What are the best noise-canceling headphones right now?
There’s a lot of debate around this question, and it’s hard to name one single model as the best overall noise-canceling headphones. But a few models do stand out a bit from the rest of the pack, which is why we’ve given them our prestigious CNET Editors’ Choice Award. From 2022, these included the Sony WH-1000XM5, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 and Apple AirPods Pro 2. Sony’s new WF-1000XM5 earbuds are also excellent. These headphones and true-wireless earbuds (aka in-ear headphones) offer not only offer excellent ambient noise-muffling capabilities but a comfortable fit, very good sound and strong voice-calling performance. Those are the key factors I evaluate when determining what products end up on this list. Pricing is also a consideration for value picks.
I’ve fully reviewed or had hands-on listening time with all the devices on this best noise-canceling headphones list. If you’re just looking for a list with only 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 2023
Battery Life Rated up to 32 hoursNoise Canceling Yes (ANC)Multipoint YesHeadphone Type Over-ear wireless headphonesWater-Resistant No IP rating
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 $349 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.
Battery Life Rated Up to 6 HoursNoise Canceling Yes (ANC)Multipoint NoHeadphone Type Wireless EarbudsWater-Resistant Yes (IPX4 — Splash-Proof)
Bose’s second-generation QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are not only about 30% smaller than their predecessors, but their case is about 40% smaller and truly pocketable. They feature best-in-class noise canceling and improved sound, thanks to Bose’s new CustomTune sound calibration system that customizes the sound for your ears. Voice-calling performance is also significantly better than that of the original QuietComfort Earbuds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 One sound respectable, with decent clarity and bass definition and measure up well to the more expensive Soundcore Space 45.
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.
Battery Life Rated up to 20 hoursNoise Canceling Yes (ANC)Multipoint NoHeadphone Type Over-ear wireless headphonesWater-Resistant No IP rating
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.
Battery Life Rated up to 25 hoursMultipoint YesHeadphone Type Over-ear wireless headphonesWater-Resistant No IP rating
The Bose QuietComfort 45 essentially looks the same as its popular predecessor, the QuietComfort 35 II, with the biggest design difference being a USB-C port in place of the older Micro-USB. (At 238 grams, the QC45 weighs just 3 grams more than the QC35, which should be imperceptible.) And while the Bose 700 has plenty of fans, a lot of people (including me) think this QuietComfort design is slightly more comfortable and the headphones fold up and fold flat. It’s arguably the most comfortable pair of headphones out there.
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.
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.
Available in three color options (gray, blue and black), Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2 headphones offer some significant improvements over the first-generation version. Not only are these headphones more comfortable — they tip the scales at 307 grams — but they sound better and 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. But the PX7 S2 certainly looks and feels luxurious, with its sturdy design, and delivers very good sound with better voice-calling performance thanks to an upgraded microphone setup.
You should expect a lot from earbuds that cost $300 — and yes, that’s still a lot to pay for headphones, even if plenty of people seem to be willing to pay upwards of $450 for the likes of Apple’s AirPods Max headphones. Overall, Panasonic has done a nice job of creating an all-around top-performing set of buds that offer an improved fit with terrific sound, very good noise canceling and a robust feature set.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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).
Honorable mentions for noise-canceling headphones
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.
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).
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3: Featuring excellent sound, improved noise canceling and voice-calling performance as well a smaller, more refined design that includes stabilizing fins (so the earbuds stay in your ears more securely), the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 are among the best true-wireless earbuds, giving the Sony WF-1000XM4 a run for the money. Read our Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 review.
Sennheiser 450BT: Sennheiser updated its well-regarded 4.50BTNC noise-canceling headphones in 2020. The new headphone model is called the 450BT and it has some notable upgrades, including better battery life (up to 30 hours with noise canceling on), USB-C charging, Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX support for devices like the Samsung Galaxy smartphones that support it and more comfortable earpads. The 450BT noise-canceling headphones list for $200, but usually cost around $150 although they have dipped to as low as $100 in flash sales (they’re a good value at that price).
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.
How we test noise-canceling headphones
We test noise-canceling headphones and earbuds based on six key criteria. These criteria include design, sound quality, noise-canceling performance, voice-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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).