The best noise-cancelling headphones in 2022

Hero image for best noise-cancelling headphones showing Bose 700 as worn by reviewer
(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)
What is ANC?

Active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones use an 'active' combination of hardware (microphones) and firmware to make external sounds or noises sound quieter when you’re listening to your favorite music or podcasts, say. Unlike passive noise isolation, which simply muffles those sounds by forming a seal with headphone ear cups or in-ear tips, active noise cancellation listens out for background sounds and uses clever audio trickery to “cancel” these potentially disruptive sounds out. For a more in-depth explanation see ANC explained.

Noise cancelling headphones are going from strength-to-strength and many now come packed with additional features to improve the listening experience. ANC headphones are great on all forms of public transit as anyone who's worn a pair on a flight or train will tell you, and with many models offering new audio features like LDAC and aptX codec support, as well as spatial audio, they offer a significantly improved sound quality experience to boot.

Our picks below represent the greatest ANC headphones across any form factor. Over-ear headphones are better at aiding the noise-cancelling effect by forming seals around your ears, though in-ear buds can still deliver high-performance ANC, just in a more portable package. Whichever you prefer, you’re sure to find the right pair in our best noise-cancelling headphones picks below.

Scroll down to discover which models rank as the best noise-cancelling headphones we've tested overall.

Top 3 best noise-cancelling headphones

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Best overall: Sony WH-1000XM5
Taking the top spot in our best noise-cancelling headphones list is the recently introduced Sony WH-1000XM5. These build on their similarly excellent predecessor the XM4 to blend superb sound quality with elite active noise cancellation, comfy design, great companion app, and eco credentials. (opens in new tab)

Best overall: Sony WH-1000XM5
Taking the top spot in our best noise-cancelling headphones list is the recently introduced Sony WH-1000XM5. These build on their similarly excellent predecessor the XM4 to blend superb sound quality with elite active noise cancellation, comfy design, great companion app, and eco credentials.

Best ANC performance: Bose 700
The Bose 700 has unrivaled ANC performance boasting 10 levels of ANC that can be adjusted in its Connect app and works flawlessly to silence the majority of external sounds. Sound is crystal clear when listening to music and taking calls. We also love the svelte, contemporary design with comforting ear pads and touch controls.  (opens in new tab)

Best ANC performance: Bose 700
The Bose 700 has unrivaled ANC performance boasting 10 levels of ANC that can be adjusted in its Connect app and works flawlessly to silence the majority of external sounds. Sound is crystal clear when listening to music and taking calls. We also love the svelte, contemporary design with comforting ear pads and touch controls. 

Best ANC battery life: Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless
The 60-hour battery life is a real crowd pleaser and the ANC model to beat. Add in the easy-going Sennheiser sound and effective noise cancelling, and the Momentum 4 is one the most practical ANC headphones we've seen, perfectly built for a life on the road rather than tethered to a power socket needing regular battery top ups.    (opens in new tab)

Best ANC battery life: Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless
The 60-hour battery life is a real crowd pleaser and the ANC model to beat. Add in the easy-going Sennheiser sound and effective noise cancelling, and the Momentum 4 is one the most practical ANC headphones we've seen, perfectly built for a life on the road rather than tethered to a power socket needing regular battery top ups.   

The best noise-cancelling headphones you can buy right now

Black and ecru (off-white) color versions against a office windowEditor's Choice

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
The best noise-cancelling headphones overall

Specifications

Weight: 8.8 ounces
Battery life (rated): 30 hours (ANC on); 40 hours (ANC off)
Bluetooth range: 33 feet
Codec support : SBC, AAC, LDAC

Reasons to buy

+
Articulate and engaging sound
+
Great control options
+
Impressive noise-cancelation

Reasons to avoid

-
Redesign and eco credentials ups the price
-
Gets hot around the ears during longer listening

Sony has been steadily closing the noise-cancelling gap on Bose, and the new Sony WH-1000XM5 comes closer than ever to beating the Bose 700 (below) in terms of its ANC performance. It has two processors controlling eight microphones, where the 1000XM4 (still on sale and regularly discounted) before it had just one processor controlling four, and the result in our testing is near-seamless ANC. But the Sony's overall quality would make the XM5 our #1 option even if that weren't the case. 

Audio quality is superb, the 30-hour battery life (with ANC) is excellent and everything from the touch controls to the ability to tweak the EQ via the Sony Headphones Connect app is well thought out and seamlessly integrated. Call quality has also been improved greatly and there's really nothing to criticize here beyond the slightly bland styling and the $50 price increase over the XM4.

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM5 review.

The Bose 700 sitting on a couchEditor's Choice

(Image credit: Future)
The best noise-cancelling headphones on ANC performance

Specifications

Size and weight: 8 x 6.5 x 2 inches; 9 ounces
Battery life (rated): 20 hours (ANC on)
Bluetooth range: 30 feet
Special features: Customizable EQ

Reasons to buy

+
Adjustable active noise cancelation
+
Svelte, attractive design
+
Precise, balanced audio
+
Fantastic noise cancelling on calls 

Reasons to avoid

-
Shorter battery life than the 1000XM5

It truly is a close run thing between the Bose 700 and the Sony WH-1000XM5 (above) for the best overall noise-cancelling headphone crown, and there is no denying that Bose has the most effective active noise cancelling technology on the market. Period. 

The Bose 700s reap those benefits, boasting 10 levels of ANC that can be adjusted in its Connect app and works flawlessly to silence the majority of external sounds. Most importantly, the 700s achieve this without compromising sound quality, allowing listeners to enjoy clean, well-balanced sound reproduction. Bose’s companion app also lets you adjust the EQ for personalized audio.

We love the ultramodern design, and the slim, sexy silhouette is as much of an engineering feat as the ANC performance. But we need to address the elephant in the room – battery life, which at 20 hours with ANC enabled and outperformed by the Sony.

Read our full Bose 700 review

Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless in black on a window seat at reviewer's homebest value awards badge

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Best-ever battery life for a wireless headphone with ANC

Specifications

Size & weight: 7 x 7.67 x 1.82 inches; 10.3 ounces
Battery life (rated): Up to 60 hours (with ANC)
Bluetooth range : > 30 feet
Special features: Customizable EQ

Reasons to buy

+
Spectacular battery life
+
Great sound
+
Effective noise-cancelling performance 
+
Reliable touch controls
+
Robust design with plain styling (if you like that sort of thing)

Reasons to avoid

-
Anonymous styling
-
Earpads may make ears hot
-
Flaky connectivity issues with Smart Control app

Although the revamped design of Sennheiser's fourth generation Momentum Wireless headphones don't stand out quite like their classic-looking predecessor, the 60-hour battery life is a real crowd pleaser and make these the one to beat. Add in the easy-going Sennheiser sound and effective noise cancelling, and the Momentum 4 are one the most practical wireless headphones we've seen, perfectly built for a life on the road rather than tethered to a power socket needing regular battery top ups. 

Sennheiser's smooth house sound handles a wide range of music content, from pounding beats to more mellow tunes with aplomb. It has Bluetooth 5.2 and aptX Adaptive support, and there's a supplied 3.5mm cable for audiophile wired connections. ANC performance is effective, and auto Wind Noise Reduction is very impressive when stood on a windy train platform on daily work commutes.

Read our full Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless review.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2

(Image credit: Future)
Best performing ANC earbuds in the world

Specifications

Size and weight: 1.2 x 0.68 x 0.88 inches (per bud); 0.21 ounces (per bud)
Battery life (rated): 6 hours; 24 hours (charging case)
Bluetooth range: 100 feet
Codec support: SBC, AAC

Reasons to buy

+
Unbeatable noise cancellation
+
Refined and well-balanced sound
+
Excellent call quality
+
Great customization settings
+
More compact and stylish design

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life bettered by rivals
-
Poor comfort levels
-
Finicky touch controls and app connectivity

After weeks of leaks, the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are now official, and they've gone straight to the top of the best noise-cancelling earbuds list for their outstanding ANC capabilities. They perform even better than the original QC Earbuds (below) that are still available. These are a remarkable follow-up that delivers better sound, great call quality, and unrivaled ANC. Proprietary technologies like ActiveSense and CustomTune balance sound and noise neutralization extremely well.

Bose’s redesign also makes these buds less of an eyesore compared to the original, and only the high price and mediocre battery life count against them. CustomTune automatically calibrates ANC and the sound frequency profile to the unique properties of your ear and optimal performance that's right for you. Sadly, there's no wireless audio codec support for aptX or LDAC.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review.

AirPods Pro 2 in charging case in reviewer's hand with red brick paving in background

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Decent ANC performance and better battery life

Specifications

Size and weight: 1.22 x 0.86 x 0.94 inches (per bud); 0.19 ounces (per bud); 1.8 ounces (charging case)
Battery life (rated): 6 hours; 30 hours (charging case)
Bluetooth range: Not specified
Water resistant: IPX4-rated

Reasons to buy

+
World-class noise cancellation
+
Volume controls right on the stem
+
Dolby Atmos spatial audio
+
Improved battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Audio performance needs finessing
-
Lackluster call quality
-
Lanyard costs extra

Apple's next-gen AirPods Pro 2 have arrived, bringing significant upgrades to the popular original to take performance to the next level. Externally, they look pretty similar to the first generation but battery life has been increased to offer 6 hours on a single charge from the earbuds and a further 30 hours from the wireless charging case. Not only are the earbuds IPX4-rated, but now too is the case itself.

Designed for iPhone owners looking for a more tailored listening experience, these are the pinnacle of Apple technology. On the audio front, Apple has included a new H2 chip with custom amp and driver that delivers better lower and higher frequencies, and you can use the iPhone's TrueDepth camera to create a personalized spatial audio sound to listen to some of the best Dolby Atmos sound in any pair of earbuds. Noise cancellation is double what the last pair of AirPods Pro offered, and it is among the best we’ve yet to see, period. 

Read the full Apple AirPods Pro 2 review.  

The Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones being held aloft against a backdrop of a coastal street with palm trees

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)
Best Bose headphones for ANC playtime

Specifications

Size and weight: 7.25 x 6 x 3 inches; 8.5 ounces
Battery life (rated): 24 hours (ANC on)
Bluetooth range: 30 feet (10 meters)
Special features: Pairs with other Bose products; Active EQ

Reasons to buy

+
Elite active noise cancellation
+
Refined sound signature
+
Good battery life
+
Fantastic comfort and connectivity

Reasons to avoid

-
Can’t turn ANC off 
-
Lacks several features found on previous Bose headphones

The latest entry in the QC over-ear series is the best yet, welcoming several improvements, including better active noise cancellation, sound, and battery life. ANC is as effective as it is on the 700, blocking out nearly 90 percent of ambient sound at a high rate. Bose’s ambient-listening mode (Aware) does a fantastic job of piping in external sounds for increased awareness. The combination of proprietary TriPort acoustic architecture and a volume-optimized Active EQ gives these headphones a refined, well-balanced sound signature to enjoy most music genres. Having 24 hours of ANC playtime is also huge, considering all the older Bose models only give you 20 hours.

Not being able to turn off ANC means the battery will drain more quickly, plus the absence of some features found on the 700 and QC35 II might have you hesitant about choosing this model over the others. Well, just know that the ANC, sound quality, and battery life make up for any shortcomings.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort 45 review.

The Apple AirPods Max displayed on a bookshelfTop Pick

(Image credit: Future)
The best noise-cancelling headphones for iOS

Specifications

Size and weight: 7.4 x 6.6 x 3.3 inches; 13.6 ounces
Battery life (rated): 20 hours (ANC on)
Bluetooth range: 33 feet
Special features: Spatial Audio; Audio Sharing; Siri

Reasons to buy

+
Luxury design
+
Excellent noise cancellation
+
Spatial audio sounds great

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
No aux jack

Although there’s only one level of active noise cancellation on the ultra-premium AirPods Max, it works like a charm. The cans do a great job of blocking out ambient sounds, especially at the lower end of the frequency spectrum. It’s almost as good as Bose’s ANC, which is a fine showing for Apple’s first pair of over-ears.

Elsewhere, the AirPods Max sound great, especially with the surround-sound spatial audio feature switched on, and their design standards and build quality are so high you can almost forget that these headphones cost $549. That’s a lot more than the Sony and Bose headphones higher up the list, so this is a luxury purpose, but can very much be a worthwhile one.

See our full Apple AirPods Max review.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 displayed over a tropical backdrop

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)
The best Sony wireless noise-cancelling earbuds

Specifications

Size and weight: 1 x 0.8 x 0.8 inches; 0.2 ounces
Battery life (rated): 8 hours (ANC on); 24 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth range: 30 feet
Special features: Transparency mode; Customizable EQ

Reasons to buy

+
Substantial yet balanced sound
+
Excellent ANC effectiveness
+
Substantial battery life
+
Lots of features via Sony Connect Headphones app

Reasons to avoid

-
Fit may not be secure for all

When the WF-1000XM3 launched, they set the standard for active noise cancellation on wireless earbuds. What would Sony do for an encore? Release an even more advanced version that trumps the original and other category leaders in several areas, including ANC, battery life, design, sound, and touch controls. Sony tweaked its noise cancellation to better deal with louder frequencies and rumblings, while also completely silencing common disturbances in home and office environments. 

Audio remains unbeatable with the WF-1000XM4 given a more dynamic, well-defined sound profile ideal for all music genres, video content, and other media (e.g., podcasts, eBooks). The plethora of features in the Sony Headphones Connect app opens the lane to personalize your listening experience, from the multiple well-engineered EQs to spatial audio via 360 Reality Audio for immersive 3D sound. A full charge gets you 8 hours of ANC playback, some of the highest in the category,

The revamped design is sleeker and more practical than its predecessor, though the fit feels looser this time around.

Read our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review.

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 on a table

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Premium over-ears with great sound

Specifications

Size and weight: Not specified; 10.8 ounces
Battery life (rated): Up to 30 hours
Bluetooth range: Not specified
Special features: ANC

Reasons to buy

+
Balanced, engrossing and confident sound
+
Improved noise-cancelation over its Px7 sibling
+
Sophisticated looks (if you like that sort of thing)

Reasons to avoid

-
No touch-controls and featured are a bit basic
-
Noise cancelation is bettered by rivals
-
Anonymous looks (if you don’t)

The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 over-ear headphones are priced the same as Sony's Sony WH-1000XM5. The active noise-cancelation proves ‘good’ rather than great’ — that’s to say, it will be perfectly acceptable to anyone who doesn’t insist on absolute silence, and this next-gen model are a worthy purchase if you prioritize overall sound quality. They feel good, are beautifully constructed and are either good-looking in an understated way or a bit too understated for their own good — it depends on your taste. They have active noise-cancelation and a control app — but ‘extended functionality’ is not their thing. 

They’re designed to deliver the best wireless sound this sort of money can buy, and they do. The entire frequency range hangs together well, with nothing overstated and nothing struggling for representation. Tonality is clean, consistent and entirely convincing. If you want every wireless headphone feature under the sun, you have plenty of choice. If, however, you want headphones that make the most of the digital audio information you give them, the Px7 S2 really needs to be in your thinking.

Rear our full Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 review.

The Yamaha YH-L700A displayed on a turntable

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)
Elite spatial audio headphones with effective ANC

Specifications

Size and weight: 3.5 x 8 x 10.5 inches; 11.64 ounces
Battery life (rated): 11 hours (with ANC)
Bluetooth range: 40 feet
Special features: 3D sound; Head-tracking technology

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent spatial audio performance
+
Great sound quality for music and calls
+
Contemporary design
+
Respectable ANC

Reasons to avoid

-
Huge and heavy
-
Uneven battery life

You’re probably wondering how a pair of $500 wireless headphones with adequate noise cancellation could sneak its way onto this list. The answer is simple: spatial audio. We know these are two separate talking points, but hear us out. The YH-L700A are an excellent-sounding model that have a better 3D sound experience than the AirPods Max. They're equipped with accurate head-tracking technology and multiple well-engineered listening modes for different content. Even with spatial audio turned off, these headphones produce spacious sound with full bass presence, delivering rich lows, palpable mids, and crisp highs. And though Yamaha’s ANC won’t match what Apple, Bose, or Sony offers, it’s still effective to enjoy premium sound in most environments.

You just have to live with its large, heavy design and uneven battery life, which fluctuates when listening with 3D enabled. 

Read our full Yamaha YH-L700A review.

The OnePlus Buds Pro displayed in a pool of pebbles

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)
Premium noise-cancelling earbuds at an attainable price

Specifications

Size and weight: 1.25 x 0.9 inches; 15 ounces
Battery life (rated): 5 hours (ANC on); 28 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth range: 40 feet
Special features: Ambient listening mode; Warp charging

Reasons to buy

+
Rich, well-balanced sound
+
Powerful ANC
+
Handsome, luxe design
+
Ridiculously powerful charging technology

Reasons to avoid

-
ANC playtime could be better
-
Some features are unreleased or exclusive to OnePlus devices

The first-gen OnePlus Buds were a notable entry in the audio space for the Android mobile manufacturer, but their noise-cancelling brethren have already left an even greater impression, rivaling the AirPods Pro in aesthetics, ANC, and audio. A more premium design with a dual-tone finish and aluminum plating, alongside IP55 water-resistant protection for the buds and an IPX4-rated charging case, show OnePlus can create buds that complement their high-end smartphones. The 11mm drivers produce well-balanced audio with substantial frequency range to enjoy a nice blend of lows, mids, and highs. Three-level ANC is also impressive, filtering noise levels almost up to 40dB. Warp Charge technology generates 10 hours of use on a 10-minute charge, which you’ll be grateful for since ANC playtime is shorter than specified.

Read our full OnePlus Buds Pro review.

The AirPods Pro laid out on a desk

(Image credit: Future)
The best in-ear AirPods for noise cancelling

Specifications

Size and weight: 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches; 8.8 ounces
Battery life (rated): 4.5 hours (ANC on); 24 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth range: 30 feet
Special features: Spatial Audio; Siri

Reasons to buy

+
Active noise cancelling
+
Water-and sweat resistant
+
Excellent call quality
+
Multiple eartips with fit test

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life could be longer

Although superseded by the AirPods Pro 2 ranked higher up this list, the original AirPods Pro remain on our list of best noise-cancelling headphones because these ANC earbuds blocked out noise quite well in our testing. It's also easy to activate the ANC with just a long press on the earbud stem. And for those times when you need to be aware of your surroundings, there's Transparency mode that lets ambient noise in so you can listen to music and listen to the world around you. 

The AirPods Pro offer a very comfortable and secure fit, which you can personalize thanks to three sets of silicone tips and run an acoustical test from your iPhone to make sure you're getting the best sound. Sweat- and water-resistance mean these buds are great for working out and battery life with noise cancelling activated gives only 4.5 hours, but you can get 24 hours of juice through the wireless charging case.

See our full Apple AirPods Pro review

The Cleer Enduro ANC placed on a desk

(Image credit: Future)
The best noise-cancelling headphones for value

Specifications

Size and weight: 7 x 6.6 x 3 inches; 10.6 ounces
Battery life (rated): 60 hours (ANC on)
Bluetooth range: 30 feet
Special features: Ambient mode; Digital assistant support; Android Fast Pair 2.0; NFC pairing; EQ customization

Reasons to buy

+
Great value
+
Class-leading battery life
+
Bass-rich sound
+
Effective ANC

Reasons to avoid

-
ANC mics pick up wind noise
-
Comfort wanes over time

How's this for an ANC headphones bargain: great sound, a modern and flexible design, ample features, a useful app, a full set of accessories and the best battery life in its class, all for $150? That's the Cleer Enduro ANC, currently the #3 spot taker on our best cheap wireless headphones list.

The Enduro ANC aren't without their foibles — there's a fair bit of wind noise in ANC mode, and they are seemingly made with smaller ears in mind — but there's no arguing about the incredible value for money. Cleer's noise-cancelling headphones are particularly good for travelers, and we got 50 hours and 15 minutes of ANC playback time form a single charge in our testing.

Read our full Cleer Enduro ANC review.

Anker Soundcore Space Q45 headphones placed in reviewer's hand with outdoors Florida scene in background

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
Another great ANC alternative for less than $150

Specifications

Size & weight: 6.3 x 3.4 x 7.4 inches; 10.3 ounces
Battery life (rated): Up to 50 hours (ANC on); up to 65 hours (ANC off)
Bluetooth range: 80 feet
Special features: Ambient Sound, Safe Volume, Sound Effects, Sound Mode, Wind Noise Reduction

Reasons to buy

+
Big sound with plenty of bass
+
Lengthy battery life
+
Loaded with special features
+
Effective ANC
+
Bluetooth 5.3 with multipoint and LDAC support

Reasons to avoid

-
Clunky
-
Digital assistant needs work
-
Call quality could benefit from better wind resistance
-
No Find My Headphones function

Like the Cleer Enduro ANC (above), Anker's Soundcore Space Q45 are quite the bargain with a remarkable set of features and effective ANC performance. They offer remarkable battery life, quality ANC, and superb sound powered by upmarket specs and special features. Sound quality has a liveliness that pulls listeners to the front row of the performance on whatever music you're listening to. The sonic soundstage is wide and immersive, and have a ramped up low end, rich mids and crisp highs. 

Anker engineered the Space Q45 with a versatile Ambient Sound mode that features dual settings for both Noise Cancellation and Transparency settings. And they all work well when used in proper situations. These headphone are not without some flaws, but nevertheless they have compelling sound and noise neutralization for half the price of Bose and Sony’s flagship models and are worth tracking down.

Read the full Anker Soundcore Space Q45 review.

The Beats Fit Pro propped atop its charging case

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)
The best noise-cancelling wireless sport earbuds

Specifications

Size and weight: 0.75 x 1.18 x 0.94 inches; 0.2 ounces
Battery life (rated): 6 hours (ANC on); 27 hours (with charging case)
Bluetooth range: 40 feet (12 meters)
Special features: Adaptive EQ; Spatial Audio

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful ANC and Transparency modes
+
Dynamic soundstage with Spatial Audio support
+
Respectable battery life
+
Comfy, secure fit

Reasons to avoid

-
Some H1 features exclusive to Apple devices
-
Android app offers very few extras

Take the Beats Studio Buds’ body, add wingtips and the coolest features from Apple's AirPods Pro, and you get Beats’ best wireless earbuds to date. The Fit Pro is an excellent workout companion that produces better clarity and punchier bass than Apple’s flagship buds, plus it comes with Spatial Audio to enjoy 3D-like sound when listening to select tracks on Apple Music, watching movies or jumping on FaceTime calls. Five of the six mics are used during calls, which, along with a voice accelerometer, helps isolate speech for interference-free voice and video chats. We also appreciate the updated design — granted wingtips were the only real change, but they reinforce stability when performing lateral-heavy exercises.  

Despite operating on the H1 chip, these buds lack a few features found on current AirPods models, including Adaptive EQ and Enhanced Find My mode. The Android app doesn’t offer much extended functionality either. Besides those complaints, these are a top-tier product for both fitness and casual music lovers. 

Read our full Beats Fit Pro review.  

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro review

(Image credit: Future)
Next-gen flagship ANC earbuds are Samsung's best so far

Specifications

Size and weight: 0.7 x 0.85 x 0.7 inches (per bud); 0.19 (per bud)
Battery life (rated): 5 hours (ANC on); 8 hours (ANC off); 18 hours (charging case with ANC on); 29 hours (charging case with ANC off)
Bluetooth range: 70 feet
Codec support: SBC, AAC, SSC

Reasons to buy

+
Wide soundstage
+
Effective ANC
+
Compact and practical design
+
Easy to use features
+
Excellent connectivity

Reasons to avoid

-
Disappointing battery life
-
Bixby needs some work
-
Most coveted features are exclusive to Galaxy devices

Samsung’s ANC holds its own against the category best and blocks out close to 90% of ambient noise. The updated design also provides improved comfort and noise isolation. Each earbud houses three mics to block out external sounds at the highest level and soften wind presence, which the mic array does extremely well in combination with the wind shield. 

It’s disappointing to see Samsung’s noise-cancelling models provide short ANC playtime. Sound alone makes the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro worth the investment, though, giving you a high quality audio experience and compelling 3D sound with precise head tracking. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are a stellar option to consider and have excellent mic quality for calls too. 

Read our full Samsung Buds 2 Pro review.  

How to choose the best noise-cancelling headphones for you

Active vs. passive noise cancellation

The first item to check off the list when shopping for the best noise-cancelling headphones is active noise cancellation, which shouldn’t be confused with passive noise cancellation. What are the differences?

ANC uses advanced circuitry and microphones to pick up noise signals and create inverse waves that cancel out these sonic disruptions, whereas PNC physically isolates high-pitched sounds through the headphone design and materials. Most headphones advertised with noise cancellation are categorized under ANC.

Battery life: Noise-cancelling headphones have a reputation for sucking up lots of power, so you’ll want a pair that holds a charge long enough to get you through a long business flight or weekly commutes. Thanks to the arrival of Sennheiser's Momentum 4 over-ear headphones battery life standards have increased up to 60 hours, although more typical figures are anywhere between 15 to 30 hours. Noise-cancelling wireless earbuds are usually rated for 4.5 to 8 hours.

Sound quality: ANC technology can compress sound and reduce dynamics, which may affect audio performance when turned on. In some cases, you’ll notice a background hiss when listening to music. However, there are noise-cancelling headphones out there that limit these disruptions to deliver full, crisp sound.

Design: The look, build and feel of a pair of headphones is massively important when selecting the best noise-cancelling headphones, so consider how it looks and feels and whether the style is right for you. The type of headphone is also important when it comes to the most effective noise cancelling models. Over-ear headphones tend to give the best noise cancellation, though some of the more recent wireless on-ear and in-ear models are proving to be just as effective.

Pricing considerations: Obviously, price is a big consideration when looking for the best noise-cancelling headphones. Although there are always exceptions, big-name brands will typically command a bit extra, but generally speaking, the less you spend on a pair of headphones the greater the chance that sound and features will be compromised. Going for a budget option isn't always the best choice, as any money you save on your purchase won't do you much good if you're constantly needing to recharge your audio gear, or the sound quality is poor. 

As the saying goes: timing is everything; and right now it's worth waiting for the holiday season sales when many of our favorite models will be discounted at online retailers, meaning you can bag a bargain for even less. Bookmark our Black Friday deals pages to keep on top of the best deals.  

How we test noise-cancelling headphones

We've judged the best noise-cancelling headphones on several factors: audio performance, battery life, Bluetooth range, call quality, comfort and fit, and the effectiveness of the noise cancellation. We also weigh special features, such as included apps, and how easy they are to use.

During the testing phase, our reviewers wear each pair of headphones for 2 hours at a time throughout the course of a week, to test comfort over time.

ANC, meanwhile, is tested in both indoor and outdoor environments where ambient sounds are produced at high levels. This includes airplanes, city parks, convenience shops, offices, and public transportation. ANC headphones programmed with transparency modes are also tested thoroughly to determine how well the listener can hear their surroundings.

For sound quality, we listen to many different sample tracks and span as many music genres as possible, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical and R&B, while evaluating volume, clarity and fullness. Find out what we listen for during our testing process and how to get the best headphone sound for you.

And now that more streaming music services are offering high-resolution audio, be sure to read our audio codec FAQ for all you need to know about FLAC files, MP3s and everything in between.

Once we complete our testing, we rate headphones based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). If a product hits nearly every mark, it’s awarded an Editor's Choice badge. 

Contributions from: Alex Bracetti, Simon Lucas 

More: Find out how we test for more information on our reviewing procedures.

Next: We're maintaining a separate list of the best noise-cancelling earbuds as well as the best over-ear headphones

Plus: Many ANC headphones can even help you get a better night's sleep by blocking out disruptive sounds while you're getting some shut-eye.

Lee Dunkley
Audio Editor

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.

  • sexylady_lioness
    Hi Sherri,

    I would like the noise cancelling headphones, not to listen to music, but to block out all noise, so I can concentrate and study, and to tune out background noise while at work. My question is, re this headphones, must I listen to music/audio in-order to tune out all noise? If I do not want to hear any sound - including music - is that possible ? or the headphones silence works only to tune out noise while listening to audio?

    Also, which one is the best re no noise AND no white noise OR hiss?

    Thanks in advance.
    Reply
  • jack_straw
    21457753 said:
    Hi Sherri,

    I would like the noise cancelling headphones, not to listen to music, but to block out all noise, so I can concentrate and study, and to tune out background noise while at work. My question is, re this headphones, must I listen to music/audio in-order to tune out all noise? If I do not want to hear any sound - including music - is that possible ? or the headphones silence works only to tune out noise while listening to audio?

    Also, which one is the best re no noise AND no white noise OR hiss?

    Thanks in advance.

    I use noise cancellation in the same scenarios as you are looking for help in (blocking noise while working or concentrating on studies).

    TL;DR: Bose QC35s work best for me. They're comfortable enough for all-day use, and have about the same noise cancellation as the best from Sony. I noticed a very slight hiss only from the Sonys when there was no music/voice playing.

    I used Sony's 1000XM3 for a while, and also tried Bose's QC35, since they had the highest ratings for noise cancellation. What I found was that the Sonys seemed to do a ever-so-slightly better job at noise cancelling, but they just were not comfortable for long-term usage. I've been much happier with the Bose QC35s because I can wear them 10+ hours per day without any pain or discomfort. The headband of the Sonys would slowly begin to hurt after 2-3 hours, and the earcups were not as comfortable, especially the lower part that pressed a little to hard behind my jaws. These may sound like minor issues, but when you wear headphones all day every day to block noise, comfort becomes a big issue.
    As for hissing, I don't hear any from the Bose, but I hear a slight hiss from the Sonys. If you get the Bose, be sure to update the firmware on them, because there was an older firmware that had issues with hissing.
    Reply
  • Rastafarius
    I beg to differ with you on the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC Wireless Headphones on only one statement, but a very important one. "omfortable fit"???? I am willing to bet big money you didn't wear those headphones for much more than 10-15 minutes. I bought a pair late last month, and they are not only uncomfortable sitting on top of my ears (only a midget could fit his ears inside those ear cups) from the moment I put them on, but cause sufficient pain in my left ear to force me to take them off after I have worn them for something like 1 1/2 hours. Take a look at the reviews on Amazon, at least half of which talk about what a shame it is the ear cups aren't bigger and more comfortable. In fact, every review I looked at of the HD 4.50 BTNC headphones criticized their comfort. I'm sending the headphones I bought back. They were quite clearly made for people with half my stature. I have a pair of Corsair HS70s that don't have quite the same sound quality as the Sennheisers, but still work just fine for me.
    Reply