Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones 2018: 8 of the best

Sometimes you just need to shut the world out and enjoy a bit of silence. It doesn’t matter if you’re a regular traveller or a daily commuter – our pick of the best noise-cancelling headphones will cut you off from other people’s racket and wrap you in a lovely bubble of peace and quiet.

Related: Best Headphones


Noise pollution is a big problem, and sometimes it’s enough to drive you mad. The incessant natter of people in the office, the rumble of traffic in the street, the constant droning of an aeroplane. That’s where noise-cancelling headphones come in.

Active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones are rarely cheap, but consider the improvements they’ll bring to your commuter experience. Not only will ANC headphones let you enjoy your music free of disturbance, they also mean you don’t have to crank the volume up quite so high, helping preserve your hearing.

Thankfully, the sound quality of ANC headphones has improved over years too, so you’re not making so great a sacrifice in audio fidelity in exchange for tranquility.

Read on for our the best noise-cancelling headphones we’ve tested, as well as some handy buying advice to help you choose. You can also click through to read the full reviews of every model.

Related: Best Headphones

How to buy the best noise-cancelling headphones for you

When considering headphones like these, there are a few basic questions you need to ask yourself.

First and foremost, you need to decide on fit. Do you want a super-portable in-ear model or a larger over-ear or on-ear type? With most in-ear pairs, all the cancelling gubbins is packed into a little remote housing that’s built somewhere along the cable. They’re great for the gym but not always as isolating as their over-ear brethren.

Larger pairs, such as Bose or Sony’s popular models, fit everything into the earcups themselves, which makes them a lot neater and easier to live with – not to mention, more effective. You might want to keep an eye out for collapsible designs that make them more travel friendly though.

Also look out for battery life and make sure it seems enough for your needs. These days, you’re looking at around 20 hours on average, though some offer much more, particularly if you keep the wired cable nearby for emergencies. Be sure to double check this though – only some ANC headphones will work passively without any battery.

Finally, some ANC headphones include fancy tech ensuring you can still be aware of the outside world when need be, either by temporarily disabling the noise-cancelling or by toning it down. This is useful for pedestrians and cyclists, who need to be a little more aware of their surroundings.


Key Features:

  • Touch/swipe controls
  • Adaptive ambient sound mode
  • Atmospheric pressure sensor
  • 30-hour battery

The Sony WH-1000XM2 are probably the best wireless and noise-cancelling headphones you can buy right now. They sound great, the active noise cancellation is super-effective, the touch/swipe controls are useful and responsive – and the battery lasts a very long time. These are the best and most rounded option currently available, and an essential purchase.

These headphones are the successor to the excellent MDR-1000X, and they’re a slight improvement in nearly every department. Not only do they sound better than ever – construction is more solid and they’re smarter too. These headphones work with an excellent app, which monitors your movements to accurately gauge how much active noise cancellation to apply – mild for foot traffic and maximum for flights.

The 1000XM2s won the Trusted Reviews 2017 award for Best Headphones – and rightly so.

At the time of review, the Sony WH-1000XM2 were available for £330.

Read the full Sony WH-1000XM2 review


Key Features:

  • Over-ear design
  • 20-hour wireless battery life
  • Google Assistant built in
  • Passive listening mode

Bose has a long history of making great headphones, especially ones with active noise cancelling, and the Bose QuietComfort 35 II are the latest.

Like their predecessors before them, they’re light and comfortable, so perfect for travelling, not to mention they provide the best noise cancelling on the market.

There haven’t been many changes this time around, but there wasn’t a lot to improve on. There’s still no aptX support (or aptX HD for that matter), but they still sound great, if not quite up to audio standard of the B&W PX or Sony WH-1000XM2.

So what’s new? The level of noise cancelling is now adjustable and Google Assistant is on board for feeding back notification information from your phone. Other than that, it’s business as usual for these hugely capably cans, including a battery life that remains a respectable 20 hours wireless or 40 hours wired.

At the time of testing, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II were available for £329.95


Read the full Bose QuietComfort 35 II review


Key features:

  • Over-ear design
  • 22-hours wireless battery life
  • aptX HD support
  • Wear sensor for autoplay 

The Bowers & Wilkins PX are B&W’s first crack at a set of wireless, noise-cancelling headphones, entering a challenging market to take on the likes of the Bose QC35 II and the Sony WH-1000XM2.

To differentiate itself, B&W focuses on its core strengths of luxury design and audiophile sound quality – but with some impressive tricks up its sleeve too.

Those tricks include adaptable noise cancellation and a clever wear sensor, which will detect when the headphones are on your head and when they are off, pausing playback accordingly. They’re even smart enough to know when you lift an earcup for a quick chat.

Noise cancellation can’t compete with the likes of Bose or Sony, but that is more than made up for by its audio performance. If you want the best-sounding, most musically proficient pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones available right now, these are it.

At the time of review, the Bowers & Wilkins PX were available for £330

Read the full Bowers & Wilkins PX review


Key features:

  • Up to 25 hours’ battery life
  • Active noise cancellation
  • 40mm drivers
  • On-cup controls

The problem with noise-cancelling headphones is that the good ones are usually well over £200. Go below that and generally the quality is a bit lacking. Well, not anymore. The Urbanista New York aren’t quite as good as the very best, such as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II or Sony WH-1000XM2, but they offer an enjoyable sound, they’re comfortable – and they’re yours for £150.

Urbanista is usually great with its aesthetics but the Urbanista New York is a good mix of design, comfort and performance. The use of proper memory foam means they settle nicely on your head and sit there for hours without much discomfort.

At the time of review, the Urbanista New York were available for £149.99.

Read the full Urbanista New York review


Key features:

  • On-ear design
  • 30-hour wireless battery life
  • Passive listening mode

The Sennheiser PXC 550  are a pair of feature-packed cans fully deserving of Sennheiser’s reputation.

They’re comfortable, sound quality is excellent and active noise cancellation is solid. There are plenty of extras to go at too, including adjustable ANC and a number of digital sound processing (DSP) modes for when watching movies.

The outside of one of the earcups is also a capacitive touchpad to provide intuitive media controls, plus these headphones can fold up for easy transportation.

At time of review the Sennheiser PXC 550 were available for £330

Read the full Sennheiser PXC 550 review


Key Features:

  • On-ear design
  • aptX support
  • 15-hour wireless battery life
  • Passive listening mode

The AKG N60 NC Wireless are a petite pair of on-ear noise-cancelling headphones aimed at travellers and commuters alike.

Their lightweight, collapsible design makes them much more portable than their larger over-ear competition, and their 15-hour wireless battery life is more than acceptable for their size – plus they’ll work passively too.

As far as noise cancelling, the N60 NC Wireless can’t quite compete with Bose levels of quiet, but it does enough to dull the outside world to little more than a murmur.

They sound great too, offering a punchy, detailed and well organised performance that’s both fun and expressive. A formidable little package that’s certainly worth considering.

Don’t need wireless? Then the AKG N60 are well worth checking out for £50 less.

At the time of review, the AKG N60 NC Wireless were available for £250

Read the full AKG N60 NC Wireless review


Key features: 

  • Over-ear design
  • 24-hour battery life
  • Passive listening mode

Costing a piddly £160 and offering on-paper specs equivalent to headphones priced at much more, the Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2 are great value with lots to love.

They might not be the most inspiring to look at, but they offer a solid 24-hour battery life, a comfy fit and excellent sound quality for the cash. You can also ditch the noise cancelling without shelving wireless connectivity, which is great if you want to save battery.

Speaking of noise cancelling, it’s pretty good, but not best we’ve heard. Sound is similar in that respect, with a smooth, articulate character that could do with a touch more bass. Be careful with volume too – these will harden up at about 80% of their maximum.

As always, there are a few compromises to make with more budget products, but if you don’t have the extra cash to spend, the Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2 are a great affordable option.

At the time of testing, the Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2 were available for £160

Read the full Plantronics BackBeat PRO 2 review


Key features:

  • Over-ear design
  • 20-hour battery life
  • Passive listening mode

The Sony MDR-100ABN h.ear on Wireless combine serious street cred-worthy looks with wireless functionality and excellent active noise-cancellation prowess.

Of course they sound good too, though you will want to ensure you keep them charged. They don’t sound as solid if you listen to them passively (though the 20-hour battery life means you shouldn’t get caught short).

For better sound still, the MDR-100ABM support Bluetooth aptX and Sony’s LDAC codec, though you’ll need to have a compatible source in order to reap the benefits.

The best bit is that they’re priced very competitively, too, undercutting rivals by a considerable amount. A great option for any city dweller looking to dull the hubbub without spending a fortune.

At time of review the Sony MDR-100ABN h.ear on Wireless were available for £219

Read the full Sony MDR-100ABN h.ear on Wireless review