Do you want to tune out the world? Maybe a new pair of noise-canceling headphones should be on your shopping list. Active Noise Canceling (ANC) technology has continued to advance in recent years. So, blocking out your neighbor’s yappy dog, the hum of a jet engine, and the loud conversations in your favorite coffee shop are the touch of a button away. These headphones let you eliminate noise distractions for better focus at work or more immersive experiences listening to your favorite album, playing games, and binge-watching the latest TV shows.
Noise-canceling headphones aren’t a one size fits all product. There are many factors to consider, including budget, sound profile, style, and functionality. Don’t want to drop $250+ on our favorite wireless headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM5? Quality options with similar features are available for under $100, like Anker’s Soundcore Life Q30 or Razer’s Opus X. True wireless earbuds now offer noise-canceling options for those who don’t love on-ear or over-ear headphones. And audiophiles will rejoice with the Apple AirPods Max or Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2. There are seemingly limitless options, so we’ve helped you narrow down your search, bringing you the best of the best. Check them out below.
TL;DR – These are the Best Noise-Canceling Headphones:
- Sony WH-1000XM5
- Anker Soundcore Q30
- Apple AirPods Max
- Razer Opus X
- Microsoft Surface Headphones 2
- Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2
- Bose Noise Canceling 700
- Sony LinkBuds S
Best Noise-Canceling Headphones
Sony’s WH1000XM5 comes with major improvements in noise cancellation, taking it a step above its already stellar predecessor. These wireless, over-ear headphones deliver powerful ANC through eight noise-canceling mics that attenuate lower-frequency and mid-frequency sound while high-pitched noise remains muffled. AI and a new processor add even more smarts, so rather than having to adjust manually, the ANC and ambient sound is automatically optimized based on your location and activity.
You came for the noise cancellation, but you’ll be happy you did, thanks to features like Bluetooth multipoint for easy swapping between devices and a 30-hour battery life to last your longest commutes. Of course, the audio quality is also second to none with its well-balanced wide soundstage that can always be tweaked using Sony’s intuitive app. However, the design, though comfortable, has been changed slightly, so the headband no longer folds, making the headphones less portable.
Anker Soundcore Q30
Best Budget Noise-Canceling Headphones
If you don’t want to break the bank when searching for high-quality noise cancellation, Anker’s Soundcore Q30 comes in under $100. These headphones offer three user-friendly ANC modes: transport for sitting on the train or plane, outdoors to drown out the traffic and wind, and indoor to escape the office chatter or WFH distractions. Its mics do a decent job of blocking out most sound, while a transparency mode lets you quickly swap to hearing the world around you.
These headphones have outstanding Bluetooth connectivity that supports NFC pairing and a multi-device connection, though you can also go for a wired connection. Its battery life is also hard to beat, delivering up to 40 hours of listening in noise cancellation mode and 60 hours in standard. Given the Anker Soundcore Q30 is more budget-friendly, there’s room for improvement in audio performance, mainly where bass and treble are concerned, but the 40 mm drivers provide a great mid-accuracy.
Apple AirPods Max
Best Hi-Fi Noise-Canceling Headphones
Apple’s first over-ear headphones continue to make loyalists rejoice, even with a price tag higher than most of its competitors. However, the rich sound profile and powerful ANC may make it worth the splurge. To start, you get smooth and non-invasive active noise canceling that slightly edges out Sony and Bose’s similar models. Add in the spatial audio for an immersive experience in multi-dimensional sound and clarity for a truly impressive listening experience.
Those features are nice additions, but even without them, Apple’s AirPods Max deliver outstanding mid-accuracy, powerful bass, and clean highs with a seemingly wide soundstage, especially for closed-back headphones. The build quality is also unparalleled with its sleek aluminum ear cups and stainless steel headband, which are a bit weighty but still comfortable to wear. And the 20 hours of playback with ANC on is on par with most noise-canceling headphones and should be plenty for the average listener.
Razer Opus X
Best Noise-Canceling Headphones for Gaming
Razer’s Opus X delivers great-sounding headphones in a super affordable package. 40 mm drivers provide clear, crisp audio, not too different from the more expensive Razer Opus model. To get listening, you can connect to your devices like the Nintendo Switch, a gaming phone, or a PC using Bluetooth, as the headphones do not support a wired connection. There’s even a Gaming Mode for a low latency 60ms connection making it a solid gaming headset option.
As for noise canceling, the Opus X uses feedforward ANC rather than hybrid, as the original Opus model does. Therefore, you might hear lower frequencies peek through at times. And keeping the ANC on shouldn’t do much to hinder battery life, as it still boasts 30 hours while you drown out your surroundings and 40 hours with ANC off.
Microsoft Surface Headphones 2
Best Noise-Canceling Headphones for Work
For high-quality noise cancellation and other convenient features perfect to use in and out of the office, grab the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2. The ANC on these cans is offered at 13 different levels, ranging from max canceling to ambient noise, and it’s all controllable from the earcup. It doesn’t beat the Sony WH-1000XM5 or the Bose Noise Canceling 700 in noise cancellation, but the price point still keeps Microsofts offering as a contender.
Handy for work use is the clear-sounding built-in microphone with a mute switch that makes answering calls and speaking over zooms breezy. Connecting to devices to take those calls is also simple thanks to Bluetooth multipoint, which allows for seamless swapping between devices, like your phone and laptop. And being wireless, the 18.5-hour battery life is plenty to get you through the workday.
Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2
Best Mid-Focused Noise-Canceling Headphones
Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 provides remarkable sound, competitive noise cancellation, and high-class comfort for a premium option. The second generation of this headset makes some slight improvements on the original, delivering a captivating wide soundstage, deep bass, and smooth mids perfect for any audiophile. Unfortunately, you lose the 3.5mm jack, but there’s a USB for a richer wired sound experience. Support for the aptX codec also means you can enjoy high-res audio wirelessly.
Six microphones do a decent job at blocking most sounds without compromising your sonic experience, though the Sony WH-1000XM5 and the Bose 700 are slightly better at it. When you want to hear your environment while ANC is on, there’s an ambient pass-through mode to reveal external sounds more clearly. Buttons on the ear cups allow you to turn that ANC, as well as manage calls, control volume, and access playback, while the overall headphone design is stylish and comfortable.
Bose Noise Canceling 700
Best Neutral-Sounding Noise-Canceling Headphones
Bose’s Noise Canceling 700 headphones are the most comparable to our top contender, Sony’s WH-1000XM5, thanks to a wide sound stage and intuitive noise-cancellation, all in a sleek, comfortable design. Eight microphones inside and outside the earcups monitor the sounds around you, adjusting the ANC strength based on the platforms you use and your preferences. In total, 11 noise-canceling settings range from full cancellation to full transparency.
The overall sound profile on the 700 is balanced and clean for a pleasant experience no matter what you’re listening to. When you’re deep in the thralls of the beat, intuitive touch controls and physical buttons make it easy to control the music or answer calls. Speaking of calls, the built-in mics can effectively pick up your voice while eliminating much of the noise in your environment.
Sony LinkBuds S
Best Noise-Canceling Earbuds
When it comes to noise-cancellation, earbuds are not often a buyer's first thought, but Sony’s LinkBuds S deliver powerful noise cancellation with the comfort and the convenience of an in-ear piece. A Sony-designed Integrated Processor V1, noise-sensing microphones, and ear canal sealing silicone tips all work together to effectively dull and quiet noise at most frequencies. These tiny devices eliminate sounds like an airplane engine or noisy air conditioner, though you’ll still notice muffled incidental sounds like a car horn or dog barking.
The noise canceling is nice, but the 5mm drivers also offer impressive sound quality, showcasing a deep bass and rich mids. Using Sony’s Headphones Connect app, you can even play around with the EQ settings to get your ideal-sounding headphones or customize the touchpads on each earpiece to adjust volume, noise canceling modes, and playback. Support for Sony’s LDAC codec means you can even listen to high-res audio files via Bluetooth 5.2.
What to look for in Noise-Canceling Headphones
If you are considering purchasing noise-canceling headphones to drown out the sounds of everyday life, there are a few other important factors to consider. All of the noise-canceling headphones on our list as well as most on the market today, connect via Bluetooth to most devices. That may cause issues regarding latency and range. If you are using these headphones for gaming or recording, they may be more susceptible to sync issues. Looking for headphones with the option for a wired connection or a more advanced Bluetooth codec like aptX may solve the problem.
Headphone impedance may be important to audiophiles, but the average listener should find a quality pair of headphones in the 20-40ohms range. Devices such as laptops, phones, tablets, and gaming handhelds work best with lower impedance as they require much less power than higher impedance. The headphones on our list all have lower impedance.
Sound reproduction relies heavily on a headphone’s frequency response. The average person hears 20-20,000 Hz and that is the standard for most headphones. That doesn’t mean the sound quality is great, but rather tells the listener the sounds the headphones are able to reproduce.
Open and closed headphones really rely on a person’s personal preferences. If you prefer a more natural sound, similar to speakers, then open back headphones are probably the choice you should make. A closed-back pair of headphones will provide more isolation for “zoning out” or critical listening. The headphones on our list all feature closed backs.
Danielle Abraham is a freelance writer and unpaid music historian.