BUY THE BEST NOISE-CANCELING HEADPHONES RIGHT NOW
Noise-canceling headphones are now more important than ever before, whether you’re wearing them for your morning commute, traveling, or simply trying to get some peace and quiet while working at home. And you have a lot of wonderful options to choose from.
The most important criteria for choosing the best noise-canceling headphones haven’t changed, regardless of how you use them: comfort, how well they eliminate outside noise, sound quality, battery life, and whether they support multipoint pairing, which allows you to connect to two audio sources at once. The best noise-canceling headphones for you will vary depending on which of those factors you value most, but 4 is our overall favorite. They provide a nice balance of sound quality, durability, and noise cancellation.
There are still lots of possibilities if you want something a little different. The from Bose are ideal for long-haul trips since they provide optimum comfort. If you have an iPhone and expect nothing less than the best, the AirPods Max are worth every penny. If sound quality is your primary concern, Sennheiser and Shure make some excellent ANC headphones. Are you looking for the best headphones for Zoom? Both Microsoft and Bose have formidable competitors. If you’re looking for something a little more stylish, Marshall’s headphones might just do the trick.
THE BEST NOISE-CANCELING HEADPHONES:
Sony’s WH-1000XM4 may appear to be identical to the preceding 1000XM3s, but the business has made minor design changes for enhanced comfort on days when you’re wearing the M4s for long periods of time.
Noise cancellation has increased even more since the M3s, placing Sony on par with Bose in terms of overall efficacy at isolating your environment. The sound quality is almost equal to the prior headphones — powerful, full, and highly enjoyable — and the 30-hour battery life is also identical. However, Sony has solved two of the M3s’ greatest flaws this time around: the 1000XM4s have improved speech microphone performance and can now connect to two devices at once, allowing you to keep track of what’s going on on your phone while working on your laptop or tablet.
When the headphones identify you’ve started chatting, the optional “speak to chat” mode will instantly pause your music and pipe in ambient noise, which is great when you’re grabbing a coffee. The 1000XM4s, unlike their predecessors, can detect when they’ve been taken out of your ears for auto-pause. They’re still $350, but you’re getting more bang for your buck with the 1000XM4s than previously. If you’re not in a hurry, speculations suggest that Sony’s next flagship noise-canceling headphones could be on the way soon.
QUIETCOMFORT 45 BOSE
The QC45 headphones from Bose are a welcome return to form. They have a similar design to the QC35II, which means they’re incredibly light and comfortable on your head even when worn all day. The oval ear cups never tire your ears, and when it comes to comfort, no one beats Bose. The best part is that, unlike the Noise Canceling Headphones 700, these can be folded to make travel easier.
Bose improved active noise suppression slightly and increased battery life to 24 hours from the previous 20. In addition, the QC45s contain a USB-C port rather than the Micro USB socket found on their predecessors. They also have a transparency mode for times you need to talk to someone quickly or want to be more aware of your surroundings.
The QC45s have a somewhat more balanced sound than the bassy . However, you can change the default sound: In February 2022, Bose released a firmware upgrade that enabled the option to modify EQ. One annoyance is that there is no way to disable noise suppression without switching to transparency mode. There is no basic “off” mode, so it’s either one or the other. I’m still expecting that future software upgrades from Bose will solve both of these flaws, but don’t hold your breath.
MAX APPLE AIRPODS
When Apple announced a $549 set of noise-canceling headphones, there was some price shock. The AirPods Max are substantially more expensive than our other suggestions. However, Apple’s build quality is exceptional: the ear cups are made of breathable mesh fabric rather than the plastic found in many noise-canceling headphones. There’s no disputing that these are large headphones. Apart from Apple’s refusal to include a headphone cable in the box, the AirPods Max have a premium feel about them. I also like how easy it is to operate things with the digital crown rather than relying on hit-or-miss motions like taps and swipes.
The most essential feature is that the AirPods Max have the highest audio quality of any high-end Bluetooth headphones. You’ll find yourself skipping around your music library just to hear what they bring out in your favorite songs since they offer an immersive, wide soundstage and outstanding dynamics. Apple’s noise cancelling is on pace with Sony and Bose, and no one does transparency mode quite like Apple does; at times, it can make you forget you’re wearing headphones. Extra capabilities like Spatial Audio (surround sound for movies and TV shows) and easy switching across Apple devices make the steep price a little easier to swallow.
However, the AirPods Max are not without flaws. The carrying case is horrible, the battery life is just average for the category, and they’re developed with Apple’s ecosystem in mind, just like conventional AirPods. If you don’t live in the iPhone and Mac universe, it’s considerably more difficult to justify spending $550 on them.
SHURE AONIC 50 AND SENNHEISER MOMENTUM WIRELESS 3
Shure Aonic 50
Both Sennheiser and Shure are terrific alternatives with superb sound quality and adequate noise cancellation if you favor enjoying your music over drowning out the world. Sennheiser’s Momentum Wireless headphones deliver clear, bass-rich, and dynamic sound while providing unparalleled comfort. The Shure Aonic 50 headphones, which support sophisticated codecs like apt-X HD and LDAC, are no exception.
Both headphones can be used wired with a 3.5mm headphone socket or over USB-C if audio quality is important to you. In terms of build quality and materials, they all outperform Bose and other more mainstream options. With both of these selling for the same $400 price tag, that luxury feel does demand a bit extra. Although their noise-canceling isn’t as good as the best, you still get useful software features like ambient passthrough and adjustable EQ in addition to the great sound.
MICROSOFT SURFACE 2 HEADPHONES
Microsoft preserved the innovative turning-dial control mechanism of the first-generation pair with the Surface Headphones 2, but improved sound quality and battery life. You’ll never want to go back to hunting for button nubs after you’ve become used to altering volume or noise cancellation levels simply by spinning the dial around each ear cup.
The Surface Headphones 2 are also a great choice for productivity, as its multipoint pairing works flawlessly when your phone rings while you’re working on your PC. Something about the way Microsoft handles multiple Bluetooth connections appears to be more stable and consistent than the rest of the industry. When I’m linked to two devices at once, I rarely get any issues. It’s difficult to oversell this convenience during work-at-home life, and you get it for a lot less money than Sony or Bose headphones.
HEADPHONES WITH NOISE CANCELLATION BOSE 700
The Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are another illustration of why Bose is famous with noise-canceling headphones. They feature good sound quality, good voice call quality, and efficient noise cancellation. In the perspective of many, the choice between these and Sony’s 1000XM3 headphones is a coin flip. Sony has a longer battery life and a more vibrant, forceful sound, but Bose’s support for multipoint pairing with two devices at the same time is a major plus. Even while they aren’t as light as the company’s less priced QC35 II headphones, the Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
When it’s time to join a Zoom conference or make a phone call, you’ll be heard clearly on the other end, which isn’t the case with all of the wireless headphones on this list. The microphone arrangement of Bose’s Noise Canceling Headphones 700 is unparalleled, though Jabra also performs admirably. The Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are rated for up to 20 hours of listening time, which is less than the 30 hours you can get with Sony or other selections below.
ANCIENT MARSHALL MONITOR II
Marshall’s wireless headphones have become unexpectedly popular, and the company’s most expensive pair is also its best yet. The Monitor II ANC headphones cost $320, putting them on par with Bose, Sony, and other tech companies that have been producing premium noise-canceling headphones for years.
Marshall doesn’t quite equal them in terms of sound quality or noise cancellation; the Monitor IIs offer a warm, textured tone and do a good job of reducing ambient noise. However, they stand out in terms of appearance, with a design that pays homage to the company’s history. The Monitor IIs are easy to handle thanks to Marshall’s characteristic gold joystick, which folds up for easy transport.
They can also last up to 30 hours with the NC feature turned on, or up to 45 hours if you’re already somewhere quiet and don’t need it. This outstanding longevity outperforms our top picks. At this price, the loss of AAC codec support sucks, but I’ve always enjoyed wearing the Monitor IIs. They’re more than just a brand of amplifier emblazoned on a pair of headphones.
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