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The 10 Best Noise Isolating Headphones in 2020

Last updated: 6 months ago
10 min read

Get the best passive noise isolating headphones on the market right now.

Note: These are not noise-cancelling, but noise isolating. Read about the difference below. Go to best noise cancelling headphones for ANC.

Rating Price Isolation Type Mic & Controls More info
4.2
Under $200
Up to 35 dBA
Over-ear
crosscross
Sony WH-1000XM4 Best noise cancelling
Sony WH1000XM3 wireless headphones
4.7
Under $350
Up to 30 dBA
Over-ear
checkmarkcheckmark
Sennheiser HD 25 Best on-ear
Sennheiser HD25 Professional DJ Headphones s
4.6
Under $150
Up to 30 dB
On-ear
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4.7
Under $150
Up to 36 dB
Over-ear
crosscross
KRK KNS 8400 Best flat sound
KRK KNS 8400 wired headphones
4.6
Under $150
Up to 30 dBA
Over-ear
crosscross
4.6
Under $100
Up to 32 dB
Over-ear
crosscross
Etymotic Research HF5 Best earbuds
Etymotic Research HF5 in-ear monitors
3.9
Under $100
Up to 35-42 dB
In-ear
crosscross
Jabra Elite Active 75t Best true wireless
Jabra Elite Active 75t
4.3
Under $180
Up to 26 dBA
True wireless
checkmarkcheckmark
ISOtunes Free Best for work
ISOtunes Free
4.1
Under $110
22dB NRR certified (max 30)
True wireless
checkmarkcheckmark
Shure SE215 Best sound quality
Shure SE215 wired earbuds
4.5
Under $100
Up to 25 dBA
In-ear
crosscross
Table of Contents

    Searching for top noise isolating headphones?

    You’ve come to the right place.

    Above you can find 8 headphones (over-ear, on-ear, in-ear/earbuds) that have the best passive noise isolation.

    So you’ll never again have to suffer the noise of your neighbor’s kids or experience nerve-wracking plane flights.

    Get these and don’t let others hear what you’re listening to by leaking sound.

    Check the comparison table above to compare all noise-isolating headphones.

    You can also check out the best bass earbuds or if you’re more of a sports type, best Bluetooth headphones for running.

    Passive Noise Isolation vs Active Noise Canceling – What’s the Difference?

    There is quite a difference between noise isolation and noise cancellation that most people are probably not aware of.

    Passive noise isolation isolates all outside sound, generally 25 dB – 30 dB, so if you want to lower all outside noise and just focus on your music, this is the best option.

    Active noise canceling works slightly differently, it uses a microphone to record all low-frequency noise, like the humming of a plane or helicopter engine (active noise canceling was first developed for helicopter pilots) and then sends the opposite sound to your ears through headphones to “cancel” it. This is a greatly simplified explanation. In the end, it usually cancels around 15 dB of noise.

    Noise-canceling headphones won’t cancel people talking next to you, or loud music, they are mostly used for canceling annoying background noise and not the “annoying people”.

    Noise-canceling is great if you want to remove the background noise, but still want to hear what people are saying. So this is useful if you’re on a plane and want to know when the dinner is going to be served, but find the jet engines too loud.

    Additionally with lower quality, noise-canceling headphones, the sound can be distorted which is one of the bad effects of this technology.

    Generally, headphones with sound-isolation have better sound quality, but this isn’t an exact rule.

    What are the Advantages of Sound Isolating Headphones?

    By reducing the amount of ambient noise that enters the ear, you can enjoy music at a lower volume, which is much safer for your hearing in the long run.

    It’s been proven that listening to loud music can damage the ears and result in hearing loss.

    The passive isolation is especially useful for listening to classical music that can be easily overpowered by outside sounds. Without distorting ambient noises, you can hear every detail that you weren’t able before, making music richer and more enjoyable.

    Sound isolation comes very handy when you don’t want to be bothered by the outside world, like with the best gaming headphones for example.

    How Much Can Ambient Sound Be Reduced With Noise Isolating Headphones?

    On average good isolating headphones will lower the sound for about 30 dB, considering you have a good, tight fit which is crucial for passive isolation.

    30 dB of sound reduction doesn’t mean you won’t hear anything; it will just dampen the loudness of external noises.

    A running car 30ft away will produce around 60-80 dB of noise, if you put on the headphones, you’ll generally halve the noise.

    Whispering is around 15-20 dB which means you won’t be able to hear it.

    A normal conversation produces around 60 dB of noise, with just headphones on you’d still be able to hear it, but if you listen to the music you’ll have a very hard time noticing it.

    You have to consider the volume of your music as well, the louder your songs, the louder the outside noise has to be for you to hear it.

    What Manufacturers Aren’t Telling You About Noise Isolation in dB

    Please take the dB noise isolation with a grain of salt. This is not an exact measurement of noise isolation as it’s really important at what frequency you measure. Some frequencies are easier to isolate than others and the manufacturers just pick the best one.

    So if headphones are supposed to isolate 35 dB of noise, this means they can isolate from 0 to 35 dB, depending on what frequency. It doesn’t mean they isolate 35 dB on all frequencies.

    Best Noise Isolating Headphones (over-ear, on-ear)

    1. Beyerdynamic DT 770 M 80-Ohm

    1st-place Best overall
    Beyerdynamic-DT-770-M best noise isolating headphones

    Beyerdynamic DT 770 M (80 Ohm) are the best noise isolation headphones right now.

    Better headphones than these are going to cost you at least 2x the price.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm & 6.3mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: n/a
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 5-30.000Hz
    Type: Over-ear | Back design: Closed-back | Noise cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: No | Impedance: 80 Ohm | Weight: 10.6 oz (300g) | Cable lenght: n/a | Features: Inline volume controls
    • 35dBA passive noise reduction
    • Fun, accurate sound
    • Sturdy build with metal frame
    • You need an amp to run them properly

    Why Buy These?

    These are meant for studio use so sound isolation plays a big part. Because they are closed-back they grip pretty tightly around your ears and isolate a lot of noise. The sound is isolated up to 35dBA which makes these headphones one of the top circumaural models at noise isolation.

    With soft-skin replaceable earpads and leather padded headband, you can wear these for hours without any irritation.

    The build is of high quality. Made out of thick plastics that you can feel won’t break easily. The metal headband is coated in leather, making it nice and soft, even after hours of wearing them.

    The Bad

    Since they are 80 Ohm consumer electronics like smartphones won’t be able to run them on high volume, you need an ampifier for that.

    The Sound

    The sound is very accurate and it doesn’t have any particular “flavor” meaning they are quite flat, while still having enough bass to make music fun. The soundstage is very good for closed-back headphones.

    In the end, Beyerdynamic DT 770 M are an amazing headphones with great sound isolation, durability, comfort and sound quality that is suitable for all genres of music.


    2. Sony WH-1000XM4

    anc Best noise cancelling
    Sony WH-1000XM4 folded in case

    The WH-1000XM4 have the best noise cancellation in headphones (with also great isolation).

    Sony made an excellent pair of noise isolation headphones with the WH-1000XM4. They offer an elite option for those who want active noise-cancelling and rich features.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
    Driver size icon Driver size: 40mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 4-40.000Hz
    Type: Over-ear | Battery life: 38h (28h with ANC) | Wireless range: 33ft (10m) | Noise cancelling: Yes | Charging: 3h + quick charge – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC | Water resistance: No | Features: ANC, Ambient mode, multipoint, auto play/pause, 360 Reality Audio, 3.5mm port
    • Outstanding noise-canceling performance
    • Audiophile-grade sound quality
    • Premium-feeling build
    • Useful Headphones Connect app
    • Great battery life
    • Support for LDAC
    • Amazing comfort and fit
    • The speak-to-chat feature is a gimmick
    • Voice Priority mode doesn’t work correctly
    • No IPX rating

    Why Buy These?

    These headphones give a snug fit around the ears and do a decent job of isolating ambient noise.

    On the other hand, active noise-cancelling works amazingly. They’re able to block out outside noise and leave your audio clear, perfect for listening in busy situations.

    We agree that comfort is one of the strongest points. WH-1000XM4 have a low-profile and smaller design, they aren’t overly heavy. This means they’re suitable for long listening. The pressure on the ears is low, and the padding is impressive and soft. They’re quite flexible headphones.

    The Bad

    The new model comes with some new features, but almost all of them a bit gimmicky.

    Sound

    Sony WH-1000XM4 give an accurate and natural representation of the sound, but not big and booming bass. It’s fair to say that these headphones could be used in a recording studio, they’re reliable, and even audiophiles appreciate the true sound.

    If you’re looking for a long battery, audiophile sound quality, and top-of-the-line noise cancellation, it’s worth looking at the WH-1000XM4.

    Check our full Sony WH-1000XM4 review.


    3. Sennheiser HD 25

    trophy Best on-ear
    Sennheiser HD 25 wired headphones

    The best noise isolating headphones with on-ear design.

    HD 25 headphones have been the Sennheiser flagship portables for quite some time and have the status of a classic.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm & 6.3mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: n/a
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 16-22.000Hz
    Type: On-ear | Back design: Closed-back | Noise cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: No | Impedance: 70 Ohm | Weight: 4.9 oz (140g) | Cable lenght: 4.9 feet (1.5m) | Features: Detachable cable
    • Excellent isolation for in-ear headphones
    • Lightweight and comfortable
    • Clear, balanced sound
    • On-ear design still isnt suitable for longer listening sessions

    Why Buy These?

    They’re used as a DJ and studio headphones because they have one of the best isolating on-ear designs. With up to 30 dB of noise isolation and portable design, you can easily use these on loud public transport.

    Overall Sennheiser HD 25 are surprisingly light considering how durable they are. At the same time their lightweight nature offers better comfort.

    Build quality is very good as with most Sennheiser products, made out of mostly plastic, having L-plug and looking rather rugged, these will easily stand the test of time.

    The Bad

    You will feel some irritation after a few straight hours of wearing them, like with most on-ear models.

    Sound

    They have a balanced sound without any range being too emphasized or lacking. Bass is punchy and clear, with midrange being very rich and detailed. Treble is clear and precise but can get a big aggressive at higher volumes.

    If you’re looking for high quality, on-ear portable headphones that will last you for years and offer a balanced, great sound quality for all genres, Sennheiser HD 25 are your best choice.


    4. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

    trophy Best bass
    Audio-Technica ATH-M50x wired headphone

    The best noise isolating headphones for bassheads.

    Top choice for basshead noise-isolating headphones, period.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm / 6.3mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: 45mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 15-28.000Hz
    Type: Over-ear | Back design: Closed-back | Noise cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: No | Impedance: 38 Ohm | Weight: 10 oz (285g) | Cable lenght: 3.9ft (1.2m) & 9.8ft (3m) | Features: Detachable cable, foldable
    • Fun, V-shaped sound
    • Foldable, travel-friendly design
    • Good overall durability
    • Foldable hinges seem fragile

    Why Buy These?

    With up to 36 dB of isolation, these closed-back headphones are hard to beat in this regard. When you want some peace and quiet, put these on and enjoy your favorite music without interruptions.

    With padded headband and earpads that you can replace for velour ones like that, you’re getting top comfort that can be compared to any headphones.

    ATH-M50X are made out of durable plastics and metal, offering top-grade survivability in today’s harsh world. Foldable design makes them semi-portable even considering their big size.

    The Bad

    Stay clear of these if you wear glasses, as they tend to be very uncomfortable.

    The Sound

    Sound quality is great, rather balanced on lower volumes, but really rich in bass. Meaning these are great fun for listening. Middle ranges are rich, clear and detailed, but get slightly overpowered by bass. High pitch is also clear and balanced but gets overshadowed by lower tunes (bass).

    As one of the most popular headphones on the market, Audio-Technica ATH-M560x are a great choice for the bass-loving person who wants a proven, noise isolating pair of headphones.


    Related article: Best bass headphones


    5. KRK KNS 8400

    trophy Best flat sound
    KRK-KNS8400

    One of the best isolating headphones if you seek flat sound

    KRK KNS-8400 are a bit less know and popular headphones than others on this list, but not any worse, in fact for real audiophile headphones, it’s quite the opposite.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm & 6.3mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: 40mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 5-23.000Hz
    Type: Over-ear | Back design: Closed-back | Noise cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: No | Impedance: 36 Ohm | Weight: 0.5 lb (0.23 kg) | Cable lenght: 8.2 feet (2.5m) | Features: Detachable cable and earpads
    • Isolation up to 30dB
    • Balanced sound signature
    • Durable construction
    • Mediocre soundstage and imaging

    Why Buy These?

    When it comes to sound isolation they do a good job, isolating up to 30 dB. Since studio, monitoring headphones have a need for good passive isolation, KRK KNS-8400 do a great job too.

    Because they’re mostly plastic, this makes them very light and comfortable. Big, soft earpads with memory foam help with this too.

    Since they’re made out of high quality and durable plastics you can be sure these headphones will serve you for many years. Detachable cables and earpads give you more options to customize your experience, improve comfort or durability with better parts.

    The Bad

    The soundstage and imaging on these are very inaccurate.

    The Sound

    Overall, the signature is balanced, flat, perfect for real audiophiles who don’t care much for strong bass, but value clarity and detail. Highs and mids are as crisp and clear as you’d expect from professional studio equipment.

    If you’re looking for audiophile grade isolating headphones with awesome comfort and durable design, get KRK KNS-8400, you won’t be disappointed.


    6. Sennheiser HD 280 PRO

    dollar Best value
    Sennheiser HD280PRO (new model)

    Great value-for-money noise isolating headphones.

    While at around $100 still aren’t cheap, when you compare them to other top-quality noise-isolating headphones on this list, these are the most affordable.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: n/a
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 8-25.000Hz
    Type: Over-ear | Back design: Closed-back | Noise cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: No | Impedance: 64 Ohm | Weight: 10.1 oz (285g) | Cable lenght: 118 inch (3m), 51 inch when coiled | Features: /
    • Excellent noise isolation
    • Professional build quality
    • Heavy-duty design
    • Great for monitoring at low volume
    • Heavy coiled cable can strain connectors
    • Padding and fit can be too tight for larger head sizes

    Why Buy These?

    The tight-fitting earpads offer very good isolation, up to 32 dB which is comparable to much more expensive headphones.

    Plastic makes these very light and comfortable. While the earpad quality is not up to par the more expensive models on this list, it’s good enough to wear for very long without much irritation.

    With a good and with proper maintenance they should last you very long. The good thing is you can replace the earpads, headband padding, and cords in case they break or deteriorate. Because of foldable design, you can easily pack them up and take them with you on a trip.

    The Bad

    They might be too flat for some.

    The Sound

    Treble is clear and not too aggressive, mids are slightly recessed, but not too bad, while bass is punchy and tight making every music sound lively. The only thing lacking is the soundstage, like many other closed-back headphones.

    Overall, with Sennheiser HD 280 PRO you’re getting a great pair of noise isolation headphones that are very comfortable and offer a fun sound quality for entry level audiophiles.


    Best Noise Isolating Earbuds (In-ear Monitors)

    7. Etymotic Research HF5

    earbud Best earbuds
    Etymotic-Research-HF5

    Professional noise-isolating in-ear headphones

    Etymotic Research HF5 are in-ear monitors with the best isolation on the market right now.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: Balanced armature driver
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: n/a
    Type: In-ear | Back design: Closed-back | Noise cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: No | Impedance: n/a | Weight: n/a | Cable lenght: 4 feet (1.2m) | Features: Optional custom earmolds
    • Many useful accessories included in the box
    • BA drivers provide great sound with superb control
    • Deep insertion ensures excellent isolation
    • … but can also be irritating for some
    • Non-detachable cables

    Why Buy These?

    They have the highest-rated isolation at 35 dB to 42 dB of noise isolation, depending on what ear tips you use. This is the kind of isolation that can be compared to in-ear headphones for $300-$400+.

    Comfort mostly depends on what ear tips you use. The earbuds themselves are very light due to their plastic construction and fit well in all sizes of ears.

    They have pretty good strain relief while the wires are basic rubber protected. By taking decent care of them, they should serve you long enough.

    The Bad

    After a few hours of use you can have slightly irritated ear canals, but not to the point of pain or real irritation.

    The Sound

    These are considered one of the most accurate and detailed earbuds on the market right now. While accuracy is great for classical music and other genres with little bass, other more modern pop and rock tunes will clearly show the lack of low tones.

    If you can appreciate the Etymotic sound quality and are looking for superb, isolating earbuds you can get no better than Etymotic Research HF5 in-ear monitors, period.


    8. Jabra Elite Active 75t

    true-wireless Best true wireless
    Jabra Elite Active 75t black earphones

    Great noise-isolating true wireless earbuds for sport

    The Jabra Elite Active 75t are great workout headphones with high passive isolation. Due to pushing the eartips deeper into ears, they block noise more than average TWS buds.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
    Driver size icon Driver size: 6mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 20-20.000Hz
    Type: True wireless | Battery life: 7h + 20h in case | Noise cancelling: No | Charging: 2h 20min + quick charge – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes, built-in | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, BT-CVSD, mSBC | Water-resistance: IP57 | Features: EQ, "find my buds" feature, ambient aware
    • Reliably stable during movement
    • Comfortable for hours thanks to smart ergonomics
    • Fully waterproof with IP57 (IPX7)
    • Great sound quality with equalization
    • HearThrough awareness mode (useful for runners, cyclists…)
    • Competitive battery life at 7 hours per charge (+20h in case)
    • Perfectly designed physical controls
    • High build quality
    • Tiny soundstage (all sounds come from the middle of your head)
    • Pricier than most alternatives
    • Only right earbud can be used as mono

    Why Buy These?

    Because the eartips are pushed deeper into your ears, isolation is better than with many other in-ear headphones. If you replace them with memory foams, you get even an even better result.

    The design is ergonomic and easy on the ears. You can wear these for hours without pain. You only need to readjust them every once in a while.

    With IP57, the Elite Active 75t are fully waterproof and dust resistant. You can dip them in water or use them in dusty environments without problems. The buds are plastic but have that premium, softer surface.

    The Bad

    The soundstage could be better.

    The Sound

    They’re heavily bass emphasized, but you can equalize it inside the Jabra Sound+ app. As a result, you can make these perform great for all music genres. Though you still get the usually small soundstage common in in-ear headphones. Read more about it in the review.

    If you want dependable, true wireless earbuds with above-average noise isolation, check the Jabra Elite Active 75t.

    Jabra Elite Active 75t review


    9. ISOtunes Free

    trophy Best for work
    ISOtunes Free

    Great isolating true wireless earbuds for work

    If you need to isolate yourself at work and don’t have to use big headphones, this might be a perfect pick.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
    Driver size icon Driver size: n/a
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 20-20.000Hz
    Type: True wireless | Battery life: +7h + 14h in case | Wireless range: 33ft (10m) | Noise cancelling: No | Charging: 2h – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, aptX | Water resistance: IP45 | Features: 22 NRR, volume limiter
    • Superb passive noise isolation
    • OSHA & NIOSH compliant
    • Certified for the workplace
    • High build quality with an IP45 rating (dustproof and waterproof)
    • Good sound quality for most people
    • Thick eartips can irritate the ear canal
    • White noise at low volume

    Why Buy These?

    ISOtunes Free are the latest true wireless headphones that meet the OSHA and NIOSH requirements. These can be used as hearing protection for a safe work environment with a certified 22 NRR (American National Standards Institute certified Noise Reduction Rating).

    And you can use them at home, when mowing the lawn, using power tools or any other hearing hazard.

    They’re tough (IP45) and come with Bluetooth 5.0 and almost 8 hours of battery life. Sound quality is also better than with older ISOtunes headphones. The audio is slightly punchier, and aptX codec supports better transmission and lower video delay.

    The Bad

    Eartips are slightly on a thicker side, causing some irritation inside the ear canal.

    The Sound

    Sound quality isn’t their strongest point, but they’re still good enough for casual listening. Bass is slightly emphasized and punchy, with a decent midrange and treble quality. They’re also limited to react top loudness of 85 dB, which prevents them from causing hearing loss.

    Get the ISOtunes Free if you’re looking for hearing protection with certified hearing protection that’s suitable for different types of work environments.

    ISOtunes Free review


    10. Shure SE215

    trophy Best sound quality
    Shure SE215 wired in-ear monitor

    Popular noise-isolating option for musicians

    Shure SE215 are one of the most popular and well-reviewed in-ear monitors on the market right now.

    Connection icon Connection: Wired – 3.5mm
    Driver size icon Driver size: n/a
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 22-17.500Hz
    Type: In-ear | Back design: Closed-back | Noise Cancelling: No | Mic & Controls: Microphone only | Impedance: n/a | Weight: n/a | Cable length: n/a | Features: Detachable cable, optional wireless adapter
    • Good sound quality
    • Price-to-performance ratio
    • Detachable cable
    • Narrow soundstage

    Why Buy These?

    Their isolation is superb, maybe not as good as Etymotic Research HF5, but still much better than your regular earbuds. You can really improve the isolation with triple flange tips for Shure you can get on Amazon.

    Comfort greatly depends on ear tips you use and once you find the right ones and get the hang of putting them on, they are very comfortable. You can wear them for hours without irritation.

    With detachable, memory wires coated in regular rubber, these are one of the more durable IEMs that will survive a lot more than what you can imagine in your regular use.

    The Bad

    You need to get used to their wearing style.

    The Sound

    They produce clear mid-range and treble with bass slightly emphasized. Altogether it has a rather balanced sound with just enough bass to make music fun, but these are definitely not extreme basshead material.

    Shure SE215 are a proven, quality pair of isolating earbuds, with a slightly emphasized bass sound, that sit in your ears nicely and have great durability.

    Related: Best bass earbuds

    Honorable Mentions

    Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless (check price) – Effective isolation and great sound quality in true wireless design. Get memory-foam eartips for best results.