Noise-cancelling headphones, at their best, are almost magical. They use an electronic system to listen to the world, create a sound wave that is the opposite and the two cancel each other out. It means you can hear your music or movie soundtrack above the roar of a jet engine or the train hubbub, and at a lower volume, too.

Recently, there’s been a new trend in noise cancellers: transparency mode. This means that the headphones can be configured to let in the noise of the world so you can have a conversation with someone without a) taking off the headphones or, b) shouting. Though, we’d say it’s more respectful to remove headphones while you’re having an in-depth conversation with someone.

Battery life is important in noise-cancelling headphones, and since most are now wireless, you need to make sure you charge your headphones before a long flight, say. In every case, you’ll get extra battery life with noise cancelling turned off, but where’s the fun in that?

NFC, short for “near field communications”, is a neat extra feature which makes for quicker, more secure Bluetooth pairing between headphones and your smartphone, for instance. We’ve listed which headphones have this feature.

We’ve tested these headphones for audio quality above all, including how pleasant the noise cancelling is. Poor noise cancelling can give you a headache. But we also judged the design, build quality and ease of use.

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The Verdict: Noise-cancelling headphones

The Bose 700 headphones are the winner here because of absolutely top-drawer noise cancelling, but Sony’s over-ears, Sony WH-1000XM3 come very close and are better value. For in-ears, the Apple AirPods pro are unbeaten for noise cancelling, comfort and design.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.