Whether you’re on the sofa listening to music, making calls, or on a cross-country flight, these noise-canceling headphones offer a premium experience start-to-finish. They’re not cheap, but your ears will thank you.
Music may have charms to soothe the savage beast, but not if the headphones you’re using start to feel uncomfortable after five or ten minutes, if the music sounds terrible, or the headphones go dead after just a few hours of use.
Fortunately, high-quality headphones exist. On the downside, if you want quality, you better be ready to pay for it. On the upside, don’t let the list prices scare you—all of our premium picks are often available for a sizeable discount. Moreover, each of the headphones detailed here have excellent quality microphones, so they’re not just for listening to music or the TV, they let you answer and originate calls, whether on your phone on-the-go or in the office. Here are our top picks for premium over-ear noise-canceling headphones to help you enjoy clear music and phone calls wherever you are.
Best All Around Value: Plantronics Voyager 8200 UC ($219)
In the past, Plantronics was best known for their office phones. But that’s changed in recent years. The newest member of the Plantronics family is the Voyager 8200 UC, high-end headphones with ANC meant for extended wear in the office, at home, or on the go. With comfortable earcups and headband, the Voyager 8200 UCs are great for the office, with two levels of noise cancellation, four microphones that pick up your voice with clarity, and great audio response on both calls and music.
Easy to use controls are located on the different earcups, and voice response is available if you use Alexa or Cortana. Absent, unfortunately, are the voice controls provided by Siri or Google Assistant. As with the other headphones detailed here, Plantronics has a software utility, Plantronics Hub, to allow you to make settings and adjustments to the headphones. This utility is available for Android, iOS, and Windows.
Battery talk/listen time is good, with Plantronics claiming up to 24 hours before a recharge is necessary. That’s more than enough for most flights these days, and a 3.5mm jack is available on the right earcup if you want to hardware the phones to your device. The soft case has a separate compartment that holds a 3.5 mm cable and USB cable for charging the headphones. The Voyager 8200 UCs do not come with an airplane adapter, but nowadays most planes use a single 3.5 mm jack, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Battery status is reported when you power up the headphones telling you that the battery is “High,” “Medium,” or Low” or in need of fast recharge. A set of five LEDs on the right earcup also indicates battery status when you turn on the headphones.
Overall, the VBoyager 8200 UCs are targeted a bit more towards business use than the other headphones here, but soundwise, they are pretty much equivalent. Battery life is a little lower, but you can generally find the Voyager 8200 UCs on sale at a price the other two are yet to match.
Best for Traveling: Audio-Technica ANC-AT900BT ($299)
When it comes to high-end audio, Audio-Technica is a familiar name. AT’s QuitePoint ANC headphones are one of the vendor’s most popular products, with the ATH-ANC900BT the most recent release in the product line. The ATH-ANC900BTs offer a high-class experience right from the unboxing, with a zippered hard shell case that contains the headphones, a 3.5mm audio cable for when you want to use the headphone hardwired into your music source, and a USB cord used for recharging the headset. There’s even an adapter for using the phones on an airplane that still uses the older double-plug system.
And you’ll definitely want to take these on your long flights as well as using them at home or in the office. Not only are they very comfortable to wear for long periods, but they also fold very flat, so you can easily keep them in your laptop case or carry-on if you don’t want to use the hard-shell case that’s included. Add in the 35-hour use listening to music or talking in wireless and noise-canceling mode, and you have a terrific traveling companion.
Touch and swipe controls to adjust volume and place and answer calls are built into the earcup, which contains memory foam for long-term comfort and noise isolation, and a switchable quick hear-through function lets you hear what’s going on in the world around you without having to turn off the ANC. The ATH-ANC900BT headphones have 40 mm drivers featuring diaphragms with a diamond-like coating to deliver exceptional full-range audio reproduction.
If you’re using the headphones with an Android or iOS device, the Audio-Technica Connect app is available for both operating systems. This utility lets you adjust the headphone settings such as noise-cancellation and hear-through and get a complete FAQ and User Manual directly on the device.
Best Features: Jabra Elite 85h ($299)
For years Jabra was best known for Bluetooth headsets and the kind of earpieces you’d use in an office setting. In more recent years, however, the company has branched out into offering Bluetooth earbuds and headphones with an emphasis on music. The Elite series offers excellent audio capability with the Elite 85h being the top-of-the-line of Jabra’s ANC over-the-ear headphones. And, as with Audio-Technica, the Elite 85h comes in a hard-shell case with a 3.55mm cord, USB cord, and airline adapter.
One of the most feature-filled headphones on the market, the Elite 85h has nano-coated internal components which give it excellent rain resistance. So if you want to sing in the rain, key up the soundtrack and find a rainy day. With a 35 hour life in noise-canceling mode and 41 with it turned off, chances are your listening and talking experience will outlast the stormy weather or keep you going through an intercontinental trip. And when the battery does run out, 15 minutes of charging will give you up to another 5 hours of use (or you can top the battery off completely in only 2 hours). Another cool feature is turning the earcups inward to flatten the headset also turns it off while folding them back to listening position turns them back on.
You’ll get great sound and exceptional music clarity with the Jabra Sound+ software app, available for Android and iOS, that lets you adjust the headphones’ response with an equalizer, and other functions such as choosing the voice assistant you want to use, for a personalized experience. Jabra’s SmartSound can detect the amount of noise in the environment and adjust the ANC to compensate as well as provide HearThrough, so you don’t lose touch with the real world. With eight microphones embedded in the headphones, the Elite 85h provides enhanced call clarity and noise blocking and is voice enabled so you can use it with Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.