The Sony Noise-Canceling Headphones That Do Everything Right

They sound good, fit comfortably, and pack well for travel.

assorted headphones
Kyle Fitzgerald

After testing another 17 models, we think the Sony H.ear On 2 WH-H900N is the best all-around choice in noise-canceling headphones. These headphones sound very good, cancel most noise, fit comfortably, and pack well for travel. Some headphones we tested sound a little better, and some offer better noise canceling, but none has the well-rounded appeal of the WH-H900N.

Our pick

The Sony H.ear On 2 WH-H900N does everything right and nothing wrong. It cancels noise effectively without producing the painful “eardrum suck” phenomenon that some other noise-canceling headphones do. These Bluetooth headphones sound balanced and natural, and they’re comfortable to wear for hours, which is important if you’re stuck on a long flight or in a noisy office. With a battery life of about 25 hours, you’ll get lots of use from these between charges. The travel case is a little bulkier than some, but beyond that there’s really nothing we don’t like about the WH-H900N.

Sony H.ear On 2 WH-H900N

Sony H.ear On 2 WH-H900N

The most well-rounded headphone pair we tested, the WH-H900N sounds great, comfortably cancels noise, and has the best battery life.


If noise canceling is what matters most to you, the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II is the wireless headphone pair to get—its noise canceling ranks among the best available. On top of that, it sounds good, it’s exceptionally comfortable, and it packs up into a super-slim travel case. A dedicated button accesses Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, letting you ask questions or send and listen to messages. The downside is that the aggressive noise canceling produces pressure on the eardrums that some people (including most of our testers) find uncomfortable.

Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II

Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II

The QC35 II offers outstanding noise canceling, comfort, and portability, plus support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

Budget pick

We’ve waited years for a good set of wireless noise-canceling headphones priced around $100, and we finally found one. The Anker Soundcore Space NC can’t match the performance of our top picks, but it still sounds quite good, delivers a useful degree of noise canceling, and is reasonably compact. With touch-sensitive playback and volume controls, the Space NC includes all the features that most people want and need.

Anker Soundcore Space NC

Anker Soundcore Space NC

These are the best budget noise-canceling headphones we’ve found to date, with surprisingly decent sound and noise canceling at a low price.

Also great

If sound quality is what matters most to you, and you can live with medium-quality noise canceling, the wireless NAD Viso HP70 is the ideal set of headphones for you. Overall the HP70 sounds as good as (or better than) any noise-canceling headphones we’ve heard, and although the noise canceling isn’t as good as that of our top picks, it’s enough to make airplane flights much more comfortable. The reasonably compact design also makes the HP70 a great travel companion.

In most cases the above picks were our panelists’ clear favorites, but we did find some other models worthy of consideration. You can read about them in the Competition section below. These are all over-ear or on-ear models; if you’re looking for noise-canceling earbuds, check out our best noise-canceling earbuds guide.

NAD Viso HP70

NAD Viso HP70

The NAD Viso HP70 is one of the best-sounding noise-canceling headphones we’ve heard, but the amount of noise canceling is just average.

Why you should trust us

Brent Butterworth has been reviewing audio gear professionally since 1990. He currently serves as editor of the SoundStage Solo headphone website and as an audio writer for Wirecutter, and he has previously worked as an editor or writer for Sound & VisionHome Theater Review, Home Theater Magazine, and numerous other publications. Brent is one of the extremely small number of audio journalists (maybe two or three total) who own headphone test equipment, which he used for part of our testing here. In the past eight years, he has evaluated and measured more than 200 headphones and done more in-depth analysis of noise-canceling headphones than any other journalist.

Joining Brent for this test were three exceptionally qualified panelists. First was Wirecutter headphone editor Lauren Dragan, who in her work at Wirecutter and previously at Sound & Vision has probably evaluated more headphones than anyone else on Earth. Lauren did the research into finding new models for this article, and she collected the test samples. We also got help from John Higgins, a professional musician and composer who has written for Wirecutter, Sound & Vision, and Home Theater, and who serves on Wirecutter’s headphone test panel. To confirm our picks, we asked Geoffrey Morrison—Wirecutter editor-at-large, contributor to CNET and Forbes, and the previous author of this guide—to give them a listen.

Who should get this

Noise-canceling headphones work by using microphones to capture the noise around you and then feeding an opposite (or phase-reversed) version of that sound into the tiny speakers (or drivers) built into the headphones. The result is that they cancel out the external noise to some degree. It never works perfectly, but it can work well enough in certain environments to make listening more enjoyable. The best noise-canceling headphones combine this “active” noise canceling with passive noise canceling—that is, physical barriers and dampers built into the headphones that help block or absorb noise.

Noise-canceling circuitry is intended to reduce low-pitched humming and droning sounds, which you’ll encounter in an airplane cabin and, to a lesser extent, on buses and trains (and probably boats, too, although we haven’t tried that). It can also reduce sounds from some machinery, such as loud air conditioners. A decent set of active noise-canceling headphones can make airplane travel much more enjoyable because it allows you to hear music, podcasts, or the sounds from the in-flight entertainment system clearly without having to turn the volume way up. You can also use these headphones even when you’re not listening, just to make the cabin noise less annoying; some people use noise-canceling headphones to help themselves fall asleep on long flights.

It’s a popular misconception that active noise-canceling headphones cancel out all noises equally. They don’t. Most do little to reduce external noises at frequencies above about 1 kilohertz. To give you an idea of what that sounds like, the sound of the exclamation “ahhh” is mostly below 1 kHz, while the sound of the word “hiss” is mostly above 1 kHz. However, although active noise canceling can cancel out only part of the human voice (and, regrettably, almost none of the noise of a crying baby), passive noise reduction can help reduce the level of those sounds. Contrary to some audio companies’ claims, though, passive noise reduction doesn’t do much to reduce sounds below 1 kHz. (If you want to learn more, read Brent’s SoundStage Solo article “How Much Noise Do Your Headphones Really Block?”)

So if you travel a lot on airplanes, you would probably greatly enjoy having a set of active noise-canceling headphones. If you just want something that reduces street sounds or the chatter of your office colleagues or fellow Starbucks patrons, conventional headphones will probably do about as good a job as noise-canceling headphones—and they’ll cost less, they’ll probably sound at least as good (and possibly better), and if they’re wired (meaning, not Bluetooth) headphones, they won’t need recharging every 10 to 20 hours as noise-canceling headphones do.

This article covers over-ear and on-ear noise-canceling headphones. You may also want to consider noise-canceling earbuds. These are much more compact and easier to travel with, and they can sound as good and cancel noise as well as over-ear and on-ear models. They may also work better if you wear glasses, because a thick set of glasses frames may prevent over-ear and on-ear headphones from making a good seal against your ears and cheeks. The downside is that you have to stick earbuds into your ear canals, which some people find uncomfortable.

How we picked

assorted headphones
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

For the latest update of this guide, Lauren surveyed Amazon and other retail websites to find new models that we weren’t able to cover in our previous update, and we also consulted our notes from trade shows, including CESCanJam SoCal, and Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest. Lauren then requested samples of all the new over-ear and on-ear noise-canceling headphones that seemed worth testing. We set no lower or upper price limits because this guide covers the entire range of over-ear and on-ear noise-canceling models. We compared these headphones with the top picks from our last update, all of which were still available.

Although we did consider some wired models, all of the headphones featured here include Bluetooth wireless technology, which has taken over most of the headphone industry and which is now available at very affordable prices. However, all of these headphones also support a wired connection, which is important when you want to connect to an in-flight entertainment system.

Incidentally, as we were sending this guide to publication, we got a chance to test a new noise-canceling headphone model made for kids, the Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet. Like the other headphones we tested for our review of the best kids headphones, the PuroQuiet is intended to limit the maximum volume so that kids stand less chance of hearing damage from prolonged listening. Although it’s rather pricey for a model intended for kids, the PuroQuiet delivered surprisingly good noise cancellation in our tests, providing an average of 13.5 dB of isolation in the “airplane band”—the same as our top pick for adults, the Sony WH-H900N. More on this testing below.

How we tested

GRAS 43AG ear-and-cheek simulator.
We measured the noise-canceling performance of the headphones using a GRAS 43AG ear-and-cheek simulator.
Photo: Brent Butterworth

With this type of headphones, there are four main things to consider: sound quality, the efficacy of the noise canceling, the battery life (in wireless models), and the comfort.

To judge the sound quality, we listened to the headphones with noise canceling on and off—because some headphones sound great in one mode and not so great in the other. We used the test music of the panelists’ choice, sourced from various smartphones. After Lauren, John, and Brent finished testing, we compared notes and then asked Geoff to weigh in with his opinions. We also used these same testing sessions to compare the comfort of the different headphones.

Testing the noise canceling was more complicated. We did this both by ear and by using test equipment. To test the noise canceling by ear, Lauren and John played noise at a loud level through a JBL L16 wireless speaker and then tried each of the headphones to see which ones best canceled the noise. Brent did his test in his audio lab, using a mix of cabin noise recorded in four different airliners, fed through four speakers and a subwoofer at a level of 80 decibels, which is about the level you’d experience in the fairly loud cabin of an older jet such as a Boeing 737 or a McDonnell-Douglas MD-80. Brent followed up by testing the best models during rides on Los Angeles’s Metro transit system, which includes buses and subways.

Brent then performed lab tests, measuring the degree to which the headphones blocked different frequencies of sound. To do this, he placed each set of headphones on his GRAS 43AG ear-and-cheek simulator connected through an M-Audio USB interface into a Windows laptop, played pink noise through the same speaker system described above, and used TrueRTA audio-spectrum analyzer software to see how much sound was leaking through the headphones. (You can read a more in-depth description of the process here.) You can see the results from our top picks in the chart below.


To provide a simpler way of looking at these measurements, Brent calculated the average amount of noise the headphones canceled in the 100 to 1,200 Hz frequency band, which is where more airplane cabin noise occurs, based on his analysis of four recordings he made in the cabins of different airliners. The higher the number, the greater the average noise reduction.

If you’ve read previous versions of this guide, you may notice that we have not only added a couple of new picks but also shuffled around a couple of existing picks. Specifically, we’ve elevated our former runner-up, the Sony H.ear On 2 WH-H900N, to be our top pick, and we’ve demoted the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II from the top-pick slot to runner-up status. The change represents our growing awareness that better noise canceling doesn’t always make for a more enjoyable experience.

This is due to a phenomenon we refer to as “eardrum suck” because it seems to produce the same uncomfortable reduction of pressure on the eardrums as you’d experience when riding a high-speed elevator in a very tall building. Typically, the more effective a headphone’s noise-canceling circuitry is, the more eardrum suck it produces. Bose’s tremendous sales of noise-canceling headphones show that this phenomenon doesn’t bother some people, but it bothers us to the point where we won’t use headphones with ultra-powerful noise canceling—such as the QC35 Series II or the Sony WH-1000XM3—because they hurt our ears too much. Co-workers and readers have reported experiencing similar discomfort.

Fortunately, you don’t need extreme levels of noise canceling to have a pleasant experience with noise-canceling headphones. In our testing, we’ve found that about 10 decibels of average noise reduction in the “airplane cabin band” between 100 and 1,200 Hz is plenty to allow for music listening at a comfortable level. All things being the same, more noise canceling would be welcome—but all things are definitely not the same.

Our pick: Sony H.ear On 2 WH-H900N

Sony H.ear On 2 WH-H900N
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Most noise-canceling headphones get certain things right but fail in some key area. The Sony H.ear On 2 WH-H900N is one of the few headphones that get nothing wrong. Almost every aspect of this set’s performance is above average: the sound, the noise canceling, the battery life, the comfort, and the ergonomics. The travel case isn’t as slim as those of some of our other picks, but it’s still reasonably compact. We simply can’t think of anything we don’t like about this pair.

In our tests, the sound was among the most balanced we heard from noise-canceling headphones, with a nice blend of bass, midrange, and treble: Nothing really stood out, and nothing got lost. Outside of a little sibilance in the treble and a bit of extra bass, there’s nothing not to like (although the NAD Viso HP70 did have a more spacious and slightly more detailed sound). We like the sound as is, but the Sony Headphones Connect app lets you tweak it to your liking.

Sony H.ear On 2 WH-H900N

Sony H.ear On 2 WH-H900N

The most well-rounded headphone pair we tested, the WH-H900N sounds great, comfortably cancels noise, and has the best battery life.

Earpads on the WH-H900N headphones
The WH-H900N headphones are comfortable to wear for long listening sessions, but the earpads might be a little small for some people.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

The set also features Sony’s LDAC Bluetooth audio codec, which is available on many newer Android phones; LDAC has a much higher data rate than the other Bluetooth codecs now available, but you’ll likely hear an improvement only if you store CD-quality FLAC files on your phone (which you probably don’t) or stream from lossless services such as Tidal or Qobuz; you won’t hear an improvement if you’re playing MP3s or streaming data-compressed music from the Internet. And the audibility of such improvements in a $300 pair of headphones is extremely questionable.

The noise canceling was good in our tests, with average noise reduction of 13.5 decibels in the “airplane band.” That’s not as good as what we got from the Bose QuietComfort 35 II or the Sony WH-1000XM3, but the WH-H900N has almost none of the “eardrum suck” problems of those models. The NC button on the side turns noise canceling on and off, and it also accesses the ambient-sound mode, which lets you hear sounds from your surroundings without removing the headphones. Holding this button down calls up Google Assistant. A handy Quick Attention feature activates the ambient-sound mode (and boosts the ambient sound) and reduces the level of the music playback when you cup your hand over the right earpiece.

Input on the WH-H900N headphones
The 3.5 mm input allows you to use the WH-H900N in wired mode.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Battery life is rated at 28 hours (longer if you don’t leave noise canceling on); we got 25.5 hours with Bluetooth and noise canceling on, but that’s still impressive. A quick-charge feature gives you around an hour of use after 10 minutes with the headphones hooked to USB power. We got a whopping 65 feet of line-of-sight range on the WH-H900N’s Bluetooth reception from a Samsung Galaxy S9 phone.

For most people, the WH-H900N pair will be comfortable enough to wear through a cross-country flight, although its earpads are a little small for large earlobes. The controls are the swipe-and-touch type, which means you place a finger on the right earpiece and swipe up or down to raise volume or back and forth to skip tracks on the music you’re playing. They work pretty dependably, but the operation may take a little getting used to, and we’ve heard from a few readers who simply can’t stand this type of control system.

NC/Ambient button on the WH-H900N
The NC/Ambient button turns noise canceling on/off, accesses the ambient-sound mode, and calls up Google Assistant.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

These headphones also delivered the clearest call quality of all our top picks. “It sounds like you’re talking on your phone and not through the headphones,” Lauren told Brent. They also had the best rejection of ambient noise—meaning, the person on the other end will hear more of your voice and less of the noise. It feeds a bit of your voice into the headphones too, which makes conversation more comfortable.

drawstring pouch for the WH-H900N
The WH-H900N package doesn’t include the nice travel case that comes with some competing models; Sony includes only a drawstring pouch.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Jimmy Luong of JimsReviewRoom thought the WH-H900N’s noise canceling was decent, saying of the sound, “Going over the audio performance, I very, VERY much enjoyed these.” Gabby Bloch at Major Hi-Fi writes, “[They] sound better than any other wireless model I’ve heard for under $300.” In more than 20 Amazon customer reviews to date, this pair has earned an overall rating of 4.1 out of five stars, with a Fakespot grade of A.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

For us, the only real downside of the WH-H900N is that it can’t fold as compactly as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II or the Sony WH-1000XM3, and the WH-H900N’s travel case is just a drawstring pouch. You can probably fit this pair in a laptop bag, but it’ll bulge out more than the QC35 II or the WH-1000XM3.

Runner-up: Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II

Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

The Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II and its predecessors have been top picks since we first published a version of this guide several years ago. The reasons are obvious to anyone who has tried them. The noise cancellation is dramatically better than that of almost any other headphones available, the comfort is about as good as it gets, and the folding design and slim case make the QC35 II easy to travel with. However, this set doesn’t sound quite as good as the Sony WH-H900N, the battery doesn’t last as long, and some people find the ear-suck feeling caused by the intense noise cancellation bothersome.

While audiophiles often reflexively deride the sound quality of Bose headphones, these models actually conform pretty closely to accepted standards for headphone response, which means they don’t greatly emphasize any particular band of the audio spectrum at the expense of other bands, although we do hear a bit of boost in the bass and treble and a little less midrange as a result. In our tests, they didn’t sound as crisp and detailed as the Sony WH-H900N and NAD Viso HP70, but they did sound very good overall. The QC35 II’s biggest competitor, the Sony WH-1000XM3, sounded about as good as the QC35 II, but only after we went into Sony’s Headphone Connect app and turned the WH-1000XM3’s bass down (see the Competition section for more detail on this model).

Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II

Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II

The QC35 II offers outstanding noise canceling, comfort, and portability, plus support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

3.5 mm input on the QC35 II headphones
The QC35 II headphones are very comfortable and include a 3.5 mm input to use them in wired mode.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

But the noise canceling is the main reason so many people have bought these headphones. It’s far better than the noise canceling of any of our other top picks here. Not only does it practically eliminate the low-pitched drone of airplane engines, but it also significantly reduces noise from the ventilation system and much of the conversation from other passengers. In fact, the Sony WH-1000XM3 is the only model we’ve found that can equal the QC35 II in noise canceling.

Unfortunately, both the QC35 II and the WH-1000XM3 produce a phenomenon we call “eardrum suck” because it produces the same uncomfortable, sometimes painful feeling you get when riding an express elevator to the top of a very tall building. Considering how well the QC35 II and its predecessors have sold, it’s obvious that many people are not bothered by this problem—but many are, including us. Brent owns the Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones and never uses them because of this problem, and his sensitivity to it has only grown worse since he got them. If you’re contemplating buying these headphones, we strongly recommend trying them in a store first to see if the eardrum suck makes you uncomfortable.

voice-assistant button to the QC35 II
Bose added a dedicated voice-assistant button to the QC35 II, so you can ask questions through Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa without having to pull out your phone.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Bose claims a battery life of 20 hours; we got 19.5 hours with Bluetooth and noise canceling on. The Bluetooth range, line-of-sight with a Samsung Galaxy S9, was mediocre at about 25 feet, but that’s still plenty for most people. Call clarity was good overall, with a little more intrusion from ambient noise than we heard with the Sony WH-H900N.

The QC35 II doesn’t have as many fancy features as some competitors—such as an ambient mode or swipe controls—but frankly, we didn’t miss them much with this pair. It does, however, have a dedicated button to trigger Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa on your phone. Hold down the button, and you can ask any question and receive an answer, provided your phone has an active Internet connection. More interestingly, if you get a message in certain apps (especially, but not exclusively, those made by Google), it will read that and let you respond, again all by voice. The feature works on both Android and iOS phones, but with iOS devices you need to have the app open at all times. You can access Siri on Apple devices by pushing the middle button between the two volume buttons.

The QC35 II in their carrying case
The QC35 II’s folding design and slim case make these headphones easy to travel with.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

CNET’s David Carnoy gave the QC35 II 4.5 out of a possible five stars, saying it “retains its predecessor’s top-of-the-line active-noise canceling, excellent wireless Bluetooth sound and extra-comfortable design.” Android Central’s Joe Maring calls the QC35 II “the best noise-canceling headphones money can buy.” Across more than 1,700 Amazon customer reviews to date, the QC35 II has earned an overall rating of 4.3 out of five stars, with a Fakespot grade of A.

Budget pick: Anker Soundcore Space NC

Anker Soundcore Space NC
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

We’ve been searching a long time for a set of noise-canceling headphones priced around $100 that sounds good, delivers a useful amount of noise canceling, and has a respectable battery life. With the Anker Soundcore Space NC, we’ve finally found it. Pricier headphones can beat its sound quality, noise canceling, and comfort, but the Space NC delivers enough of all those characteristics to be a great buy and well worth owning.

The noise canceling is not as good as with the Sony and Bose models we picked, but it’s enough that you can enjoy music on an airplane without cranking the volume up high. We measured an average noise reduction of 12.4 dB, better even than the four-times-as-costly NAD Viso HP70. The sound was nice in our tests too, with reasonably clear-sounding voices and decent detail in the high frequencies, so instruments such as cymbals and acoustic guitars didn’t sound dull. It produced a bit more bass than we like to hear, but we realize a lot of people prefer a little extra oomph in the bottom end, so that’s okay. The Space NC includes the AAC audio codec, which may deliver slightly better sound than standard Bluetooth when you’re using the headphones with Apple devices.

Anker Soundcore Space NC

Anker Soundcore Space NC

These are the best budget noise-canceling headphones we’ve found to date, with surprisingly decent sound and noise canceling at a low price.

Space NC headphones
The Space NC headphones have solid build quality and a folding design.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Battery life is rated at 20 hours with Bluetooth and noise canceling on; in our tests, we got 21.5 hours. Bluetooth range was perhaps a hair above average, at 35 feet line-of-sight from a Samsung Galaxy S9. When Brent called Lauren, she reported that the ambient noise was minimal, but that was because the fidelity of the call was just so-so: “It makes your voice and all the other sounds seem soft and kind of blended together,” she said.

The case for the Space NC is similar in style to the one included with the Bose QuietComfort 35 II; it’s about 25 percent thicker, so it’s not quite as travel-friendly, but it’s still slim enough to slip into a typical laptop bag. The clamping force (the pressure the headband puts on your skull) was a bit on the strong side for those with large heads, but after a few minutes we forgot about it, and the Space NC proved comfortable enough to wear for a couple of hours.

Space NC’s power and phone buttons, USB port, and 3.5 mm input
The Space NC’s power and phone buttons, USB port, and 3.5 mm input are located on the left earpiece, while the swipe-type controls are on the right.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

The one possible downside for the Space NC is its use of swipe-style controls, instead of dedicated buttons, on the right earpiece. As with the Sony WH-H900N, you press your finger against the earpiece and then swipe up to raise the volume, down to lower it, or sideways to skip forward or backward to another track. We thought the Space NC’s controls worked reasonably well, but some readers have told us they hate this type of control system.

The Anker case
The Anker case is sturdy and has a design similar to that of the Bose case, but it’s about 25 percent larger.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Tucker Bowe at Gear Patrol writes of the Space NC: “They’re good wireless over-ear headphones, with decent noise-canceling abilities, at a ridiculously affordable price.” Jennifer Allen of Review Geek says, “If you’re on a budget but don’t want to suffer too much noise around you, these are the perfect pair of headphones to snap up.” Last we checked, the Space NC had earned an overall rating of 4.3 stars out of five across 80-plus Amazon reviews, with a Fakespot grade of A.

Also great: NAD Viso HP70

NAD Viso HP70
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Noise-canceling headphones don’t have a reputation for great sound, but that’s changing fast, thanks in part to models such as the NAD Viso HP70. It’s the noise-canceling version of the NAD Viso HP50, a longtime favorite of many reviewers (including us). Even with Bluetooth and noise canceling activated, the HP70 sounded great in our tests. The noise canceling is just adequate, but it is adequate—enough that you don’t have to crank the volume way up to enjoy your music on airline flights. This pair is also comfortable and reasonably portable, although the battery doesn’t last as long as those of our other picks.

It’s in the sound where the HP70 excels. “These sound the best by far, and if you have the means, these are the most enjoyable to use all around,” Lauren said. The sound in our tests was almost completely neutral and natural; perhaps it had just a slight emphasis on the bass and treble at the expense of the midrange (meaning, the vocal range). The HP70 delivered a more spacious sound than almost any other noise-canceling headphones we tried, and it sounded great with every type of music we played on this pair. The HP70 includes the aptX HD audio codec, which the Bluetooth blind test on Brent’s website has shown can deliver a subtle boost in sound quality if used with an aptX HD–compatible smartphone or portable music player.

NAD Viso HP70

NAD Viso HP70

The NAD Viso HP70 is one of the best-sounding noise-canceling headphones we’ve heard, but the amount of noise canceling is just average.

Viso HP70’s USB port
The Viso HP70’s USB port and 3.5 mm input are located on the right earpad.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

You can see in the chart (linked in the original Wirecutter article) that the noise canceling of the HP70 is nothing special. We measured an average noise reduction of 10.8 dB, which is enough to be useful, but even the much less costly Anker Soundcore Space NC did better in this regard. Still, that’s enough to get the job done on a long flight.

Battery life is rated at up to 15 hours with Bluetooth and noise canceling on; in our tests, we got 15.5 hours. Bluetooth range was okay at 30 feet, line-of-sight with a Samsung Galaxy S9, but the call quality wasn’t great—Lauren’s voice sounded muddy to Brent, and Brent’s sounded muddy to Lauren, too.

The NAD headphones
The NAD headphones offer dedicated buttons for volume, ANC, and track control.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

The NAD case is soft-sided; it’s better than the drawstring sack that comes with the Sony WH-H900N but not as sturdy or sleek as the cases that come with the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and Anker Soundcore Space NC. Fortunately, those soft sides allow it to squeeze down to 2¼ inches thick, slim enough to fit into most laptop cases.

Viso HP70 package
The Viso HP70 package includes a soft-sided case.
Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

Carlo Lo Raso at Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity writes, “The NAD VISO HP70 are a stylish, great sounding and effective audio companion, whether for daily use or for travel.” Chester Tan of Music Photo Life says, “The HP70 delivers excellent audio clarity, musical bass and frequency balance that will delight most home audiophile listeners.” And if you want to see a full technical breakdown of the Viso HP70, check out Brent’s measurements on SoundStage Solo. Unfortunately, only three customer reviews were available on Amazon last time we checked, with an overall rating of 3.9 out of five stars (two five-star reviews plus a two-star review from a buyer who said these headphones broke).

What to look forward to

There was only one set of noise-canceling headphones that we were curious about but unable to get for this review: the AKG N60NC, an apparently new version of a wired on-ear model we’ve loved for years because of its very good sound and super-compact design. The model shown in the page we’re linking to is cosmetically different from the N60NC sample we have, but we haven’t been able to get any information about what changes might have been made.

We expect many new noise-canceling models to be introduced at the CES trade show in January 2019, and we’ll test them as soon as they’re available.

The competition

We’ve tested way too many noise-canceling headphones to list here, including every major model and many from barely known brands. We’ve included comments below about the models we suspect most people might want to know about; if you’re curious about a model we haven’t listed, drop us a note in the comments section, and we’ll post the information if we have it.

AKG N60NC Wireless: This model was a bit disappointing, given that we really liked the wired version, the N60NC. The treble sounded somewhat soft, and the noise canceling was nothing special.

AKG N700NC: These headphones sounded great, with a response based on the “Harman curve” derived from extensive research. However, their stiff earpads made them uncomfortable, and they’re rather bulky.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC700BT: This set suffered from middling ANC, unintuitive and finicky controls, jagged highs, and lows that were blurry and lacked refinement. Additionally, it produced a dip in the midrange that made everything sound as if it were inside a box.

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8: These were very good-sounding headphones with good noise canceling, but we preferred the sound and comfort of the NAD Viso HP70.

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9: Very expensive, and reviews found this set annoying to use, with weak NC.

Beats Studio3: Although these headphones remain popular, to our ears (and those of many other reviewers), they sound too bassy and boomy, and their noise canceling is only average.

Bowers & Wilkins PX: This is a very expensive model with mild NC (an average reduction of 12.1 dB in the airplane range) and unnatural sound.

JBL Everest Elite 700: These headphones sounded pretty good and offered decent NC in our tests, but we think our top pick beats them out.

Marshall Mid A.N.C.: We loved the sound of these compact on-ear headphones, and their noise canceling was okay, but despite their size they don’t fold into a travel-friendly configuration.

Plantronics BackBeat Go 810: Our panelists split on this affordably priced model versus our budget pick; we gave the Anker Soundcore Space NC the nod mainly because it usually costs about 33 percent less.

PSB M4U 8: These are great-sounding headphones, from the designer of the NAD Viso HP70, but the Viso HP70 is more comfortable and more portable.

Sennheiser HD 4.50BTNC: We got below-average NC from this pair. The sound was rather brash and spiky, adding a nasally aspect to male voices.

Skullcandy Venue: In our tests, these headphones had okay noise canceling, but their sound was thin and piercing.

Sony WH-1000XM3: The WH-1000XM3 is a very close competitor to the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. Noise canceling, comfort, and travel-friendliness are about the same. In our tests, the WH-1000XM3 actually had a slight advantage in measured noise canceling—an average of 23.1 dB versus 21.6 dB for the QC35 II—but in daily use we really couldn’t hear a clear advantage in either model. Ultimately, we chose the Bose headphones because they sounded good right out of the box, whereas the Sony headphones needed adjustment through an app in order to produce good sound.


1. Brent Butterworth, How Much Noise Do Your Headphones Really Block?, SoundStage Solo, June 1, 2018

2. Jimmy Luong, Sony H.Ear On 2 Headphone Review, JimsReviewRoom, January 31, 2018

3. Gabby Bloch, Sony WH-H900N h.ear on 2 Review, Major HiFi, August 15, 2018

4. David Carnoy, Bose QuietComfort 35 II review, CNET, June 1, 2018

5. Joe Maring, Bose QC35 II review: The best noise-canceling headphones money can buy, Android Central, July 12, 2018

6. Tucker Bowe, These Are My Favorite Noise-Canceling Headphones Under $100, Gear Patrol, October 19, 2018

7. Jennifer Allen, Anker Soundcore Space NC Headphones Review: An Ideal Budget Pick, Review Geek, July 30, 2018

8. Carlo Lo Raso, NAD Viso HP70 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphone Review, Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity, September 26, 2018

9. Chester Tan, NAD VISO HP70 Review: Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphone, Music Photo Life, July 4, 2018

Read the original article on The Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones.