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Best noise cancelling headphones for work

Too much noise at work? Not anymore!
By
July 22, 2022
Sony WH-1000XM5
By Sony
Product shot of the Sony WH-1000XM5 in black on a white background.
8.7
Check price
Positives
Excellent ANC
Great microphone quality even in loud environments
Comprehensive app with EQ
SBC, AAC, and LDAC codecs; wired
Multipoint connectivity
Negatives
Price
No water resistance
The Bottom Line.
The Sony WH-1000XM5 improves upon the already excellent noise cancelling headphones before it, with the best ANC yet from Sony, as well as a fantastic microphone.Read full review...
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
By Bose
The Bose NCH 700.
8.1
Check price
Positives
Design
Very good sound quality
Great ANC
Nearly perfect touch/button controls
IPX4 rating
In-app EQ
Negatives
Price
Not super comfortable
The Bottom Line.
Excellent design and ANC together make the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 a great pick. The IPX4 rating ensures light rain won't kill them either.Read full review...
Bose QuietComfort 35 II
By Bose
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II noise cancelling headphones in black against a white background.
8
Check price
Positives
Comfortable
Great ANC
Slightly more affordable than other top picks
App support
Negatives
SBC and AAC only, no aptX
microUSB charging
The Bottom Line.
The supremely comfortable Bose QuietComfort 35 II still has great ANC, even if some newer options out perform it. The iconic headset is still a winner in our books.Read full review...
Apple AirPods Pro
By Apple
The Apple AirPods Pro in white against a white background.
7.4
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Positives
Compact
Good ANC
Three ear tip options
IPX4 water resistance
Case supports wireless and fast charge
Negatives
Price
Charges with Lightning cable
The Bottom Line.
If you're deep in the Apple ecosystem, the Apple AirPods Pro are an excellent option. The ANC and microphone make it great for work, and being able to quickly switch between Apple devices makes it super convenient.Read full review...
Shure AONIC 50
By Shure
A product render of the Shure AONIC 50 noise cancelling headphones in brown against a white background.
7.9
Check price
Positives
SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX LL, LDAC codecs; wired
Bluetooth multipoint
Fast charging
Good ANC
Good sound quality
Great app with audio focus
Negatives
Price
No folding hinges
The Bottom Line.
If you want a ton of audio codec options, the Shure AONIC 50 is the way to go. It has great ANC, fast charging, and Bluetooth multipoint, making it a great choice for work.Read full review...

Want to tune out the world while you work? While there are many great headphones for work, active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones are the best option for people who get easily distracted or overwhelmed by noises like air conditioners, clacking keyboards, construction, and other people around you. So we’ve compiled the best noise cancelling headphones for work to help you focus on the task at hand.

For our top five picks, you can find the isolation and frequency response charts at the end of each image gallery. You can learn more about how to read our charts here.

The best noise cancelling headphones for work is Sony WH-1000XM5

For best-in-class noise cancelling, amazing sound quality, and an outstanding microphone, look no further than the Sony WH-1000XM5. It is pricey at $399 USD, but it won’t disappoint by any means. Its low-frequency noise cancelling capabilities blow other headphones out of the water, and the microphone quality will get you through any and all voice and video calls you make. The microphone also has highly effective noise cancelling. If there’s any wind or background noise around you, nobody on your call will hear it.

Sony WH-1000XM5
8.7
Top-down view of the Sony-WH1000XM5 with the ear cups folded flat and upwardsThe Sony WH-1000XM5's ANC unit does a good job of canceling noise, but it also isolates very well.The Sony WH-1000XM5 boosts sounds up to 300Hz by about 5dB.

The WH-1000XM5 also has a nice, long battery life, lasting 31 hours, 53 minutes with ANC on in our standardized testing. A battery life like this will take you through the work week easily without needing to charge it. The USB-C charging comes in handy, since charging the XM5 headphones for only three minutes will replenish 180 minutes of playback time. At $399 USD, this headset may be expensive, but it’s worth the price for top-tier noise cancelling and a stellar microphone. Notably, the WH-1000XM5 also takes the crown for best Sony headphones.

You can get an idea of just how well the WH-1000XM5 microphone performs below. The background noise from our office and wind simulations is practically inaudible.

Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Ideal):

Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Office):

Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Wind):

How does the microphone sound to you?

2970 votes

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 block the world out and looks beautiful doing it

Bose leads the charge when it comes to noise cancelling headphones and the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 (aka NCH 700) renders low-end sounds about one-sixth as loud as they’d sound without the headset on at all. You’ll enjoy a pleasing frequency response that aligns really closely with our target consumer curve. This pair of headphones also has an IPX4 rating, so it’ll fare better in light rain better than something like the Sony WH-1000XM5, which is not water-resistant at all.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
8.1
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 outsideNeither the Shure Aonic 50 nor the Bose Headphones 700 (pictured, black) have folding hinges.The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 onboard button controls.Chart of ANC performance of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.The frequency response chart for the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 which follows our house curve, though some bass emphasis is apparent.
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
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See review
See review

Bose’s durable headband uses a sliding mechanism rather than a traditional notched one, which contributes to the sleek design of the NCH 700. It’s low on buttons, consistent with its minimal design, and it has touch panels for more controls on the outside of the right ear cup.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 microphone demo (Ideal):

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 microphone demo (Office):

How does the microphone sound to you?

4954 votes

Get comfortable at work with the Bose QuietComfort 35 II

For super comfortable noise cancelling headphones that you can wear the whole workday, look to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. The QC 35 II is known for its supreme comfort, and it’s also very durable. For $299 USD, you’re getting great value for the comfort and noise cancelling capabilities this headset has to offer. It also has excellent sound quality, following our consumer curve very closely. Most people will love how this sounds, and if you don’t like the EQ that much, you can always change it in the Bose Music app.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II
8
The Bose QuietComfort 35 II lying on an open book.The Bose QuietComfort 35 II and the Google Assistant button is located on the ear cup.The Bose QuietComfort 35 II on a gridded surface next to two smartphones.A man's hand holds the Bose QC 35 II noise cancelling wireless headphones.A chart showing the very effective noise canceling performance of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones, and Gaming Headset.A frequency response chart for the Bose QuietComfort 35 II noise cancelling headphones.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II
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See review
See review

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II uses the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs, so unfortunately Android users don’t have a reliable high-quality codec here. Like the WH-1000XM5 and Bose NCH 700, the QC 35 II also supports a wired connection, so you can enjoy high-res playback. The battery life is really good, lasting about 21 hours in our standardized battery testing, so you’ll likely only have to charge it once during your work week.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II microphone demo (Ideal):

Bose QuietComfort 35 II microphone demo (Office):

How does the microphone sound to you?

4387 votes

The Apple AirPods Pro will fit into your Apple ecosystem perfectly

Apple users will get a lot out of the Apple AirPods Pro. It integrates seamlessly with Apple devices, allowing you to switch between Apple devices easily due to the H1 chip. It also has a pretty consistent output across the bass and midrange with less emphasis on treble frequencies than we typically see from wireless earbuds. All genres will sound good through the earbuds. With a nice secure fit, great noise cancelling, and handy controls on the ear stems, this pair of earbuds will get you through the work day and anything else you need it to.

Apple AirPods Pro
7.4
The AirPods Pro earbuds in the wireless charging case next to an iPhone and digital camera.The Apple AirPods Pro in a man's left hand against a green background.The Apple AirPods Pro true wireless earbuds in the case being held by a man's left heand.An active noise cancelling chart for the Apple AirPods Pro true wireless earbuds, which shows a decent degree of passive isolation and minimal noise cancellation.A frequency response chart for the Apple AirPods Pro true wireless earbuds, which shows output that closely follows our house curve.

The Apple AirPods Pro is also IPX4 water-resistant, so you can take them outside without worrying about them dying in the rain. You can also take calls easily on it, since it has a good microphone. It’s not the best microphone out of all of these picks, but it’s definitely good enough for people to hear you clearly on the other side.

Apple AirPods Pro microphone demo (Ideal):

Apple AirPods Pro microphone demo (Office):

How does the microphone sample sound to you?

15341 votes

The Shure AONIC 50 is collecting codecs with its many connectivity options

For the most versatile connectivity options, the Shure AONIC 50 has you covered with Bluetooth 5.0 and support for the SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, and LDAC codecs. Not only do you get a wide range of high-quality Bluetooth audio options, but you can also connect by 2.5-to-3.5mm audio cable or via USB-C audio passthrough. It also has Bluetooth multipoint, so you can connect the AONIC 50 to two source devices simultaneously. The noise cancelling on the Shure AONIC 50 isn’t quite as good as some of the other options on this list, but it will still do a great job of blocking out unwanted noises around you.

Shure AONIC 50
7.9
An picture of the Shure Aonic 50 noise cancelling headphones in brown leaning against a coffee carafe.An aerial photo of the Shure Aonic 50-noise cancelling headphones open carrying case revealing the headphones in brown.A picture of the Shure Aonic 50 noise cancelling headphones headband stitching leaning against a Kalita Wave pourover set.A picture of the Shure Aonic 50 noise cancelling headphones headband adjustment mechanism.A picture of the Shure Aonic 50 noise cancelling headphones onboard button controls and switches.A chart depicting the Shure AONIC 50 noise cancelling performance (firmware 0.4.9), and low frequencies are heavily attenuated making them four times quieter with ANC enabled than when it's disabled.A chart depicting the Shure AONIC 50 frequency response (firmware 0.4.9); sub-bass and treble notes have been amplified with the first firmware update.

The Shure AONIC 50 also sounds really good. You can select from EQ presets or create your own within the free, OS-agnostic ShurePlus PLAY app. This headset is also good for video and voice calls, since it has a good microphone. But make sure your firmware is up to date, since the firmware version 0.4.1 made voices sound slightly less intelligible. Originally, the AONIC 50 carried a hefty $399 USD price tag but you can find it for as low as $249 USD nowadays. Generally speaking, the Shure AONIC 50 will satisfy your high-quality audio and noise cancelling needs, especially if you switch between devices throughout the day.

The microphone system on the AONIC 50 is good but not great. It’s promising to see that Shure updated the microphone quality with a firmware update early into the product’s lifecycle.

Shure AONIC 50 microphone demo (firmware 0.4.1):

Shure AONIC 50 microphone demo (firmware 0.4.9):

How does the microphone sound to you?

3760 votes

How different is the Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset from the Bose QuietComfort 35 II?

The Bose QuietComfort lays flat on a wooden table plugged into its volume dial.
The large volume dial is easy to adjust but takes up quite a bit of space.

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II Gaming Headset is pretty much the same as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, but this time with a detachable boom mic. It connects to devices through a 3.5mm headphone cable, or over Bluetooth like the original QC 35 II. The addition of the boom mic does make a bit of a difference in mic quality, since the mic is now closer to your mouth, and the microphone has an under-emphasis in the bass range to combat the proximity effect. When placed correctly, you’ll get clearer audio from the boom mic than the embedded headset mic.

The microphone has no problems with voices, and it will perform well for video and voice calls, as well as gaming as the headset was originally intended. Whether or not that’s worth the extra $30 USD is down to whether you care about the slight increase in vocal quality over the microphone. For most, the difference won’t matter much.

Does the Jabra Elite 85h have good ANC for a work headset?

A photo of the Jabra Elite 85h headphones partly folded on a stack of blue, thin books with a vintage camera in the bottom left corner.
The ear cups rotate 90 degrees and can be folded toward the headband.

As a more affordable noise cancelling headset, the Jabra Elite 85h might be enticing because of its comfortable build, water-resistant coating, and battery life, alongside the cheaper price tag. But if you’re looking at it for the noise cancelling, you might want to look elsewhere.

The ANC on this headset lags behind other noise cancelling headphones and does a poor job of cancelling out low-end frequencies. The passive isolation is pretty good, though. If you just want something with a little bit of ANC with really good isolation, this might be worth considering, but if you want to block most sounds out, look elsewhere. For $249 USD, you’re better off picking up a pair of Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones on sale.

What about the Sony WH-XB910N?

Shot from the side to show the Sony WH-XB910N controls on the left ear cup.
Power on/off and ANC/Ambient are the two buttons on the left ear cup. These work just fine.

Bass heads out there might appreciate the Sony WH-XB910N (the XB stands for “extra bass”), and while you can equalize the sound using the Sony Headphones Connect app, it won’t quite be perfect. The ANC is decent, being similar to the Sony WH-1000XM3, so it can definitely block out a lot of outside noise that may distract you. It also supports the SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs, so you have high-quality Bluetooth audio options to choose from. If you’re going to pay $248 USD for the Sony WH-XB910N, you’d better be sure you like loud bass.

The best noise cancelling headphones for work: Notable mentions

A photo showing someone using the touch controls of the Sony WF-1000XM4.
The WF-1000XM4 is a compact set of wireless earbuds that will serve you well at work.
  • Anker Soundcore Life Q35: A cheaper option in the noise cancelling headphones market, the Life Q35 has LDAC support, wonderful battery life, a good microphone, and adequate active noise cancelling.
  • Microsoft Surface Headphones 2: The Surface Headphones 2 has some nice features, like Bluetooth multipoint and aptX support. The ANC is good, and you can adjust the EQ to your liking as well. While it’s not exactly affordable, it’s cheaper than the more premium options out there at $249 USD.
  • Monoprice BT-600ANC: Monoprice makes amazing affordable audio products, and the Monoprice BT-600ANC is no exception. For $99 USD, you get incredible ANC performance, aptX HD support, and an extra-long battery life. The microphone is perfectly fine for calls too.
  • Sony WH-1000XM4: The former holder of the crown for best noise cancelling headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is still a fantastic noise cancelling headset. With amazing noise cancelling, LDAC support, great battery life, and adjustable EQ, this headset is definitely still worth it, especially if you can find it on sale.
  • SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless: Not just a gaming headset! The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless has really good ANC, a fantastic microphone, and a 22-hour battery life. It can be used wired through a 3.5mm cable or wirelessly with Bluetooth 5.0, though it only supports the SBC codec. You can save a pretty penny and get the non-noise cancelling, wired version instead.
  • Nothing Ear 1: A bit more affordable for a pair of noise cancelling earbuds, the Nothing Ear 1 has pretty good ANC, a good microphone, and the design is unique and fun too. It’s a strong alternative to the AirPods Pro and performs quite well against Apple’s flagship buds.
  • Sony WF-1000XM4: Excellent ANC from Sony but in true wireless form, the WF-1000XM4 is a pair of earbuds for work. The microphone sounds good, and the sound quality is great too.

Hold up! Something’s different:

Some of our picks’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this article (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and isolation performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).

Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.

What you should know about the best noise cancelling headphones for work

When you’re shopping around for headphones of any kind, there are a few basic things to know. Whens shopping around for ANC headphones that you plan to use while working, well there’s even more research to do. Below, we help you learn about how noise cancelling works, the benefits of a good headset mic, and why Bluetooth codec support matters.

How does active noise cancelling work?

Angled view of the Sony WH-1000XM5 power and noise cancelling buttons
Power, Bluetooth, and noise cancellation can be controlled using hardware buttons underneath the left ear cup.

Noise is heard through microphones on your headset, which creates “anti-noise” through phase-inversion. This means the headset creates a noise that is out of phase with the ambient noise it’s picking up, which cancels it out. For a more in-depth explanation, check out our article on how noise cancelling headphones work.

Noise cancelling is a difficult feat, and while technology is getting better all the time, it’s not perfect. Noise cancelling headphones are best at blocking out ambient noise like the droning of a plane or a fan, not incidental noises like clattering dishes or dropping an object. To dampen incidental noise, you also need good passive isolation, which comes from a good fit. With over-ear headphones, a good fit requires the ear pads fit around your ear without gaps. Those who wear earbuds need the ear tips to fit seal to the ear canal entrances and stay in place during movement.

Why are microphones important for work headphones?

A man wears the Bose QuietComfort 35 II sitting at a PC.
Sounding clear over a video call is pretty important!

Mic quality matters a lot if you’re looking for headphones for work because you want to be understandable over a video or voice call. While laptop microphones are sufficient for this, you can get much better audio quality from a built-in microphone on your headphones.

Some headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM5 have wonderful noise cancellation for the microphone, picking up basically no outside noise. But if your microphone isn’t top-of-the-line like that, you’ll want to ensure you’re in a fairly quiet environment. This is so your mic doesn’t pick up the sounds of other people around you, or wind and traffic if you’re outside. A mic with better noise cancelling will eliminate these variables, but it’s good practice to control your environment.

What are Bluetooth codecs and do they matter for work headphones?

Image of Android Bluetooth codecs including aptX and LDAC
SBC, AAC, LDAC, it’s all so many letters, what do they mean?

Bluetooth uses different codecs to encode and decode audio data from your device to your ears. The different codecs have different transfer rates, or bit rates, which is how much data is transferred per second. This also depends on the sample rate of the track, or the amount of data in an audio file per second, as well as the bit-depth, or how much data is encoded in each sample.

SBC is the baseline Bluetooth codec. It has a low transfer rate, while aptX and LDAC have much higher transfer rates. Higher transfer rates mean better quality audio, as long as the audio files are also higher quality. You can’t get the full experience of a lossless file like a FLAC using the SBC codec, you need to be wired for that—though LDAC can get the closest when it performs consistently. For a more in-depth explanation, check out our article about understanding Bluetooth codecs.

How we choose the best noise cancelling headphones for work

We tested the Sony WH-1000XM5 in the lab with state-of-the-art equipment.
We tested the Sony WH-1000XM5 in the lab using state-of-the-art equipment including our B&K 5128.

At SoundGuys, we perform objective tests to measure things like frequency response, isolation, microphone quality, and more. To do so, we use a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 head and torso simulator (HATS) with an anatomically realistic ear canal and outer ear. We also use a standardized setup to test the microphone quality of products with pre-recorded phrases from a calibrated artificial mouth in our test chamber. This allows us to present standardized microphone samples so you can judge the quality of various products and compare them across the board. After we collect all of this data, we then score each product through various objective and subjective measures.

Our team then confers with one another regarding the best products for a given category and presents our list to you. It’s not over after we hit “publish,” though. Instead, we treat every article as a living document that we update as new and worthy products come out.

Why you should trust SoundGuys

The Sony LinkBuds sit inside the Bruel & Kjaer 5128 head and torso simulator.
Finding the right fit is difficult on your own ears, but it’s even harder on our beautiful and stylish test head.

Each writer at SoundGuys has accumulated years of experience reporting on the consumer audio market, and our staff adheres to a strict ethics policy. We don’t use sponsored content on the website at a time when doing so is the norm. SoundGuys‘ survival depends almost exclusively  on readers enjoying their purchases. We pride ourselves on transparently outlining objective facts, while accounting for the subjective experience to contextualize an audio product’s performance. When we do misspeak, we correct and own up to it.

Frequently asked questions about the best noise cancelling headphones for work

Noise cancelling is great for blocking out consistent sounds so the microphones have time to detect the sound and cancel it out. Loud, sudden noises are too quick to be properly cancelled out, so you’ll still hear these unless you have really good passive isolation.

Making sure you’re in a quiet environment helps a lot. Environmental noise like construction, wind, traffic, or others talking might interfere with your voice over the microphone. You can also adjust your mic levels in the sound settings on your computer if you’re too quiet or loud.

Many headphones have a passthrough mode that you can turn on to talk to people without removing your headphones. Some headphones, like the Sony WH-1000XM5, have speech detection that turns off noise cancelling and turns on passthrough when it hears you talking to another person. This is imperfect though and many still prefer just removing their headphones to carry a quick conversation.

Make sure you put your headphones into pairing mode, which is different for each pair of headphones. Open up settings on your computer, and find the Bluetooth settings menu. There should be a list of devices, and the headphones should show up as a device to connect to. Click on the name of the headphones in the menu, and you should connect almost instantly.