Whether you’re traveling by train, plane, bicycle, or on foot, there’s hardly anything more enjoyable than throwing on a pair of your favorite headphones and pressing play. Our culture is enamored by everything audible — music, spoken word, and environmental — but when it comes to interruption, we have a short fuse.
Life has its own soundtrack, and sometimes, that can get in the way of your favorite song, lyric, or audiobook line. Luckily, noise-canceling headphones have made drastic strides in the past decade, with transparent/smart audio becoming one of, if not the most, important attributes that people look for in their on-ear peripherals. Below, we’ve outlined the industry’s best over-ear (and in-ear) offerings; a collection of isolation-savvy devices that emphasize a distraction-free listening experience and bring the medium’s most lauded audio properties to the forefront for the fidelity-conscious listener.
The Full Experience
JBL is a trusted name in audio technology and that experience transitions well into their extensive headphone lineup. The E65BTNC is one such example and boasts the company’s world-renowned JBL Signature Sound, a detachable, tangle-free fabric ford, and three handsome color options for those who are looking to keep things stylish and suave. Better yet, you’ll be able to enjoy the headphones’ noise-canceling properties in either wired or wireless modes, allowing for up to 24 hours of listening before you’ll need to return them to the charger for another round of pain-free audio pairing.
Pioneer Wireless Active Noise-Cancelling
Pioneer has made a name for itself in the world of automotive and home audio technologies, but that doesn’t mean that their headphones are short on high-end properties. The Pioneer S9, for example, boasts one of the industry’s most revered noise-canceling technologies and enhances your listening experience through Hi-Res audio playback and a pair of robust 40mm drivers. Despite the headphones’ size and stature, they’re still inherently light and bring unique characteristics like CCAW voice coils, wide-spectrum clarity, and 24 hours of continuous battery life to the table for enthusiastic listeners.
Audio Technica ATH-ANC700BT
Audio Technica’s ATH-ANC700BT headphones are an attractive offering for the true audio enthusiast. They’re outfitted with QuietPoint active noise-canceling technology and feature a pair of high-quality 40mm drivers for high-fidelity audio reproduction, while also maintaining a foldable, lightweight design that’s ideal for travel and on-the-go endeavors. If you’re going to be on the road for 25 hours at a time, don’t fret — the ATH-ANC700BT come equipped to last for the entire trip, whether they’re in a pairable Bluetooth mode, or otherwise.
Marshall Mid ANC Active Noise Cancelling
Marshall makes some of the audio industry’s finest amps and recording peripherals, which means that they’ve got what it takes to create a fine pair of noise-canceling headphones. The company’s Mid ANC Active Noise-Cancelling variant is a fine example, bringing things like wireless Bluetooth aptX compatibility, custom-tuned drivers, and clarity balance to the table for interested parties. While on Bluetooth, the Mid ANC provides 16 hours of battery life, but rockets to 30+ hours when things like active noise canceling are placed on standby.
Jabra Elite 85h
Jabra’s Elite 85h is yet another great-looking offering from the brand, and thankfully, it’s one of their best-performing models, as well. Each example comes with SmartSound technology, as well as Smart Active Noise cancellation that adapts the environment around the listener. With up to 36 hours of battery life and nano-coating on each of the device’s internal components, the 85h provides an attractive proposition for users who are looking for something attractive, durable, and water-resistant to supply unparalleled audio qualities wherever they go.
Beats Solo Pro
Beats’ Solo Pro headphones need no introduction. As one of the industry’s most sought-after variants, it’s obvious that they’ve got the right formula for Active Noise-Cancellation, but what makes the Solo Pro truly stand out is the company’s lauded acoustic system, which promises tastefully-realized bass, treble, and audio quality. You’ll be able to listen to your favorite music, podcasts, or shows for up to 22 hours at a time, pairing with the device’s smart audio transparency control and auto on/off whenever you fold/unfold your headphones.
Sony’s WH-1000XM3 is a great reminder of why they’re a leader in nearly every industry that they set foot within. Whether it’s the device’s virtually sound-free ANC experience, Alexa-enabled voice control, ambient sound and transparency settings, or its 30-hour battery life, we’re all in with the company’s dedicated over-ear listening peripheral. Better yet, each example also boasts an ergonomically-designed foldable structure for easy use while traveling, or heading to the nearest coffee shop for some late-night studying.
Bose Noise Cancelling 700
Bose’s Noise Cancelling 700 headphones are one of the more robust offerings on our list, and as such, it boasts a tri-level noise-cancellation system that allows for variable transparency, depending on your environment. Each example comes outfitted with Alexa-enabled voice technology, a noise-rejecting dual-microphone system, and the company’s revered audio balance properties that have made their home entertainment systems an industry staple. Plus, you’ll be able to partake in the company’s innovative Bose AR experience, which brings augmented reality to an audio-only realm.
Bowers and Wilkins PX Wireless
Bowers and Wilkins’ PX7 Wireless headphone offers what is, subjectively, the best-sounding audio hierarchy on this list. The company’s legendary sound properties aside, this great-looking variant boasts a pair of large 43mm drivers — the largest in the brand’s lineup — to ensure a premium listening experience. Each variant has been built and tuned by the same engineers who built the Abbey Road studio’s 800-series speaker system, bringing uninterrupted listening to the masses at a level that few can hope to reach. Below the hood, they feature a 30-hour battery life, an adaptive noise-cancellation system that responds to your environment, and a smart pause/play system that reacts to its orientation on your ears and head.
Sennheiser Momentum 3
Sennheiser’s Momentum 3 is the most responsive pair of noise-canceling headphones on the market, and as such, it boasts the fastest playtime/setup of any of the offerings on our list. With the device’s active noise-cancellation and transparent hearing capabilities, you’ll be able to adapt the Momentum 3 to your surroundings, while taking advantage of its comfortable ear-pad orientation and headband to keep you listening to your favorite songs, playlists, or podcasts throughout the day.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9
Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay H9 is a high-end audio peripheral that takes pride in its standing. It offers an enhanced sound experience thanks to its deep-bass port, two dedicated microphones, low and high-frequency active noise-cancellation, and dedicated voice assistant to stop, start, and skip tracks with ease. You’ll be able to pair it with up to two Bluetooth-enabled devices at a time and keep it connected and ready at distances up to 10-meters, while a 25-hour battery life ensures adequate tones, robust bass, and B&O’s renowned signature sound all day long.
Master & Dynamic MW65 Active Noise-Cancelling Wireless
To round out our over-ear offerings, Master & Dynamic’s MW65 headphones provide an on-the-go orientation that’s been tailored to the traveling listener. Each variant is excessively light and features a pair of 40mm Beryllium drivers to keep acoustic quality at the forefront. Two different active noise-cancellation modes pair with the device’s dual-microphone setup, industry-leading 20-meter Bluetooth capabilities, and 24-hour battery life for a day’s worth of extravagant listening.
A More Subtle Approach
Bang & Olufsen H3
Bang & Olufsen’s H3 is an equally-enticing iteration that boasts the same noise-canceling properties as the company’s established over-ear variants. As a featherweight offering that takes the fatigue out of daily listening, the H3 brings a much smaller 10.8 mm driver and micro bass port into the mix, working alongside a tangle-resistant cord, in-line remote, and microphone to offer a well-rounded listening experience to those who don’t want the additional encumbrance of traditional headphones.
Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise-Canceling
Sony’s illustrious noise-canceling technologies aren’t confined to the company’s over-ear offerings, and the attractive WF-1000XM3 wireless headphone proves it. Each example is outfitted with industry-leading noise-canceling powered by the brand’s innovative HD Noise Canceling Processor QN1e, dual-microphone noise-sensing technology, and Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX, which upscales compressed music files to bring them closer to their high-fidelity originals.
Apple Airpods Pro
Apple’s Airpods Pro rounds out our list as the latest and greatest in noise-canceling technology for in-ear headphone variants. As an upgrade over the original offering, Apple has brought innovative transparency and active noise-cancellation modes to the minimalistic devices, resulting in an unimaginably-light listening experience. The Pro is outfitted with forward and rear-facing microphones to identify and isolate environmental sound, and deliver custom-built high-excursion, low-distortion sound properties thanks to a high dynamic range amplifier. If you’re looking for the perfect pair of in-ear headphones for a wide range of listening styles, preferences, and tastes, the Airpods Pro is certainly for you.
The 10 Best Travel Headphones
The divide between noise-canceling headphones and their travel-oriented brethren is drawing ever-thin. So, if you’re looking for even more isolated-listening essentials, head over to our guide on the best travel headphones to get your fix.