Table of contents

In a world filled with constant noise, finding a moment of peace and tranquility can be a challenge. That's where noise-canceling headphones come in. These innovative devices have revolutionized the way we experience sound by actively blocking out external disturbances and immersing us in our favorite music or podcasts. Whether you're a frequent traveler, a busy office worker, or simply someone who appreciates high-quality sound, noise-canceling headphones can be a game-changer. But with so many options on the market, how do you know which ones are the best? In this article, we'll explore the top contenders, notable mentions, and recent updates in the world of noise-canceling headphones. So sit back, relax, and let's dive into the world of audio excellence.

Experience the Best Noise Cancelling Headphones

The Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless headphones are the top choice for noise cancellation. While they may be the previous generation compared to the Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless, these premium over-ears outperform their successor in noise isolation. With their exceptional ANC system, they effectively block out the distractions of buses, offices, and computers, even when used with a wired connection. Plus, they provide more than 37 hours of continuous use with ANC on, and feature an auto-off timer to save battery life. You can also connect them to two devices at once.

These headphones have a default sound profile that emphasizes bass, delivering powerful thumps and booms. However, if you prefer a more balanced sound, you might want to consider the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless headphones instead. They offer a more neutral sound and a lighter, more comfortable fit. Although their ANC is not as strong as the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, they are still a great option.

Check out our full review for more information.

Other Noteworthy Noise Cancelling Options

  • Bose 700 Headphones Wireless: These premium over-ears have excellent noise cancellation and a high-quality microphone. They are particularly suitable for business users. Read our review for more details.
  • Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless: These high-end over-ears support aptX Adaptive codec for better audio quality. They also offer more than 60 hours of continuous playback. However, their ANC is not as effective as the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless. Check out our review to learn more.
  • Apple AirPods Max Wireless: Designed for Apple users, these over-ears seamlessly integrate with the Apple ecosystem. While they don't surpass the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, their ANC is still impressive. Keep in mind that they can create ear pressure when ANC is on. Read our detailed review for more information.
  • Wyze Noise-Cancelling Headphones Wireless: These Bluetooth-enabled over-ears have a sturdy design and an intuitive ANC system. However, their ANC performance is not as impressive as some alternatives. Check out our review for more details.
  • Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless: If you prefer earbuds, these are the best noise cancelling in-ears we've tested. They provide excellent noise isolation and have a compact design. However, they are not as comfortable as over-ear headphones and have a shorter battery life. Read our comprehensive review for more information.

Recent Updates

  • Jun 22, 2023: We've added the Focal Bathys Wireless as the 'Best Sounding Noise Cancelling Headphones' due to its unique DAC design and support for aptX Adaptive codec. Read more.
  • May 24, 2023: We've validated the picks on this list and made minor text edits for better clarity. Learn more.
  • Apr 18, 2023: To make the article more concise, we removed some picks and focused on the price curve. Text edits were also made for clarity and brevity. Read the details.
  • Mar 01, 2023: We've reviewed the accuracy and availability of our picks. However, there have been no changes to our recommendations. See more.
  • Jan 25, 2023: We've adjusted our picks to reflect the current market and replaced the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 Wireless with the Sony WH-H910N/h.ear on 3 Wireless. Find out more.

Other Top Picks for Noise-Canceling Headphones

Mark Levinson No. 5909: These premium headphones from Mark Levinson offer exceptional sound quality. While they come at a high price, their sturdy design and comfortable fit make them worth considering. Read our hands-on review.

Technics EAH-A800: These headphones have a retro design and offer a comfortable fit. They provide energetic sound with powerful bass and good detail.

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3: These true-wireless earbuds offer excellent sound quality, improved noise cancellation, and a refined design. They compete with the Sony WF-1000XM4 in terms of performance. Read our review.

Sennheiser 450BT: These updated noise-canceling headphones from Sennheiser offer improved battery life, USB-C charging, and Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX support. They are also more comfortable than their predecessor and provide good value for the price.

Google Pixel Buds Pro: These earbuds from Google feature active noise cancellation and a unique design. They offer good sound quality and noise cancellation, especially for Android users. Read our comprehensive review.

Our Testing Process for Noise-Canceling Headphones

Choosing the best noise-canceling headphones can be subjective, but our top picks have received the prestigious CNET Editors' Choice Award. As of 2022, the Sony WH-1000XM5, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, and Apple AirPods Pro 2 have stood out for their excellent noise-canceling capabilities, comfortable fit, superior sound quality, and strong voice-call performance. We also consider pricing for our value picks.

We have thoroughly reviewed and tested all the headphones on this list, and we regularly update our recommendations as new models enter the market.

The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless Delivers Superb Sound Quality

The flagship Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless headphones continue the tradition of the MOMENTUM series, offering exceptional sound quality that closely matches our ideal frequency response. They support various codecs and provide the option to use a 3.5mm headphone jack. These headphones prioritize audio performance and functionality.

The MOMENTUM 4 Wireless boasts an impressive battery life of 56 hours and 21 minutes with ANC activated, meaning fewer recharges and longer use. It also offers good noise isolation, blocking 75-93% of outside noise above 1kHz.

While the ANC performance of the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless is not as outstanding as some competitors, it comes close. It excels in codec selection and provides a slightly better frequency response. The user-friendly Sennheiser app enhances the overall experience.

For a demonstration of the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless microphone in ideal and street conditions, check the following videos.

Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless Microphone Demo (Ideal Conditions):

Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless Microphone Demo (Street Conditions):

What do you think of the microphone sound? Cast your vote and share your opinion.

Buy the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless: Purchase now | Read our review

With its EQ customization options, sleek design, and USB-C charging, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless is a high-end option for those seeking style, comfort, and immersive sound.

Experience Premium Sound with the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

Bose has established itself as a leading brand in the consumer headphone market, catering to frequent flyers and discerning individuals who value quality. The Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 is the flagship model from the Massachusetts-based company, offering a plethora of impressive features and a premium design. Moreover, these headphones are equipped with integrated voice assistant support, including Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s Siri.

Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700


Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

Buy nowSee reviewSee review

When it comes to sound quality, the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 may not be tailored for bass enthusiasts. However, these headphones are designed to satisfy the majority of listeners with their outstanding audio performance. They offer a hassle-free listening experience, delivering exceptional sound right out of the box. Sometimes, simplicity and reliability are the true hallmarks of greatness, and the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 exemplify this perfectly.

Can firmware updates affect noise canceling performance? Some users have reported a decline in ANC performance after updating their Bose products. However, we haven't encountered such issues. If you experience any problems, ensure that your firmware updates are installed correctly, as this is a common cause of reduced performance.

With the latest firmware, the ANC performance is exceptional.

While the active noise canceling of the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 is impressive, it doesn't quite match up to the flagship headphones from Sony, the XM5. Nevertheless, these headphones effectively reduce low-frequency noises to a fraction of their original volume. Additionally, the NCH 700 boasts excellent touch controls that are responsive without being overly sensitive, ensuring a seamless experience whether you use them with an Android or iOS device via Bluetooth.

When it comes to battery life, the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 may not be the longest-lasting ANC headphones, but they still outperform most true wireless earphones. With a single charge, you can enjoy up to 21 hours and 25 minutes of battery life with ANC and Bluetooth enabled. In practical terms, this means you'll only need to recharge them about twice a week. Unlike true wireless earphones, these headphones have larger batteries that provide enhanced longevity.

How does the microphone on the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 fare? While the microphone captures decent audio in ideal conditions, it may not block out as much background noise as the WH-1000XM5 or AirPods Max.

Listen to the Apple AirPods Max for Exceptional Noise Cancellation

Undoubtedly, Apple's first set of headphones offers the best noise cancellation on the market, rivaled only by the Sony WH-1000XM5. However, the premium price and limited compatibility with non-iOS devices may make the AirPods Max less appealing for those on a budget. If you own an iPhone and can afford the price tag, these headphones provide exceptional ANC performance along with advanced features.

As with other top-tier noise canceling headphones, the AirPods Max utilize hybrid active noise canceling technology to achieve optimal noise reduction. Building upon the success of the Apple AirPods Pro (1st generation), the AirPods Max feature Adaptive EQ, which adjusts the frequency response in real-time based on your environment and the fit of the headphones. Apple has taken bold steps in designing this headset, catering to the convenience and demands of loyal Apple users.

The AirPods Max stands out for its exceptional noise cancellation capabilities.

Audio performance on the AirPods Max surpasses expectations, delivering superior sound quality compared to more affordable options. However, please note that these headphones only support SBC and AAC codecs and do not feature high-bitrate codecs like LDAC. While you can enjoy digital wired audio using a Lightning-to-USB-C cable, this does come at an additional cost.

Should Android users consider the Apple AirPods Max? No, the AirPods Max is primarily designed for iPhone users to fully experience its benefits. Android users will miss out on call quality, firmware updates, Spatial Audio, and other exclusive features. If you're an Android user choosing between the Apple AirPods Max and the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 or the Sony WH-1000XM5, we recommend opting for one of the latter two or considering an iPhone.

What does the microphone on the Apple AirPods Max sound like? The microphone on these headphones performs admirably, especially when paired with an Apple device, offering improved audio quality.

Experience Quality on a Budget with the Monoprice BT-600ANC

While not a well-known brand, Monoprice offers a budget-friendly option for ANC headphones with their Monoprice BT-600ANC. Priced at just USD, these headphones provide respectable noise canceling performance at an affordable price point. Typically, ANC headphones of this caliber would cost at least $200, making the BT-600ANC a standout choice in its category.

Although the sound quality may not be the best (consider using a third-party EQ app), you won't find better noise-canceling headphones at this price range. With ANC enabled, the BT-600ANC effectively reduces droning background noise by 20-30dB, even in environments with challenging audio conditions. These headphones also excel at physical noise isolation, blocking out sound more efficiently compared to other models.

The BT-600ANC delivers impressive ANC performance comparable to higher-priced alternatives.

It's worth noting that the BT-600ANC does not have a companion app and offers minimal features. Monoprice tends to focus on simplicity, which appeals to those seeking a straightforward headset. However, if you require advanced features such as equalization or voice assistant support, you may need to explore other options.

What does the microphone on the Monoprice BT-600ANC sound like?

Monoprice BT-600ANC microphone demo (Non-standardized):

How does the microphone sample sound to you?

The Sony WH-XB910N: The Perfect Choice for Bass Enthusiasts

When it comes to noise-canceling headphones with exceptional bass, look no further than the Sony WH-XB910N. With its "XB" moniker representing "extra bass," Sony delivers a sub-bass that is 25dB louder than mids. However, if you prefer a different sound tuning for non-bass heavy music or podcasts, you can easily adjust the bass response through the Sony Headphones Connect app. Along with great sound, the WH-XB910N offers similar ANC performance to the popular WH-1000XM3 headphones and a comfortable fit. While it may not compete with the Sony WH-1000XM5 in terms of features, it offers excellent value for its price.

Sony WH-XB910N

Sony WH-XB910N

Experience Extra Bass with dual noise canceling and comfortable ear cups

Noise-canceling proof that you don't need to break the bank for Sony's best listening experience.

X is for extra, B is for bass. These noise-canceling Sony headphones are tailored to deliver exceptional sound quality at low frequencies while effectively blocking out the world around you with dual mics on each side.

See price at Amazon

How SoundGuys Selects Candidates and Winners

As experts in the audio industry, we have a deep understanding of the top performers in the market. However, we believe in giving every product a fair chance, as there are often surprises in the industry. To ensure we understand what consumers truly want, we frequently turn to our audience on Twitter for their purchasing preferences. Based on their feedback, we evaluate each candidate product, considering factors such as comfort, sound quality, and more. By following a systematic approach that prioritizes different aspects of performance, we are able to identify the winners that stand out from the competition.

Why You Can Trust SoundGuys

The Sony WH-1000XM5 is the highly anticipated update to Sony's flagship noise-canceling headphones. With a redesign from its predecessor, the Sony WH-1000XM4, and improved active noise canceling capabilities, these headphones offer an unrivaled listening experience.

Most listeners will appreciate the consumer-friendly sound of the WH-1000XM5. For those who prefer less bass, the Sony Headphones Connect app allows you to adjust the audio to boost mids and reduce highs. While it may be slightly inconvenient to need to equalize the headphones, the process is straightforward.

The Sony WH-1000XM5 excels at isolating you from your surroundings, even before activating the ANC unit.

Sony is renowned for its active noise canceling technology, and the WH-1000XM5 continues that legacy. These headphones effectively cancel out various sounds, including the hum of an air conditioner or the noise of a jet engine, making them perfect for travelers and commuters. Additionally, the WH-1000XM5 offers improved passive isolation, blocking out high-pitched noises better than the WH-1000XM4.

Other notable features of the Sony WH-1000XM5 include Bluetooth multipoint connectivity, automatic ear detection, support for various audio codecs, excellent microphone quality, intuitive touch controls, Sony 360 Reality Audio, and comprehensive in-app control. If you're willing to invest in the best active noise canceling headphones, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is the ultimate choice.

What does the Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone sound like? The Sony WH-1000XM5 features an advanced noise canceling microphone system that effectively reduces background noise.

Sony WH-1000XM5 Microphone Demo (Ideal Conditions):

Sony WH-1000XM5 Microphone Demo (Office Conditions):

How Does the Microphone Sound to You?

17476 votes

Should You Choose the Sony WH-1000XM4 Over the Sony WH-1000XM5?

The Sony WH-1000XM5 (left) offers a cleaner look compared to the WH-1000XM4 (right).

While the Sony WH-1000XM5 is the latest model, the Sony WH-1000XM4 remains an excellent choice. If you're not willing to spend $400 on the newest model, the WH-1000XM4 provides exceptional ANC performance. The sound quality may not be as impressive out of the box as the WH-1000XM5, but you can easily adjust the heavy treble through equalization.

Both headphones are not water-resistant, but they can withstand sweat as long as you keep them clean. In terms of software features, both models offer 360 Reality Audio and ANC optimization. The WH-1000XM4 also allows you to prioritize connection stability or sound quality. Unless you specifically require the best ANC available, the WH-1000XM4 will satisfy your needs while saving you some money.

How Does Active Noise Cancellation Work?

Active noise-canceling headphones utilize a clever technology to minimize surrounding noise. These headphones feature tiny microphones on the outer housings that "listen" to the external noise. By creating a mirror image of the compression and rarefaction of the air that it detects, the headphones produce a sound wave with the same amplitude but in opposite phase to the external noise. When these two sound waves combine, they cancel each other out, resulting in silence. This allows you to enjoy your music in peace without being disturbed by unwanted noise.

To learn more about how active noise cancellation works, you can read our in-depth guide here.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)

Best Earphones for iPhone Users

Why We Picked It

The second-generation AirPods Pro offers exceptional noise cancellation, although the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II slightly outperform them overall. Nevertheless, the AirPods Pro effectively eliminate deep, low-frequency rumble and perform well against complex, higher-frequency sounds. In addition to ANC, the AirPods Pro feature Adaptive Transparency mode, which allows you to monitor your surroundings naturally without compromising your hearing when exposed to loud noises above 85dB. This mode works better than the equivalent feature in Bose earbuds.

Who It’s For

If you desire seamless integration between your earphones and iPhone, the AirPods Pro is the perfect choice. Pairing is quick and easy, and all the controls and features you need are conveniently accessible through the iOS settings menu. Additionally, the AirPods Pro can serve as transparent earplugs, allowing you to wear them to concerts or on job sites while still being aware of your environment and protecting your hearing.


  • Exceptional audio performance with rich, well-balanced sound

  • Outstanding active noise cancellation

  • Impressive Adaptive Transparency mode

  • Useful charging case with built-in speaker

  • Seamless integration with Apple devices


  • No support for hi-res codecs

  • Non-adjustable EQ presets

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

Best Earphones Overall

Why We Picked It

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II redefine our expectations for noise-canceling earphones. They utilize calibration tests and adaptive ANC tweaks to deliver impressive noise cancellation results. While their performance against higher frequencies is comparable to other high-end options, they excel at eliminating low-frequency noise. These earbuds also feature an Active Aware mode that reduces louder environmental noises while allowing you to remain aware of your surroundings.

Who It’s For

Audiophiles may prefer the Sony WF-1000XM4 for its superior codec support, and iPhone users may favor the AirPods Pro for seamless integration with Apple products. However, if you prioritize the most effective noise cancellation, the QC Earbuds II should be your choice. While other top-tier options come close, they are not as consistent or effective against deep lows. Additionally, these earbuds offer a pleasing bass-forward sound signature and a secure in-ear fit.


  • Engaging audio performance with powerful bass and crisp highs

  • Outstanding noise cancellation for both low and high frequencies

  • Useful Active Aware mode

  • Water-resistant build


  • No option to turn off noise cancellation completely

  • Case does not support wireless charging

Sony WF-1000XM4

Best Earphones for Audiophiles

Why We Picked It

While the Sony WF-1000XM4 may not have the most effective noise cancellation compared to the latest models from Apple and Bose, their foam eartips allow them to perform exceptionally well against high frequencies. These earphones also offer the most comprehensive EQ and support the audiophile-friendly LDAC Bluetooth codec.

Who It’s For

If you value both noise cancellation and audio performance equally, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is the perfect choice. Android users, in particular, can fully enjoy the hi-res-capable LDAC codec offered by these earphones.


  • Exceptional active noise cancellation

  • Powerful bass and crisp, defined highs

  • Adjustable EQ

  • Good battery life


$278.00 Amazon

(Opens in a new window)

Anker Soundcore Space A40

Best Earphones Under $100

Why We Picked It

The Anker Soundcore Space A40 earphones offer above-average active noise cancellation and an excellent app with customizable EQ, making them a standout choice in the under $100 price range.

Who It’s For

If you have a budget of around $100 and refuse to compromise on sound quality and noise cancellation performance, the Soundcore Space A40 is the perfect solution. These earphones deliver rich, detailed audio performance by default and provide approximately 10 hours of battery life (with ANC off). Anker even allows you to adjust the ANC behavior to suit your preferences.


  • Rich, detailed audio performance

  • Impressive active noise cancellation for the price

  • App includes customizable EQ and controls

  • Strong battery life

  • Water-resistant build


  • Slightly lacking in sub-bass

  • Noise cancellation mode slightly affects sound signature


.00 Amazon

(Opens in a new window)

Discover Urbanista Los Angeles

The Ultimate Energy-Efficient Headphones

Reasons to Choose Urbanista Los Angeles

What's not to love about headphones that recharge using any light source, from the sun to a regular light bulb? The Urbanista Los Angeles over-ear headphones are truly one-of-a-kind. Not only do they feature eco-friendly solar charging technology, but they also provide exceptional noise cancellation and deliver incredible detail in your music.

Who Should Consider Urbanista Los Angeles?

If you're someone who wants to reduce energy consumption or spend less time charging your devices, the Urbanista Los Angeles headphones are a perfect choice. With a full charge lasting up to 80 hours, these headphones offer impressive longevity. While you do have the option to charge via USB-C, it won't be necessary often.

Advantages of Urbanista Los Angeles

  • Solar-powered charging
  • Exceptional audio performance with rich, deep bass and crisp highs
  • Effective noise cancellation at an affordable price
  • Stylish and attractive design

Possible Drawbacks of Urbanista Los Angeles

  • No in-app EQ available
  • Noise cancellation may slightly affect sound signature

$219.99 Amazon

(Opens in a new window)

Experience Affordable Excellence with Monoprice Horizon ANC

The Best Earphones Under $50

Why Monoprice Horizon ANC Stands Out

Despite being one of the most affordable options, the Monoprice Horizon ANC earphones do not compromise on performance. They deliver rich sound, support both AAC and AptX Adaptive codecs, and provide surprisingly effective active noise cancellation for the price.

Who Will Benefit from Monoprice Horizon ANC?

If you're looking to save money while still enjoying the benefits of noise-cancelling earbuds, the Monoprice Horizon ANC is the ideal choice. We highly recommend these earphones if you want to maximize value and minimize spending.

Advantages of Monoprice Horizon ANC

  • Rich, detailed audio performance with bright highs
  • Good Bluetooth codec support
  • Affordable price point

Possible Drawbacks of Monoprice Horizon ANC

  • No dedicated app available
  • Touch controls can be cumbersome

$49.99 Amazon

(Opens in a new window)

Introducing Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless

The Epitome of Stylish Headphones

Why Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless Deserves Your Attention

While the Bose and Sony headphones are undoubtedly impressive, Sennheiser's Momentum 4 Wireless over-ear headphones are a worthy contender. They boast a sophisticated design, offer exceptional audio performance, and effectively cancel out ambient noise.

Who Should Consider Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless?

If you prefer to explore alternatives to Bose and Sony headphones, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless is an excellent choice. These headphones deliver both style and superb audio quality, with strong Bluetooth codec support that includes AptX Adaptive (sorry, no LDAC).

Advantages of Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless

  • Excellent audio performance with powerful bass and detailed highs
  • Effective noise cancellation for uninterrupted listening
  • Strong Bluetooth codec support
  • Sleek design with user-friendly on-ear controls

Possible Drawbacks of Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless

  • Underwhelming in-app EQ features
  • Occasional connectivity issues with the app

$299.00 Amazon

(Opens in a new window)

Your Complete Guide to the Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones in 2023

Distinguishing Between Active Noise Cancellation and Passive Noise Isolation

Many headphones and earphones claim to reduce or isolate noise, but not all of them offer true ANC (Active Noise Cancellation).

Passive noise isolation, also known as passive noise cancellation, is the basic principle behind earplugs. It involves using objects, such as thick earpads with memory foam, to physically block sound. This passive method reduces ambient noise without relying on battery power. For example, covering your ears with your fingers when a loud siren passes by is a form of passive noise isolation.

On the other hand, active noise cancellation is far more complex. It utilizes built-in microphones to actively capture and analyze ambient noise, then generates inverse sound waves to cancel out those sounds. Imagine playing a perfect sine wave along with its exact opposite, resulting in no sound at all. Although the real-life results may not be as perfect, modern ANC technology effectively suppresses low and mid-range frequencies. Of course, this active process requires battery power to function.

Almost all ANC headphones incorporate passive noise isolation alongside their active circuitry. This additional layer improves performance against high-frequency noises that can challenge headphones.

What Noise Cancellation Can and Can't Achieve

If you haven't used noise-cancelling headphones before, it's important to understand that they don't completely eliminate noise and are less effective against inconsistent noise. Wearing noise-cancelling headphones is more like using highly effective earplugs than entering a soundproof chamber.

Most high-quality headphones can effectively reduce constant, low-frequency noises such as airplane engines, train rumbling, or the hum of an air conditioner. However, more complex sounds like music, conversations, or barking dogs—anything that is not a continuous drone—may still be audible to some extent. While the best noise-cancelling models can minimize such sounds, it's important to manage expectations and recognize that complete elimination might not be possible.

Understanding Adaptive Noise Cancellation

Adaptive noise cancellation refers to active noise cancellation that adjusts its settings based on real-time measurements of environmental sounds. Essentially, all ANC must be adaptive to some degree, as the noise around you constantly changes. However, adaptive ANC goes beyond this and also adapts to the movement of your head.

An excellent example of adaptive ANC is Apple's adaptive transparency mode, which we consider one of the best. It not only adjusts to surrounding noise changes but also reacts to shifts in your head's position. This mode provides exceptional hearing protection.

Some adaptive ANC models even let you hear the noise cancellation changing in real time as you turn your head or experience pressure changes in your ear canal. For some users, adaptive ANC is a groundbreaking feature, while others may find it distracting. Now, certain apps allow you to switch between adaptive and manual ANC modes based on your preference. You may even have the option to focus the ANC on specific frequency ranges or adjust its intensity using a fader.

Exploring Hybrid Noise Cancellation

Hybrid ANC combines feed-forward (exterior microphone-based) and feedback (interior microphone-based) noise cancellation technologies. While many high-end models utilize hybrid technology, its inclusion does not guarantee superior performance. Factors such as the number and placement of microphones have a significant impact on the effectiveness of hybrid ANC. Hybrid ANC can be found in both in-ear and over-ear headphones.

Understanding the Role of Hiss in Noise Cancellation

Some noise cancellation modes introduce an audible hiss, similar to white noise, into the audio signal. This hiss masks the high frequencies that the circuitry might struggle to eliminate effectively. While active noise cancellation is highly effective against lows and mids, its performance on highs is comparatively weaker. Therefore, passive reduction of high-frequency noise is crucial. The added hiss enhances the perceived quietness but can be somewhat deceptive.

To check if a hiss is present, activate the ANC mode in a quiet room and listen for any audible noise. In some cases, the hiss may be louder than the room itself. Most hisses are not deal breakers and become inaudible once your music is playing. However, it's worth noting that higher-quality noise cancellation modes rely less on masking hiss.

Additionally, some individuals may experience pressure in their ears when using powerful ANC, while others may not perceive any discomfort. Before investing in an expensive product that may cause discomfort, we recommend trying on multiple pairs of headphones in a store.

Over-ear (circumaural) headphones generally provide the most effective ANC. The earcups create a tight seal, and the earpads act as an additional barrier. However, on-ear (supra-aural) ANC models, although less common, can still effectively reduce surrounding noise, offer superior comfort, and are more portable.

ANC-capable earphones have also made significant strides in recent years. These models offer passive isolation by sealing off your ear canal with their eartips, effectively reducing high-frequency noise even without ANC activated.

The advantage one style offers over another is now less about ANC performance and more about personal preference and comfort. Each category can provide top-notch active noise cancellation.

How We Selected the Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones

We conducted thorough research, combined with hands-on testing and expert consultations, to identify the top products. We carefully evaluated each noise-cancelling headphone based on audio quality, noise cancellation capabilities, design, comfort, battery life, connectivity, and more. We also considered unique features that set each headphone apart from the competition.

The Difference Between Passive, Active, and Adaptive Noise Cancellation

To simplify matters, passive noise cancellation refers to the physical design of headphones, including the materials used in the earcups, that muffle ambient noise by creating a seal around your ears. Passive noise cancellation is most effective at reducing mid- to high-frequency sounds, typically by 15dB to 30dB.

Active noise cancellation (ANC) takes advantage of headphone technology to counteract ambient noise actively. ANC headphones use built-in microphones to assess the level of external noise and generate sound waves that cancel out those sounds. This helps maintain the clarity of the audio you want to hear. ANC is less effective against high-pitched or constantly fluctuating sounds. It excels against consistent low-frequency sounds, such as airplane engine noise or the hum of an air conditioner.

Adaptive noise cancellation represents the highest level of ANC performance. It continuously monitors surrounding sounds and automatically adjusts the noise cancellation settings using AI technology. This enables the headphones to eliminate most or all of the ambient noise in your environment, even when the noise level changes. Adaptive ANC ensures a consistent volume for the audio you want to hear, including hands-free phone calls. The Sony WF-1000XM5s are an example of headphones with adaptive noise cancellation.

Headphones like the Bose Noise Cancelling 700s have manually adjustable noise cancellation but lack automatic and adaptive noise cancellation. While the result can be similar, you must manually select the appropriate noise cancellation level from the 11 available options for each situation.

Most headphones with active or adaptive noise cancellation also benefit from passive noise cancellation. We recommend choosing headphones with adaptive noise cancellation as they offer the most flexibility.

Why Forbes Vetted is the Source to Trust

The Forbes Vetted team of experts in technology is dedicated to providing accurate and reliable product assessments. These assessments are the result of extensive research and hands-on testing. Our team of experienced writers and editors have a wealth of knowledge in consumer electronics, making them well-equipped to help you make informed purchasing decisions.

The Top Noise-Cancelling Over-Ear Headphones

(Image credit: Future)When it comes to the best overall noise-cancelling headphones, the competition is fierce between the Bose 700 and the Sony WH-1000XM5. However, there is no denying that Bose has the most effective active noise-cancelling technology currently available. The Bose 700 features 10 levels of ANC that can be adjusted in the Connect app, effectively blocking out most external sounds. Plus, the sound quality remains exceptional even with ANC enabled. The ultramodern design of the Bose 700 is both visually appealing and functionally impressive. However, it's worth noting that the battery life falls slightly short compared to its Sony counterpart.

You can read our comprehensive Bose 700 review for more details.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)However, Sony is giving Bose a run for its money with the Sony WH-1000XM5. Boasting two processors and eight microphones, the ANC performance of this model is close to seamless. In addition, the sound quality is superb, the battery life is excellent, and the touch controls and EQ customization through the Sony Headphones Connect app are well-implemented. The only drawbacks are the slightly bland styling and the higher price compared to the previous model.

You can read our full Sony WH-1000XM5 review for more details.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)For those seeking the best value, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless headphones are the ones to consider. With an impressive battery life of 60 hours and excellent sound quality, these headphones are perfect for the on-the-go lifestyle. The ANC performance is effective, and the auto Wind Noise Reduction feature is especially impressive in noisy environments. Overall, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless headphones deliver a smooth and immersive listening experience.

You can read our full Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review for more details.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)The latest addition to the QC over-ear series, the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones, offers several improvements in active noise cancellation, sound quality, and battery life. With its effective ANC, the headphones can block out nearly 90% of ambient sounds. The ambient-listening mode, known as Aware, allows external sounds to be heard for increased awareness. The sound signature of these headphones is well-balanced and optimized for various music genres. With 24 hours of ANC playtime, the battery life is a major advantage over previous Bose models.

You can read our full Bose QuietComfort 45 review for more details.

(Image credit: Future)The Cleer Enduro ANC offers great sound, a modern design, and impressive features, all at an affordable price of $150. With a remarkable battery life of 50 hours and 15 minutes of ANC playback time, these headphones are perfect for travelers. The sound quality is lively and immersive, with a strong emphasis on the low end, rich mids, and crisp highs. The Ambient Sound mode provides flexibility in noise cancellation and transparency settings, allowing for optimal performance in different situations.

You can read our full Cleer Enduro ANC review for more details.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)The AirPods Max from Apple offer a single level of active noise cancellation that works impressively well. These headphones excel in blocking out ambient sounds, particularly in the lower frequency range. The sound quality is excellent, especially when using the spatial audio feature. While the price may be higher compared to other models, the design and build quality of the AirPods Max are top-notch.

You can read our full Apple AirPods Max review for more details.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)Priced the same as the Sony WH-1000XM5, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 over-ear headphones offer good active noise cancellation while prioritizing overall sound quality. These headphones are beautifully constructed and deliver a clean and convincing tonality. The design may be understated, but the audio performance is top-notch, perfect for those who prioritize audio fidelity.

You can read our full Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 review for more details.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)The Yamaha YH-L700A wireless headphones offer an incredible 3D sound experience and accurate head tracking, making them stand out from other models. The sound quality is impressive, with rich lows, palpable mids, and crisp highs. While the design may be on the larger and heavier side, the battery life and noise-cancelling capabilities are noteworthy.

You can read our full Yamaha YH-L700A review for more details.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)The Anker Soundcore Space Q45 offers outstanding features and effective ANC performance at an affordable price. With remarkable battery life, quality ANC, and superb sound quality, these headphones provide a lively and immersive listening experience. The versatile Ambient Sound mode allows for customization based on noise cancellation or transparency settings.

You can read our full Anker Soundcore Space Q45 review for more details.

The Top Noise-Cancelling Earbuds

(Image credit: Future)For the best noise-cancelling earbuds, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 takes the top spot. These earbuds excel in ANC capabilities and outperform the original QC Earbuds. With exceptional sound quality, great call quality, and unrivaled ANC, these earbuds are a remarkable upgrade. The proprietary technologies included in these earbuds ensure a balanced sound and effective noise cancellation.

You can read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review for more details.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)The next-generation AirPods Pro 2 from Apple bring significant upgrades to the original model. With improved battery life, IPX4 rating for water resistance, and enhanced audio performance, these earbuds are a great choice for iPhone users. The inclusion of spatial audio and noise cancellation that surpasses its predecessor make these earbuds a premium option.

You can read our full Apple AirPods Pro 2 review for more details.

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)The Sony WF-1000XM4 takes ANC on wireless earbuds to the next level. With improvements in ANC, battery life, design, sound, and touch controls, these earbuds surpass the original WF-1000XM3 and other leading models in the market. The ANC performance effectively blocks out disturbing noises, providing a seamless listening experience. The sound profile is dynamic and well-defined, suitable for various types of content. Additionally, the Sony Headphones Connect app offers a range of customizable features.

You can read our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review for more details.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review

(Image credit: Future)Samsung's Galaxy Buds 2 Pro provides impressive ANC capabilities, blocking out close to 90% of ambient noise. The comfortable design and improved noise isolation enhance the listening experience. The earbuds feature three microphones for advanced noise-blocking and superior call quality. The sound quality is high, and the 3D sound with precise head tracking adds depth to the audio.

You can read our full Samsung Buds 2 Pro review for more details.

How to Choose the Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones

The following factors should be considered when selecting noise-cancelling headphones:

1. Active vs. passive noise cancellation: Active noise cancellation (ANC) headphones utilize hardware and firmware to reduce external sounds. This is different from passive noise isolation, which simply blocks out sounds through physical seals. For a detailed explanation, you can refer to our ANC explained guide.

2. Battery life: Noise-cancelling headphones often require more power, so it's important to choose a pair with sufficient battery life to last through long trips or commutes.

3. Sound quality: ANC technology may affect sound performance and introduce background hiss. Look for headphones that minimize these disruptions and deliver crisp, full sound.

4. Design: Consider the look, build quality, and comfort of headphones when making a selection. Over-ear headphones generally provide better noise cancellation, but newer wireless on-ear and in-ear models can be equally effective.

5. Pricing: Budget is a crucial consideration, but compromising on sound quality and features for a lower price may not be worthwhile. It's important to find a balance between price and performance.

Additionally, keep an eye out for ongoing headphone deals to save money on your purchase. You can visit our best headphone deals page to find the latest discounts.

Our Testing Process: How we Find the Best Headphones

Unveiling the secrets of our audio experts who have been testing and reviewing consumer audio products for over 30 years, Tom's Guide is committed to helping you make the right choice when it comes to headphones. Our team follows a meticulous testing regime to ensure that only the best products make it into our buying guides.

To evaluate headphones accurately, Tom's Guide focuses on several important criteria: design, comfort, features, performance, and value. We conduct a comprehensive review process, comparing products with similar attributes in terms of fit, features, and pricing.

During the testing phase, our expert reviewers wear each pair of headphones for 2 hours at a time, over the course of a week. This allows us to assess the comfort factor over an extended period of usage.

To determine the effectiveness of noise cancellation (ANC), we test the headphones in various environments that generate high levels of ambient sound. These include airplanes, city parks, convenience shops, offices, and public transportation. We also thoroughly evaluate ANC headphones equipped with transparency modes to gauge their ability to let the listener hear their surroundings.

When it comes to sound quality, we immerse ourselves in a wide range of music genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical, and R&B. By listening to a multitude of sample tracks, we evaluate factors such as volume, clarity, and fullness. If you're curious about what we specifically look for during our testing process and how you can optimize your personal headphone sound experience, check out our detailed guide.

Considering the rise of streaming music services that offer high-resolution audio, it's essential to familiarize yourself with various audio codecs. For a deep dive into FLAC files, MP3s, and everything in between, don't miss our comprehensive audio codec FAQ.

After completing our rigorous testing, we rate headphones using our five-point rating system, where 1 represents the worst and 5 represents the best. Products that excel in all aspects receive our prestigious Editor's Choice badge.

Discover more details about our testing process and get a deeper insight into our reviewing procedures.

Contributions from: Alex Bracetti, Simon Lucas

In conclusion, when it comes to finding the best noise-canceling headphones, there are plenty of excellent options to choose from. From the exceptional sound quality of the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless to the attractive alternative of the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, there is something to suit every preference. iPhone owners will especially appreciate the top-notch noise canceling of the Apple AirPods Max. And for those on a budget, the Monoprice BT-600ANC offers impressive noise cancellation at an affordable price. With so many great choices available, it's no wonder that SoundGuys is a trusted source for finding the perfect pair of noise-canceling headphones. So, whether you're jamming out to your favorite tunes or looking for peace and quiet on a noisy commute, investing in the best noise-canceling headphones will undoubtedly enhance your audio experience.