Noise-cancelling headphones have become almost an essential everyday item for many of us, whether they're used to isolate you on your morning commute or drown out the drone of an aeroplane jet engine. Fortunately, noise-cancelling headphone technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, with the amount of external noise they're able to block out becoming virtually 100 per cent.
With so many pairs now being available, and with the majority of them being wireless especially since Apple sent shockwaves through the smartphone industry by removing the 3.5mm headphone jack, finding the best pair for your ears is no easy task. Some pairs will have more effective noise cancellation, while others will sound better, finding the middle ground can be tricky.
We've rounded up our favourite pairs and picked out what we believe to be the best pair money can currently buy, to make the decision whole lot easier.
Sony's second pair of noise-cancelling headphones are even better than their first, the MDR-1000X. That may seem like an obvious statement, but it's by no means an easy feat. It's a real testament to just how good the WH-1000MX2 are.
They retain their predecessor's impeccable build quality and comfort, and even their sound, which is something we already loved. What they do add are some extra features, such as automatically switching between various ambient modes and a companion app that lets you adjust the EQ settings.
On top of all that, the effectiveness of the noise-cancellation is second-to-none. We loved the first pair of Sonys and we love this pair even more, they're without doubt our favourite.
- Read the full Sony WH-1000MX2 review
Bose QuietComfort 35 II
Think of noise-cancelling headphones and chances are you'll think of Bose. The company's QuietComfort range is known the world over for being the crème de la crème in noise-cancellation technology. The QuietComfort 35 is the latest pair in the company's arsenal, going wireless for the first time.
This second-generation pair of the QC 35 are the exact same as the pair that wowed us in 2016, save for a new dedicated button for launching Google Assistant. The new button lets you launch Google Assistant and give it commands or ask it questions, or basically any other command you'd ask Google Home. Android users naturally get more benefits than iPhone users, although owners of both can have incoming notifications read out through the headphones.
While we can really sing about the noise-cancellation offered by the Bose pair, we feel the sound quality lacks a little compared to the pair from Sony. Nevertheless, they're still a fantastic pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
- Read the full Bose QuietComfort 35 II review
Bowers & Wilkins PX
Bowers and Wilkins is no stranger to the audio game, the British-based company has been going since 1966. So when we heard it was developing its very first pair of wireless active noise-cancellation (ANC) headphones, our ears certainly pricked up. When we actually got them onto our ears, our expectations were exceeded far beyond anything we could imagine.
The PX headphones looks stunning (we really do love the blue and gold finish) and they sound even better. We already expected a great sounding pair of headphones, but we weren't prepared for just how well the noise-cancellation would work, nor the abundant features B&W has thrown into them.
We love the sensors that automatically pause or stop the music you're listening to entirely depending on how you wear them, and the way you have complete control over the amount of ambient sound to let in via the app. They're an incredibly great rival to the class-leading Sonys, in terms of features, effectiveness and price. We would still say Sony has the edge over B&W, but it's a very fine one indeed.
- Read the full Bowers & Wilkins PX review
Beats Studio 3 Wireless
The Beats Studio 3 Wireless are likely to appeal to iPhone owners more than those on Android, only because they're the latest pair to benefit from Apple's W1 chip. This means they automatically try to pair with an iOS device when they're within distance, and once they're paired they're available to instantly connect to from all other Apple devices using the same iCloud account.
The Studio 3 Wireless have some very clever noise-cancellation technology onboard too. It constantly measures the sounds around you - up to 50,000 times per second - and adjusts both the noise-cancellation and sound profile accordingly, to make sure you're getting the most effective sound blasted into your ears.
It doesn't always work as well as we'd expect, but for the majority of scenarios, it worked just fine and the sound they produce is less bass-tactic that you might expect from the headphone company. What we really love about the Studio 3 Wireless is the battery life, that just goes on and on and on.
- Read the full Beats Studio 3 Wireless review
B&O BeoPlay H9
The B&O BeoPlay H9 are one of the more expensive pairs of noise-cancelling headphones to grace our ears, but in return they provide a supreme level of comfort, thanks to high-quality materials. To complement the fantastic build quality is incredible sound quality.
The H9 owe a lot of their success to the rather large ear cups, which immerse you with crystal clear sound and some effective noise-cancellation to back it up. We've put the H9s through their paces on several flights and found them to block out the unwanted aeroplane noises incredibly well.
With a wealth of competition at lower prices, the B&O BeoPlay H9 need to do a lot to justify their asking price, and we feel they do. You won't be disappointed.
- See the full B&O BeoPlay H9 review
Bose QuietControl 30
Noise-cancelling isn't solely reserved for over-ear headphones, as we're now seeing the technology finding its way into in-ear models too and the best pair we've come across so far are the Bose QuietControl 30. Not only do they exhibit the same superb sound profile as Bose's other headphone models, but they are adept noise-cancellers too.
You can fine tune just how much external sound you want to block out using the companion app, so for example if you're on a train, you'll want the tech to be turned up to the max, but if you're cycling and you want to be aware of your surroundings, you'll dial it down a little. In practice, it works tremendously and is the best example of noise-cancelling we've come across on a pair of in-ears.
Some may find the neckband design a little irksome, but given enough time to adapt to, they're a perfect pair of headphones to carry around with you.
- See the full Bose QuietControl 30 review
Sony has applied its audio expertise to noise-cancelling in-ear headphones too. We've seen what the company can do with a pair of over-ears, so we had mighty high expectations for the in-ear model. The WF-1000X don't just have noise-cancellation as a headline feature, but they're completely wire-free too.
They deliver a well-balanced sound that's neither too bassy nor too bright, we found it to be just right. The noise-cancellation is just as accomplished too, effectively blocking out the general hum drum of everyday life, as well as airplane and train noises.
Battery life isn't what you would call amazing, but wire-free in-ears as a category suffer as a whole, fortunately, the case doubles up as a charger. We would say the Bose QC30 have more effective noise-cancellation, the Sony WF-1000X aren't trailing too far behind.
- See the full Sony WF-1000X review
If you're more concerned about battery life but still want the same winning combination of Sony sound and noise-cancellation, look no further than the WI-1000X. They, like the Bose QC30, utilise a neckband design which is very comfortable and one you won't notice during listening sessions.
Like their WH- and WF- siblings, this WI- pair have sensors onboard to detect what you're doing or where you are and adjust the sound profile and noise-cancellation accordingly. They're also due to get Google Assistant with a future update. They support high-resolution audio if you have such files, but if you don't they'll upscale to near hi-res audio quality, while equaliser settings can be adjusted within the companion app.
Top this off with a 10-hour battery life and you have yourself a pretty darn good pair of noise-cancelling in-ears, and one that we wholeheartedly recommend.
- Read the full Sony WI-1000X review