Which? uses cookies to improve our sites and by continuing you agree to our cookies policy.

Top five best noise-cancelling headphones

By Daniel Nissenbaum

Cut the background noise to a whisper and enjoy your music to the full with these top noise-cancelling models.

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

Looking for a top-quality pair of noise-cancelling headphones for your morning commute or a long-haul flight? We’ve rounded up the best models from our lab testing, along with our expert advice.

The table below contains the highest-scoring models with noise cancelling from our rigorous testing. Our experts rate how well each model blocks out background noise to their ears, and also take precise measurements with a special ‘ear microphone’.

All these models will sound great and cut out background noise, too. On the other hand, the worst models will distort your music and mean that quiet sections will be accompanied by an annoying background hiss. We’ve rounded-up some of the worst offenders at the bottom of the page, so be sure to avoid these.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by taking a £1 trial to Which? 

Best noise-cancelling headphones

Lowest price (in stock) £289.95
Which? score 78%
Reviewed Mar 2015
Best Buy
Overall sound quality :
4 out of 5
Features:
5 out of 5
External noise cancelling:
5 out of 5
Acoustic leakage:
3 out of 5
Comfort:
4 out of 5
Durability:
4 out of 5
Style:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Headphones Fold:
Member exclusive

Many newer models have come along in the three years since these over-ear headphones first hit shelves, but few have matched them for sound quality and noise-reducing aptitude. They aren’t wireless, but this means the noise cancelling will last longer – around 35 hours from a single AAA battery – making them a great choice for long-haul flights.

Lowest price (in stock) £209.99
Which? score 78%
Reviewed Aug 2016
Best Buy
Overall sound quality :
5 out of 5
Features:
3 out of 5
External noise cancelling:
4 out of 5
Acoustic leakage:
4 out of 5
Comfort:
4 out of 5
Durability:
5 out of 5
Style:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Headphones Fold:
Member exclusive

These over-ear headphones are some of the best we’ve ever tested. With wireless Bluetooth connection and interesting styling they’re a pleasure to wear, even when you’re out and about. Of course, if you’re commuting, the noise cancelling will come into its own, reducing the roar of the train to a faint whirr.

Lowest price (in stock) £198.00
Which? score 75%
Reviewed Nov 2013
Best Buy
Overall sound quality :
5 out of 5
Features:
5 out of 5
Acoustic leakage:
5 out of 5
Comfort:
3 out of 5
Durability:
4 out of 5
Style:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Headphones Fold:
Member exclusive

This pair of headphone is an unusual one: a noise-cancelling in-ear pair. Designed for use on the go, they also have an ‘aware’ mode, which actually pumps outside noise into your ears. Usually in-ear headphones plug your ears, but with these you’ll be able to hear things around you if you want, such as announcements in an airport or traffic in the street.

Lowest price (in stock) £288.95
Which? score 68%
Reviewed Nov 2016
Overall sound quality :
4 out of 5
Features:
5 out of 5
External noise cancelling:
5 out of 5
Acoustic leakage:
5 out of 5
Comfort:
3 out of 5
Durability:
5 out of 5
Style:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Headphones Fold:
Member exclusive

These headphones have some of the most advanced noise-cancelling technology around. Using touch-sensitive pads on the ear cups you can adjust the level of noise cancelling to your liking, allowing you to let just the right amount of the outside world in. Sound quality is good, and with Bluetooth connection you’ll be completely free of wires.

Lowest price (in stock) £179.00
Which? score 66%
Reviewed Dec 2015
Overall sound quality :
4 out of 5
Features:
5 out of 5
External noise cancelling:
4 out of 5
Acoustic leakage:
4 out of 5
Comfort:
3 out of 5
Durability:
5 out of 5
Style:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Headphones Fold:
Member exclusive

The most reasonably-priced model in our selection is just as good at shutting out background chatter as the most expensive. This on-ear pair sounds good, and is easily portable as it can be folded down, making it a great choice for commuters. There’s no Bluetooth, but that’s good news for battery life – in our testing we got 40 hours out of it.

Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of March 2017.

Not found the product for you? Browse all of our headphone reviews.

And here are three noise-cancelling headphones to avoid

Headphones with bad noise cancelling won’t cut out much of the noise around you and, even worse, they’ll ruin your music. The worst model we’ve seen left our lab testers confused about whether the noise cancelling was actually switched on at all. We’ve rounded up three models that you shouldn’t shell out for.

Noise-cancelling headphones to avoid

Lowest price (in stock) £144.88
Which? score 28%
Reviewed Mar 2015
Overall sound quality :
1 out of 5
Features:
5 out of 5
External noise cancelling:
3 out of 5
Acoustic leakage:
3 out of 5
Comfort:
2 out of 5
Durability:
5 out of 5
Style:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Headphones Fold:
Member exclusive
Lowest price (in stock) £9.99
Which? score 56%
Reviewed Nov 2014
Overall sound quality :
3 out of 5
Features:
5 out of 5
External noise cancelling:
1 out of 5
Acoustic leakage:
5 out of 5
Comfort:
3 out of 5
Durability:
3 out of 5
Style:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Headphones Fold:
Member exclusive

Sound from these headphones isn’t actually too bad, but they’re a real disappointment when it comes to noise cancelling. They won’t cut out much background noise – you’d be better off going for a normal over-ear pair. If you’re going on a long haul flight any time soon then these would be a serious mistake.

Lowest price (in stock) £95.00
Which? score 66%
Reviewed Jul 2015
Overall sound quality :
4 out of 5
Features:
5 out of 5
External noise cancelling:
2 out of 5
Acoustic leakage:
4 out of 5
Comfort:
4 out of 5
Durability:
5 out of 5
Style:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive
Weight (g):
Member exclusive
Headphones Fold:
Member exclusive

These are an impressive pair of headphones in almost every regard, except noise cancelling. If you’re not too bothered about silencing your surroundings then this pair will serve you well, but if it’s peace and quiet you want you should avoid it.

Are noise-cancelling headphones worth it?

The first thing to consider is price. On average, you’ll pay nearly 60% more for a pair of noise-cancelling headphones over a pair without. Noise-cancelling headphones start at around £20, compared with around £5 for the most basic headphones.

Of course, most models from the big brands are more expensive than this – noise-cancelling pairs are usually closer to the £200 mark. We’ve seen good noise-cancelling pairs available for less, but pairs without it will be even cheaper and sound just as good.

Noise-cancelling headphones can be extremely useful in specific scenarios. The technology works best at cancelling out constant droning noises, such as the sound of a train or a jet engine. If you spend a lot of time commuting to work, or sitting on flights, then you’re the ideal candidate for a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

However, if you want to cut out other more random noises, such as people talking around you, the technology is less effective. You won’t be much better off than if you were wearing in-ear headphones (which double as earplugs) or a tight-fitting pair of over-ear headphones.

SHARE THIS PAGE

Related products

See all headphones