple, and more brands. So, whether you're delving into a novel, taking calls, or simply seeking a moment of peace, investing in noise canceling headphones can be a transformative experience for your auditory well-being.

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