Last updated: August 9, 2021

Our method

11Products analysed

40Hours spent

8Evaluated articles

124User reviews

Welcome to our big noise cancelling headphones test 2021. Here we present all the noise cancelling headphones we have tested. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web.

In this way, we would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best noise cancelling headphones for you.

You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy noise cancelling headphones.




Summary

  • Noise cancelling headphones are ideal for you if you would like to do without annoying noises while listening to music.
  • When buying noise-cancelling headphones, you can choose between in-ear headphones, on-ear headphones and over-ear headphones.
  • With noise-cancelling headphones, the noise-cancelling function, wearing comfort and sound quality are particularly important.

The Best Noise Cancelling Headphones: Our Choices

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying noise cancelling headphones

What types of headphones are available with noise cancelling?

No matter whether you prefer to use earphones or cone headphones, active noise cancelling can now be found in all types of headphones. To give you an overview, we will briefly present the differences between in-ears, on-ears and over-ear headphones.

In-ear headphones are the smallest headphones. They weigh little and are easy to store. The earplugs are inserted directly into the ear canal. In this way, they seal the ear well from outside noise.

Shell head phones include on-ear headphones and over-ear headphones. On-ears, as the name suggests, are placed on the ear. They are not quite as big as over-ears and are particularly suitable for people who wear glasses, as they do not press on the temples of the glasses. Due to their shape, they generally let outside noise through more easily. However, thanks to the ANC, this is counteracted well.

The largest headphones are the over-ears. They completely enclose the ear. This automatically shields you from environmental noise. However, they are quite bulky and may be heavy. For both on-ears and over-ears, devices with foldable earpieces are more advantageous if you want to store them in a more space-saving way.

Which devices are compatible with NC headphones?

PCs, tablets, televisions, music systems, smartphones and MP3 players can all be connected to the headphones without any problems. The only thing you have to pay attention to is the connection, and for smartphones, Android or iOs operating systems.

All three types of headphones are offered either as wired or Bluetooth models. This means you are free to choose whether you prefer to listen to your music with or without a cable. Bluetooth products also come with an AUX cable. This allows you to continue listening to music even when your Bluetooth battery is empty.

If you want to use your headphones with your smartphone, be sure to check the manufacturer's description. Some devices are only compatible with either Android or iOs smartphones. Therefore, read the model's instructions carefully to avoid making a wrong purchase.

If you have an iPhone 7 and your headphones are equipped with a jack plug, you don't have to worry about having to buy new earphones. Thanks to an adapter, you can still use your headphones even though the iPhone 7 no longer has a jack for headphones.

If you want to use your noise-cancelling headphones with a smartphone, especially when you're on the move, pay close attention to the manufacturer's instructions to avoid compatibility problems. (Image source: pexels.com / Burst)

Which manufacturer or brand suits me?

If you attach particular importance to a branded product, you have certainly already been able to find some favourites among the manufacturers for yourself.

Bose in particular continues to be the undisputed leader in the noise cancelling market. But other top-class brands such as Teufel, AKG, Senneheiser, Philips and Sony are also constantly improving their technologies and are among the best suppliers.

If you don't favour any particular brand and would like to start with a cheaper model from a smaller manufacturer, you will of course get your money's worth. Although the noise reduction is not as advanced, it is considerably cheaper than a product from Bose.

You can find out more about selected manufacturers and some of their noise cancelling products on our brand pages, so feel free to take a look there too.

How do I want to connect my headphones?

Do you prefer a wired model or a Bluetooth device? It all depends on your personal habits and preferences.

The advantage of a wireless device is clearly the great freedom of movement and the end of the annoying tangle of cables. However, with some products, there could be problems with the connection if the headphones start to have interference in the transmission at a distance of just a few metres from the paired device.

This is not the case with wired headphones. Simply connect the cable to the respective device and the connection is established. However, make sure that the cable is detachable and thus replaceable. This way, even if the cable breaks, the entire headphone should not have to be replaced.

Wireless headphones allow you freedom of movement. This means that you can do sports with the right sound in your ears without any problems.

What functions should my headphones have?

Do you want your headphones to also function as a headset for making phone calls? Or is it enough for you just to be able to play music with them? Do you want to use them for sports and therefore need a non-slip and water-repellent model?

These are all important criteria that you should take into account. Many of today's models are also made for making phone calls thanks to the integrated microphone and the pairing with the smartphone. You don't even have to use the mobile phone to answer or hang up. This is simply done via the controls on the headphones themselves or on the remote control on the cable.

The buttons that are normally used to play, pause or skip songs are simply converted. The music you were listening to before is stopped during the call and continues to play when the call is finished. You don't need to speak into your smartphone to make a call, because the microphones in your headphones take care of that.

In many sporting activities, fast, jerky processes are commonplace. Accordingly, your headphones must be built in such a way that they don't fall out of your ear with every little movement. In the long run, this would only get on your nerves and interfere with your training. The product should also be made for outdoor sports so that it doesn't give up the ghost in a small rain shower.

Some models even have the function of using the headphones to trigger the mobile phone camera. Of course, this is a very special gadget that not every headphone can offer. Therefore, pay attention to the manufacturer's specifications and also read additional customer experiences. This way you are on the safe side when buying the right product.

Did you know that 50% of headphones are already wireless in 2016?

Bluetooth headphones have been booming for a long time: an estimated one in two of the headphones sold over the counter in 2016 was wireless.

Which type of headphones suits me?

The choice here depends entirely on your taste. It doesn't matter whether you prefer shell headphones or small earplugs, because noise cancelling can now be found in all three types: on-ear, over-ear and in-ear.

Over-ear headphones also have the advantage of being able to passively block out noise due to their circumaural design. On the other hand, they are much heavier than in-ears and can slip more easily. With in-ears, it is important that you choose the right headband for your ears. This prevents them from slipping out or pressing uncomfortably in your ears.

If possible, always try on the headphones before you make a final decision. No one wants to have painful ears after just a few hours or even minutes because the headphones don't fit properly.

Be open to trying out a different type of headphone. Who knows, maybe you'll like an in-ear model better than you expected, even though you've always gone for shell headphones.

Each type has its advantages and disadvantages. It is more important to consider the situations or places where you will use the headphones the most.

What kind of design should my headphones have?

Whether plain or flashy, large or small, everyone has a taste here. In addition to classic colours like black, white and silver, more and more models are being produced in bright colours. Blue, red or combinations of several colours are particularly common. But elegant shades of brown also join the colour spectrum.

Some stars, such as Usain Bolt or Ludacris, also give the headphones an unusual touch with their individual designs, which immediately catches everyone's attention. Some manufacturers also play with light elements on the ear cups of the headphones. Of course, these are particularly effective in the dark.

In addition, metallic and wood-coloured elements elegantly accentuate the design of the headphones. So if you want to draw attention to yourself with your headphones or combine them as an accessory with your outfit, you no longer have to rely on monotonous colours.

But the simple and inconspicuous designs can also be convincing. You should definitely get your money's worth here, too.

Additional functions that your headphones may need are sweat and rain resistance. These extras are especially useful for sports.

Do the headphones also have good sound?

Of course, sound quality is one of the most important factors besides noise cancellation. After all, what's the point of expensive headphones if the music they play just sounds tinny and dreary?

The choice of headphones that best suit you depends on your taste in music. Some models are equipped with rich basses, while others have clear trebles.

Your choice should depend on what you prefer when listening to music. After all, hip hop without proper bass is just as terrible as classical music without decent treble. In addition, the mid-range frequencies should not be neglected.

Here, the experiences of buyers can also help you to get an impression of the sound range. Note, however, that everyone's perception of sound is different and opinions are subjective. What seems to be too flat in sound for one person may be a true sound experience for another.

The best thing to do is to try the product yourself and play your favourite music through it. This will give you the best idea of whether the headphones really meet your requirements.

You should also bear in mind that many headphones have a lower quality of music transmission when the noise cancellation is switched off. If active noise cancelling is not important to you, it is better to opt for normal headphones with comprehensive sound quality.

The headphones should match your music genre. The bass and treble tuning of headphones varies and can make a significant difference.

Is the wearing comfort good enough for me?

Again, the feel of a particular pair of headphones is different for everyone. However, no model should press on or in the ears or become uncomfortable after several hours of wearing.

Good, soft padding made of high-quality materials can work wonders for shell headphones. No seams or anything else should impair wearing comfort. There should also be no sweating under the headphones, as this can also become uncomfortable in the long run.

Ear-cup models are often more comfortable in the long run than their smaller, ear-mounted counterparts. These are more likely to press on the ear. If you wear glasses, you should always make sure that the earpieces are not pressed too tightly against your head by the headphones. This can also lead to an unbearable wearing experience.

Headphones with earpieces are usually adjustable in size and should therefore be adapted to any head shape. In the case of in-ear models, attachments of different sizes are provided to ensure the right fit.

The weight of the headphones can also influence wearing comfort. In the long run, heavy over-ear models can give the feeling of pressing on the head or even on the cervical vertebrae. This problem does not occur with in-ear models, as they weigh only a few grams.

With trial and error and customer reviews, you can be sure to find a comfortable model that won't pinch you even after a long period of use.

How much do active noise cancelling headphones cost?

The price range here goes from 20€to the upper class with a hefty 400€ . How much money you have available and how much you are willing to invest in high-quality headphones depends entirely on you. In-ear headphones in particular are available for as little as €20. High-quality models, however, are only available from €100 upwards.

Medium-sized on-ears start at around 25€. Here, too, the most expensive products can be found in the three-digit range. Over-ear headphones offer the widest selection. Here you can buy models from 30€. The top price category starts at 200€ and is open towards the top.

Where can I buy headphones with noise cancelling?

In addition to the classic local electronics stores, there is a particularly large selection and variety of models to be found on the internet. Here, you can either browse the websites of certain brands for the products currently on offer or via popular online retailers such as Amazon. It is particularly worthwhile to compare the prices in specialist stores with those online.

Often, products can be found at a lower price on the internet. If certain discount campaigns such as sales or the internationally increasingly well-known Black Friday and Cyber Monday are taking place, you can even pick up a real bargain.

Decision: What types of noise-cancelling headphones are there and which is the right one for you?

Basically, you can distinguish between three types of noise-cancelling headphones:

  • Over-ear headphones
  • On-ear headphones
  • In-ear headphones

Depending on your preferences and intended use, one pair of headphones is more suitable than the other. Since there are no major differences in price between the types, there are other advantages and disadvantages with each of these designs.

In the following section, we will briefly describe the differences between the headphones so that you can decide which noise-cancelling headphones are right for you. We also describe the advantages and disadvantages of each type of headphone.

How do over-ear headphones work and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

Over-ear headphones enclose the entire ear. On the one hand, this ensures that they provide good protection from ambient noise even without noise cancelling. On the other hand, they usually fit better and slip less than other types of headphones.

Advantages
  • Shield ambient noise well
  • Adjustable
  • Firm fit
Disadvantages
  • Bulky design
  • Heavy
  • Very hot in summer

However, they are comparatively quite large and powerful and therefore rather unsuitable for travelling. They are therefore better suited for use at home or in the office. The padded earphones do not rest on the ear and are therefore comfortable to wear.

In summer, however, it can get very hot and uncomfortable under the ear cups. The adjustable earpieces allow you to adjust them to your head size. Some over-ears even have foldable earpieces to make them easier to carry.

How do on-ear headphones work and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

On-ear headphones just rest on your ears, so they don't fully enclose them. This makes them more manageable than over-ears and therefore more suitable for travelling. The pressure that arises when they lie on the ears can become very uncomfortable after a while.

Advantages
  • Adjustable
  • More compact than over-ears
Disadvantages
  • Do not shield completely
  • Pressure can occur on the ear
  • Heavier than in-ears

The technology that filters out ambient noise is located in the ear cup, just like in the case of over-ear headphones. On-ears also have headphones with adjustable and foldable earpieces that can be adjusted individually.

How do in-ear headphones work and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

These headphones are inserted into the ear canal and thus ideally seal it from outside noise. The ear plug is usually made of replaceable silicone and therefore remains firmly in the ears.

These silicone plugs are often supplied in different sizes so that you can choose the right size for your ears. This is important because if they are the wrong size, they could keep slipping out. The wrong size can also usually result in a poorer sound.

Advantages
  • Portable
  • Shield ambient noise well
  • Available in different sizes
Disadvantages
  • Pressure can build up in the ear
  • Not a snug fit if the wrong size

Most in-ears, unlike headphones with a headband, have a small box on their cable that contains the noise-cancelling technology. However, in-ear headphones are also the smallest and lightest of their kind.

They fit in almost any pocket, making them perfect for travelling. For some people, the plugs in the ears are painful after a while. Whether this is the same for you is something you should try out for yourself before buying.

Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate noise-cancelling headphones

In the following, we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate noise-cancelling headphones. This will make it easier for you to decide whether a certain product is suitable for you or not.

In summary, these are:

  • Sound quality
  • Appearance
  • Wearing comfort
  • Features

In the following paragraphs you can read about the individual purchase criteria and how you can classify them.

Sound quality

We place special emphasis on the sound quality of headphones. However, since everyone's perception of sound is different, it is impossible to give a general definition.

Try your favourite headphones once before you buy them. This will help you determine whether your favourite music is being played back according to your expectations. Your choice of headphones will depend on whether you prefer clear highs or deep, rich bass. Customer reviews and the manufacturer's descriptions can give you additional impressions about the sound quality.

Appearance

The appearance of headphones is becoming more and more important. This is because nowadays they also serve as eye-catchers or fashion accessories. Because of the variety of colours, designs and patterns, you have the freedom to choose your headphones according to your taste. Even the shape of the earplugs or ear cups can now be varied

Wearing comfort

Regardless of how often and how long you wear your headphones, they should be comfortable to wear. It depends on which type is most comfortable for you.

There are some differences between the three types of headphones. Some people find the feeling of in-ears in the ear canal uncomfortable, others don't like to wear headphones with a headband and others find that the headphones press on their glasses.

Find out which type of headphones is most comfortable for you and therefore suits you best by testing the different designs. This is important so that you don't make a mistake.

Features

The features can vary depending on the product. The battery for noise cancelling is particularly important. The scope of additional features also depends on the price and quality of the product.

A particularly powerful battery is essential for long-lasting music enjoyment. The battery life varies depending on the model. In-ears are less powerful than over-ears, for example, because of their small size. You can also find out about the wear and tear on the battery from customer reviews.

As already mentioned, Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones should come with an AUX cable. With wired models, the cable should be replaceable if possible. That way, you can simply replace it with a new one if you have problems.

The controls are located either directly on the headphones or on the cable. This means you don't have to dig your mobile phone out of your pocket tostop or skip a song . You can alsouse the buttons to accept calls and make calls via the integrated microphone in the headphones.

Accessories usually include a storage pouch, possibly a AAA battery if there is no built-in rechargeable battery, and different earplug sizes for in-ears. Normally, three sizes (S/M/L) are included. Upper-class models sometimes even offer up to ten-piece sets of attachments.

If you are clear about what features your headphones should have and which ones you can do without, choosing your perfect noise-cancelling headphones will certainly be easy.

Facts worth knowing about noise cancelling headphones

What are noise-cancelling headphones actually designed for?

First of all, what does noise cancelling actually mean? Literally translated, noise stands for noise and cancelling for suppression. Thus, headphones that have noise cancelling technology are supposed to reduce noise or suppress sounds.

Originally, this type of headphones was intended as noise protection for pilots. Headphones with active noise cancellation can be used for helicopter pilots, for example. They are intended to provide the greatest possible fatigue-free environment for the personnel working in the cockpit.

This is necessary because the rotor noise contains particularly low frequencies that can only be slightly attenuated by normal headphones. However, this also shields higher frequencies such as speech signals, which are necessary for communication. Therefore, the volume of the headphones must be raised extremely in order to be able to understand air traffic control at all.

However, if the low rotor noise is now shielded by noise reduction, the volume for communicating with the headphones can be significantly lowered at the same time. Unlike standard headphones, NC headphones require their own power source. This can be either a class AAA battery or a rechargeable battery.

What is the positive effect of noise cancelling?

Buyers of headphones without active noise cancellation often complain that they perceive annoying external noises when listening to music. This can greatly diminish the music experience. Especially when the music is used to switch off and relax, for example, noise is particularly annoying and gets on the listener's nerves.

That is why headphones with active noise cancelling are ideally suited to block out these interfering frequencies. Low frequencies in particular are very well shielded by the headphones.

However, the manufacturers make sure that, for example, at the push of a button, certain sounds such as announcements at the airport or railway station can pass through, so that the wearer does not miss any important information about his or her travel options.

This makes headphones with NC ideal for frequent travellers. Whether on business or on holiday, they are perfect for ensuring that noisy seat neighbours no longer disturb you. So you can read through some documents for the upcoming meeting or take a little nap.

Of course, especially in road traffic, care should be taken not to miss an approaching car when crossing a street, for example. The use of such headphones should therefore always be taken with caution in such situations.

If the music is also intended to serve as a motivator, the ANC helps you to concentrate better on the activity at hand and not be distracted from the outside. When exercising in the gym, for example, voices, snorts etc. from other people are no longer perceived.

You can therefore focus completely on your exercises. But headphones with NC are also ideal at home. When playing games on the console or PC, certain models can also be used as a headset.

Advantages of noise cancelling

  • Shielding of external noise
  • Improves music enjoyment
  • Helps you switch off and relax
  • Made for all types of headphones
  • Also available for smaller budgets

How does noise cancelling actually work?

To put it simply: active noise cancelling filters out noises from the environment and thus ensures undisturbed music enjoyment. A distinction is made between active and passive noise cancellation. This already happens when, for example, you cover your ears or put earplugs in your ears.

With active noise cancellation, the sound from the environment is also picked up by small microphones. An integrated signal processor then creates an exactly matching, opposing sound.

This counter-sound bounces off the sound of the outside noise. In this way, they neutralise each other. All this happens within fractions of a second, thus enabling an interference-free music experience. The energy source required for this is provided by a rechargeable battery or a AAA battery. These are either attached to the cable or integrated directly into the headphones.

Passive noise cancellation does not require batteries and works as a physical barrier with adjustable ear sets for in-ears and with additional padding of the ear cups for on-ears.

However, headphones with active noise reduction cannot completely eliminate background noise. On the one hand, this is because every person has a different inner and outer ear shape. In order to achieve one hundred percent isolation, it would therefore be necessary to make a precise adjustment in the laboratory.

But this would be incredibly time-consuming and expensive. On the other hand, our body itself transmits sound to the eardrum via the skull bone. This is called "structure-borne sound". Even if this proportion is perceived as relatively low compared to external noise, it cannot be influenced by Active Noise Cancelling alone.

NC works particularly well with low, monotonous sounds, such as in the underground or on aeroplanes. It is more difficult with high frequencies, such as a crying baby or the running hoover. How well the environmental sounds are ultimately shielded depends above all on the respective product.

In most cases, there is a small switch on the ear cups of the product or on a remote control on the cable to switch on the active noise cancelling. Some models have a small LED light that signals the activation of noise reduction. On others, a short signal sounds.

The Active Noise Cancelling is then supplied with energy via an integrated rechargeable battery or batteries . If the battery is empty, the headphones can still be used for listening to music, regardless of whether they are a Bluetooth or a wired model.

However, the noise cancelling function is no longer available. With some models, this can lead to a significant reduction in the quality of music reproduction. Headphones with a rechargeable battery are charged via the micro-USB cable supplied.

This makes operation child's play and there is nothing else to worry about. Put on the headphones, turn on noise cancelling and your favourite music, and keep the outside noise out! So take a look at our other pages, inform yourself about different manufacturers and try out noise cancelling yourself. You will definitely feel the difference to your normal headphones right away.

Image source: pixabay.com / cegoh

Reviews