Best wireless noise-cancelling headphones Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best wireless noise-cancelling headphones you can buy in 2020.
The best wireless noise-cancelling headphones are the equivalent of hanging a 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the door of your hotel room. Slip them on and they'll block out sounds – such as rumbling trains or loud conversations – that would otherwise ruin your moments of musical bliss. Whether commuting to work, travelling on a plane or seeking a bit of peace and quiet at home, a pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones could be just the ticket.
The best wireless noise-cancelling cans feature excellent wireless audio, strong battery life (over 24 hours, these days) and easy access to voice assistants. Some models simply allow you to switch noise-cancelling on or off, while others give you the ability to adjust the strength of the noise-cancelling. (You might want to allow some noise through when walking or cycling through a built-up area, for example.)
So, what are the best wireless noise cancelling headphones in 2020? In this handy guide we'll give you the inside track on the best-performing models from the likes of Bose, Sony and Sennheiser. They come in various shapes and sizes, from plush over-ears to tiny, true wireless earbuds. Whatever your budget, you'll find the perfect pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones below...
Sony's latest over-ear wireless noise-cancellers are one of the most comfortable pairs we’ve tested, with thick, cushioned earpads that gently cocoon your ears.
You'll discover lots of features plucked from the preceding XM2 model, including the Atmospheric Pressure Optimiser, touchpad controls and the accompanying Headphones Control app. On top of that, you get a quick charging battery (via USB-C), meaning that the XM3s go from empty to full in just three hours. In a serious hurry? A ten-minute charge gives you five hours of use.
But the biggest upgrade for the WH-1000XM3s is the move to analogue amplification, and with spectacular results. These cans produce an open, spacious sound that gives every instrument, effect and vocal room to breathe freely. Vocals sound focused and direct, but the instruments around them are delivered in a way that makes it feel as if you’re in the room with the band.
Combine that level of detail with plenty of rich, deep bass and you've got the best wireless noise-cancelling headphones we've heard in recent times. If your budget stretches to these excellent Sony headphones, we can't recommend them enough.
Read the full review: Sony WH-1000XM3
Got an even bigger budget? This pair showcases the considerable talents of Sennheiser’s engineering team. The third-generation Momentum Wireless – both the 1st-gen and 2nd-gen versions were instant knock-outs when they arrived – build on those past successes. Indeed, these cans are a big improvement over their predecessors in the sound department, promising a lively, energetic and insightful listening experience.
Aside from entertaining sonics, you get plenty of features too, including excellent built-in controls. One thing to note: the claimed battery life is only 17 hours, compared to the above Sony's 30 hours.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless
There are wireless in-ear headphones and then there are truly wireless in-ear headphones. If you want to cut the cord completely, then the new Sony WF-1000X3 wireless noise-cancelling earbuds are the best we've seen so far.
They're exceedingly lightweight and compact, which is quite the achievement given that the Sonys squeeze in batteries, playback controls, a Bluetooth receiver and active noise-cancelling. Battery life is six hours, although the supplied carry case doubles as a charger, serving up an extra 18 hours in total.
Sound quality is exceptional. Musical, tonally natural and brilliantly punchy, these true wireless buds combine great sonic ability with excellent noise-cancelling tech (it's even better than that of the preceding model, the Sony WF-1000X).
If you want noise-cancelling but you don't want big over-ear headphones, the Sony WF-1000XM3 will almost certainly wow you.
Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM3
B&W’s flagship noise-cancellers place highly in the style stakes but, more importantly, sound as good as they look. These high-quality entertainers can rub shoulders with the very best, and provide plenty of comfort to boot.
The Sony WH-1000XM3s that top this list of best wireless noise-cancelling headphones might have pipped them to a What Hi-Fi? Award, but these are fine alternatives and great value for money – especially for those who like their sonic clarity with a dash of street-luxe style. A superb choice.
Read the full review: Bowers & Wilkins PX7 review
"Noise Cancelling Headphones 700" doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, but despite the clunky name these beauties are proof that Bose's quest to improve its noise-cancelling technology has paid off.
The 700s use a new noise-cancelling system with everything from new acoustics to new digital signal processing – all running off Bose’s proprietary NC chip. It features an eight-microphone system (six to cancel noise, two for voice pick-up) and 11 increments (from 0-10) of noise-cancellation intensity to choose from, allowing you to transition from full isolation to full transparency. Zero doesn’t turn noise-cancelling off; it is a light veil that allows you to hear your environment. Turning the tech up to ‘10’ gives you the most extreme level of sound blocking. Whichever level we use, in whatever environment, the isolating effect is as good as we’ve experienced in a pair of headphones.
For a hands-free experience, there’s built-in voice control, and when listening to music, the sound is bold, clear and well-defined.
Read the full review: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
On a tight budget? The BNX-60s prove that it's possible to make a decent pair of wireless noise-cancelling headphones at a bargain price. They offer a comfortable, snug fit for average ears. One ear cup has a volume control, the on/off switch for the active noise-cancellation and a blue light that indicates when the ‘ANC’ feature is in use. The other cup has a USB input for charging, pause/play/skip track controls, a Bluetooth connection light and a standard wired headphone output. A full charge returns a good 15 hours of wireless music, or a little less with the active noise-cancelling.
Given the bargain price, you'll probably be a little sceptical of their performance. Perhaps bright treble or booming bass will ruin the sound profile? Thankfully that's not the case. The BNX-60 headphones produce a balanced sound, defined vocals and are decent all-round performers. At this price, it's hard to grumble.
Read the full review: Lindy BNX-60
The AKG N60 NCs are some of the most compact and convenient headphones we've ever had the pleasure of reviewing. They boast a suitably-sleek design and offer great bang for buck thanks to a comfy fit and superb audio performance.
Battery life is a decent 15 hours with noise-cancelling and Bluetooth switched on, or up to 30 hours with both technologies switched off. Bass delivery is powerful yet transparent with detailed, elastic vocals, soaring highs and impressive dynamics. You'd be perfectly happy to wear these all day and for the money, they're still hard to beat.
Read the full review: AKG N60 NC Wireless
If you were searching for the best-sounding noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds on the market, we'd point you firmly in the direction of the Sony WF-1000XM3. However, for those who seek the lightest, most comfortable, most high-tech noise-cancelling buds (and the complete Apple experience), the AirPods Pro are a no-brainer.
Wireless performance (in terms of connectivity) is nothing less than flawless. The excellent Transparency mode allows external noise in so effectively that it's like using a pair of completely non-isolating headphones.
Unlike the standard AirPods, these new Pro buds come with bespoke, elliptical silicone tips that burrow far less deeply into your ears than most in-ear headphones and exert far less pressure, making them barely noticeable in everyday use. Handy if you plan to wear them while jogging or working out.
The sonics lack the punch and dynamism of the Sony buds, but they make up for that with a rich, easy-going nature that works well with any recording - including low-quality audio streams. A fine choice for iPhone fans.
Read the full review: Apple AirPods Pro
The HD 450BTs might look a bit plain, but it's always unwise to underestimate Sennheiser - and so it proves here. Considering the mid-range price, these are solidly built, very comfortable cans that offer a great battery life and solid noise cancellation.
Sound is good, too. Smooth, rich and full-bodied, they provide an effortless listen that's also lively enough to be engaging.
Their tonality is a little skewed towards the bottom end, sacrificing the midrange clarity that more neutral rivals, such as the AKG N60NCs, are capable of. That may not play into the hands of every music fan, but some will find favour in the Sennheiser’s modest bias.
Read our full Sennheiser HD 450BT review
Philips’s strategy is to pack in most of the functionality of the current market-leaders, wrap it in a design not a million miles away from that of the current market-leaders, and then charge a fair bit less than the current market-leaders. The result is the PH805s.
These are stylish, comfortable, well-made headphones that on paper do everything you could reasonably expect. That said, the noise-cancelling is a good bit less effective than that of many rivals, and that will put some prospective buyers off.
Those who are happy to have only a little outside noise blocked will find the PH805's sonic delivery to be solid, weighty, warm and detailed, if a touch lacking in outright dynamics.
Read the full Philips PH805 review
The Lagoon ANCs are Beyerdynamic’s most concerted effort yet to grab some of the premium wireless, noise-cancelling, over-ear action. They do that by throwing in every feature you would expect, plus one you might not - Beyerdynamic’s Light Guide System, which illuminates the inside of each earcup depending on what the headphones are up to.
The Light Guide System is entirely useless, especially as there are voice prompts to let you know what the headphones are up to. It manages to lower the tone of an otherwise-classy product to that of a provincial nightclub.
But look past that odd feature and there's much to like. The delivery is winningly neutral and even-handed, packed with detail and fast-paced. The noise-cancelling is effective, too. With a little more excitement and dynamic range, these would be five-star headphones.
Read the full Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC review
If you're on a tight budget, these JBL on-ear wireless noise-cancelling headphones are well worth considering. They serve up a decent 22 hour battery life, feature built-in volume/playback controls and offer powerful, punchy sound.
The exciting dynamics are impressive for the money, even though the beefy bass can overwhelm at times. The plastic ear cups aren't the finest quality, but that's a minor grumble. Overall, these talented headphones offer good value for money and decent sonics.
Read the full review: JBL Tune600BTNC
Sony's already snaffled a couple of places in this list and now we've got another pair of its wireless noise-cancelling headphones for you to consider. The WH-CH700Ns sit at the more affordable end of the spectrum and boast a solid Bluetooth connection, an impressive 35-hour battery life and tight, detailed sound. Noise-cancelling is okay for the money, but isn't as accomplished as the tech in Sony's more expensive cans. Again, if your budget is strict, you could do a lot worse.
Read the full review: Sony WH-CH700N
Soggy bass response used to be a bit of an issue with Beats headphones, but these wireless noise-cancelling headphones are the most mature-sounding Beats we've heard. The Solo Pros have plenty of low-end thump, full-bodied tonality and offer an extremely well-balanced, entertaining and detailed sound.
They’re held back somewhat by loose timing and a lack of low-level dynamics when compared to class leaders such as the Sony WH-1000XM3, but the design, build and noise cancelling ability of the Solo Pros will be more than enough to tempt many buyers to open their wallets. An accomplished effort.
Read the full Beats Solo Pro review
Think of noise-cancelling headphones and you probably think of Bose, the first brand to launch the tech into the consumer audio market. While the QC35 IIs aren't the latest Bose cans on the market, they serve up great sonics and are some of the best-sounding Bose headphones we've ever heard.
There's no shortage of competition at this price point, including the outstanding Sony WH-1000XM3s, but these QCs are very competitive. You get noise-cancelling tech that is among the the best in class, a comfy fit and entertaining sound. The fact Google Assistant is built-in only broadens their appeal.
Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort 35 II