Last Updated: July 10, 2019

Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones In 2018

The way we travel has changed by leaps and bounds. What was once exclusive to the rich and famous has now become a passion for many.

While it's become easier and more affordable to reach different parts of the world, the experience isn't always perfect. Going through crowded airports, waiting in train stations or sitting through a trip with a crying baby on board don't really help, and that's why travelers are always on the lookout for the best (and truly) noise-cancelling headphones. Technology's gift to the traveling community help create a pocket of peace and privacy wherever in the world you end up.

There are several headphones in the market that place noise-cancelling as a claim on the packaging, but not all of them deliver the kind of clarity travelers expect from these gadgets. This list enumerates some of the best pairs you can find that not only produce acoustic clarity but also carries nifty features perfect for any traveler.

Sennheiser HD 4.50 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation, Black and Silver(HD 4.50 BTNC)

What To Look For

Price

Noise-cancelling headphones tend to be on the expensive side, but it doesn't have to be too expensive. The default mentality is the more expensive the better, but that's not quite the case in this list. There can be some compromise for more affordable options, so look for the features that matter to you.

Sound Quality

A common characteristic of noise-cancelling headphones is the loss of detail in audio. These headphones use algorithms and sensors to electronically eliminate ambient noise, which sometimes results in distortion with music quality. Quality headphones make the loss of detail unnoticeable.

Battery Life

Wireless and noise-cancelling go hand-in-hand for the best pair of noise-cancelling headphones. The point of having these headphones is to get you through long-haul flights or waiting for hours at terminals, so its best for your headphones not to die on you midway.


The Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones


The Sony WH-1000XM2 is a superior set of headphones with excellent acoustics and highly effective noise cancellation technology. 

Sony WH-1000XM2

Sony WH-1000XM2/B Wireless Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Hi-Fi Headphones (Renewed)

 Dimensions

6 x 6 x 4 inches

Driver Unit

40 mm, dome type (CCAW Voice Coil)

Inputs

Micro USB, Stereo Mini Jack

Frequency Response

4 Hz-40,000 Hz

Battery Life

30 hours

Wireless Range

33 feet

Other features

Wireless, Bluetooth, NFC

Noise-Cancellation

The Sony WH-1000MX2 is a set of premium travel-grade technology best used on long travels and blocking out noise. It's also packed with features that make it arguably the best set of noise-cancelling headphones on the planet.

Its ambient noise mode lets in mid- to high-frequency tones such as announcements over a PA system. It also has the Quick Attention feature that let all outside noise through without removing the headphones, useful if you need to have a quick chat with a coworker or ordering a drink from a flight attendant.

Audio Playback

A unique and winning feature is its LDAC codec. Alongside the widely used aptX HD standard, the LDAC codec enables Hi-Res Audio playback for as long as your device supports the codec such as Android Oreo devices (sorry, iPhone users). Nevertheless, it still has two Sony-specific technologies, DSEE HX and S-Master HX, that convert audio from any source and converts it to near hi-res.

Hardware

There are four microphones located inside the headphones and on outer earcups. The Power/Bluetooth button are on the left earcup. Beside it is a button to toggle the noise-cancellation setting between on, ambient mode, and off. This is also where you'll find the auxiliary jack, while the microUSB to charge the earphones is on the right earcup.

The bridge is made of metal with a padded bottom that sits comfortably on the top of the head. However, the arms that connect to the earcups and the hinges that connect to the earcups themselves are made of plastic. The earcups have a faux leather cover that are comfortable to wear and cool to the skin.

The right earcup is touch-capacitative. Here, you can control playback and volume. It's not the most intuitive design, but it can be useful once you get used to it. Unfortunately, if you connect the headphones with the 3.5mm cable to your device, the touch controls don't function. You'll have to pull your phone out every time you need to control the music.

The headphones have a very sleek and business-like design and come in black and white.

Battery Life

The headphones are expected to last on battery for 30 hours of playback. It also has quickcharge, needing only 10 minutes for every 70 minutes of playback.

Sony WH-1000XM2/B Wireless Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Hi-Fi Headphones (Renewed)
Sony WH-1000XM2/B Wireless Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Hi-Fi Headphones (Renewed)
Sony WH-1000XM2/B Wireless Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Hi-Fi Headphones (Renewed)

Pros

  • Excellent noise-cancelling
  • Clear and great-sounding audio
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Fragile hinges
  • Touch controls are not intuitive and don't work when wired

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is a wildly popular pair of headset for many travelers. It boasts of top of the line noise cancellation technology and balanced audio quality. Some people prefer the older model which does not have all the features, you can see the full comparison here.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, Noise-Cancelling, with Alexa voice control, enabled with Bose AR - Silver

 Dimensions

6.7 x 3.2 x 7.1 inches

Headphones Form Factor

Cicumaural

Inputs

Micro USB, Stereo Mini Jack (2.5mm)

Frequency Response

NA

Battery Life

20 hours

Wireless Range

NA

Other features

Google Assistance, Wireless, Bluetooth, NFC

Noise Cancellation

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is a top of the line pair of headphones that offer both wireless operation and active noise cancellation.

The headphones are not exactly jampacked with tons of features, but its noise-cancellation is still best-in-class. Switching it on is like walking into a vacuum, drowning out any noise from passing vehicles to nearby voices. There is a bit pressure with the noise-cancellation on. It's not a problem for many, but those sensitive to ear pressure might find it irritating.

Audio Playback

Audio quality is good, but not the best. Compared to the Sony WH-1000MX2, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II falls behind in audio quality. Tonal balance is neutral, dynamic range is limited, and resolution is good but not hi-res. Audio sounds soft compared to its Sony competitor, but still performs superbly compared to other headphone brands.

Most travelers and regular users will find the sound quality of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II more than great. Audiophiles will not be as satisfied.

A great feature added to the headphones is the Google Assistant. One long-press of a button and you can activate Google Assistant for handsfree operation. Google can also read back to you notifications or messages so you don't have to take your phone out of your pocket.

Hardware

Even with the noise-cancellation off, the headphones themselves already do a good job of blocking out ambient noise. This is a testament to how well-designed the ear pads are.

Controls are also fairly simple and easy to use. Power, pairing, volume and playback buttons are on the right earcup. On the left is the Google Assistant button, which you can remap to toggle other controls via the Bose app.

The design is quite generic and subtle. The build is made of plastic, which is a bit disappointing in terms of quality and look but at least makes the unit lightweight. To make up for this, the set comes with a hard case for portability.

Battery Life

The headphones can last 20 hours with noise-cancellation on and moderate volume levels. You can save a bit more battery when listening wired, but it comes with a 2.5mm jack instead of the more common 3.5mm. It's a bit more inconvenient to find a replacement, but not a dealbreaker.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, Noise-Cancelling, with Alexa voice control, enabled with Bose AR - Silver
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, Noise-Cancelling, with Alexa voice control, enabled with Bose AR - Silver
Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones, Noise-Cancelling, with Alexa voice control, enabled with Bose AR - Silver

Pros

  • One of the best noise-cancellation technology
  • Comfortable and lightweight
  • Integrated Google Assistant

Cons

  • Made of plastic and plain design
  • Balanced audio but not satisfactory for audiophiles
  • 2.5mm jack

The Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC is a travel-friendly option without the hefty pricetag.

Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC

Sennheiser HD 4.50 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation, Black and Silver(HD 4.50 BTNC)

 Dimensions

6.7 x 3.2 x 7.1 inches

Headphones Form Factor

Circumaural

Inputs

Micro USB, Stereo Mini Jack

Frequency Response

18 – 22,000 Hz

Battery Life

20 hours

Wireless Range

NA

Other features

Wireless, Bluetooth, NFC

Noise Cancellation

The Sennheiser HD 4.5 BTNC's NoiseGuard noise-cancelling technology electronically cancels out outside noise through two omnidirectional microphones. It's not going to obliterate noise as well as the Sony and Bose competition, but it's effective and delivers quality sound without any distortion. This function is activated by holding a button on the earcup for three seconds.

Audio Playback

The headphones perform surprisingly well when it comes to audio delivery. Sound is clear and detailed even when connected via Bluetooth. It's not as crisp as high-end headphones but audio is rounded and performs well with music and movies.

The bass doesn't rumble and the audio loses a little quality when NoiseGuard is on, but it's not out of character for most noise-cancelling headphones.

Hardware

The headphones look a little flimsy with its plastic body and brushed aluminum accents, but it's much sturdier than it looks. The design is made with travelers in mind, making the headphones both light and flexible. Of course, With its affordable pricetag and superb performance, these headphones are popular across all kinds of users.

The earcups are narrower than usual, making it more comfortable to wear around the neck. However, they fit snuggly around the ears and lack ventilation, which can be a problem for long usage. The right earcup has controls for volume and playback plus a microUSB port for charging. 

It also comes with a travel pouch that's smaller, softer, and lighter than for other headphones. This is the perfect pair to get if you want to travel light.

Battery Life

Despite the affordable pricetag, there is no compromise in terms of battery life. It can last 20 hours of continuous playback and at par with high-end headphones.

Sennheiser HD 4.50 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation, Black and Silver(HD 4.50 BTNC)
Sennheiser HD 4.50 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation, Black and Silver(HD 4.50 BTNC)
Sennheiser HD 4.50 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation, Black and Silver(HD 4.50 BTNC)

Pros

  • Considerably more affordable
  • Travel-friendly design
  • Effective NoiseGuard functionality

Cons

  • Earcups are snug and lack ventilation
  • Generic design and plastic material

The AKG N60NC Wireless is an affordable accessory that delivers on its noise-cancelling promise with a much better looking design.

AKG N60NC Wireless

AKG Noise Cancelling Headphones N60NC Wireless Bluetooth - Black - GP-N060HAHCAAA

 Dimensions

6.5 x 7 x 2.75 inches

Headphones Form Factor

Supraaural

Inputs

Micro USB, Stereo Mini Jack (2.5mm)

Frequency Response

10-22,000Hz

Battery Life

15 hours

Wireless Range

NA

Other features

Wireless, Bluetooth

Pros

  • Considerably more affordable
  • Sleek and compact design
  • Clear, detailed and rich audio quality

Cons

  • On-ear design does not help in noise-cancellation and gets uncomfortable during prolonged use
  • Confusing controls

The Bowers & Wilkins PX Wireless has impressive noise-cancelling technology with a stylish design and innovative motion sensors.

Bowers & Wilkins PX Wireless

Bowers & Wilkins PX Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones Best-in-class Sound, Space Grey

 Dimensions

2.95 x 6.89 x 7.87 inches

Driver type

40 mm

Inputs

Micro USB, Stereo Mini Jack

Frequency Response

10Hz - 20kHz

Battery Life

22 hours

Wireless Range

30 meters

Other features

Wireless, Bluetooth, Motion Sensor

Noise Cancellation

The PX Wireless noise-cancellation feature is highly effective. Its default mode is "Flight", but you can toggle between three different noise-cancellation modes through its companion app. Each mode lets through different frequencies depending on where you're traveling. "City" mode lets through traffic noise, "Office" lets through high-frequency voices, and "Flight" eliminates engine rumble.

Audio Playback

B&W has rolled out an impressive line of heaphones in recent years, and this is their first attempt in the noise-cancelling arena. While its noise-cancellation technology is impressive, the sound quality doesn't quite come at par with what we've come to expect from B&W.

The mids and trebles have a fuzzy sound to them, which is not a problem for tracks but music with larger soundstages can sound squashed. Busy songs sound noisier than it should be.

Sound quality is still not the worst anyone will experience, but disappoints alongside its high-end price. There is a loss of detail in the music playback. However, the B&W pair somehow makes up for it with its delivery of driving bass lines. 

Hardware

The matte finish of these headphones is a departure from B&W's typical black leather and silver. The look is a little understated, but the build quality is superb. There's a chunky look to its metal parts, but it still looks very sleek and feels sturdy.

In terms of all the standard features of excellent noise-cancelling headphones, B&W's pair delivers on all. It has a standard 3.5mm jack, full physical control buttons, and Bluetooth aptX HD support.

What sets it apart is its intuitive motion sensor that can tell whether you're using the headphones or not. Taking them off turns off the headphones and lifting one earcup pauses the music. It's a very useful feature and helps conserve battery life. You can adjust the sensitivity of the sensor.

Battery Life

The B&W PX Wireless lasts a total of 22 hours of continuous use. Catching up with innovation, these headphones feature USB-C charging as well.

Bowers & Wilkins PX Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones Best-in-class Sound, Space Grey
Bowers & Wilkins PX Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones Best-in-class Sound, Space Grey
Bowers & Wilkins PX Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones Best-in-class Sound, Space Grey

Pros

  • Innovative motion sensor
  • Impressive noise-cancellation quality
  • Comfortable fit and sturdy build

Cons

  • Average sound quality
  • Premium price

Which Headphones Are The Best Choice For You?

Hands down, the Sony WH-1000XM2 is the best noise-cancelling headphone out in the market right now. With efficient and effective noise-cancelling technology paired with high-resolution audio, this pair is the perfect pair for audiophiles who want to immerse themselves in their own music. 

Sony WH-1000XM2/B Wireless Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Hi-Fi Headphones (Renewed)
190 Reviews
Sony WH-1000XM2/B Wireless Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Hi-Fi Headphones (Renewed)
  • Smart Listening automatically detects your activity, whether you're travelling in an airport or sitting in a quiet area, then balances the noise cancelling levels accordingly. You can customize your preferences with the Sony I Headphones Connect App.
  • Leave your headphones on: Place your hand over the right ear cup to turn the volume down for instant conversation.Change the track, turn the volume up or down, and take or make calls by tapping or swiping the panel with your fingertip.
  • Keep the music playing with up to 30 hours of battery life and quick charging, for up to 70 minutes of play after just 10 minutes of charging.
  • Hear music that stays true to the original recording with Hi-Res Audio. Optimized for Hi-Res Audio, S-Master HX reduces distortion and allows you to enjoy all the subtleties in your music.

An affordable choice that doesn't compromise on quality or function is the Sennheiser HD 4.5 BTNC. The NoiseGuard noise-cancellation technology and compact design is great for any traveler.

Sale
Sennheiser HD 4.50 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation, Black and Silver(HD 4.50 BTNC)
800 Reviews
Sennheiser HD 4.50 Bluetooth Wireless Headphones with Active Noise Cancellation, Black and Silver(HD 4.50 BTNC)
  • Bluetooth 4.0 and aptX technologies to deliver exceptional wireless sound quality..Connectivity Technology: Wireless
  • NoiseGard active noise cancellation to reduce ambient noise levels improving the listening experience
  • Intuitive ear cup mounted controls for changing tracks and for making calls via the integrated microphone. Frequency response (Microphone) : 100 10,000 Hz
  • Up to 19 hour battery life with Bluetooth and NoiseGard activated and is supplied with connecting cable for battery free listening
  • 2 year warranty when purchased from an authorized Sennheiser dealer

Ready to enjoy long waits and travels? Grab your own pair of noise-cancelling headphones at Amazon!

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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