Top five best noise-cancelling headphones
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.
Best noise-cancelling headphones
Pricing and recommendations correct as of January 2021.
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.
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.