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The Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones in 2021

Last updated: 3 months ago
10 min read

Get the best noise-cancelling headphones in 2021 and enjoy your music in peace.

Rating Price Battery (with ANC) Type Foldable Mic & Controls More info
Sony WH-1000XM4 Best overall
Sony WH1000XM3 wireless headphones
4.7
Under $350
28 hours (Bluetooth 5.0)
Over-ear
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4.5
Under $380
20 hours (Bluetooth 5.0)
Over-ear
crosscross
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4.3
Under $400
30 hours (Bluetooth 5.0)
Over-ear
crosscross
checkmarkcheckmark
4.3
Under $310
20 hours (Bluetooth 5.0)
Over-ear
crosscross
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Sony WF-1000XM3 Best true wireless
Sony WF-1000XM3
4.2
Under $230
5 hours + 24h in case (Bluetooth 5.0)
True wireless
crosscross
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Apple AirPods Pro True wireless alternative
Apple AirPods Pro
4.8
Under $250
5 hours + 24h in case (Bluetooth 5.0)
True wireless
crosscross
checkmarkcheckmark
4.7
Under $300
20 hours (Bluetooth 4.1)
Over-ear
crosscross
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Beats Solo Pro Best on-ear
Beats Solo Pro wireless headphones
4.7
Under $300
22 hours (Bluetooth 5.0)
On-ear
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4.4
Under $220
36 hours (Bluetooth 5.0)
Over-ear
crosscross
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TaoTronics TT-BH090 Best under $100
TaoTronics BT090 Bluetooth headphones
4.6
Under $60
35 hours (Bluetooth 5.0)
Over-ear
checkmarkcheckmark
checkmarkcheckmark
Table of Contents

    It’s difficult to find the best noise-cancelling headphones for your needs with all the options.

    All brands claim their noise-canceling headphones are the best.

    But often that’s not the case.

    That’s why we created this guide to help you with your buying decision.

    Remove the unwanted ambient noise in comfort, style, and while enjoying great sound quality.

    Below you’ll find the best noise-cancelling headphones you can get today that will protect you from background noise on a plane, in the office, or anywhere else.

    Related:

    Want the best noise cancelling earbuds?

    Or get the alternative, best noise-isolating headphones

    Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones

    1. Sony WH-1000XM4

    1st-place Best overall
    Sony WH-1000XM4 on a desk

    The best noise-cancelling headphones overall

    Everything about these headphones is fantastic: noise cancellation, sound quality, comfort, and a handful of smart 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?

    Slightly improved Sony WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones offer a very similar noise-canceling performance compared to their previous version. You can expect top-notch cancellation of almost all environmental sounds around you.

    You’re getting some new features this time around, like automatic pause/play sensor and Speak-to-chat. They all work flawlessly, and if you don’t need them, you can quickly disable them inside the Headphones Connect app.

    Housing remains practically the same as on the WH-1000XM3, with slightly slimmer earpads for better comfort. They can fit your whole ear inside, providing a non-fatiguing experience for long listening sessions. Fit is also great, without producing too much of a clamping force.

    The Bad

    At this price, microphone quality could be better.

    The Sound

    We can even recommend Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones to some audiophiles out there: the sound quality is that good. The low-end is full and punchy without losing control, while the midrange sounds balanced and natural, with a pleasant warmth. Treble provides good sparkle and detail. They’re fantastic for all kinds of music genres.

    Sony WH-1000XM4 are a no-brainer. They represent fantastic value, despite their hefty price.

    Sony WH-1000XM4 review


    2. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

    2nd-place Runner up
    Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

    Bose noise-cancelling headphones with customizable cancellation

    Bose are pioneers in noise-canceling technology. Their modern wireless headphones are high fidelity and have voice control capabilities.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
    Driver size icon Driver size: n/a
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: 20-20.000Hz
    Type: Over-ear | Battery life: 20h | Wireless range: n/a | Noise cancelling: Yes | Charging: 2.5h + quick charge – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC | Water resistance: No | Features: ANC, Ambient Aware, mobile app with EQ, 2.5mm port
    • Balanced sound
    • Excellent active noise cancelling
    • Comfortable fit
    • Good build quality
    • Unique design
    • Non-foldable design
    • Pricey
    • Not the clearest bass

    Why Buy These?

    Bose continues to innovate. The Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 can be used with AR technology (augmented reality) for a new and exciting listening experience.

    You can also use your voice to control Alexa or Google Assistant; both are built-in the Bose 700 headphones.

    11 different settings for the active noise cancellation (ANC) means you can choose how much ambient sound can be let in. The four-microphone system is highly effective when the over-ear headphones pick up ambiance to cancel out.

    They are exceptionally comfortable, too, so you can wear them on intercontinental plane flights or long working hours in the office. Plus, the closed-back design passively isolates from external noise.

    The Bad

    The cost is a bit off-putting for some. They cost more than the competition. Also, there is no EQ control, even on the Bose app.

    The Sound

    The audio is crystal clear, the frequency response is full and detailed across bass, mids, and highs. Bose headphones 700 are going to keep demanding users happy.

    For cutting edge technology with a wonderful sound, the Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 is a great option.


    3. Bowers & Wilkins PX7

    Bowers & Wilkins PX7 wireless headphones

    Best noise-cancelling headphones for sound

    The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 are an option to make the audiophiles drool. If you are looking for an uncompromising sound, the PX7 could be for you.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
    Driver size icon Driver size: 43.6mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: n/a
    Type: Over-ear | Battery life: 30h | Wireless range: 33ft (10m) | Noise cancelling: Yes | Charging: Quick charge – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive | Water resistance: No | Features: ANC, auto play/pause, Ambient mode, multipoint support
    • Great sound quality
    • Many useful features
    • Sturdy build with carbon fiber composite frame
    • Pricey
    • Tight clamping force

    Why Buy These?

    Power and clarity make these the best noise-cancelling headphones for audiophiles. The 43mm drivers are designed by the Bower & Wilkins team, who have made award-winning speakers and headphones.

    Like a lot of modern headphones, they are adaptive. If you take an ear cup off, they will pause to let you hear.

    This pair of headphones is lightweight but still durable. The carbon fiber composite material means they are rugged and should last a long time.

    The Bad

    They can apply a bit of pressure on your ears. Over time the PX7 can cause some fatigue and discomfort.

    The Sound

    The high-quality drivers provide a rounded sound, great for everything from drum and bass to classical.

    For amazing clarity from your noise-cancelling cans, consider the Bowers & Wilkins PX7.


    4. Shure AONIC 50

    Shure Aonic 50 wireless headphones

    Best noise-cancelling headphones for build quality

    Made from premium materials, Shure AONIC are a newcomer with excellent sound performance and well-implemented active noise cancellation.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
    Driver size icon Driver size: 50mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: n/a
    Type: Over-ear | Battery life: 20h | Wireless range: 33ft (10m) | Noise cancelling: Yes | Charging: Quick charge – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, LDAC | Water resistance: No | Features: Ambient mode, mobile app, USB-C for wired listening, 3.5mm port
    • High-quality build
    • Plush, comfortable earpads
    • Great ANC performance
    • Neutral and very detailed sound
    • Uninspiring mic quality

    Why Buy These?

    With these headphones, you can see where your money went. Construction is if high-quality, with a metal frame and stitched leather. Thick earpads are amazingly comfortable as if you’re wearing pillows.

    Noise-canceling performance is excellent, being somewhat on pair with competition from Sony and Bose. You can, of course, also amplify the outside world with Environmental Mode.

    The battery life of 20 hours is about average for a full-sized headphone. You get a wide selection of audio codecs to choose from: SBC, AAC, aptX LL, aptX HD, and LDAC.

    The Bad

    As with many wireless headphones, call quality could be better.

    The Sound

    Targeted towards audiophiles, AONIC 50 have a neutral sound signature, with incredible clarity all-across the board. If you want to listen to your music the way producers intended to, they might be your best pick.

    No matter how demanding user you are, Shure AONIC 50 are ticking many boxes. Audiophile-grade sound, high-quality build, and great active noise-canceling.


    5. Sony WF-1000XM3

    true-wireless Best true wireless
    Sony WF-1000XM3 in charging case

    Best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds

    If you’ve been waiting for solid noise cancellation earbuds, these true wireless earphones from Sony are the winning option.

    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: 6h (ANC on), 8h (ANC off) + 24h in case | Wireless range: 33ft (10m) | Noise cancelling: Yes | Charging: 1.5h + quick charge – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC | Water resistance: No | Features: ANC, Ambient Aware, mobile app with EQ
    • Great noise cancelling performance
    • Feature-packed mobile app
    • Solid battery life
    • Fun, punchy sound
    • Tri-Hold design isn't comfortable for everyone
    • No IP rating

    Check the review of Sony WF-1000XM3.

    Why Buy These?

    These earbuds use the HD processor QN1e for the noise cancellation technology (the same as in WH-1000XM3). This is cutting edge in terms of noise-cancelling in earbuds.

    Bluetooth transmits clear and high-quality audio thanks to 24bit audio processing.

    The earbuds use USB-C charging and come with a one-year warranty.

    The Bad

    Slightly bulkier design to pack in all the technology.

    The Sound

    They’re a fantastic set of true wireless earbuds, even ignoring the noise cancellation. You can hear all the frequencies clearly, and the bass is pretty strong for earbuds, too. Plus you can equalize the sound to your liking with an app.

    For best wireless noise cancelling in earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are the best option on the market.


    6. Apple AirPods Pro

    true-wireless True wireless alternative
    Apple AirPods Pro

    The best noise-cancelling headphones in the Apple ecosystem.

    These feature-packed true wireless earbuds offer a fantastic noise-cancellation and seamless integration in the iOS/macOS system.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
    Driver size icon Driver size: n/a
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: n/a
    Type: True wireless | Battery life: 5h + 24h in case | Wireless range: 33ft (10m) | Noise cancelling: Yes | Charging: 2h + quick charge – Lightning | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC | Water resistance: IPX4 | Features: ANC, Transparency mode, Dolby Atmos
    • Sound better than original AirPods
    • In-ear fit that’s suitable for moderate exercise
    • Effective noise cancelling and isolation
    • Seamless user experience with iPhone/iOS
    • Sweatproof with IPX4 certification
    • Expensive even among premium alternatives
    • No built-in volume controls
    • Cheap lid mechanism on the charging case

    Why Buy These?

    The fully in-ear design ensures a much better seal than original AirPods, which means Apple can give more things inside the AirPods Pro version. One of them is active noise-cancellation. Its performance is excellent, being very close to what Sony can offer in the Sony WF-1000XM3.

    Besides that, you also have the option to amplify the ambient noise, automatically pause and play the music when you take one earbud out and scan your inner ear for more personalized EQ.

    You’re getting a stable connection, with seamless switching between other iOS devices. With IPX4, these earbuds are ready to hit the gym. You can listen to them for around 5 hours per charge.

    The Bad

    Not worth it if you are an Android user.

    The Sound

    AirPods Pro are tuned to sound balanced, with very little excitement in their presentation. They’re easy to listen to, regardless of the music genre, but they lack bass.

    If you’re already tied to the Apple ecosystem, AirPods Pro are the best option, with many useful features.

    Check our full Apple AirPods review.


    7. Bose QuietComfort 35 II

    dollar Great value
    Bose QC35II wireless headphones

    Comfortable Bose noise-cancelling headphones

    If you are looking for Bose quality, plus exceptional comfort, but don’t want to pay a hefty bill for 700, the QuietComfort 35 II are a great option.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 4.1
    Driver size icon Driver size: n/a
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: n/a
    Type: Over-ear | Battery life: 20h | Wireless range: 33ft (10m) | Noise cancelling: Yes | Charging: Quick charge – Micro-USB | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC | Water resistance: No | Features: ANC, Ambient mode, 2.5mm port
    • Good, balanced sound
    • Impressive noise cancellation
    • Comfortable and lightweight
    • No EQ option

    Why Buy These?

    If comfort is high up on your priorities, the beautiful padded ear cups are great for long periods of listening.

    They connect with the Bose app and can be used for revolutionary AR listening, something Bose are championing. They’re also Alexa enabled for voice control of your music or phone.

    As you would expect from Bose, they’re very high quality and well-built headphones. Plus, 20 hours of battery life is plenty for most.

    The Bad

    Even with the Bose app, you can’t control the EQ.

    The Sound

    You get a signature, crisp Bose audio with these headphones. Though the bass frequencies aren’t boosted, they’re great for listening to pop, rock, and all sorts of other genres.

    The Bose QuietComfort 35 II provide exactly what they promise; quiet comfort for a lower price (compared to what it used to be).


    8. Beats Solo Pro

    trophy Best on-ear
    Beats Solo Pro wireless headphones

    Best noise cancellation on-ear headphones for bass

    It seems to be part of the Beats manifesto that they have to provide amazing bass, and they manage it with the Pros, even in on-ear headphones.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth
    Driver size icon Driver size: 40mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: n/a
    Type: On-ear | Battery life: 22h with ANC, 40h ANC off | Range: 33ft – 10m | Noise cancelling: Yes | Charging: Fast Fuel quick charging 10min – 3 hours of music | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC | Water resistance: No | Features: H1 chip, auto on/off when folding, transparency mode
    • Comfortable on-ear headphones
    • Punchy bass that's great for popular music
    • Stylish with many color options and typical Beats design
    • Active noise cancellation with solid 20h+ battery
    • Modern features
    • Pricey

    Why Buy These?

    As they fold up nicely and have a compact, on-ear design, these headphones are great for people wanting something more compact.

    These use Beats Pure ANC to adapt to the surroundings. There is also a Transparency mode that allows you to hear your surroundings.

    A 10-minute charge provides 3 hours of playback. In total, 22 hours of playback is achieved with active noise-cancelling and 40 with noise-cancellation turned off.

    These wireless headphones are stylish, but they have plenty of substance too.

    The Bad

    The active noise cancellation won’t be as good as with over-ear headphones. On-ear headphones tend to let in more noise.

    The Sound

    For on-ear headphones, the bass response will really blow you away. They give a high-fidelity and rounded sound in the mids and highs, too, but the bass is the real selling point.

    For booing low-end on-ears, the Beats Solo Pro are a good option.


    9. Jabra Elite 85H

    Jabra-Elite-85H

    Best noise-cancelling headphones for clear phone calls

    If you want the best noise-cancelling headphones for making phone calls with clarity, these could be an option.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
    Driver size icon Driver size: 40mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: n/a
    Type: Over-ear | Battery life: 41h (36h with ANC) | Wireless range: 33ft (10m) | Noise cancelling: Yes | Charging: 2.5h + quick charge – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC | Water resistance: No | Features: ANC, HearThru, mobile app, 3.5mm port, auto play/pause, multipoint support
    • Excellent battery life
    • Bright, detailed sound
    • Nano-coated to resist water
    • ANC could be better for the price

    Why Buy These?

    In total, the Jabra Elite 85H incorporate 8 different microphones. 6 of these mics give a clear sound when making voice calls.

    A fantastic 36 hours of battery life is better than competitors. There is also a fast-charge option that gives you 5 hours of listening from a 15-minute charge.

    The 85H headphones are also water-resistant, fine for exercising or walking in the rain. You don’t need to worry about moisture. For fully waterproof headphones go here.

    SmartSound Audio uses the 8 microphones to test the environment and compensate and cancel out unwanted audio.

    The Bad

    While they have good noise cancellation, they still struggle to block out some of the lower frequencies.

    Also, the charging cable is annoyingly short.

    The Sound

    Though not quite up there with the elite models on the market, the Jabra 85H has a good bass response and a well-rounded sound.  You can also control the EQ through the app to adapt to your favorite music.

    For easy and clear calls as well as excellent audio, the Jabra 85H are among the best choices.


    10. TaoTronics TT-BH090

    dollar Best under $100
    TaoTronics BT090 Bluetooth headphones

    Best noise-cancelling headphones under $100

    TaoTronics products are always offering fantastic value. TT-BH090 are no different.

    Connection icon Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
    Driver size icon Driver size: 40mm
    Frequency range icon Frequency range: n/a
    Type: Over-ear | Battery life: 35h (30h with ANC) | Wireless range: 33ft (10m) | Noise cancelling: Yes | Charging: 45min + quick charge – USB-C | Mic & Controls: Yes | Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC | Water resistance: No | Features: ANC, foldable, 3.5mm port
    • Great price-to-performance ratio
    • Good noise cancellation
    • Comfortable earpads
    • Smooth, enjoyable sound
    • Might not fit the biggest heads

    Why Buy These?

    These over-ear headphones come with a simple design that looks classy. Earcups feel sturdy and can also fold to save up some space in your backpack.

    Earpads are incredibly plush, covered in soft pleather. They grab your ears very tightly, providing a secure fit. Their battery can last up to 35 hours, with a quick charge option that adds 2 hours of playtime in just 5 minutes.

    Active noise-canceling works great for combating low-end noises like engines or construction works. However, it does struggle a bit with human speech.

    The Bad

    Users with bigger heads might find them too small.

    The Sound

    These headphones are very smooth. You can listen to them for hours without experiencing fatigue due to sharp sound. Bass is punchy and can go fairly deep, while the warm midrange stays nice and clean. Treble works similarly, with no annoying frequency peaks whatsoever.

    If you seek something that doesn’t break your bank, TaoTronics TT-BH090 might be the perfect pick. They have a little bit of everything, and it works well. For the $60, we can’t complain much.


    In this guide, we covered the best active noise-cancelling models that tend to have higher prices. But if you are looking for the best cheap noise cancelling headphones (under $100), click here.


    Honorable Mentions

    11. Sony WH-1000XM3: (check price) Still an excellent option if you don’t mind all the latest features and only want great sound and noise-cancelling performance.

    12. Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC: (check price) These have a great sound and are customizable, but the fidelity is not as good as with alternatives.

    13. Sennheiser Momentum 3: (check price) These are high-end noise-cancelling headphones that sound great, and sit comfortably on the ears. They struggle to cancel out some high frequencies, though.

    14. TaoTronics TT-BH060: (check price) These have plenty of power and a low cost, but the cheap model lacks in audio fidelity compared to pricier options.

    15. Sennheiser HD 4.5 BTNC: (check price) This pair of headphones offers good sound and active noise cancellation under $100. However, they are a little bit smaller and can be uncomfortable for long periods of use.

    16. Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2: (check price) Plantronics are compact and portable, with great bass, but the noise-cancellation could be better, and the controls are a little clunky at times.

    17. Skullcandy Crusher ANC: (check price) For bassheads who want active noise cancellation, Skullcandy Crusher ANC are the best choice.

    18. Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i: (check price) Overall, for great clarity and easy controls, the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i are a great option.

    19. Edifier W860NB: (check price) Edifier shows that you can get a good quality pair of headphones with excellent noise cancellation for a lower fee.

    20. AKG N60NC: (check price) AKG is a brand with a long history of headphones, microphones, and audio gear. They offer some great budget headphones, including the N60NC.

    What is Noise Cancelling

    Noise cancellation technology removes low-frequency noises while still allows talking, birds chirping, or other sudden sounds. It uses a set of microphones and electronics that create a 180-degree phase-opposite sound of noise and sends it to your ears. Before you can hear it, both sounds cancel out.

    Noise cancellation is effective at lower frequencies, like the humming of a plane engine. This makes them the first choice for travelers as they need to hear what is going on around them while enjoying the illusion of a more peaceful environment.

    You can read more about what you can expect from noise-cancelling headphones below.

    More: Is active noise cancellation better than passive noise isolation?

    How Does Noise Cancelling Work?

    Noise-cancelling headphones use microphones to record ambient noise. Then the noise signal is sent to dedicated electronics, which creates 180-degree opposite sound waves. The drivers send the new signal to your ears and before both reach the goal they cancel each other.

    Are Noise Cancelling Headphones Worth It?

    Recently headphones with noise-cancelling have become very popular, but many people don’t realize the disadvantages of noise cancellation.

    Advantages

    Cancellation of lower and some middle-frequency noises

    Noise cancellation works well enough to give you the illusion of a quieter environment, which makes listening to music much more enjoyable.

    At the same time, you can use the noise-cancelling headphones just for removing the noise without any music. Perfect for when you need to rest your head.

    Disadvantages

    Higher cost

    Noise-cancelling headphones tend to cost more, especially the higher-end ones. All the technology, microphones, and more sophisticated design cost money.

    To get decent noise-cancelling headphones, you’ll have to pay money for which you would get regular headphones with better comfort, better build quality, and especially better sound.

    Lower sound quality

    Noise-canceling technology produces the counter frequencies to negate noise, but because it’s not 100% accurate, you often hear a hissing noise when it’s turned on.

    Not to mention some of the frequencies in the original music recording will also get cancelled out, distorting the overall sound quality.

    It is an accepted fact among audiophiles that noise cancellation technology lowers the sound quality, even in the most expensive cans.

    Noise-cancellation needs power

    ANC (active noise-cancelling) technology needs power. Did you forget to charge the battery? No ANC for you.

    Sensitive to wind

    One of the known problems of ANC is strong winds. When strong winds are blowing and making sounds, your microphones pick it up and make a whole mess of the sound.

    This is why noise-cancelling headphones are not recommended for outside and are extremely frustrating in that situation.

    “Pressure” on ears

    Some, especially cheap noise cancellation headphones, can make you feel like your ears are under pressure. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. But thankfully, modern high-end models have fixed this issue.