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Article updated on June 4, 2024 at 2:51 PM PDT

Best Noise-Canceling Headphones for 2024

CNET has tested the best noise-canceling headphones on the market. Here are our current top picks for ANC headphones and earbuds.

Our Experts

Written by 
David Carnoy
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
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What to consider

Budget

Fit (Comfort)

Durability

Our Picks

$379 at Bose
Image of Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones
Best Bose noise-canceling headphones
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones
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$330 at Best Buy
A pair of white Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones against a blue background
Best noise-canceling headphones from Sony
Sony WH-1000XM5
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$449 at Best Buy
Image of Sonos Ace
Top new noise-canceling headphones of 2024
Sonos Ace
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$80 at Amazon
Image of Earfun Wave Pro
Top new budget noise-canceling headphones
Earfun Wave Pro
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$249 at Bose
Image of Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
Best for noise-canceling
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
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$248 at Amazon
Image of Sony WF-1000XM5
Best Sony earbuds
Sony WF-1000XM5
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$190 at Best Buy
Image of Apple AirPods Pro 2 (USB-C)
Best Apple noise-canceling wireless earbuds
Apple AirPods Pro 2 (USB-C)
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$98 at Amazon
The Sony CH-720N has improved sound and noise canceling performance
Top midrange noise-canceling headphones
Sony CH-720N
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$200 at JBL.com
Image of JBL Live 770NC
New midrange JBL noise-canceling headphones
JBL Live 770NC
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$180 at Best Buy
Image of Beats Studio Pro
Best Beats over-ear headphones
Beats Studio Pro
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$549 at Apple
Image of Apple AirPods Max
Best high-end wireless headphones for Apple users
Apple AirPods Max
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$200 at Amazon
Image of Sennheiser Accentum Plus
Top mid-rage Sennheiser noise-canceling headphones
Sennheiser Accentum Plus
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$80 at Amazon
Image of Edifier W820NB Plus
Good sound for under $70
Edifier W820NB Plus
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$290 at Amazon
Image of Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless
Best Sennheiser noise-canceling headphones
Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless
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$249 at Bose
Image of Bose QuietComfort Headphones
Slightly upgraded Bose noise-canceling headphones
Bose QuietComfort Headphones
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$198 at Amazon
Image of Sony ULT Wear
Upgraded Sony midrange wireless ANC headphones with extra bass
Sony ULT Wear
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$319 at Amazon
Image of Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e
Evolved Bowers & Wilkins noise-canceling headphones
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e
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$100 at JBL.com
Image of JBL Tune 670NC
Top on-ear noise-canceling headphones under $100
JBL Tune 670NC
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$75 at Amazon
Image of 1More SonoFlow
Good performing noise-canceling headphones under $100
1More SonoFlow
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$599 at Master & Dynamic
Image of Master & Dynamic MW75
Top AirPods Max alternative
Master & Dynamic MW75
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What are the best overall noise-canceling headphones?

I've been testing noise-canceling headphones for the last 15 years or so, and with so many great options, it's not easy to select one model as the best overall. However, some do stand out from the pack, including the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones and QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, as well as the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Apple's AirPods Pro 2. Sony's WF-1000XM5 earbuds are also top-notch, which is why they're near the top of this list. I recently added the Sonos Ace as a top high-end pick, the Sennheiser Accentum Plus as top midrange pick and the Earfun Wave Pro as a top budget pick.

While most of the picks on this list are full-size headphones, some are true-wireless earbuds. Regardless, they all have a few things in common: Not only do they offer excellent ambient noise-muffling capabilities, but they also boast a comfortable fit, good sound quality and strong voice-calling performance. Those are the key factors I evaluate when determining what products end up on this list. Pricing also comes into play, especially for value picks.

I've fully reviewed or had hands-on listening time with all the products on this best noise-canceling headphones list. If you're just looking for the best budget noise-canceling headphone picks, check out our best noise-canceling headphones under $100 list. And we also have a list of best noise-canceling true wireless earbuds for those just looking for top noise-canceling earbuds.

Best noise-canceling headphones of 2024

$379 at Bose

Best Bose noise-canceling headphones

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

While Bose's new flagship QuietComfort Ultra Headphones may not be a huge upgrade over the company's Noise Cancelling 700 headphones, they feature a more premium design along with Bose's new Immersive Audio feature, which delivers some sound-quality enhancements. Along with excellent sound and great noise canceling, the QC Ultra Headphones are also superb for making calls, with top-notch background noise reduction. All that adds up to the best new noise-canceling headphones of 2024 and a worthy adversary to Sony's highly rated WH-1000XM5 and Apple's AirPods Max.

$330 at Best Buy

Best noise-canceling headphones from Sony

Sony WH-1000XM5

When you have a product that a lot of people love, change can be risky. Such is the case for Sony's WH-1000XM5, the fifth generation of the 1000X series headphones, which were first released in 2016 as the MDR-1000X Wireless and have become increasingly popular as they've improved with each generation. Over the years, Sony has made some tweaks to the design, but nothing as dramatic as what it's done with the WH-1000XM5. Other than the higher price tag, most of those changes are good, and Sony's made some dramatic improvements with voice-calling performance as well as even better noise canceling and more refined sound.

$449 at Best Buy

Top new noise-canceling headphones of 2024

Sonos Ace

Several years in development, Sonos' new Ace headphones are finally available, and they're mostly very impressive, though they aren't without a few downsides, including a rather high price tag of $449 and some potential glitches with a key feature. But overall they're very well designed and also deliver top-notch sound quality, noise canceling and voice-calling performance.

$80 at Amazon

Top new budget noise-canceling headphones

Earfun Wave Pro

Earfun has made some very solid budget earbuds, and now it's entered the full-size ANC headphone space with its new-for-2024 Wave Pro headphones. They list for $80, but click the $10 instant coupon on its product page and add the code EWPROCNET at checkout and the price drops to $56. While they may not sound as good as premium noise-canceling headphones from Bose or Sony, they're comfortable to wear, feature decent sound with punchy bass (they're a bit lacking in clarity and bass definition compared to more expensive models) and offer respectable noise-canceling (you can toggle between two levels of ANC) and voice-calling performance. I found them to be a step up from the Soundpeats Space headphones, which sometimes cost a little less.

They're rated for up to 80 hours of battery life with noise canceling off and 55 hours with it on and support multipoint Bluetooth pairing, as well as Sony's LDAC audio codec for Android smartphone and other devices that support that protocol. I also like that they come with a hard case and a cable for wired listening (noise canceling is disabled when you go wired, which is a bit of a bummer).

$298 at Bose

Best for noise-canceling

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

While the QC Ultra Earbuds aren't a major upgrade over Bose's excellent QC Earbuds 2 that were released in 2022, they're definitely a little better. They should fit most ears very well, and they feature superb noise canceling, arguably the best out there. And a natural-sounding transparency mode with a new ActiveSense feature kicks in some ANC should the sound get too loud around you (it's sort of similar to the AirPods Pro's Adaptive Audio feature). They also sound slightly better overall, with a touch more clarity, and their new Immersive Audio feature opens up the sound a bit.

$248 at Amazon

Best Sony earbuds

Sony WF-1000XM5

When Sony's WF-1000XM4 earbuds came out in 2021, we awarded them a CNET Editors' Choice. And while they're excellent, we had some quibbles -- they're on the large side and aren't a good match for certain ears. Clearly, Sony took those gripes to heart when it set out to design its next-generation WF-1000XM5 flagship noise-canceling earbuds. Not only are the XM5s smaller, but they also offer improved performance pretty much across the board, with better noise canceling, sound and voice calling. Are the XM5s perfect? Not quite. And at $300 -- $20 more than their predecessor -- they're costly too. But overall they're really impressive -- easily among the very top earbuds on the market.

$190 at Best Buy

Best Apple noise-canceling wireless earbuds

Apple AirPods Pro 2 (USB-C)

The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are powered by Apple's new H2 chip, which delivers more processing power while being more energy efficient, according to Apple. The new chip, combined with new low-distortion drivers, allows for improved sound that offers better clarity and depth. The noise canceling is also improved -- Apple says the new AirPods have "double" the noise canceling of the original AirPods Pro. Additionally, the new AirPods add an extra hour of battery life, up from five to six hours with noise canceling on. Plus, a speaker in the case that emits a sound that helps locate your buds via Find My should they decide to hide from you.

$98 at Amazon

Top midrange noise-canceling headphones

Sony CH-720N

Sony's improved entry-level noise canceling headphones, the CH-720Ns, have a bit of a plasticky budget vibe, but they're lightweight and very comfortable. Part of me was expecting them to sound pretty mediocre, but I was pleasantly surprised. No, they don't sound as good as the WH-1000XM5s. But they sound more premium than they look (and feel), and their overall performance is a step up from their predecessor, the CH-710Ns. Are they worth $150? Maybe -- or maybe not. But the good news is that, like the CH-710N and WH-XB910 before them, these should see significant discounts in the not-so-distant future, which is what you may want to wait for.

$200 at JBL.com

New midrange JBL noise-canceling headphones

JBL Live 770NC

The well-designed and comfortable JBL Live 770NC offers some modest improvements over its predecessor, including better battery life (up to 65 hours with ANC off and 50 hours with ANC on) and Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio (via a future firmware upgrade). Equipped with 40mm drivers, you get bold, nicely defined sound with powerful bass that's relatively tight. JBL's Ambient Aware and TalkThru features are on board along with multipoint Bluetooth pairing (the one feature that's missing is ear-detection sensors that pause your music when you take the headphones off). I thought the headphones' noise muffling capabilities were good and callers said they could hear me well even in noisier environments except when the wind picked up around me. The headphones fold up and a simple carrying pouch (no hard case) is included along with a cable for wired listening.

$180 at Best Buy

Best Beats over-ear headphones

Beats Studio Pro

Love 'em or hate 'em, Beats Studio headphones are among the most popular headphones of all time, launching as a wired headphone back in 2008. This is the fourth generation of them, and they carry the same list price as their predecessor and look very similar on the outside but have some big changes on the inside that make them significantly better headphones. I'm tempted to describe them as more affordable plastic versions of the AirPods Max. However, that's not quite accurate due to a choice in chipsets and one notable missing feature. But read our full review to find out what makes this a very good headphone with some caveats.

$549 at Apple

Best high-end wireless headphones for Apple users

Apple AirPods Max

Yes, they're expensive, but the AirPods Max deliver richer, more detailed sound than lower-priced competitors from Bose and Sony. They also feature arguably the best noise canceling on the market along with premium build quality and Apple's virtual surround spatial audio feature for video watching. While they're heavy, they manage to be surprisingly comfortable, though I did have to adjust the mesh canopy headband to sit a little more forward on my head to get a comfortable secure fit when I was out walking with them. They should fit most heads well, but there will be exceptions.

$200 at Amazon

Top mid-rage Sennheiser noise-canceling headphones

Sennheiser Accentum Plus

In 2023, Sennheiser released a new mid-range noise-canceling headphone called the Accentum that was sort of a slightly stripped down version of its flagship Momentum Wireless 4 headphones with smaller 37mm drivers (the MW4 has 42mm drivers). The Accentum Plus, new for 2024, adds some extra features for $50 more or $230. They include touch controls, adaptive noise canceling, support for the AptX Adaptive Audio codec, an analog port for wired listening and a hard carrying case. Even though it costs more, I do recommend this model over the Accentum because of those extras.

When I first tried them, they clamped down on my head a little too snugly. But after I worked them in and stretched out the headband a bit, they fit comfortably. They're an all-around strong performer, with good noise-canceling and voice-calling performance along with excellent sound quality that offers good clarity and well-defined bass (I also appreciated that they have USB-C audio so you can connect them to a computer or USB-C enabled smartphone with a USB-C cable and listen to audio). Like the flagship MW4's, which do offer slightly better sound quality, they're a bit generic looking. Still, they're a very solid mid-range headphone that are an even more appealing option when they get discounted to less than $200.

$80 at Amazon

Good sound for under $70

Edifier W820NB Plus

Edifier makes some good-sounding PC speakers and true-wireless earbuds and it's done a nice job with its W820NB noise-canceling headphones, now on their second-gen version, the Edifier W820NB Plus. The first thing you'll notice about them when you put them on is that they're comfortable -- Edifier has upgraded the ear pads with higher-grade memory foam -- and the headphones fit snugly on your head. They also sound good for their price, offering slightly improved audio quality from the originals, thanks to what appear to be upgraded drivers (also, they now support the LDAC audio codec for Android devices). You get a bit more clarity and slightly better bass definition. Their sound didn't necessarily blow me away -- they lack a bit of openness -- but it's very good for what the headphones cost. Like their predecessor, they're pleasant-sounding headphones -- and even a bit more so now. 

Other features include an ambient mode that lets outside sound in and a low-latency gaming mode. The noise canceling has been upgraded slightly and they're decent for voice calling. Battery life is pretty impressive with up to 49 hours of battery life on a single charge at moderate volume levels (and noise canceling off). 

A couple of things are still missing. There's no carrying case or headphone jack, though you can connect them to your computer with the included USB-C to USB-A cable. But the 820NB Plus headphones are still a good value.

$290 at Amazon

Best Sennheiser noise-canceling headphones

Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless

Sennheiser's previous-generation Momentum Wireless headphones have always had a pretty distinct look that was part retro, part modern, and stood out for the exposed metal on their headband. For better or worse, that's all gone now, and the new Momentum 4 Wireless, Sennheiser's flagship noise-canceling headphones, look a bit more subdued and also a bit more like some of their competitors.

The Momentum 4 Wireless offers superior performance over the Momentum 3 Wireless in every regard, though the biggest gains are with noise canceling and voice-calling performance as well as battery life, which is outstanding -- up to 60 hours at moderate volume levels. There's also a transparency mode that allows ambient sound in, and they have the ability to create a custom sound profile in the Smart Control app for iOS and Android using the built-in EQ, sound modes and a new Sound Personalization feature that "assesses the user's listening preferences and adjusts the listening experience according to their taste." 

Equipped with 42mm drivers, Sennheiser says the Momentum 4 Wireless offer "best-in-class" sound, which is debatable. I'd say the Momentum 4's sound quality is right there with other models in this price range -- they sound excellent, with the requisite well-defined, punchy bass, relatively wide soundstage (they sound pretty open) and smooth treble that brings out some of the finer details in well-recorded tracks. They're a pleasure to listen to.

$298 at Bose

Slightly upgraded Bose noise-canceling headphones

Bose QuietComfort Headphones

When Bose released its new flagship QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, it also replaced the QuietComfort 45s with a new, slightly updated model simply called the QuietComfort Headphones. Like the QC 45s, this model carries on the very comfortable tried-and-true legacy QuietComfort design that's been around for a few generations that a lot of people continue to love. The QC Ultra Headphones add Bose's new Immersive Audio feature and have a more refined design with some metal parts (they also have Bluetooth 5.3 instead of Bluetooth 5.1). But the QuietComfort Headphones still feature very good sound (the Ultras offer a small step up in sound quality), excellent noise canceling and strong voice-calling performance.

As for differences between these and the QC45s, Bose says it adjusted some of the electronics to improve battery life (now 24 hours vs. 22 hours) and adjusted the logos to make the products "visually distinguishable and more in line with its latest design language." It also added an inline microphone to the auxiliary cable to "help with some users who may prefer a plug-and-play solution rather than Bluetooth pairing." There's also a Wind Block feature and some additional small performance improvements due to software upgrades. Finally, the headphones come in new color options, including green and a light blue version that's only available at bose.com.

While the QuietComfort Headphones carry a $350 list price that's $50 higher than that of the QC 45s, we expect them to be regularly discounted to $250 and possibly less than that in 2024 -- so look to buy them when they're on sale. You can read our review of the QuietComfort 45 to get a good take on the QuietComfort Headphones.

$198 at Amazon

Upgraded Sony midrange wireless ANC headphones with extra bass

Sony ULT Wear

The ULT Wear (WH-ULT900N) is the successor to Sony's popular extra-bass model, the WH-XB910N, and features upgraded drivers (better sound) along with improved noise-canceling and voice-calling performance. Both Sony's flagship WH-1000XM5 and entry-level CH-720N offer more balanced sound, but the ULT Wear deliver on their promise of delivering dynamic, powerful sound with deep bass. The only downside is that bass can sometimes get a little too boomy, especially when you engage the bass boost mode with the ULT button.

$319 at Amazon

Evolved Bowers & Wilkins noise-canceling headphones

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2e

Bowers & Wilkins released the PX7 S2 headphones in 2022 with some significant improvements over the first-generation version. And now it's put out a slightly upgraded version, the PX7 S2e with the "e" standing for evolved. The audio quality has been slightly upgraded thanks to improved digital processing (the headphones have been retuned), which we assume involves an upgraded chip.

These headphones are more comfortable than the original PX7s -- they tip the scales at 307 grams -- and not only sound better but have better noise-canceling and voice-calling performance with improved noise reduction. I don't necessarily think they're a better option than the lighter and even more comfortable Sony WH-1000XM5 or Bose's QuietComfort Ultra Headphones. But the PX7 S2e certainly looks and feels luxurious, with its sturdy design, and delivers excellent sound. Bowers & Wilkins also sell a step-up model, the PX8, that features even better sound but costs significantly more.

$100 at JBL.com

Top on-ear noise-canceling headphones under $100

JBL Tune 670NC

The JBL Tune 670NC is one of a relatively small number of on-ear headphones to offer active noise canceling. It's something of a value model -- no carrying case is included -- but it does have memory foam ear pads that get you a comfortable fit for an on-ear headphone. Deliver clear sound with punch bass, it has 32mm drivers and improves on its predecessor's battery life, offering up to a whopping 70 hours (or 44 hours with ANC on), and an extra three hours of battery with just five minutes of charge. This model includes the latest Bluetooth 5.3 (with LE Audio) and multipoint Bluetooth pairing. It also has JBL's Ambient Aware (transparency mode) and TalkThru features. It's available in black, white and blue and comes with a cord for wired listening. Note that the step-up Live 670NC has a little bit better build quality (the ear pads are better) for about $30 more.

$75 at Amazon

Good performing noise-canceling headphones under $100

1More SonoFlow

The design of 1More's SonoFlow headphones reminds me a little of some earlier Sony headphones and also the newer Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 4. They're a bit generic looking but sleek enough and more importantly, comfortable to wear. They also feature very respectable sound quality. While it doesn't quite measure up to the sound quality of what'll get with more premium models like the Momentum Wireless 4, it isn't that far off. The SonoFlow headphones deliver smooth sound with good clarity and relatively well-defined bass (they're just not quite as rich or dynamic sounding as those premium models I mentioned). They also have support for the LDAC audio codec.

The noise canceling is a step down from what Sony and Bose models offer but it does a decent job of muffling ambient sound and there is a transparency mode. Voice-calling performance is similarly solid but unspectacular. Note that you can use this in wired mode with the included cable but the noise canceling only works in wireless mode, which is an issue for frequent flyers who like some noise canceling when plugging into an in-flight entertainment system. 

$599 at Master & Dynamic

Top AirPods Max alternative

Master & Dynamic MW75

The MW75 are Master & Dynamic's best full-size headphones yet. Needless to say, they're pricey at $599; most people will be quite satisfied with the $400 Sony WH-1000XM5, which are lighter and more comfortable, and which deliver best-in-class voice calling and noise canceling. But the MW75's build quality is hard to beat and they offer top-notch sound for a wireless model (I thought they sounded better than Apple's AirPods Max headphones), plus strong voice-calling and noise-canceling performance. With their support for aptX Adaptive, they have additional appeal for Android users, who can get a touch better sound quality with the right setup. But I was also quite happy streaming music with my iPhone 13 Pro using the AAC codec.

'Noise canceling' vs. 'noise cancelling': Different spelling, same technology

Either spelling is correct, as "canceling" is more common in American English while "cancelling" is more common in British English. CNET uses "noise canceling" since the company is based in the US, but the noise is canceled just the same, regardless of spelling. If you're looking to see what different noise-impacting technology is out there for headphones, check out our article on noise-canceling versus noise-isolating headphones, which highlights differences in function (and not just a difference in spelling).

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Factors to consider when choosing noise-canceling headphones

Budget

Before anything else, you'll want to figure out how much you're willing to spend on new ANC headphones. The quality of value-priced noise canceling headphones continues to improve, so you can find good affordable headphones for less than $100. But the premium models, which offer better build quality and performance, tend to cost $200 or more -- sometimes much more. 

Fit (comfort)

It's key that the headphones you buy fit your head well. They should offer a comfortable fit that's snug yet not too snug. Ideally, you want headphones you can wear over the course of a day with minimal breaks.

Durability

You want headphones that hold up well over time, so look for models that we note have sturdy build quality.

Maximize performance and features for your budget

You want the best-sounding headphones with the best noise-canceling, call quality, and features for whatever you're able to spend.

Return policy

It's critical to buy your headphones at a retailer that has a good return policy, in case you have buyer's remorse. Some people who are having trouble deciding between two models sometimes buy both, try them out for a few days, and then return one.

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How we test noise-canceling headphones and earbuds

We test noise-canceling headphones and earbuds based on six key criteria. These criteria include designsound quality, noise-canceling performancevoice-calling performance, features and value

  • Design: Evaluating design, we assess not only how comfortable the headphones and earbuds fit (their ergonomics) but their build quality and how well the controls are implemented. When it comes to earbuds, we also look at water- and dust-resistance ratings. 
  • Sound quality: We evaluate sound quality by listening to a set playlist of music tracks and comparing the earbuds to top competing products in their price range. Sonic traits such as bass definition, clarity, dynamic range and how natural the headphones sound are key factors in our assessment.
  • Noise-canceling performance: We evaluate noise-canceling performance by wearing the headphones in the same spot indoors near a noisy HVAC unit to see how well they do at muffling lower frequencies. Then we head out to the streets of New York to test the headphones in a real-world environment where we see how they do at muffling not only street noise but people's voices. 
  • Extra features: Some great-sounding noise-canceling headphones and earbuds aren't loaded with features, but we do take into account what extra features are on board. These include everything from quick-access awareness to transparency modes (your music pauses and the headphones open up to the outside world so you can have a conversation) to special sound modes to ear-detection sensors that automatically pause your music when you take the headphones off your ears. We also take a look at the companion app for the headphones if there is one and how user friendly it is. 
  • Voice-calling: When we test voice-calling performance, we make calls in the noisy streets of New York and evaluate how well the headphones or earbuds reduce background noise and how clearly callers can hear our voice.
  • Value: We determine value after evaluating the strength of the headphones and earbuds against all these criteria and what they're able to deliver compared to other models in their price class. 
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Other noise-canceling headphones we tested

Google Pixel Buds Pro: The Pixel Buds Pro are Google's first earbuds to feature active noise canceling. While it's nice that they finally have a feature that a lot of true-wireless earbuds have had for a while, what ultimately sets the Pixel Buds Pro apart and makes them worth considering -- particularly for Android users -- is their distinct design and winning fit. That helps enhance their performance on both the sound quality and noise-canceling fronts. While not quite elite for voice-calling, they also performed well as a headset for making calls. Read our Google Pixel Buds Pro review

Soundcore by Anker Space One: Available in three color options, the Soundcore Space One are Anker's latest noise-canceling headphones and a good value for around $100, offering a strong feature set along with good sound quality and performance. They can't quite compete sound-wise with many of the premium noise-canceling models, but you don't feel like you're giving up that much on the sound front to save a good deal of money. They lack a bit of that natural, refined quality you look for in a great set of cans, but the Space Ones sound respectable, with decent clarity and bass definition and measure up well to the more expensive Soundcore Space 45. Noise-canceling and voice-calling performance are also good for headphones in this price range, though the transparency mode is only OK. Anker has developed a version of Sony's Speak-to-Chat feature -- Anker calls it Easy Chat -- that automatically pauses your music and enters a transparency mode when you walk up to someone and start a conversation. The headphones are equipped with wear-detection sensors, a feature not usually found at this price, and include a carrying pouch. LDAC audio codec support is available for Android users.

Shure Aonic 50: A lot of us liked Shure's original Aonic 50 headphones, but they had pretty middling noise cancellation. Well, the 2nd-gen version addresses that issue -- the noise canceling is much improved -- and Shure has more than doubled the the battery life to around 45 hours (they now have a quick-charge feature) and also shrunk the headphone's carry case a bit, though it's still not that compact. Those upgrades make the Aonic 50 Gen 2 a top noise-canceling headphone. While the Aonic 50 Gen 2s are pretty heavy at 334 grams, they're built sturdily and are also comfortable to wear, with nicely padded ear cups. They feature excellent sound quality with very good clarity and well-defined bass. Shure call them a "studio headphone," so the sound profile is fairly neutral, but you can add more bass in the EQ settings in Shure's companion app for iOS and Android (engaging the Spatializer setting in the app expands the soundstage slightly but doesn't make a big difference).

JBL Tune 670NC: The JBL Tune 670NC is one of a relatively small number of on-ear headphones to offer active noise canceling. It's something of a value model -- no carrying case is included -- but it does have memory foam ear pads that get you a comfortable fit for an on-ear headphone. Deliver clear sound with punch bass, it has 32mm drivers and improves on its predecessor's battery life, offering up to a whopping 70 hours (or 44 hours with ANC on), and an extra three hours of battery with just five minutes of charge. This model includes the latest Bluetooth 5.3 (with LE Audio) and multipoint Bluetooth pairing. It also has JBL's Ambient Aware (transparency mode) and TalkThru features. It's available in black, white and blue and comes with a cord for wired listening.

Mark Levinson No. 5909: The No. 5909 are premium audio brand Mark Levinson's first headphones and, yes, they're really expensive at $999. But they're also really good. They have a sturdy design without managing to feel hefty on your head (read: they're substantial but not too heavy) and they're comfortable to wear over long periods thanks to their nicely padded (and replaceable) leather-covered earcups and headband. Read our Mark Levinson No. 5909 hands-on.

Focal Bathys: French audio company Focal is known for its high-end speakers and headphones. You might call it the Bowers & Wilkins of France. And now it's finally done what a lot of high-end audio companies have had to do in this age of on-the-go wireless music listening: make active noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones. These $699 cans sound fantastic and are great overall but their noise-canceling is fairly light, so don't buy them for their ANC.

Master & Dynamic MW09: Master & Dynamic headphones and earbuds have always featured unique, eye-catching designs that include premium materials like aluminum, sapphire glass and Kevlar. Its latest MW09 flagship earbuds look pretty similar to its earlier MW08 buds, but have some upgrades on the inside that deliver better performance, particularly when it comes to battery life and noise canceling (it's now very close to what Bose and Sony offer, though not quite at their level for ANC).

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro: The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro offer improved noise canceling along with very good sound and voice-calling performance, plus support for high-resolution wireless audio streaming if you're a Galaxy device owner with the right setup. That said, their biggest upgrade may be their new design and smaller size, which make them a better fit for more ears. Aside from their somewhat high price tag, their only drawback is that some of their key features only work with Samsung Galaxy devices.

Beats Studio Buds Plus: Alas, for those of you who bought the original Beats Studio Buds, which remain on the market for now, I'm sorry to report that these new Plus buds are significantly improved, with better sound, noise canceling and battery life. Additionally, they now deliver top-notch voice-calling performance.

Beats Fit Pro: While the Beats Fit Pro technically aren't AirPods, they're built on the same tech platform as the AirPods Pro (yes, Apple owns Beats). Unlike Beats' earlier and less expensive Studio Buds and new-for-2023 Studio Buds Plus, the Beats Fit Pro include Apple's H1 chip and have most of the AirPods Pro's features, including active noise canceling, spatial audio and Adaptive EQ. I'd venture to call them the sports AirPods you've always wanted.

Technics EAH-A800: There's a bit of an old-school vibe to the Technics EAH-A800 -- and it's not just the Technics brand, which Panasonic resurrected in the last few years. Their design is something of a throwback but the headphones are comfortable and both fold up and fold flat. They feature a big, energetic sound with powerful bass and good detail (however, they take a day or two to break in). 

Technics EAH-AZ80: Panasonic has done a nice job of creating an all-around top-performing set of buds that offer an improved fit with terrific sound, good noise canceling and a robust feature set.

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Noise-canceling headphone FAQs

Are noise-canceling headphones worth it?

A few years ago, you had to pay significantly more money for active noise-canceling headphones. But the feature has become pretty common and while the best noise-canceling headphones (by that I mean the headphones that offer the best noise canceling) tend to be fairly expensive, you can find cheaper models that offer decent noise cancellation. I do think that if noise canceling is important to you, it's better to spend more money on the best pair of noise-canceling headphones you can afford. And it's worth noting that many of the premium models get discounted sporadically during the year so you can often save $50 or more on many top headphones if you time your purchase right. 

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Does noise cancellation block all noise?

Noise-canceling headphones have traditionally been good at blocking out lower frequency sounds such as the rumbling you hear while traveling on a plane. They haven't been so good at muffling higher frequencies (a baby screaming, for example) and even people talking around you. But companies like Bose, Sony and Apple have improved the technology in the last year or two so their noise canceling works across a wider range of frequencies. It still can't muffle all noise but top noise canceling is now doing a better job tamping down more noises that live in midrange and higher frequencies.

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Does noise canceling drain the headphones' battery?

When noise canceling is engaged, it does tend to have an impact on battery life. This is more of a factor with earbuds, which tend to offer anywhere from five to eight hours of battery life with noise canceling on and seven to 12 hours with it off. Full-size headphones can offer 25 to 30 hours of battery life with noise canceling on and up to 40 to 50 hours with it off.

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Does noise canceling impact sound quality?

Active noise canceling does have an adverse effect on sound quality, especially if the noise canceling isn't all that good (noise canceling can create a faint background hiss). It can mess with the purity of the sound quality so it's tricky to create a noise-canceling headphone that sounds really good. As a result, often high-end noise-canceling headphones that tout fantastic sound quality don't have as powerful noise canceling (the noise canceling feels lighter). 

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