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10 best noise-cancelling headphones for every budget

Silence the world around you and fully immerse yourself in whatever you’re listening to with our pick of the very best noise-cancelling headphones.

By Gemma Wilcock | Last updated Jan 27, 2022

Woman in pink top wearing headphones

When it comes to headphones, opting for noise cancellation can help you to filter out unwanted sounds so that you get the best out of your favourite songs, podcasts or TV shows. If you’re working from home, they can also provide silence from any frequent background noise.

Noise-cancelling headphones are also great for commuters who want to silence the sounds of a busy train or crowds, and some people even sleep in them to block out a snoring partner. 

The best noise-cancelling headphones will remove any noise distractions and provide great sound quality, while also being comfortable. Extra features include Bluetooth connectivity, a long battery life and an in-built voice assistant. 

To help us draw up a list of the best headphones, we scoured the Mumsnet forums to find out which ones Mumsnetters rated the most. Armed with this knowledge, we then cross-checked the products against those listed on other top review sites, making sure to reflect all needs and budgets in our final list. 

So whether you’re a commuter or a music lover, here are the 10 best noise-cancelling headphones to buy right now. 

1. Best overall noise-cancelling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones

Price: £279 | Buy now from Amazon

“If you can afford them, the Sony WH-1000XM4 are the absolute best noise-reducing headphones I've ever had.” Stronghold 

Highly recommended by both Mumsnetters and expert techies, the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones have it all - they’re comfortable, user-friendly, offer great sound quality and come with excellent active noise cancellation (ANC).  

The headphones filter out background noise and adapt to your environment, with the option to cancel out noise while still allowing certain sounds, such as train announcements. For those needing silence, these headphones will successfully block out the world to help you focus.

The ear cups have five built-in mics and can be paired with two Bluetooth devices, so you can watch a film and take a call at the same time. We also love the top-notch audio quality.

Handy features include Speak-to-Chat, which automatically pauses and plays your audio when you start a conversation, and a sensor that turns off the headphones when you’re not using them.   

Pros  

  • Excellent noise cancellation
  • Comfortable 
  • Good battery life
  • Multipoint connection
  • Touch controls 

Cons 

  • Expensive

Key specs

  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Battery life: 30 hours with ANC on
  • Charging: USB-C
  • Built-in mic: Yes
  • Wireless range: 30m
  • Waterproof: No
  • Weight: 254g

2. Best budget noise-cancelling headphones: Anker Soundcore Life Q20

Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Headphones

Price: From £49.99 | Buy now from Amazon

“I got the Anker Q20 headphones which are fairly reasonably priced and work well for me (I have to take them off to hear what DH is saying).” TheGirlOnTheLanding

If you haven’t got the budget for premium headphones then the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 offers decent noise cancellation at a much more reasonable price.  

While they won’t block out the world as well as the Sony WH-1000XM4, these headphones promise to reduce ambient noises by up to 90%. Anker’s ANC uses four microphones to detect and filter out most low- and mid-frequency noises, such as cars and airplanes, so you can listen to your music or favourite podcast free from distraction. 

Although the Life Q20 are wireless, they can also be used with a wire. They provide a decent sound experience too, with technology that amplifies bass-heavy music and sounds and a battery life of up to 40 hours in ANC mode (60 with it turned off). 

Pros  

  • Budget-friendly price
  • Very good battery life
  • Reduces ambient sounds by up to 90%
  • Five minutes of charge gets you four hours of playtime

Cons 

  • Noise cancellation isn’t as good as on other premium headphones

Key specs

  •       Bluetooth: Yes
  •       Battery life: 40 hours in ANC mode, 60 without
  •       Charging: Micro USB
  •       Built-in mic: Yes
  •       Wireless range: 15m
  •       Waterproof: No
  •       Weight: 263g

3. Best in-ear noise-cancelling headphones: Apple AirPods Pro

Apple AirPods Pro earphones

Price: £174.83 | Buy now from Amazon

“AirPod Pros - I played white noise/the sound of a countryside walk type stuff through mine when we were having work done on our house.” RoadworksAgain

Noise-cancelling headphones don’t have to be big and bulky to be high-performing. The Apple AirPods Pro are sleek, comfortable, and very effective at detecting and removing background noise for a better sound quality.

The Pros are Apple’s noise-cancelling earbuds, with microphones that pick up external sounds from both inside and outside of the ear and then filter them out with anti-noise. For those times when you do want to let some background noises in, you can choose Transparency mode instead.

For Apple users, these headphones can be easily connected to other Apple devices using Bluetooth, although they’re simple to connect to Android devices too. There are three sizes of tips to ensure the buds fit correctly and comfortably – in fact, once they’re in, you’ll barely notice they’re there. For gym bunnies, the Pros are also sweat and water-resistant.  

Pros 

  • Impressive noise-cancelling
  • Balanced sound
  • Comfortable
  • Not iOS-exclusive 

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Battery life isn’t as long as on other headphones 

Key specs

  •       Bluetooth: Yes
  •       Battery life: 4.5 hours on one charge (24 hours with additional charges in case)
  •       Charging: Lightning
  •       Built-in mic: Yes
  •       Wireless range: 800ft
  •       Waterproof: No (water-resistant only)
  •       Weight: 5.4g each 

4. Best over-ear noise-cancelling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM3

Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones

Price: From £218.62 | Buy now from Amazon

“I invested in a pair of Sony WH-1000XM3 noise-cancelling headphones before lockdown and they’ve been a life-saver! We’re both working from home and my DP does a call-based role so having the headphones allows me peace to work (we can’t work in separate rooms as it’s a small flat, so we’re working in close proximity). They’re great headphones and I definitely think they’re worth the money.” SweetPetrichor 

These are actually the older version of our overall winner, the Sony WH-1000XM4, but they still have plenty to offer. Previously Sony’s best noise-cancelling headphones, they are well loved by Mumsnet users and come at a slightly cheaper price than their younger sibling. 

While the XM4’s improved technology analyses background sounds in greater detail, the XM3 still offers high-quality noise cancellation. They detect your activity and adjust the settings accordingly, filtering out a wide range of frequencies to give a well-balanced audio. Both versions also include Sony's Atmospheric Pressure Optimiser for noise cancellation when you’re flying.

The headphones don’t feature some of the new updates, such as Speak-to-Chat or Wearer Detection, but they still have lots of great functions, including an impressive battery life and hands-free controls using Amazon or Google Assistant. 

The XM3’s are lightweight and come with thick cushioned earpads, making them some of the comfiest headphones around. 

Pros 

  • Excellent noise-cancellation
  • Good battery life
  • Comfy and lightweight
  • Cheaper than the newer Sony WH-1000XM4
  • Quick 10-minute charge gives another five hours of playback 
  • Quick Attention Mode turns the volume down for instant conversation 

Cons

Don’t have the Sony WH-1000XM4s new, improved ANC technology  

Key specs

  •       Bluetooth: Yes
  •       Battery life: 30 hours
  •       Charging: USB-C
  •       Built-in mic: Yes
  •       Wireless range: Not known
  •       Waterproof: No
  •       Weight: 254g

5. Best Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones: Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Price: £265 | Buy now from Amazon

“Bose - worth the investment. DH sleeps in them when away with work (army) and sharing a room with 50 other blokes he can still get a decent night sleep and uses the noise-cancelling function. Also run in them and they are great on long haul flights. Cancels out the plane noise I would say for 80% of it.” user1519475227

Bose are some of the most popular headphones in the world and the 700s provide plenty of choice when it comes to noise cancelling, with 11 levels so you can adjust how much - or how little - of the world you let in. 

Whether you’re listening to music or watching your favourite TV show, the 700s use eight microphones, both inside and outside of the headphones, to monitor and cancel background noise. When you’re on a call, they also isolate your voice to make it sound clearer, and Conversation mode lets you adjust ANC and pause your audio while you chat. 

The headphones use Bluetooth for wireless connection which can be connected to two devices. Compatible with voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant, you can easily access music, navigation and more through your earphones.

Pros 

  • Adaptable noise cancellation
  • Can be connected to two devices at the same time
  • Optimised for use with voice assistants

 Cons 

  • Expensive
  • Battery life not as good as rivals

Key specs

  •       Bluetooth: Yes
  •       Battery life: 20 hours
  •       Charging: USB-C
  •       Built-in mic: Yes
  •       Wireless range: 10m
  •       Waterproof: No
  •       Weight: 249g

6. Best folding noise-cancelling headphones: Beats Studio3 Wireless Headphones

Beats Studio 3 Headphones

Price: From £189.95 | Buy now from Amazon

“I have these. They’re Beats Studio3 and wireless. I’ve had them a couple of years now. They’re very comfortable and I would recommend them.” PizzasTonight

Whether you’re walking down a busy road, trying to block out engine noise, or just want silence in order to focus, the Beats Studio3 Wireless Headphones continuously monitor, isolate and cancel background noise to give you an authentic sound.

The headphones have a mic in each ear for picking up your voice for calls and come with an Apple W1 Bluetooth chip, which makes pairing with iPhone and iPads a doddle. While the Studio3s are wireless, there’s also the option to connect them with a wire.

As we’ve come to expect from Beats products, these headphones come in a range of colourways, including red, white and black for all tastes. The ergonomic, pivoting design of the headphones also allows them to be easily folded up, with a hard case for storing them safely away. 

Pros

  • Adaptive noise cancellation
  • Bluetooth chip for easily pairing with Apple products, but also Android-compatible
  • Can be folded for easy storage 

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Sound quality could be better for the price 

Key specs

  •       Bluetooth: Yes
  •       Battery life: 22 hours with ANC, 40 without
  •       Charging: USB-C
  •       Built-in mic: Yes
  •       Wireless range: Not known
  •       Waterproof: No
  •       Weight: 260g

7. Best noise-cancelling headphones with microphone: Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Bose QC35 Headphones

Price: £170.70 | Buy now from Amazon

“Bose QuietComfort - they’re brilliant. I’ve had them over a year and use them most days. Excellent sound quality and really comfortable.” YorkieTheRabbit

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II Headphones are mentioned time and time again on our forums. They measure outside noises and filter them out, with three levels of noise cancellation so you can choose the right setting for you and your environment. 

This is particularly great for those who commute or travel a lot as you get a good sound quality no matter where you are or what volume you are using. They also fold down into a case for easy storage. 

The QuietComfort 35 II Headphones have a microphone for making calls and using Google Assistant or Alexa, so you can choose music, and listen to the news, weather and more completely hands-free. You can also access additional features using the Bose Connect app.

Pros

  • In-built microphone and voice assistant
  • Three levels of noise cancellation
  • Reasonable price 

Cons

  • May not offer complete noise cancellation

Key specs

  •       Bluetooth: Yes
  •       Battery life: 20 hours
  •       Charging: USB-C
  •       Built-in mic: Yes
  •       Wireless range: 10m
  •       Waterproof: No
  •       Weight: 236g

8. Best noise-cancelling headphones for sound quality: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3 Headphones

Sennheiser Momentums Wireless Headphones

Price: From £255.08 | Buy now from Amazon

“I recently acquired a pair of Sennheiser Momentums. Turns out they are noise-cancelling and absolutely the best headphones I've used.” HexyAndIKnowIt

If it's superior sound quality you’re looking for, then look no further than the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 3 Headphones. 

From a brand that’s known for making products with excellent audio, the headphones have three modes of ANC to choose from depending on where you are and what level of noise reduction you need. The Transparent Hearing function allows you to listen to your music and still hold a conversation. 

There’s lots of extra features too, including an automatic on/off function which stops music when the headphones aren’t in use, and voice assistant for easily choosing your music and changing settings. 

The battery life isn’t as good as the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM4, but it’s still a reasonable 17 hours – more than enough for a day at work. 

Pros

  • Superior sound quality
  • Three modes of ANC
  • Auto on/off function when not in use
  • Multi-device connectivity

Cons

  • Battery life isn’t as good as rivals 

Key specs

  •       Bluetooth: Yes 
  •       Battery life: 17 hours
  •       Charging: USB-C
  •       Built-in mic: Yes 
  •       Wireless range: Not known
  •       Waterproof: No
  •       Weight: 304g 

9. Best noise-cancelling headphones for under £100: EarFun Air Pro

EarFun Air Pro

Price: £69.99 | Buy now from Amazon

“I have a pair of in-ear wireless headphones that are basically the same as Airpod Pros (but black). Called EarFun Air.” Fuzzysocksies

If you like the look of the Apple AirPods Pro but not the price, the EarFun Air Pros offer many of the same features for a lot less money.

They fit snugly in your ear, with three mics per earpiece for blocking out 90% of background noise. You can switch between two ANC modes to suit your environment and the headphones make your voice three times clearer when on calls - even in noisy areas. 

Compatible with voice assistants and with simple tap controls, you can easily change songs and answer calls. A sensor pauses the audio when you take them out of your ear and starts it again when you put them back in. 

The battery won’t last as long as the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM4 or the Sony WH-1000XM3  – just seven hours with ANC mode on - but the charging case can hold an extra three full charges so you can top up on the go. Sweat and water-resistant with decent sound quality, these buds are really good value for money overall.  

Pros

  • Budget-friendly
  • Blocks out 90% of background noise
  • Simple tap controls
  • Smart Pause sensor

Cons 

  • Battery life isn’t as good as on other headphones 

Key specs

  •       Bluetooth: Yes
  •       Battery life: 7 hours (32 with multiple charges from case)
  •       Charging: USB-C
  •       Built-in mic: Yes 
  •       Wireless range: 10m
  •       Waterproof: No (water-resistant only)
  •       Weight: 53g 

10. Best noise-cancelling headphones for commuting: AKG N60NC

AKG-N60NC Headphones

Price: £107.95 | Buy now from Amazon

“I have AKG noise-cancelling. It takes away the background hum/noise and the music sound is great. DP liked mine and bought himself a pair. We sit on flights looking like some geeky tech twins. They are AKG N60.” Pajamagirl

Compact, foldable and with a handy carry case, the AKG N60NC can easily be popped in your bag for going to work or for long journeys.  

The active noise-cancelling technology gets to work immediately by filtering out ambient noise, so whether you’re on a busy plane, in a noisy office or on video call, you can enjoy impeccable sound wherever you are. 

With both Bluetooth and ANC turned on, the battery will last for 15 hours or an impressive 30 hours with Bluetooth turned off, so you won’t have to worry about recharging multiple times during long journeys.

Pros 

  • Convenient for travel - compact and foldable
  • Carry case for storage and travel
  • Decent battery life
  • Come with a cable for wired connection

Cons  

  • Can feel flimsy

Key specs

  •       Bluetooth:  Yes
  •       Battery life: 15 hours with Bluetooth and ANC, 30 hours with just ANC
  •       Charging: Micro USB
  •       Built-in mic: Yes
  •       Wireless range: Not known
  •       Waterproof: No 
  •       Weight: 198g 

Is it worth buying noise-cancelling headphones?

There are plenty of headphones out there that will provide great sound quality for listening to music, gaming, watching TV or listening to a podcast. But if you find you get distracted by background noise, then noise-cancelling headphones are absolutely worth it.  

Not only does filtering out loud sounds and noises provide a better audio experience, noise-cancelling headphones are also thought to be better for your ears. The headphones prevent outside sounds from leaking in so you don’t have to turn up the volume, which can help prevent damage to your hearing.

What’s the difference between passive noise cancellation and active noise cancellation? 

In your search for noise-cancelling headphones, you’ll probably encounter both of these terms. Ultimately, they both reduce outside noise, but they do so in different ways. 

Passive noise cancellation – also known as noise isolation – uses the design of the headset to naturally reduce ambient sounds, such as thick padded ear pads, closed-back designs or snug-fitting in-ear buds. Passive noise cancellation is better at blocking out mid- to high- frequency noises, such as fireworks.

Active noise cancellation (ANC) uses microphones to detect external sounds and then generates anti-noise frequencies to cancel them out. Most will use passive noise cancellation too and can filter out most low to medium frequencies, but this can drain the battery of the wireless headphones. 

How do I choose the best noise-cancelling headphones? 

Design

Generally, headphones come in three designs: over-ear, on-ear or in-ear. Over-ear headphones come with padded ear cups and a headband for extra comfort and are better at blocking out noise. If you prefer something sleeker, a well-fitting pair of in-ear buds will naturally block out a lot of unwanted sounds. Look for folding headphones if you need to store them safely.

Wireless

All the designs featured on our list are wireless, but you can also buy wired headphones. Some headphones offer both wireless and wired connectivity. For wireless headphones, ANC will use your battery up more quickly so check how long the battery lasts for - this can range from five to 60 hours.  

Connectivity

Bluetooth allows you to easily connect your wireless headphones with your devices and to use voice assistants, such as Google Assistant and Alexa. Some headphones can be connected to multiple devices at the same time so you can switch between a phone, iPad or laptop.

Noise-cancellation 

ANC headphones can monitor and adapt to your environment automatically, but some have different modes or levels that enable you to select how much noise you want to filter through. This can be handy if you need to listen in on conversations or monitor travel announcements.  You may also want to be able to turn ANC on and off to save battery power.

Sound 

It may be important to reduce noise disturbances, but sound quality needs to be good too. Think about what you need – maybe you like warm, well-rounded sounds, or do you like listening to music with a deep bass? It’s worth doing your research first to make sure the headphones you choose perfectly meet your needs.

Price 

Noise-cancelling headphones used to be a luxury, but thankfully there are plenty now available in a range of prices, starting from around £50. 

What are the best noise-cancelling headphones? 

Comfortable, user-friendly and with excellent noise-cancelling technology, the Sony WH-1000XM4 are the best noise-cancelling headphones to buy right now.  

The ANC technology adapts to your environment, but you have the option to still hear important sounds. The audio quality is excellent too, with up to 30 hours of listening on one charge, making these great all-round headphones. 

How we chose our recommendations 

Most of our recommendations for noise-cancelling headphones came from Mumsnet users themselves. We searched the Mumsnet forums for posts about which headphones Mumsnetters really rated. We also researched various review sites to find out which headphones performed well across the board.

Why you should trust us 

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.

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