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In a world filled with constant noise and distractions, finding a moment of peace and quiet can be a rare luxury. That's where noise-canceling headphones come in. These innovative audio accessories have become a must-have for anyone seeking to block out the outside world and immerse themselves in their music or work. But with so many options on the market, how do you know which ones are the best? In this article, we will explore the top noise-canceling headphones of 2023 and delve into the technology behind them. We'll also address common concerns, such as their impact on hearing health and battery life. So, whether you're a music lover, a frequent traveler, or simply someone looking for a little peace and tranquility, read on to discover the best noise-canceling headphones for your needs.

The top noise blocking headphones in 2023

As a journalist specializing in technology, I've had the opportunity to test numerous noise canceling headphones in various settings. Below, I've listed some of my favorite over-ear headphones and earbuds. (All of the over-ear models I recommend are fully adjustable so that you remain comfortable, no matter how long you wear them.)

Sony WH-1000XM5

If you're looking for a truly premium experience, Sony's WH-1000XM5 headphones are worth considering. These over-ear headphones are known for their comfort, audio quality, and effective active noise cancellation (ANC). The latest model boasts a battery life of 30 hours and a wide frequency range that ensures detailed sound at both high and low frequencies. Personally, I find them comfortable for long journeys as well, thanks to the soft leather ear cups designed to minimize pressure on the ears.

ANC: Yes | Frequency range: 4-40,000Hz | Battery life: 30 hours | Weight: 250g | Drivers: 30mm | Water- and sweat resistant: No | Transparency mode: Yes

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Series II

In my experience, these QuietComfort earbuds deliver outstanding active noise cancellation in a smaller form factor. They provide a secure fit, exceptional clarity, and touch controls for easy operation. While they do come with a higher price tag compared to other in-ear headphones, they are among the best ANC buds available on the market.

ANC: Yes | Frequency range: not specified | Battery life: 6 hours | Battery life with charging case: 24 hours | Weight: 6.24g | Drivers: 9.3mm | Water- and sweat resistant: Yes | Transparency mode: Yes

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX

If style matters to you as much as sound quality, the Beoplay HX from Bang & Olufsen are an excellent choice. With their aluminum exterior, lambskin accents, and memory foam earcups, these headphones exude a premium look and feel without breaking the bank. While you can find stronger ANC at a lower price elsewhere, B&O's design excellence shines through, from the choice of materials to the exceptional mobile app for customizing ANC settings.

ANC: Yes | Frequency range: 20-22,000Hz | Battery life: 35 hours | Weight: 285g | Drivers: 40mm | Water- and sweat resistant: No | Transparency mode: Yes

Apple AirPods Pro 2

Apple's latest AirPods Pro earbuds, which have won a Select Wellness Award for best wireless earbuds, offer improved audio performance, extended battery life (up to 30 hours with the charging case), and exceptional noise cancellation. They also feature spatial audio for a surround sound effect. For Apple users who prefer a comfortable in-ear design, these are the top ANC headphones available.

ANC: Yes | Frequency range: not specified | Battery life: 6 hours | Battery life with charging case: 30 hours | Weight: 5.3g | Drivers: 11mm | Water- and sweat resistance: Yes | Transparency mode: Yes

Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless

Sennheiser's Momentum range has long been synonymous with high-quality consumer audio, and their wireless ANC model lives up to this reputation. With top-notch sound quality, effective noise cancellation, and modern smart features like a transparency mode, these headphones truly stand out. The real star, in my opinion, is the impressive battery life of 60 hours, even with ANC activated, making them a cut above many other models on the market.

ANC: Yes | Frequency range: 6-22,000Hz | Battery life: 60 hours | Weight: 290g | Drivers: 42mm | Water- and sweat resistant: No | Transparency mode: Yes

Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

Bose has been at the forefront of noise-canceling technology for years, and their Noise Canceling Headphones 700 continue to be among the best on the market. These headphones offer powerful noise cancellation, balanced sound quality, and a comfortable fit. The intuitive Bose app allows users to adjust noise cancellation levels according to their preference. With added features like Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility, touch controls, and a battery life of 20 hours, these headphones are truly top-notch.

ANC: Yes | Frequency range: not specified | Battery life: 20 hours | Weight: 250g | Drivers: 40mm | Water- and sweat resistant: No | Transparency mode: Yes

Apple AirPods Max

Following the success of their AirPods earbuds, Apple introduced the AirPods Max, a pair of over-ear noise-canceling headphones to rival Bose and Sony. These headphones excel at blocking out background noise, although some reviewers have noted that they may not be as effective at canceling out nearby conversations and could be uncomfortable for certain individuals. However, they offer a seamless pairing experience with Apple devices and boast features like spatial audio for an immersive audio experience.

Rebecca Rodriguez, Select's editorial projects manager, is a huge fan: "The transparency mode on these headphones impressed me the most," she says. "I use it when commuting to stay aware of my surroundings without compromising the sound quality of the music I'm listening to. They are also incredibly comfortable, thanks to the mesh band that conforms to the shape of your head, and the well-padded, removable ear cups that can be easily cleaned."

ANC: Yes | Frequency range: not specified | Battery life: 20 hours | Weight: 385g | Drivers: 40mm | Water- and sweat resistant: No | Transparency mode: Yes

Soundcore by Anker Life Q30

If the above options don't fit your budget, Anker's Soundcore Q30 wireless noise-canceling headphones are a reliable alternative priced under $100. While their ANC may not be as powerful as higher-end choices, I found that they do a decent job of blocking out low-pitched background noise. They also outperform many budget-friendly competitors by delivering quality sound with well-balanced bass.

ANC: Yes | Frequency range: 16-24,000Hz | Battery life: 60 hours | Weight: 265g | Drivers: 40mm | Water- and sweat resistant: No | Transparency mode: Yes

Aukey Beyond ANC Hybrid

If you're looking for affordable alternatives to Apple's AirPods Pro, I recommend Aukey's EP-N5, also known as the Beyond ANC. It offers impressive sound quality for its price, although its ANC may not match that of more expensive options. However, it does effectively cancel out low-pitched background sounds.

ANC: Yes | Frequency range: 20-20,000Hz | Battery life: 7 hours | Battery life with charging case: 35 hours | Weight: 10g | Drivers: 10mm | Water- and sweat resistant: Yes | Transparency mode: Yes

What is active noise cancellation and how does it work?

While many over-ear headphones offer "passive" sound isolation due to their padded ear cups, active noise cancellation (ANC) works differently and uses advanced technology to counter external noise, according to Richard Trestain, product manager at audio brand Jabra. (Trestain provided shopping advice without specific headphone recommendations for this list.) ANC detects and analyzes incoming noise, generating an "anti-noise" signal to cancel it out, resulting in a significant reduction in noise levels.

There are different types of ANC. Feedforward ANC is commonly found in smaller in-ear headphones and uses external microphones to detect and counteract ambient noise. Feedback ANC, on the other hand, utilizes internal microphones to focus on canceling the noise that reaches your ears.

The most effective form of ANC is called hybrid ANC, which combines both feedforward and feedback technologies. With this approach, headphones use inward-facing and outward-facing microphones to cancel noise both inside and outside the ear, resulting in clearer calls and listening experiences.

If your goal is to block out as much noise as possible, over-ear models are the way to go. According to Trestain, "Over-ear ANC headsets fully cover your ears and block out most external sounds," adding that they also provide passive noise cancellation and filter out high-frequency noise. However, due to their weight and bulkiness, some individuals may prefer earbuds.

Although in-ear models may not provide the same level of external noise blockage, ANC versions are designed to create a tight seal over the ears to minimize outside noise.

Is active noise cancellation beneficial for hearing health?

The CDC estimates that 12.5% of children (aged 6-19) and 17% of adults (aged 20-69) in the U.S. experience some form of permanent hearing damage due to excessive noise exposure. Therefore, it is essential to consider your audio equipment and how you use it to protect your hearing.

Dr. Gayla Poling, an audiology researcher at Mayo Clinic, is knowledgeable about early identification of noise-induced hearing loss and highlights the importance of headphones in discussions about hearing health. Higher quality headphones that effectively block out background noise can potentially reduce the need to increase volume levels, thereby providing a protective effect when listening to music.

However, it is crucial to understand that ANC headphones should not be mistaken for professional sound mufflers or earplugs used in high-volume environments by workers in construction, welding, or firearms. Poling explains that ANC is primarily designed to block out ambient sounds, such as the hum of a fan, to create a less stressful environment.

"That is not the same as hearing protection in really noisy environments, where we really want to deaden the sound, sound-proof, and reduce the overall exposure to the ears," she clarifies. ANC technology may not be effective in scenarios involving fireworks or loud rock concerts.

It is important to note that ANC is a relatively new technology in consumer audio, and its impact on ear health, whether positive or negative, is still being studied. Poling states, "Research in this area is still emerging because the technologies have only recently become widely accessible."

Ultimately, balance is key. It is crucial not to listen to loud music for extended periods. According to Poling, 85 decibels, equivalent to the noise level of a bustling street corner, is considered the upper limit of comfortable listening for 8-10 hours. However, individual thresholds may vary.

Are there any drawbacks to ANC?

Indeed. In certain scenarios, blocking out your surroundings can pose risks. For instance, it would be irresponsible to wear them while operating a vehicle, and it could be perilous to use them while walking in public areas (especially when crossing the street) or in a gym where heavy equipment is present. It's best to tune out your environment when you're stationary and less likely to encounter any trouble.

Maintaining situational awareness for your own safety is crucial, as Poling points out. "You need to have a certain level of awareness to be able to hear someone call your name or warn you," he says.

The effectiveness of ANC and the potential risks of high volumes also depend on the individual using it. "Everyone's ears are unique," says Poling. "They're like fingerprints, and each person's shape and size are different. It's highly individualized who is actually at risk of hearing loss."

How does ANC impact battery life?

ANC is a power-intensive process that utilizes built-in microphone arrays to record background noise and then counteracts it with an opposing signal. When ANC is active, battery life can significantly decrease, just like using your headphones for all-day meetings or long conference calls can drain the battery faster compared to simply listening to music or a podcast.

Top Noise Cancelling Headphones

The Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless headphones have emerged as the best noise cancelling headphones according to our tests. While they are the previous generation of the Sony WH-1000XM5 Wireless, these premium over-ears deliver superior noise isolation performance compared to their successor. Their ANC system effectively blocks out low-frequency sounds like bus engines, office chatter, and computer fan noise. Additionally, you can use their ANC even when connected via a wired connection, and with ANC activated, they offer over 37 hours of continuous battery life. They also feature an auto-off timer to conserve battery when not in use and support multi-device pairing for simultaneous connectivity to two devices.

These headphones have a default sound profile that emphasizes bass, providing a powerful and resonant audio experience. If the bass overwhelms vocals and lead instruments for your preference, you can customize the sound using their companion app's graphic equalizer and presets. For those seeking ANC headphones with a more neutral sound profile, the Bose QuietComfort 45/QC45 Wireless is worth considering. Their bass response is less exaggerated and they offer a more comfortable fit with less clamping force. However, their ANC performance is not as effective in blocking out background noise across the frequency spectrum.

Read our review

  • Top Upper Mid-Range Noise Cancelling Headphones

    The Sony WH-H910N/h.ear on 3 Wireless headphones are our top choice for upper mid-range noise cancelling headphones. Although they may not have the same premium feel as the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless, they excel in blocking out background noise. They are effective in reducing ambient chatter and high-pitched sounds such as computer fan noise, although they are not as powerful in canceling out bass-range noise like airplane engines. As a result, their ANC performance is better suited for busy office environments rather than planes or buses. However, you can still use their ANC feature when connected via a wired connection, and they provide up to 40 hours of continuous playback time.

    These headphones deliver a bass-heavy sound profile, making them a great choice for fans of electronica and hip-hop music. If you prefer to customize the sound, the companion app offers a graphic equalizer and presets. With a comfortable fit, they are suitable for long listening sessions. It is worth noting that they come with a double-lined carrying pouch, which may not provide sufficient protection against impact damage if accidentally dropped.

    Read our review

  • Top Mid-Range Noise Cancelling Headphones

    If you're looking for more affordable over-ears without compromising on ANC performance, the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless headphones are worth considering. Unlike the Sony WH-H910N/h.ear on 3 Wireless, these headphones feature an adaptive ANC system that detects your surroundings and adjusts its performance accordingly. This feature effectively blocks out noise across the frequency spectrum, allowing you to enjoy peace even in busy commutes or cafes. You can also manually adjust the ANC levels through the companion app, which offers five different settings, and use ANC while connected via analog.

    Out of the box, these headphones have a V-shaped sound profile that accentuates bass. This makes them a suitable choice for rock and pop music enthusiasts, as they deliver a powerful low-end and crisp cymbals. The companion app provides a graphic equalizer and presets for further sound customization. With over 27 hours of continuous battery life and support for multi-device pairing, you can stay connected to your PC and smartphone simultaneously.

    Read our review

  • Top Budget Noise Cancelling Headphones

    The Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless headphones are our top pick for budget-level ANC headphones. Although they may not have the same sturdiness as the Anker Soundcore Space Q45 Wireless, they offer comparable noise isolation performance thanks to their adjustable ANC system. They effectively reduce noise from commuting, such as engine rumble and ambient chatter. However, it's worth noting that in later product batches, Anker removed the ability to use ANC while connected via a wired connection, so this feature may not be available depending on the version you purchase. This can be a drawback if you intend to use them for in-flight entertainment, although it's less of a concern for wireless day-to-day use.

    These comfortable over-ears provide over 44 hours of continuous battery life with ANC activated, making them ideal for long days on the go. They also support multi-device pairing, allowing you to stay connected to two devices simultaneously. Out of the box, they deliver an exciting sound profile with strong bass and bright vocals and instruments. The companion app offers a graphic equalizer and presets for sound adjustment according to your preferences.

    Read our review

  • Top Affordable Noise Cancelling Headphones

    If you're on a tight budget, consider the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless headphones. Anker is a dominant player in the low-to-mid-range over-ear market, especially when it comes to ANC. These headphones deliver a good overall noise isolation performance, although they may not be as effective as their successors in reducing the rumble of bus and plane engines. However, they excel in blocking out office chit-chat and the sound of AC fans. While they lack ANC presets, they do support ANC while connected via a wired connection, which can be convenient for in-flight entertainment.

    These headphones feature a V-shaped sound profile with emphasis on bass, providing powerful low-end response, while vocals and lead instruments sound bright and clear. Unlike the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless, they do not offer sound customization options, but they are comfortable to wear for extended periods. With over 32 hours of continuous battery life and an affordable price, they strike a balance between budget-friendly and decent quality. However, their build quality is reflective of their price, with the plasticky hinges being the weakest point of their construction.

    Read our review

  • Top Sounding Noise Cancelling Headphones

    Focal, known for their high-end audiophile headphones without ANC, offers a compromise with the Focal Bathys Wireless. These premium headphones strike a balance between high-quality sound and a casual wireless design, giving you the best of both worlds. Although their noise isolation may not be as effective as our top pick, they still deliver a very good overall performance. Additionally, they feature a wired DAC mode, which allows for higher quality audio playback compared to their default wireless mode. If you prefer Bluetooth connectivity, they support aptX Adaptive for streaming hi-res audio with minimal latency.

    Out of the box, these over-ears provide a bass-rich sound profile with satisfying punch and thump. While vocals and instruments may sound somewhat veiled, the companion app offers a graphic equalizer and presets for sound customization. Their comfortable fit allows for long listening sessions, and with ANC activated, they provide over 29 hours of continuous battery life.

    Read our review

  • Honorable mentions for noise-canceling headphones

    Mark Levinson No. 5909: Mark Levinson's first headphones, the No. 5909, are premium audio devices with a price tag of 9. Despite their high cost, their quality is exceptional. They boast a sturdy design without being excessively heavy, offering comfort even during extended wear. Their ear cups and headband are well-padded and covered in replaceable leather, adding an extra layer of comfort. For a hands-on experience, check out the Mark Levinson No. 5909 hands-on review.

    Technics EAH-A800: The Technics EAH-A800 has a nostalgic appeal, reminiscent of the old-school design. These headphones are comfortable and offer both fold-up and fold-flat capabilities. With their energetic sound, powerful bass, and good detail (though they require some break-in time), they provide an engaging audio experience. 

    Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3: The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 earbuds stand out for their excellent sound quality, improved noise canceling, and voice-calling performance. They offer a smaller, refined design with stabilizing fins for secure ear fit. These earbuds compete with top-tier options like the Sony WF-1000XM4. Check out the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 review.

    Sennheiser 450BT: The Sennheiser 450BT is an updated model of their highly-regarded 4.50BTNC noise-canceling headphones. The improvements include extended battery life (up to 30 hours with ANC on) and USB-C charging. It also features Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX support, making it compatible with devices like Samsung Galaxy smartphones. The 450BT is more comfortable, with softer earpads. It has a list price of $200 but can often be found for around $150 or even lower during flash sales, making it a great value.

    Google Pixel Buds Pro: The Google Pixel Buds Pro is Google's first earbuds with active noise canceling. While late to the game in this regard compared to other true-wireless earbuds, they stand out with their distinct design and comfortable fit, enhancing both sound quality and noise-canceling performance. They perform well for voice calls and are particularly recommended for Android users. For an in-depth review, check out the Google Pixel Buds Pro review. 

    Why is the Sony WH-1000XM5 the superior choice for active noise canceling headphones?

    Sony has finally unveiled its latest iteration of flagship noise canceling headphones with the Sony WH-1000XM5. This new version introduces a redesigned appearance compared to its predecessor, the Sony WH-1000XM4, and further enhances its already exceptional active noise-canceling capabilities.

    Most users will appreciate the pleasing sound quality, but for those who prefer less bass, the Sony Headphones Connect app offers the option to boost midrange frequencies and reduce high frequencies. While it may be slightly inconvenient to have to adjust the headphones for optimal sound rather than having them perfect out of the box, the app's user interface is straightforward to navigate.

    The ANC unit of the Sony WH-1000XM5 not only effectively cancels out external noise but also provides excellent isolation even without the ANC activated.

    Sony has consistently been known for producing the best active noise canceling headphones in the market, and the legacy continues with the WH-1000XM5. This upgraded headset surpasses its predecessor in terms of noise attenuation, effectively blocking out sounds such as air conditioner hums or airplane engine rumbles, making it an ideal choice for frequent travelers and commuters. Furthermore, the passive noise isolation is also improved, effectively reducing high-pitched noises compared to the Sony WH-1000XM4.

    The Sony WH-1000XM5 offers additional features that contribute to its status as our top pick, including Bluetooth multipoint connectivity, automatic ear detection, support for various audio codecs (SBC, AAC, and Sony's LDAC), exceptional microphone quality that makes it our preferred ANC headset for work, intuitive touch controls, Sony 360 Reality Audio, and comprehensive in-app control. If you're looking for the ultimate active noise canceling headphones and are willing to invest in the best possible experience, the Sony WH-1000XM5 is unquestionably the ideal choice.

    What does the microphone of the Sony WH-1000XM5 sound like?

    The Sony WH-1000XM5 is equipped with an advanced noise-canceling microphone system that effectively suppresses background noise.

    Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

    Sony WH-1000XM5 microphone demo (Office conditions):

    What is your impression of the microphone's sound quality?

    17476 votes

    Should you opt for the Sony WH-1000XM4 instead of the Sony WH-1000XM5?Side-by-side comparison of the Sony WH-1000XM5 (left) and the Sony WH-1000XM4 (right) hanging over a white horizontal pipeThe Sony WH-1000XM5 (left) exhibits a more polished appearance compared to the WH-1000XM4 (right).

    The Sony WH-1000XM4 still stands as an excellent choice, performing admirably when compared to the WH-1000XM5. If you're not inclined to spend $400 USD on the latest model, you will still appreciate the WH-1000XM4's commendable ANC capabilities. Although the sound quality is not on par out of the box with the newer model, it is possible to equalize some of the XM4's excessive treble.

    Neither pair of headphones is water-resistant, but as long as you maintain regular cleaning, they should be able to withstand sweat exposure to a reasonable extent. In terms of software features, the WH-1000XM4 still offers 360 Reality Audio and ANC optimization, along with the ability to prioritize either connection stability or sound quality. Unless absolute top-notch ANC is an absolute necessity, you will be content with the WH-1000XM4 and the extra savings it offers.

    The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless delivers exceptional sound quality

    The MOMENTUM 4 Wireless, Sennheiser's flagship model, continues the MOMENTUM series' legacy by providing exceptional sound quality that closely aligns with our desired frequency response. It supports a wide range of codecs including SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, or aptX Adaptive, and also offers the option to utilize a 3.5mm headphone jack, catering to all your audio needs.

    Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless

    Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless


    A chart showcasing the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless' frequency response aligning closely with the SoundGuys Consumer Curve, with minor deviations.

    Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless

    Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless

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    In addition to the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless' premium build quality, it boasts one of the longest battery lives we have tested, providing an impressive 56 hours and 21 minutes with ANC activated. This extended battery life ensures that the headphones will last longer between charges.

    A chart illustrating the noise attenuation performance of the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless, blocking about 75-93% of external noise depending on the frequency.The Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless can effectively block out approximately 75-93% of external noise above 1kHz, while also reducing the intensity of lower-frequency noise by about 75%.

    Although the ANC performance of the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless falls slightly short of surpassing the Sony WH-1000XM5, it comes close. With its superior choice of codecs and slightly improved frequency response, the Sennheiser headphones may be the preferred option for some users. The free Sennheiser app also offers a pleasing user interface and enhances the overall experience of using the MOMENTUM 4 Wireless.

    What does the microphone of the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless sound like?

    The Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless excels as one of the best headphone microphones, providing a reasonably accurate representation of your voice. While it may struggle with complete noise rejection, it prioritizes your voice, as demonstrated in the example below where street noise is present.

    Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

    Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 Wireless microphone demo (Street conditions):

    What are your thoughts on the microphone's sound quality?

    4626 votes

    Sennheiser Momentum 4Sennheiser Momentum 4Sennheiser Momentum 4

    App for equalizer adjustments • Elegant and sleek design • USB-C charging

    These high-end over-ear headphones prioritize style and comfort while delivering excellent active noise canceling capabilities.

    If you seek complete immersion in your music, ANC over-ear headphones are the way to go. The Sennheiser Momentum 4 focuses on combining style and comfort with core features that high-end consumers demand from their headphones.

    Check price on Amazon

    An appealing alternative: Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

    Bose has established a reputation in the consumer market by manufacturing high-end headsets that cater to frequent travelers and individuals with deeper pockets. Massachusetts-based company's flagship product, the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700, boasts an impressive range of features and a premium design. Moreover, it offers support for integrated voice assistants such as Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s Siri.

    Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

    Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700


    The frequency response chart for the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 closely follows our house curve, albeit with some bass emphasis.

    Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

    Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

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    In terms of audio quality, these headphones may not satisfy bass enthusiasts. However, the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 align perfectly with our desired standards and should offer an enjoyable listening experience for most individuals right out of the box. Sometimes, the most remarkable products are the ones that perform flawlessly with minimal hassle, and this holds true for the Bose headphones.

    Could a firmware update negatively impact the noise cancellation? Some users have reported that updating the firmware of their Bose products resulted in subpar ANC performance. However, we haven't encountered this issue ourselves. If you experience such problems, ensure that your updates install successfully, as unsuccessful updates often lead to diminished performance.

    A graph displaying the exceptional active noise canceling performance of the Bose Noise canceling headphones 700.With the latest firmware, the ANC performance is remarkably strong.

    While the active noise canceling is highly effective, it falls slightly behind Sony's XM5 flagship headphones. Nonetheless, the NCH 700 manages to reduce low frequencies to one-half to one-sixth of their original volume when the headset is worn. In addition to outstanding ANC, the NCH 700 features responsive touch controls that strike a perfect balance in terms of sensitivity. Whether you possess an Android or iOS device, the playback controls will function identically when connected via Bluetooth.

    The battery life, although not exceptional for noise-canceling headphones, surpasses that of true wireless earphones. With ANC and Bluetooth enabled, a single charge will provide approximately 21 hours and 25 minutes of playback. In most cases, you will only need to charge the headphones twice a week. Battery longevity should not be a significant concern with the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 due to the inclusion of larger batteries compared to true wireless earphones.

    What is the quality of the microphone on the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700? The microphone provided by Bose delivers satisfactory performance under ideal conditions; however, it may not block out as much background noise as the WH-1000XM5 or AirPods Max.

    Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 microphone demonstration (Ideal conditions):

    Bose NCH 700 microphone demonstration (Office conditions):

    How does the microphone sound to you?

    7061 votes

    The ultimate noise canceling option for iPhone users: Apple AirPods Max

    There's no denying it, Apple's inaugural headphone offering provides unparalleled noise cancellation, with only the Sony WH-1000XM5 coming close to matching its performance. However, the AirPods Max may not suit everyone due to their high price and limited versatility. Unless you own an iPhone and have a generous budget, there are numerous competing models that deliver a comparable level of ANC performance alongside superior audio quality.

    Similar to other high-end noise canceling headsets, the AirPods Max utilizes hybrid active noise cancelation to achieve optimal noise reduction. Taking cues from the first-generation Apple AirPods Pro, the AirPods Max incorporates Adaptive EQ, a feature that dynamically adjusts the frequency response based on the user's environment and fit. Apple is taking a noteworthy risk with this headset, but it is likely to pay off as loyal Apple users and brand enthusiasts appreciate the convenience and intelligent functionalities it offers.

    A chart displaying the active noise cancellation performance of the Apple AirPods Max.The AirPods Max excels at noise elimination, resulting in exceptional sound quality.

    The audio performance of these headphones aligns with expectations for an Apple product and surpasses that of several more affordable options on the market. However, they only support SBC and AAC codecs, lacking high-bitrate options like LDAC. Nevertheless, users can take advantage of digital wired audio by utilizing a Lightning-to-USB-C cable, albeit at an additional cost.

    Should Android users consider the Apple AirPods Max? No, as only iPhone users can fully enjoy the advantages offered by the AirPods Max. Android users would miss out on features such as call quality, firmware updates, and Spatial Audio. Consequently, when deciding between the Apple AirPods Max and the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 4 or the Sony WH-1000XM5, it is advisable to choose the latter two options or consider switching to an iPhone.

    What is the quality of the microphone on the Apple AirPods Max? The microphone performs exceptionally well, particularly when paired with an Apple device.

    Apple AirPods Max microphone demonstration (Ideal conditions):

    Apple AirPods Max microphone demonstration (Office conditions):

    What is your impression of the microphone's sound quality?

    7025 votes

    Apple AirPods MaxApple AirPods MaxApple AirPods Max

    Impressive ANC capabilities • Battery life up to 20 hours • Well-designed ear cushions

    A remarkable pair of headphones with exceptional ANC performance

    The AirPods Max wireless headphones offer best-in-class noise cancellation with a battery life of up to twenty hours. They deliver outstanding frequency response and incorporate remarkable audio features.

    The Monoprice BT-600ANC: The Finest Affordable Noise-Canceling Headphones

    Although not widely recognized, Monoprice offers a decent and economical pair of active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones. The Monoprice BT-600ANC is priced at just USD, yet it delivers commendable noise-canceling capabilities for its cost. Normally, ANC headphones in this category require a minimum investment of $200 to be considered worthwhile, making this product an extraordinary outlier in the market.

    Admittedly, the sound quality is not exceptional (consider utilizing a third-party EQ app), and for $100, you might find superior headphones—just not ones with better ANC capabilities. When enabled, the feature effectively reduces ambient noise by 20-30dB, even in environments where music typically sounds immersive. This is quite impressive, especially considering that most inexpensive ANC headphones struggle in this aspect. It is worth noting that these headphones also provide excellent noise isolation, surpassing the performance of most other models by physically preventing sound from reaching your ears.

    Monoprice BT-600ANC Isolation PerformanceThe BT-600ANC competes effectively with more prominent options, showcasing impressive ANC performance.

    However, it is important to note that these headphones lack a companion app and feature a very streamlined design. Monoprice often prioritizes simplicity, which is great for individuals seeking a straightforward headset. Nonetheless, if you desire additional features such as equalization and voice assistant support, you will need to explore alternative options.

    What is the microphone quality of the Monoprice BT-600ANC like?

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

    How does the microphone sound to you?

    2551 votes

    The Bose QuietComfort 45: Outstanding Noise Canceling, but Peculiar Frequency Response

    A man uses the control cluster on the back of the Bose QuietComfort 45.You need to press into the earcup to use the physical buttons, which may cause displacement.

    Bose's QC 45 headset bears a striking resemblance to the Bose QC 35 II and boasts the best ANC capabilities among all Bose headphones to date. While the Bose QuietComfort 45 is an exceptional pair of headphones, the inability to fully disable ANC and use the headset as regular wireless headphones is a significant drawback. This is one of the key reasons we suggest considering the Sony WH-1000XM5 or AirPods Max instead. Additionally, the Bose QC 45 did not make it into our top five recommendations due to its elevated treble response, which can be displeasing for listeners who enjoy early 2000s punk tracks and similar genres. However, Bose has retroactively added a customizable EQ to the QC 45, allowing users to adjust the treble to their preference.

    Despite these minor concerns, the Bose QC 45 is one of the most comfortable headphones available and offers excellent button controls. In fact, some of our staff members actually prefer physical buttons over touch controls due to their ease of use, particularly when wearing gloves. Although the microphone is not on par with the WH-1000XM5, it still performs well.

    What is the microphone quality of the Bose QC 45 like? The microphone effectively blocks out predictable sounds like wind. However, in an office setting, ambient noises such as ringing phones and clacking keyboards may still be noticeable.

    Bose QuietComfort 45 microphone demonstration (Ideal conditions):

    Bose QuietComfort 45 microphone demonstration (Office conditions):

    Bose QuietComfort 45 microphone demonstration (Windy conditions):

    How does the sample sound to you?

    6618 votes

    The Sony WH-XB910N: One of the Best Bass-Enhanced Noise Canceling Headphones

    A woman faces slightly left looking at a laptop while wearing the Sony WH-XB910N.You'll definitely want to adjust the EQ for podcasts while working.

    For bass enthusiasts, the Sony WH-XB910N is the perfect choice. The "XB" designation stands for "extra bass," and Sony delivers on that promise by providing sub-bass that is approximately 25dB louder than the mids. If you listen to music genres that are not particularly bass-heavy or enjoy listening to podcasts occasionally, it is recommended to decrease the bass response through the Sony Headphones Connect app. The WH-XB910N also offers ANC performance comparable to the highly acclaimed WH-1000XM3 headphones, along with a comfortable fit. While it may not surpass the Sony WH-1000XM5, it comes at a much more affordable price.

    Sony WH-XB910NSony WH-XB910NSony WH-XB910N

    Extra Bass tuning • Dual noise canceling • Comfortable ear cups

    Proof that you don't need to break the bank for Sony's finest listening experience with excellent noise canceling.

    The "X" signifies extra, while "B" represents bass. These noise-canceling Sony headphones are specifically tailored to excel at reproducing low frequencies, effectively blocking out the surrounding world with dual microphones on each side.

    Check the price on Amazon

    SoundGuys' Headphone Testing Approach

    A collection of headphone products featuring the Bruel&Kjaer 5128 test head.

    Assessing how well headphones and earphones attenuate noise is relatively straightforward with our Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test head, allowing us to provide more accurate measurements of the user experience compared to other sources. Essentially, we measure the attenuation of our test signal (noise) by the headset being tested, both with and without ANC enabled, to mimic the listening experience of an individual.

    The ANC feature of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 reduces the audibility of low-frequency noises to approximately one-quarter of their original volume without wearing the earbuds.

    While ANC technology continues to improve, it is important to note that it may not be flawless in eliminating incidental noises such as conversations, objects being dropped, crashes, or children making noise. Please bear this in mind when reviewing our charts: a higher pink line (isolation) is always superior to an equally high dashed blue line (ANC).

    How SoundGuys selects candidates and winners

    We have been extensively covering the audio industry for a considerable period, and we possess a keen understanding of the top-tier players in the market. There is no great mystery surrounding which companies excel in this domain and which ones fall short. However, we believe in giving everyone a fair chance because we do not claim to possess all-encompassing knowledge about consumer audio. Moreover, there are often unexpected surprises lurking in the mix, even when it comes to compiling a list of the best noise-canceling headphones.

    Additionally, it is crucial for us to set aside preconceived notions of what people desire when purchasing headphones since we are not the ones making the purchases, you are. Thus, we occasionally turn to Twitter to gain insights into how individuals are actually selecting these headphones. As responsible journalists, we posed the question and were surprised by the results:

    With these factors in mind, we embarked on the evaluation of each candidate product according to the order of importance determined by the poll. After meticulously testing each contender, we determined the most comfortable, best-sounding headphones, among other factors. From there, we systematically ranked the headphones based on performance, employing a weight-based system that prioritized specific categories. In cases where two headphones were almost identical in a particular metric, we did not engage in nitpicking and assigned them the same sub-rank. Once we had our newly calculated rankings, choosing our winners was a straightforward process!

    Why SoundGuys is a trustworthy source

    We strive to get our hands on as many headsets as possible, such as the Shure AONIC 215 Gen 2, to thoroughly assess each product's capabilities.

    At SoundGuys, our writers have amassed years of experience in reporting on the consumer audio market, testing various audio products, and assisting consumers in finding the ideal audio solutions for their needs. Our staff strictly adheres to an ethics policy[LINK], ensuring that no writer gains any advantage by favoring one brand over another.

    We take pride in providing transparent assessments that consider objective facts and measurements while acknowledging the subjective experience to provide context for an audio product's performance. Should we ever make an error, we are committed to promptly rectifying it and taking responsibility for our mistakes[LINK].

    Our Method of Selecting the Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones

    Our selection process involves a combination of research, hands-on testing, and extensive experience. We also consult with industry experts and product authorities to assist us in identifying the standout products. We meticulously evaluate each noise-canceling headphone's overall audio quality, noise cancellation capabilities, design, comfort, battery life, connectivity, and more. Additionally, we pay close attention to the unique features that set each headphone apart from its competition.

    The Distinction Between Passive, Active, and Adaptive Noise Cancellation

    To simplify matters, passive noise cancellation pertains to how the physical design of headphones— including the foam and other materials within the earcups— attenuates ambient noise by creating a seal around the ears. Passive noise cancellation is particularly effective in reducing mid- to high-frequency sounds by approximately 15dB to 30dB.

    On the other hand, active noise cancellation (ANC) utilizes built-in headphone technology to counteract ambient noise. Headphones equipped with ANC employ integrated microphones to measure the level of external noise and generate an equal amplitude sound wave that cancels out the original sound wave. This preserves the clarity of the desired audio. ANC may face challenges in blocking high-pitched or constantly fluctuating sounds in volume and frequency. Its prowess lies in countering consistent low-frequency sounds, such as airplane engines or air conditioning units.

    Adaptive noise cancellation represents a significant advancement, offering the most desirable performance. It constantly monitors ambient sounds and employs AI-based, auto-adjusting noise cancellation to effectively counteract them in real-time. This enables the headphones to eliminate most, if not all, of the ambient sound regardless of the ever-changing noise levels. Simultaneously, these headphones maintain a consistent volume for the desired audio, including hands-free phone calls. The Sony WF-1000XM5s are an example of headphones that employ adaptive noise cancellation.

    On the other hand, the Bose Noise Cancelling 700s offer manually adjustable noise cancellation without automatic and adaptive features. While the outcome may be similar, the user must manually select the most suitable noise cancellation level from the 11 available options for any given situation.

    Most headphones featuring active or adaptive noise cancellation also incorporate passive noise cancellation. However, we recommend opting for headphones with adaptive noise cancellation as they provide the greatest flexibility.

    Why Trust Forbes Vetted

    The Forbes Vetted tech team is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy assessments that result from exhaustive research and hands-on testing. Our writers and editors possess years of experience covering a wide range of consumer electronics. They have the expertise and background necessary to help you make well-informed purchasing decisions.

    In conclusion, when it comes to finding the best noise-canceling headphones, it's important to consider factors such as sound quality, comfort, and battery life. Whether you're looking for a premium option like the Sony WH-1000XM5 or a more budget-friendly choice like the Monoprice BT-600ANC, there are a variety of options available to suit your needs. SoundGuys' thorough testing and selection process ensures that you can trust their recommendations. With active noise cancellation technology continuing to advance, it's an exciting time for headphone enthusiasts looking to create their own personal oasis of immersive sound. So, go ahead and transform your listening experience with the best noise-canceling headphones that suit your style and preferences.