If you spend a lot of time in airports or open-plan offices, you may be in need of a great pair of noise-canceling headphones to cut out all the background noise in your life. Deciding which to buy can be hard, which is why we’ve assembled this comparison of three of our current favorites — the Sony WH-1000xM3, the Bose QC35 II, and the Jabra Elite 85H.
Which are the perfect headphones for you? Read on to find out. Also, be sure to stay tuned for our full review of the brand new Bose 700, the company’s latest noise-canceling model.
This is one category without a clear winner. All three of these noise-canceling headphones are simple and understated, aimed squarely at those who want to enjoy their tunes without drawing too much attention. Each pair of headphones features a single-color aesthetic, with the Sony and Jabra models offering leather and fabric coverings on the earcups, respectively, and the Bose going for a more reflective hard plastic.
Regardless of which pair you choose, we can virtually guarantee looks won’t be the deciding factor — there’s not a lot to dislike about any of these three pairs. For that reason, we’re going to call this one a toss-up.
Speaking of looks, all three headphones have plush leather earpads and headbands to make sure they are incredibly comfortable during longer listening sessions. While you may have a personal preference, this is another part of the design where we can’t say one particular model is best, because they are all quite comfy.
Where Bose and Jabra rely on physical buttons to play and pause music, call up voice assistants, and adjust volume, Sony goes the extra mile with touch controls on the outside of its earcups. The Sony 1000XM3 even have sensors that allow them to equalize pressure when you’re in the air, which is a pretty cool feature.
As far as app-based integrations, both Sony and Jabra do a great job, allowing you to adjust equalization and noise-canceling, as well as pipe in a bit of the outside world whenever you wish. In fact, Sony offers a neat little trick to do just this: Cup your hand over the outside of the earcup, and the headphones will pause your music and allow the sound of the outside in, making it possible to speak to co-workers or flight attendants without actually removing the headphones from your head.
While all three headphones are extremely usable in everyday situations, the added bells and whistles of the Sony 1000XM3 give them a clear upper hand here.
Winner: Sony WH-1000XM3
Here is one place where Jabra headphones truly shine. The Elite 85H offer a whopping 36 hours of playback per charge, compared to 30 hours from Sony and just 20 hours from Bose.
Winner: Jabra Elite Active 85H
While the noise-canceling technology from Sony and Jabra is excellent, it’s no surprise that in terms of outright sound reduction across all testing environments, the oldest noise-canceling manufacturer of the bunch reigns (ever so slightly) supreme. While the Sony headphones come very close to beating Bose in many environments, Bose does the best job at eliminating white noise coming from HVAC systems and airplane engines, where Sony was best at voices and keyboard clicks. The 85H performed admirably, but they were considerably worse at canceling out sound overall than either model.
Winner: Bose QC35 II
The Sony 1000XM3 feature support for both aptX and LDAC audio codecs, which means you’ll get the absolute finest in wireless sound. Further, the sound signature is flat and crisp, bringing tons of detail to your favorite tunes. Overall, the Sony model has some of the best wireless sound we’ve heard.
The Jabra and Bose models tend toward the low end, with warm and punchy bass response, a slightly scooped midrange, and clean treble. They both offer solid sound performance, but they just don’t quite achieve the clarity and musical honesty of the Sony 1000XM3.
Winner: Sony WH1000x M3
With 30 hours of listening time, fantastic wireless sound, and some of the most advanced features we’ve ever seen in a pair of headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM3 remain our favorite pair of headphones. Still, the Jabra and Bose models are each excellent in their own right, and if you are on the fence about which headphones to buy, we always recommend checking them out in person.
- The best headphones for 2021
- Best cheap Sony headphone deals for April 2021
- The best wireless headphones for 2021
- New firmware lets Jabra Elite 85t talk to Amazon Alexa
- The best noise-canceling headphones for 2021