Best Noise Cancelling Headphones 2021: Our Top Picks For November

When looking at today's market, chances are you've decided that you need some of the best noise-cancelling headphones. But, it can be difficult to even know where to begin.

If that is you, don't worry as we've done all the hard work by taking a look at reviews, spec sheets and additional features and picked out the best of the best.

From a marvellouse Bose choice with the Bose QuietComfort 45s to a top choice for audiophiles with the Shure AONIC 50, we've got you covered right here.

Let's get to it!

Best Noise Cancelling Headphones

Best Noise Cancelling Headphones - Sony WH-1000XM4

Image Credit: Sony
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Image Credit: Sony

Manufacturer: Sony | Drivers: 40mm | Battery Life: 30 hours (With ANC)/ 38 hours (Without ANC) | Bluetooth: Yes | Weight: 254g

If you're looking for the best set of noise-cancelling headphones available, then look no further than the Sony WH-1000XM4s.

In comparison to the previous model, the WH-1000XM3s, these newer cans from Sony should offer a more comfortable fit combined with its usual sleek design that's now been made of more textured plastic.

There's also the same 40mm drivers that should help to provide a detailed and feature-rich sound with a nice overall soundstage and placement. Sony does also allow you to connect to two devices simultaneously.

Battery life with this new revision is also exceedingly good, thanks to 30 hours of playback time with ANC on and thirty-eight with it off, and you'll also find these are good for conferencing as a result of being what we think is a brilliant set of headphones with a mic.

Oh, about that noise cancelling. With the WH-1000XM4s, it's even improved over the previous generation which should result in pure isolation thanks to real-time tech through Sony's HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1.

With a cool design and great noise cancelling, we think these Sony headphones are some of the best wireless headphones out there!

Best Noise Cancelling Headphones Bose - Bose QuietComfort 45

best noise cancelling headphones, product image of white Bose headphones
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Image Credit: Bose

Manufacturer: Bose | Drivers: 40mm | Battery Life: 24 hours | Bluetooth: Yes | Weight: 238g

We think the Bose QuietComfort 45s look to be one of the American manufacturer's best headphones to date, offering what should be incredible noise-cancelling and some great all-round audio.

They replace the much-revered QuietComfort 35 IIs, and bring with them an improved battery life of 24 hours, which offers decent playback time for all your tunes and podcasts.

What you'll also find is an intriguing engineering feature that Bose calls 'TriPort design vents' that they say will make the Bose QuietComfort 45s offer up audio with a little bit more depth, which we think will enable these to offer a cracking audio experience.

The ANC here has also been upgraded and there are two modes to pick from including a new Aware Mode. What this does is enhance some background noises so you can still keep your headphones on whilst you're chatting to someone or want to know what's going on around you.

What's also of note is that these latest incarnations also sport the more reliable Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity standard, offering a worthwhile upgrade to the ageing Bluetooth 4.1 that powered the last generation.

Best Noise Cancelling Headphones For Battery Life - Jabra Elite 85h

Image Credit: Jabra
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Image Credit: Jabra

Manufacturer: Jabra | Drivers: 40mm | Battery Life: 36 hours (With ANC) | Bluetooth: Yes | Weight: 296g

If you're looking for a pair of noise-cancelling headphones that offer fantastic battery life, the Jabra Elite 85H could be for you.

These headphones boast up to 36 hours of battery life while using the ANC technology and come with fast charging, providing 5 hours playback from a mere 15 minutes of charging.

In terms of sound quality, these headphones boast high-end 40mm drivers that should offer a refined and sharp music experience.

The Jabra Elite 85H also feature 8 microphones for both noise-cancellation and improved call quality.

Best Noise Cancelling Headphones For Audiophiles - Shure AONIC 50

Image Credit: Shure
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Image Credit: Shure

Manufacturer: Shure | Drivers: 50mm | Battery Life: 20 hours (With ANC) | Bluetooth: Yes | Weight: 334g

For audiophiles, the Shure AONIC 50 represents a fantastic choice given the fact it supports high-res audio options such as both aptX and aptX HD.

In addition, they also carry this ascertained style thanks to voluminous levels of padding and a colour choice of either black or brown. Both look rather suave.

Their premium build is also exuded thanks to a 334g weight that whilst maybe a little heavy for a pair of premium cans don't look to be too heavy to become uncomfortable.

Sound quality appears to be rather detailed with the standard noise-cancelling setting but can become rather weighty with it on full blast.

The Shure AONIC 50s certainly represent a great pick for the audiophiles out there.

Best Noise Cancelling Headphones For Apple Users - Apple AirPods Max

Image Credit: Apple
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Image Credit: Apple

Manufacturer: Apple | Drivers: 40mm | Battery Life: 20 hours (With ANC) | Bluetooth: Yes | Weight: 386g

Apple has been a brand about the synergy between products, and if you happen to own an iPhone, or a MacBook, or maybe both, then you might want to invest in a pair of AirPods Max.

They're Apple's first endeavour into the world of over-ear headphones and carry plenty of plus points including 20-hours of battery life and Bluetooth connectivity.

The biggest point about the AirPods Max though is not their 40mm drivers, but the fact they carry a minimalistic design that's the mark of an expensive pair of headphones.

They also should provide a comfortable fit with decent levels of padding and the 40mm drivers and noise-cancelling blending for what should be a high-class audio extravaganza.

The AirPods Max aren't cheap by any means though - an MSRP of £549 means these are the best for Apple users and those who've got a lot of money to spend.

For some of the best noise-cancelling earbuds too, they remain a good choice of manufacturer thanks to the AirPods Pros.

Best Noise Cancelling Headphones Budget - Anker Soundcore Life Q30

Image Credit: Anker
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Image Credit: Anker

Manufacturer: Anker | Drivers: 40mm | Bluetooth: Yes | Battery Life: 40 hours (With ANC)/ 60 hours (Without ANC) | Bluetooth: Yes | Weight: 263g

For the more budget-oriented end of the scale, the Anker Soundcore Life Q30s look to provide a great option for those looking to try out ANC at a price that won't break the bank.

It isn't just on the value-for-money scale where the Soundcore Life Q30s perform well, as their noise cancelling for the price is excellent as it works well to block out any unwanted louder sounds.

A set of three different colours - black, pink, and blue - ensures that they also look great and a hard plastic construction means they also seem pretty sturdy.

The overall sound is said to be rather bass-heavy which will suit some better than others, but a good bottom end does go a long way for budget cans like these.

These are also some of the best wireless headphones under 100 available, and make it on this list on merit and performance, too.

Frequently Asked Questions About Noise Cancelling Headphones

What is ANC (Active Noise Cancelling) for the best headphones?

Active noise cancelling, or ANC, for short, is a system headphones can use to block out any unwanted noise.

It's a cleverer system than simple passive noise isolation as ANC relies on additional microphones within the cans that listen out for noise and can change the settings in real-time.

How does ANC work in the best noise-cancelling headphones?

For more traditional forms of noise-cancelling, it relies on low-frequency microphones that essentially neutralise any outside audio.

This can usually be changed with multiple modes that cancel different levels and quantities of noise.

In more expensive headphones like Sony's WH-1000XM4s, this monitoring and adjustment occur in real-time as opposed to being user-configured through presets.

What different types of ANC are there for noise-cancelling headphones?

There's ANC or active noise cancellation that relies on external microphones.

But, you can have noise cancellation without ANC; enter passive noise isolation.

If a set of headphones has a tight enough seal around the earcups which doesn't let in much noise at all, then their isolation is good, leading to a similar sensation to ANC, just without the low-frequency microphones.

ANC is a more reliable and a better system overall, but for the more budget headphones out there, a tight seal and good levels of padding can go a long way to dampening any unwanted noise from outside.

Do ANC headphones block out all sound?

While ANC headphones work well to block out most ambient sound, they cannot eliminate all background noise.

With ANC headphones, roughly 70 percent of background noise will be reduced, which makes them great for busy environments and for use on a plane.

However, you will still be able to hear some louder noises, or sounds with frequencies that are too low to be blocked out.

READ MORE: Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds 2021: Our Top Picks From Budget To Premium

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