Flip the switch, the sound of the school bell fades away, and you're studying in peace. Hit the button, and voila, suddenly your the roar of the plane's engine is nothing but the slightest whisper and you can work as you travel through the air. An excellent pair of noise-canceling headphones helps you drown out the world around you and focus on what you want.
If you're looking for some peace and quiet, here are our favorite noise-canceling headphones to take with you wherever you go!
- Bose QuietComfort 35 Series 1
- Sennheiser PXC 550
- Bose QuietComfort 25
- B&O PLAY H8
- Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B
- Sony MDR-1000XM@
Bose QuietComfort 35 Series 1
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The Bose brand has been the gold standard for active noise-canceling headphones for years, and it's Bluetooth QuietComfort 35 (QC35) over-ear model that carries the torch.
Though other brands have come close to matching Bose's quality, I still think Bose is the headphone manufacturer to beat, and I'm not the only one.
iMore's own Serenity Caldwell has used the QC35s everywhere you can imagine and continues to be impressed.
I know battery life is of extreme concern when it comes to anything that runs on Bluetooth, but the QC 35 has a 20-hour battery life. Plus, even if you do run out of power, you can use the included AUX cable to still listen to the audio. The noise-canceling feature, however, will not function if the battery is dead.
You can get a pair of the Bose QC35 Series 1 in black or silver and they will cost you around $329.
Sennheiser PXC 550
If you're looking for a pair of noise-canceling headphones that have a slightly better sound quality than the Bose QC 35's and can afford to pay a little more, Sennheiser's PXC 550 is an excellent option.
With touch controls on the side of the ear pieces and the ability to turn on the headset with a simple twist of the cans, Sennheiser's PXC 550 is also a little more feature-laden than other headsets in its class.
Mobile Nations' own intrepid video reviewer Mr. Mobile was impressed with the performance and style of Sennheiser's PXC 550.
The PXC 550's are also Bluetooth enabled with a projected battery life of 30 hours. You can pick up a pair for about $349.
Bose QuietComfort 25
When it comes to listening to audio, some people enjoy sticking with the old tried-and-true wired connection. If you fall into that camp, Bose QuietComfort 25 (QC25) is an excellent choice that should only cost you about $299.
The QC25's get to enjoy all the positives of the QC35, just without Bluetooth connectivity.
They are comfortable, compact, and offer the same superior noise-canceling Bose is known for, making them perfect for wired audio enthusiasts everywhere.
The Wirecutter has selected the QC25's as their one of their top noise-canceling headphone for three years running, so you know they are top notch!
Plus, QC25's are quite a bit lighter than their Bluetooth counterparts, which means you can wear them even longer without any fatigue in your head or neck.
See at Amazon (opens in new tab)
B&O Play H8
For fans of on-ear headphone who don't mind shelling out the big bucks for quality, the Bang & Olufsen Play H8 fits the bill.
When it comes to Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones, the B&O Play H8 is as stylish and impressive as they come. Plus, the B&O Play H8 also have touch controls on the side of the right can, making it easy to control volume and skip tracks with a swipe of your finger.
Although battery life is slightly disappointing — roughly 14 hours — you can use the included 3.5mm cable to enjoy them through a wired connection.
The Bang & Olufsen Play H8 are on sale at a crazy discount right now because the newer model —the Bang & Olufsen Play H8i (opens in new tab) — will be replacing them. Starting at around $270 on Amazon, there's no reason not to pick up a pair of these cans for almost 50% off, over grabbing the newer model which only has slight improvements.
See at Amazon (opens in new tab)
If dropping hundreds of dollars on a pair of noise-canceling headphone is out of your capabilities I don't blame you. Lucky for you, the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B is a great budget option.
In a headset that costs $99, you're going to make some sacrifices. The sound quality isn't as impressive as the other headphones listed here, but as the The Wirecutter explains the noise-canceling capabilities are impressive for its price.
The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B's are a wired over-ear headphone, and the padding is nice and thick on the cans, so wearing them on a long flight should be no problem.
See at Amazon (opens in new tab)
Sony has been trying to beat Bose at its own game for a while now, and the MDR-1000x may be the closest it's ever come.
On top of noise canceling, these cans are filled with features. Touch controls on the right ear allow you to control playback and volume, while the buttons underneath the can activate three different ambient sound modes that will enable you to hear select frequencies from the world around you.
CNET compared the Sony MDR-1000x directly to Bose and came away impressed.
Although these headphones are Bluetooth-enabled, you can also use them through a standard wired connection if the 20-hour battery life ever gives out on you. Plus, if you happen to have a device that uses Sony's proprietary LDAC format, you'll be able to stream higher resolution audio than your normal Bluetooth connection.
Competing with Bose directly also means these cans will cost you about $348.
Your favorite noise-canceling headphones?
If you've tried any of these noise-canceling headphones, let me know what you think. If I missed any of your favorites, tell me all about them in the comments!
Updated March 2018: Replaced the Sony MDR 1000X with the newer Sony MDR 1000XM2.
Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way.
Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.