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    Updated on Apr 10, 2020. Posted on Apr 10, 2020

    The Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones To Help Drown Out The Rest Of The World

    What's that? I can't hear you?

    We hope you love the products we recommend! All of them were independently selected by our editors. Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page if you decide to shop from them. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

    Nothing kills a listening experience quite like the sound of the outside world.

    Universal Television / Via giphy.com

    Whether you're listening to a new bop, catching up on your favorite podcast, or simply want to mute Jim from accounting who won't stop talking about his standing desk (no one cares, Jim), here you'll find the best noise-cancelling headphones across three different price points. Happy distraction-free listening!

    Editor's Note: We're currently updating these picks! Check back soon for more.

    Anker Soundcore Space NC Headphones

    BuzzFeed

    The Soundcore Space headphones are Anker’s first active noise-cancelling (ANC) pair — that is, headphones with a built-in mechanism that block out ambient noise — and you’d almost never know it’s the company’s first foray into this space from listening to them.

    We say almost because there’s a decent chance you’re a brand loyalist: Over the years, Anker has attracted a steady fanbase with its catalog of budget-friendly gadgets (a compact portable charger and a 3-foot lightning cable being two of its most popular buys).

    BuzzFeed

    We’re happy to report that Soundcore marks yet another victory for Anker — and (to get right to the point here) for your wallet. Finding a solid pair of noise-cancelling headphones for under $100 is no easy task! We know this because we tried out several pairs in this price category — the TaoTronics TT-BH22US, CB3 Hush, and Audio-Technica ATH-ANC, to name a few — and weren’t wowed by any of our options. That is, until these landed in front of us.

    Its appearance leaves a bit to be desired: Anker is in the game of doing just enough where style is concerned — but, then again, maybe this kind of pragmatic minimalism is your style. Where these headphones were able to truly shine, though, was in their ANC. According to Anker, they block out up to 96% of high-frequency sounds (like human voices) and 93% of low-frequency noise (think: a subway rumbling underneath you or the murmur of an AC unit).

    BuzzFeed

    While these percentages are difficult to confirm, we can, anecdotally, vouch for the vast improvement these headphones made on busy sidewalks and on public transport. Their overall sound quality, testers agreed, was also good — if not excellent — for this price category. Midrange and high frequencies — the ranges where central melodies and vocals fall — were impressively clear (though slightly less impressive with ANC in use), while the bass hardly overwhelmed the listening experience.

    Audiophiles may wax poetic about the Bose QC35 IIs (our $$$ pick) or the Bowers & Wilkins PX, but if you’re like most people — a casual and thrifty music listener — you’d be hard-pressed to find a pair of ANC headphones under $100 that checks as many boxes as the Soundcore Space headphones do. That said, it doesn’t matter how good ANC is if your ears are left bleeding after 30 minutes of use. That’s why you’ll be relieved to learn you can confidently check the “comfort” box with these.

    Bottom line: Anker’s Soundcore Space headphones would make excellent commuter headphones, given their ease of wear, and are perfect for the casual listener. Anker is only just starting to dip its toes into the ANC space, and we’re excited to see what the brand has up its sleeve for budget models to come.

    Get it from Amazon for $99.

    Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2

    BuzzFeed

    Not thrilled by the prospect of throwing down $300-plus on a pair of best-in-class ANC headphones? Then meet the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2s. At under $200, these cans are more than worth your consideration as a budget-friendly alternative to our splurgy $$$ pick.

    BuzzFeed

    This, of course, comes with a few caveats. Looking for a pair of headphones that'll fold small when stowed away? You might be better off with any of our other picks, because the Pro 2s were made primarily with office use in mind. What do we mean by that? They're relatively bulky — albeit slimmer and lighter than the first-generation BackBeat Pros — and don’t fold up at all, making them a bit of a hassle to lug around when not in use. Luckily, thanks to the cushioned headband and ergonomic oval ear cup design, they're also so comfortable you'll rarely want to take them off.

    Then there’s appearance to take into account, which many testers at BuzzFeed felt so-so about. Let’s just say faux-wood, faux-metal, and textured plastic accents do not the harmonious medley make. All of which is to say they're not for everyone (when is anything ever for everyone, anyway?)

    Whatever you think of the Pro 2's aesthetics, it’s hard to fault any pair of headphones on looks when they sound this good (and ring in under $200 while doing so). Our testers agreed the sound was clear, dynamic, and not too overwhelmed by bass (the BackBeats’ signature bass-heavy sound is even heavier this time around, but is never a deterrent). 

    BuzzFeed

    About that ANC: It really gets the job done. Assuming you don't work in an environment where Hanson might spontaneously pop in for a live set in the cafeteria (relatable?), the Pro 2s will effectively muffle side chatter and the moderate-to-high volume chirps of the outside world. Earth-rattling subway decibels, however? You’re on your own.

    What’s especially neat about the Pro 2’s ANC is that it works during wired listening — a feature that, strangely enough, is not more common in ANC headphones, but should be. This helps preserve battery life (though this probably won’t be top of mind, because the Pro 2s have an impressive 24 hours of juice) and allows listeners not as fond of bass to enjoy a more balanced experience.

    The first time you put these headphones on without music, you might wonder, Wait, why am I able to hear conversations around me…even *more* clearly? That’d be open-listening mode: another unique feature that allows you to tune into the world around you while the cups are covering your ears. This is particularly useful when you’re trying to stealthily eavesdrop on a conversation or, less mischievously, when you need to hear an announcement while you’re riding public transport.

    BuzzFeed

    All of this would have been enough (dayenu!), but, alas, these are feature-heavy cans. In addition to open-mic, the Pro 2s boast smart sensors that detect when you’ve removed the cups from your ears and pause whatever you’re listening to. Then, when they’ve been placed back on your ears, they resume playing. And let's not forget about all the buttons! The outer right ear cup houses the call button, while a toggle on the left ear cup allows you to activate ANC on the move. The left ear cup also gives you access to a host of playback features, including a nifty jog wheel that controls the volume when twisted back and forth. 

    If you can excuse the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2s for the small hiccups — and you should (as most pertain to their physical build rather than performance) — this purchase could very well help you be more productive in the workplace and more zen on your commute home. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better middle-tier ANC headphone on the market right now that checks as many boxes.

    Get it from Amazon for $195.

    Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II)

    BuzzFeed

    If you’re planning to drop more than $300 on a pair of headphones, you’re going to want a pair that has it all — not only fit, style, and sound quality, but also superior noise-cancellation abilities. Bose’s QuietComfort 35 (Series II) headphones excelled in all these categories (and even a few others we threw in for good measure), making them our $$$ pick.

    We spoke with Alex Laughlin, a former audio producer at BuzzFeed. In describing her commute with the Bose QuietComfort headphones, she said, “They’re so effective that I couldn’t hear anything around me. I only knew there was a train coming when I felt the vibrations in my body.” (Editor’s note: Commute in these responsibly!).

    BuzzFeed

    For those who prioritize comfort, rest assured that “comfort” is in this model’s name for a very good reason. The QuietComforts offer the most immediate sensation of comfort of any luxury headphone, but what makes them truly outstanding is that they manage to remain comfortable (with varying degrees of good to excellent) after extended use. Style-conscious headphone shoppers might find that the QuietComforts are unable to match the design innovation that models like M&D deliver on, with their chic leather and metal details that complement — rather than overtake — your face. But that’s a comparably small price to pay for best-in-class noise cancellation and, oh yes, reliable Bluetooth pairing.

    But did we mention this is a wireless headphone review? Not surprisingly, the biggest issue we bumped up against during testing other models was maintaining a strong wireless bluetooth connection. Bose’s QuietComforts were one of the few models that were able to reliably carry out their one real job — a feat you will only truly appreciate once you’ve screamed at your device after its 15th consecutive failed pairing attempt and jiggled the Bluetooth switch in every imaginable way.

    It should also be noted: The only remarkable upgrade from the Series I (that you’re paying roughly $20 extra for) is an “action” button that connects the headphones to Google Assistant via Android or iOS. This is a relatively unexplored territory in the headphone world, and allows you to access to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant without taking out your phone. Just don’t ask it to play “Free Bird.” Not your spiritual headphone journey? Fine! The Series I, while technically discontinued, is still available for purchase on Amazon and subject to occasional price drops.

    BuzzFeed

    Now, the Series II headphones are not without some shortcomings. Take, for example, the headphones’ idle noise leakage (the sound that escapes the headphones when they’re at rest). The Bowers & Wilkins PX have a leg up here, as they come with proximity sensors that stop music from playing when removed from your ears. Also, there’s the QuietComfort’s absurdly short USB charging cable (hardly a deal breaker, but baffling nonetheless), and what many of our testers described in so many words as “excessive bulk.”

    And here’s where things get tricky: Sure, the QuietComforts are crisp and will sound great to most people, but they are not actually the best-sounding cans available right now at this price point. That title, in our very humble opinion, is bestowed upon the PX. We found these headphones to be top-of-the-line for music listening — particularly for upbeat, contemporary music where their immersive and vibrant sound could really shine.

    BuzzFeed

    So why aren’t we just going with the PX as our pick? Well, it is our firm belief in this house that no one should have to suffer for an optimal listening experience. And to be honest, the PX hurt, even after a few minutes of listening. Plus, they are hellishly difficult to pair with Bluetooth. In other words: Bose was the kid in high school who did just enough to earn straight As, while B&W was the overzealous kid (probably pictured in several yearbook photos) who burnt out and peaked junior year.

    The bottom line is this: We believe comfort shouldn’t be treated as a footnote, especially for something you put around your skull. The Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs might not have the trendiest design or best quality sound, but they are extremely easy to use and pair, and they over-deliver on their two namesake promises: being comfortable AF and having the best noise-cancelling technology on the market.

    Get it from Amazon for $350.