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What are the best overall noise-cancelling headphones?
I wish I could name one model as the best overall noise-cancelling headphones. But it's really tough to do with so many great models currently available. That said, some do stand out from the pack, including the new 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.
Some are full-size headphones, and 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, 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-cancelling headphones list.
Best noise-cancelling headphones of 2024
1. Best New Noise-Cancelling 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 cancelling, 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-cancelling headphones of 2024 and a worthy adversary to Sony's highly rated WH-1000XM5 and Apple's AirPods Max.
- Design is an upgrade
- Lightweight and very comfortable
- Excellent sound and great noise-cancelling
- Voice-calling performance is top-notch
- Immersive Audio mode offers some sound-quality enhancements
- Higher price than the previous model
- No USB-C audio
- Immersive Audio mode hurts battery life
2. Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones from Sony
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 cancelling and more refined sound.
- More refined sound and even better noise-cancelling
- Slightly more comfortable
- Best-in-class voice call quality
- Robust feature set
- Higher price tag than the previous model
- Larger carrying case (headphones fold flat but not up)
3. Best for Noise-Cancelling
While the QC Ultra Earbuds aren't a major upgrade over Bose's excellent QC Earbuds 2 that were released in 2022, they're a little better.
They should fit most ears very well, and they feature superb noise cancelling, 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.
- Excellent sound and best-in-class noise-cancelling
- Fit Kit ear tips and stabilizer system get you a secure, comfortable fit
- Immersive Audio creates a different listening experience
- Slightly improved voice-calling
- No wireless charging or multipoint Bluetooth
- Immersive Audio mode hurts battery life
4. Best Apple Noise-Cancelling Wireless Earbuds
The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) is 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 cancelling is also improved — Apple says the new AirPods have “double” the noise cancelling of the original AirPods Pro. Additionally, the new AirPods add an extra hour of battery life, up from five to six hours with noise cancelling 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.
- Significantly improved sound and noise cancelling
- Better battery life and upgraded microphones
- Powered by Apple's new H2 chip
- The same design as the previous model
- No high-resolution audio
5. Best Midrange Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Sony's improved entry-level noise-cancelling 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.
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Good sound with very good noise-cancelling
- Good voice-calling performance
- 35 hours of battery life
- No carrying case
- No ear-detection sensors
- No LDAC audio codec support
6. Best Value Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Available in three color options, the Soundcore Space One is Anker's latest noise-cancelling 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-cancelling 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.
I found them comfortable to wear, but they do look a bit bulky compared to more premium models.
- Strong feature set
- Very good sound quality for their price
- Decent noise cancelling and voice calling
- LDAC audio codec support
- Bit bulky-looking
7. Best Beats Over-Ear Headphones
Love 'em or hate 'em, Beats Studio headphones are among the most popular headphones of all time, launching as a wired headphones 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.
- Improved sound quality, noise-cancelling, and ear pad design
- Very good voice-calling performance
- Spatial audio with head tracking for Apple users
- USB-C audio
- No Apple H2 chip
- No ear-detection sensors
- No major design changes except for the case
8. Best Noise-Cancelling Sports Buds for Everyday Use
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 has most of the AirPods Pro's features, including active noise cancelling, spatial audio, and Adaptive EQ.
I'd venture to call them the sports AirPods you've always wanted.
- Lightweight design with integrated wingtip that fits securely
- Very good sound and noise cancelling ` Powered by Apple's H1 chip
- No wireless charging
- No enhanced Find My with proximity view (only standard Find My)
9. Best Samsung Noise-Cancelling Wireless Earbuds
The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro offers improved noise-cancelling 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.
- Very good sound and a more comfortable fit
- Good noise-cancelling and voice-calling capabilities
- Assortment of extra features for Galaxy device owners
- Somewhat pricey
- Some key features only work with Samsung devices
- No true multipoint Bluetooth pairing