For good purposes, noise-canceling headphones are one of the most popular types of headphones. They block out distracting background noise so you can focus on your music. While they’re especially useful for air travel and regular commutes—especially through mass transit—they’re also great at isolating you from at-home noise pollution, whether it’s the whoosh of your HVAC system, the whir of your computer’s cooling fans, or your neighbor’s lawn mover.
Noise cancellation can be achieved in one of two ways: actively or passively. Here, we’ll concentrate on the former. The latter isn’t so much a technology as it is a measurement of how much noise a headphone can physically block. The strongest passive noise cancellation is used in closed-back over-ear headphones and in-ear headphones with memory-foam tips. Our reviews of various types of headphones can be found here.
Active noise cancellation (ANC) headphones sense sound waves associated with noise and produce an inverse sound wave that cancels it out electronically. Here’s an example of what we’re talking about: The ripples in a pond are identical to sound waves. To smooth the pond’s surface, throw a pebble in it and then add ripples in the opposite pattern. In a similar way, active noise cancellation (ANC) functions. Microphones on the headphones measure ambient sound waves before generating inverse sound waves that cancel them out.
As you would imagine, some manufacturers’ ANC technologies are extremely successful, while others are not. AKG, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, JBL, Libratone, and Sony models have all performed admirably in our tests.
The most advanced form of ANC is adaptive noise cancellation. It works on the same principles as before, but it adjusts to your surroundings to apply more or less of the effect and even bring in sounds from outside.
Some adaptive noise-canceling systems also take into account the speed of movement, the air pressure around you, and whether you’re on a plane, walking, or conversing. Many of them work in combination with a smartphone application.
Some people report that ANC headphones put pressure on their ears, giving them the feeling of being submerged. If you’re not a fan of active noise cancellation, look for a model with good passive noise cancellation.
Best active noise-canceling headphones
Sony didn’t make any significant changes to its noise-canceling headphones strategy because it didn’t need to. Its previous WH-1000XM3 headphones are excellent, and these newer versions are even better. The Sony WH-1000XM4 is the best headphone you can buy if noise cancellation is a must-have feature for you.
Bowers & Wilkins’ PX7 noise-canceling headphones were first released in 2019, but the Carbon Edition is brand new this year, with a new finish and a more attractive design. It might seem like an oxymoron to have sonically correct active noise-canceling headphones, but leave it to the engineers at B&W to pull it off.
Wyze Noise-Canceling Headphones
It’s hard to believe these noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones are so cheap, but that’s standard practice for Wyze Labs, which never fails to provide the best bang for the buck with any product they produce. Although the audio quality isn’t as good as higher-end versions, and they might not last as long as some of the more premium brands, you won’t be too disappointed if they break and need to be replaced after a few years.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal Headphones
Although Sony and Bose can win in terms of active noise cancellation, Bang & Olufsen comes close by combining incredible audio performance with technology that gamers—particularly Xbox and Windows gamers—will not find anywhere else. And it’s all wrapped up in a beautiful box made of leather, lambskin, and aluminum.
So this is the list we have compiled for you. If you want to give any suggestion to add some of the products you like feel free to comment. We will add more and more products as we get a list.