Skip to main content

Best noise-canceling headphones 2022

Sony Wh 1000xm4 Review
Sony Wh 1000xm4 Review (Image credit: Peter Cao / Android Central)

If you're a commuter or work in a busy environment, you're likely in the market for some of the best noise-canceling headphones. Drown out all that background noise with active noise-canceling (ANC) technology, which has become one of the most highly sought-after features that's no longer exclusive to expensive headphones. The Sony WH-1000XM5's ANC heads up a group of class-leading headphones through their excellent performance and battery life, making them our top choice. But there are plenty of other options on this list for various lifestyles and budgets on this list.

Sony WH-1000XM5

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony WH-1000XM5

Best overall

Reasons to buy

+
Class-leading ANC performance
+
Long battery life
+
Customizable sound
+
Fast charging capable
+
Great call quality
+
Pair with two devices at once

Reasons to avoid

-
No simultaneous charging & listening
-
No difference in design
-
No improvement in overall audio quality

Sony has been in the top spot before with its WH-1000XM4, the best ANC headphones on the market before they were replaced by the WH-1000XM5. Sony's flagship cans have become the benchmark for the industry as a whole, forcing others to catch up. What makes them so good is the unique QN1 processor and a dual-noise sensor that work together to block out ambient sound. There are eight microphones at work here, so for a daily commute on a bus or train, walking on a busy street, or sitting on a flight, the WH-10000XM5 are up to the task.

It may not look dramatically different from its predecessors, but that's just Sony sticking to a design and comfort that works for most ears. ANC benefits from that with excellent passive isolation, plus you can pair with two devices simultaneously. This way, you can listen to music on one device and take calls on another, for example. Phone calls also sound better because Sony's Precise Voice Pickup and Speak to Chat features optimize sound and volume during conversations.

Otherwise, much of what made the WH-1000XM4 so good remains in good standing for this pair. They will last up to 30 hours per charge, with fast charging always an option when they're dead. You still can't listen to the WH-1000XM5 when they're charging, however, whether wired or wireless.

Sony chose not to tweak or alter the sound signature, so the same bass-heavy sound comes through. It can sometimes drown out the mids and highs, but Sony's Connect app has a trusty equalizer you can use to offset that. It also has a "clear bass" slider to affect the overall thump of the bass itself. With those tools, you can make these headphones sound more to your preference.

Now that the WH-1000XM5 are Sony's flagship, look for the WH-1000XM4 to eventually drop in price and become more of a value option. Sony's noise-canceling tech has been so good that you can even find it crammed into wireless earbuds.

Lifestyle shot of Bose Noise Canceling Headphones.

(Image credit: Bose)

Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

Runner up

Reasons to buy

+
Superb ANC performance
+
Excellent sound quality
+
Very comfortable
+
Great battery life
+
Fast charging

Reasons to avoid

-
Non-foldable, bulky design
-
Competitors beat battery life
-
More expensive than top pick

Bose has positioned itself into the conversation among the best in the business in this category, where the NCH 700 belongs. Taking over from the highly-acclaimed QC35 II, these cans are equal or better in almost every way. First, sound quality gets a boost with Bose dialing back sibilance from the treble to make them sound less piercing, without changing anything else about the rest of the sound signature. Needless to say, the NCH 700 aren't lacking in sound.

It doesn't hurt that the ANC performance is so good, too. They don't quite hit Sony's level, but they're a solid alternative that does a solid job of blocking out most persistent noises, like engines, and some mid-range sounds like people talking. Higher-pitched sounds are a challenge for any pair of ANC headphones, and that's where the NCH 700 are a bit shaky. However, you do get up to 11 steps of ANC, making this one of the most versatile ANC experiences available.

The NCH 700 are also one of the most comfortable pairs to wear. A softer headband and ear cups don't feel too constricting, so you may not even notice how long you're wearing them. The trade-off in doing that was Bose had to actually make these headphones bigger than the QC35 II. They also don't fold, which may be an issue when traveling or commuting, taking up more space in your bag.

At up to 20 hours per charge, battery life is above average. A quick 15-minute fast charge through USB-C will deliver up to two hours of playback, ensuring you can listen to some tunes in a pinch.

Lifestyle shot of Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless.

(Image credit: Sennheiser)
Best sound quality

Reasons to buy

+
Great, slightly bass-boosted sound
+
USB-C for charging
+
Simultaneous listening & charging
+
Excellent comfort
+
Decent ANC performance

Reasons to avoid

-
ANC isn't the best
-
Battery life should be better

Sennheiser's pedigree in sound quality is well-known, and we found the Momentum 3 Wireless carry that same torch in our own review. A rich soundstage helps deliver the kind of definition associated with the brand. Bass is slightly boosted, with clear midrange and smooth treble to balance it all out. It's wide enough to suit almost every musical genre — instruments, vocals, and electronic elements never sound out of place.

The most advanced ANC performance doesn't always match the company's audio fidelity, and that contrast is evident here to some degree. That's not to say that the ANC here is bad: They block out a decent amount of low-end noise, but struggle to entirely block every sound around you. You can mitigate that by playing music a little louder, though within reason, so you don't damage your ears.

The Momentum 3 Wireless are really comfortable to wear, even after long periods. Thanks to a well-made headband and ear cups that feel soft enough to enjoy whenever you listen to audio, you feel much of a squeeze with these.

Sennheiser isn't an industry leader in battery life, which is an obvious limitation for the Momentum 3 Wireless on this list. However, you can expect up to 17 hours on a single charge, which is on the lower end for ANC headphones in this price range. One saving grace is that you can use the USB-C port for simultaneous listening and charging when connected to an Android phone or tablet.

Wearing the Cowin E7 Pro in London.

(Image credit: Cowin)

COWIN E7 Pro

Best budget over-ear headphones

Reasons to buy

+
Plenty of bass
+
Good ANC performance for the price
+
Long battery life
+
Great comfort
+
Various color options

Reasons to avoid

-
Treble is subdued
-
Heavier than most over-ears

Good ANC headphones don't have to be expensive to sound good, and that's a point the COWIN E7 Pro make because of their excellent battery life and solid ANC at a reasonable price.

It seems almost criminal for the E7 Pro to manage a whopping 30 hours on a single charge when far more expensive pairs don't always match that. With that kind of time to play with, you'll be playing music for days without juice becoming an issue. ANC performance isn't too bad, either. They compare favorably to expensive models that are good at blocking out consistent noises, but struggle with more inconsistent ones.

Sound quality is probably what you might expect for a pair of cans in this range. Bass gets a boost, but it's sometimes overdone with a little too much thump and rumble. COWIN did the same with the mid-range to compensate, which is why these feel loud out of the box. Unfortunately, that won't do much for the treble — muted and subdued, as it is.

The E7 Pro are a bit on the heavier side, but won't suffer too much in comfort. They'll sit comfortably on your head, so fatigue or comfort issues shouldn't be a problem.

Woman wearing Cleer Audio Enduro ANC.

(Image credit: Cleer Audio)

Cleer Audio Enduro ANC

Best battery life

Reasons to buy

+
Ridiculously long battery life
+
Customizable sound
+
Excellent comfort
+
Solid ANC support
+
Multipoint connections

Reasons to avoid

-
Shorter connectivity range

Cleer Audio may not be the household name others are on this list, but the Enduro ANC are the kind of headphones that make you remember who they are. The long battery life certainly stands out, giving you up to 60 hours on a single charge. They also feel comfortable for longer stretches, complementing the outstanding battery performance. Plus, if you need a quick charge, plug them in for five minutes and you can get up to two hours of playback.

Sound quality may also come as a surprise, and the best part is you can tinker with it through the Cleer+ app. The onboard equalizer lets you ramp up or dial back the bass, along with the other parts of the spectrum to get these headphones playing even better. ANC performance is pretty good, and even when on, battery life doesn't take a huge hit. You'll find they cancel noise out best on a plane, train, or bus.

They're also nifty in other ways, like multipoint connections to pair with two devices simultaneously, and wired playback through the included 3.5mm cable and airplane adapter. Cleer Audio also throws in a case to keep the headphones safe.

Wearing the Anker Soundcore Life Q30.

(Image credit: Ted Kritsonis / Android Central)
Great battery life on a budget

Reasons to buy

+
Ridiculously long battery life
+
Comfortable fit
+
Made for bass-lovers
+
Solid ANC performance for the price
+
Affordable price
+
Great app support

Reasons to avoid

-
Too much bass for some
-
ANC could be better

Budget headphones sometimes punch way above their weight, or carry a particular feature or performance aspect that stands out. In our review, we saw how the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 excels for its battery life. Lots of it. These can play for up to 40 hours on a single charge — and that's with ANC enabled. Disable it, and they can play for an outlandish 60 hours.

ANC on the Life Q30 is a little better than it was on the Life Q20 and with some extra support through the excellent Soundcore app. There, you can adjust ANC between three modes: Indoor, Outdoor, and Transport. Where the Life Q20 was surprisingly adept at muffling higher-pitched noises, the Life Q30 improved in blocking the more consistent background sounds, like engines, fans, heaters, and more.

Not surprisingly, the bass is still abundant in how they sound. It's boosted to a point where it may be an acquired taste, but anyone seeking an extra boom won't be disappointed with how low these go. At least the midrange is balanced enough to add some depth and help carry the treble, which is only slightly boosted. Plus, the Soundcore app has an EQ, with several presets already available to try out. If you prefer, you can also set up your own.

You should be comfortable wearing these over more extended periods, including for larger heads. What stands out is Anker did a better job crafting them than they did with the Life Q20. As a result, they're sturdier, with a more premium look and feel that belies their price.

Man wearing Bowers & Wilkins PX7.

(Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

Bowers & Wilkins PX7

Most stylish

Reasons to buy

+
Superb sound quality
+
Great passive noise isolation
+
USB-C for charging and listening
+
Great battery life
+
Premium build / stylish design

Reasons to avoid

-
Can get uncomfortable after longer periods
-
ANC performance could be better
-
Expensive

Bowers & Wilkins is a luxury brand, and its products come with an expectation of looking good. The PX7 are easy to look at, even if you don't consider yourself the type to put design over all else.

On top of the slick aesthetic, they also come with a pretty unique feature set. One standout is the ability to use the headphone's USB-C port for audio. So just plug them into your phone's USB-C port, and not only will you get audio, but power as well. A single cable lets you listen and charge simultaneously.

The PX7 have a decidedly balanced sound signature that plays well with every genre, making these ideal for most listeners. The sound is spacious and pronounced, while instruments and vocals feel warm, resonant, and full. There's a lot to like about how these headphones perform in the audio arena.

Unfortunately, that's not really the case with the ANC. It's decent, but not at the level it should be for noise-canceling headphones at this price range. It impacts the sound signature too much when it's on, and struggles with higher-pitched background noise. Ironically, passive isolation is excellent, meaning you won't always have to turn ANC on to immerse yourself in the music. Be mindful that comfort is likely to be more subjective because of how much tighter they generally feel.

Battery life is excellent, with up to 30 hours per charge. The USB-C port is always convenient, as is the fast charging support. If the PX7 are dead, a 15-minute charge will get you a good six hours of listening time.

Sony WF-1000XM4

(Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)
Best earbuds

Reasons to buy

+
Outstanding ANC performance
+
Stellar sound quality
+
Amazing battery life
+
Wireless charging case with USB-C
+
LDAC and 360 Audio support
+
Solid app support

Reasons to avoid

-
Touch controls need work
-
Smaller ears may not feel comfy
-
Single-bud mode only in right buds

More true wireless earbuds are coming with ANC on board, including at different price points, but the Sony WF-1000XM4 are the pair to beat based on our own testing. They benefit from the same ANC tech found in Sony's over-ear WH-1000XM4, which is a big reason why they're so effective. Despite their size, they prove to be more than capable of blocking out a good amount of noise, including consistent sounds you would come across while commuting.

Sony also preferred to go with a more neutral soundstage, leaving plenty of room to customize it through the equalizer settings in the Headphones Connect app. The mids come through with greater detail, while the highs feel warm, standing out independently. The bass is less pronounced out of the box, and that's why the EQ may be necessary to deepen and balance the sound further.

The fit may not be for everyone because of the bulkier form factor, while the Adaptive Sound Control mode isn't as effective as Sony claims it is. Plus, it's not worth using them when water is too close with no official water or sweat resistance. However, for the reverse of ANC, the WF-1000XM4 do have an ambient sound mode that uses the onboard mics to filter ambient sound and hear your surroundings without taking them off.

Battery life is solid at up to eight hours per charge, and an additional 24 hours with their charging case, which is 40% smaller than the previous model was. The USB-C port is convenient, as is the fast charging ability. A quick 15-minute charge can provide a few hours of playback in a pinch.

Apple AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)
Best for Apple users

Reasons to buy

+
Superb comfort
+
Great sound
+
Excellent ANC performance
+
Wireless charging case

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack of convenience features on non-Apple devices
-
Bud battery life could be better
-
Proprietary ear tips

Our review confirmed the AirPods Pro belong with the Sony WF-1000XM4 among the best noise-canceling true wireless earbuds available. They're not as good as Sony's pair, but do a solid job of blocking out most low and mid-range ambient noise. Of course, they will struggle with higher-pitched tones. But that's typical of ANC headphones and earbuds.

Sound quality is solid, with noticeably better bass and mids than the regular AirPods 2 can ever manage. The soundstage focuses more on the mids to create the illusion the sound is moving closer to you. Consequently, the highs suffer, creating an uneven profile that may be more pronounced with specific genres. Unfortunately, Apple doesn't offer an EQ to tweak the sound further, but you could try third-party ones.

Comfort is nice, due in large part to the unique design at play here. The proprietary ear tips attach directly to the bud's speaker through a special locking mechanism. That makes the tip more malleable to mold itself into the shape of your ear for a proper fit.

Battery life is pretty pedestrian for something at this price. They can go up to 4.5 hours of playback with ANC on — five hours with ANC off — though that's at the default volume level. Thankfully, the charging case can offer another 20 hours of additional listening time. Apple users won't mind that it charges over its proprietary Lightning connector, whereas Android users certainly might. You could get around that, to some degree, by making use of the wireless charging support.

Man wearing the Jabra Elite 65e.

(Image credit: Jabra)

Jabra Elite 65e

Best neckbuds

Reasons to buy

+
Solid ANC performance
+
Superb sound quality
+
Comfortable design
+
Great call quality
+
Multipoint support

Reasons to avoid

-
So-so battery life
-
No aptX support

Neckbuds are not as easy to find nowadays, but they're still out there, and one of the best available now would be the Jabra Elite 65e. With solid ANC onboard, these neckband earbuds can work in louder or quieter confines to block out as much ambiance as possible. It applies well to phone calls, and the neckband will vibrate for incoming calls. 

They're also comfortable because the neck portion rests on the neck, taking much of the weight off the cables going to the earbuds. For that reason, they're easy to wear for longer periods, and when you're done listening, they can just dangle around your neck with little fuss. Multipoint also lets you stay paired to two devices simultaneously.

Jabra's penchant for consistently good sound quality persists, bringing good balance and smooth sound signature with just enough bass. Solid playback continues when ANC is on, too. Their IP54 rating doesn't make them especially rugged, but they should be tough enough to handle a good workout.

Battery life is OK at up to eight hours with ANC on, and 13 hours with it off. Expect your mileage to vary based on what level of volume you're listening to. Keep a USB-C cable handy, just in case. A quick 10-minute charge could get you up to three hours of playback.

Bottom line

The headphone jack has pulled a disappearing act for the last couple of years, putting the onus on wireless Bluetooth headphones to keep the audio flowing to your ears.

If you're willing to pay the price, Sony's WH-1000XM5 are the best noise-canceling headphones you can get right now. They're fully loaded with fantastic noise-canceling technology, great sound, long battery life, handy controls, and a comfortable fit. Unfortunately, finding great wireless headphones or wireless earbuds with equally good ANC performance isn't as easy as it may seem, despite how ubiquitous the feature is now becoming.

What makes Sony's pair even better is that the ANC supports everything else that's good about the WH-1000XM5. They don't look or sound all that different from their predecessors, except phone calls are better, as is any average commute once you can drown out all that background chatter and dull noise.

Ted Kritsonis
Ted Kritsonis

Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.