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Best noise-canceling headphones for blocking out the outside world

Best noise-canceling headphones for blocking out the outside world


Listening to music is so much more than a distraction when you’re alone in public. It can have a profound effect on your state of mind, and it’s the reason we’re willing to spend iPad-level cash on headphones instead of opting for a cheap pair in the checkout line. Listening to music (or podcasts, or audiobooks) can be an integral part of getting through that daily commute or a long flight.

But if the incessant sound of jet engines, distracting chatter of a coworker, or deafening bass of partying neighbors prevents you from reaching that euphoric place — or from just getting your work done — noise-canceling headphones will be one of your favorite adult investments. (And if you’re in the market for a Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or Prime Day deal, it’s helpful to learn which devices are the best so when the sales start you’ll know what to buy.)

Do noise-canceling headphones actually work?

There’s a big difference between outside noise being blocked and music simply being loud. Just like not every pair of expensive glasses protect your eyes from blue light, a pair of pricey headphones doesn’t guarantee they have noise cancelation. For instance, the Beats Solo 3 are a great pair of headphones with special features like Apple’s W1 chip, but they don’t offer active noise cancelation.

Active noise-canceling headphones can electronically remove the sound coming from your surroundings. They work by using internal microphones that listen to what’s happening in the world around you, then inverting the noise and sending it into the loudspeaker. The idea is, both the output and the input will cancel out, leaving you with near-silence — or the music you want to listen to. Over-ear headphones are also able to create a tight seal around your ear that adds another layer of sound blocking.

In the past, not many earbuds featured active noise cancellation, but now there are plenty of noise-canceling earbuds if you don’t like the bulkiness of headphones. Earbuds can’t get the same seal that headphones can, though, so if you’re a noise cancellation snob, stick with headphones.

What are the best noise-canceling headphones to buy?

Bose and Sony are both top names when it comes to any type of audio, but especially noise-canceling headphones. Both brands feature industry-leading noise cancellation on top of superb sound quality. There are also some other brands and models of noise-canceling headphones worth checking out. We’ve laid everything out for you below.

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