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Not only are noise-canceling headphones less expensive than ever, but they also have better audio quality and include features like extended battery life, spatial audio and the ability to pair with multiple devices. Our pick for the best noise-canceling headphone overall is the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2; this model is also our pick for best wireless headphones overall.
We’ve also seen a rather dramatic improvement in the ability of noise cancellation technology to greatly reduce or eliminate unwanted ambient noise. This lets your audio to sound richer and more immersive than ever. In fact, even without playing any music, most of the noise canceling headphones featured in this roundup allow you to use the noise cancellation to tune out the outside world and enjoy a bubble of silence in an otherwise noisy environment.
After extensive testing and research, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of what we’ve found to be the best noise canceling headphones currently available. Keep reading to discover the others that made it into our roundup.
- Best Noise-Canceling Headphones Overall: Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2
- Best Noise-Canceling Headphones For Everyday Use: Sony WF-1000XM5
- Best Value Noise-Canceling Headphones: V-Moda S-80
- Best Noise-Canceling Headphones For Hands-Free Phone Calls: Bose Noise Canceling 700
- Best Noise-Canceling Headphones For iPhone Users: Apple AirPods Max
- Best Noise-Canceling Headphones For Travelers: Bose Quiet Comfort 45
- Best Noise-Canceling Headphones For Audiophiles: Bowers & Wilkins Px8
How We Chose The Best Noise-Canceling Headphones
We combined research with hands-on testing and experience. We also consulted with product experts and industry leaders to help us determine the products that made the cut. We carefully evaluated each noise canceling headphone’s overall audio quality, noise cancellation capabilities, design, comfort, battery life, connectivity and more. We also paid attention to what sets each of the headphones apart from its competition.
What Is The Difference Between Passive, Active and Adaptive Noise Cancellation?
To keep things simple, passive noise cancellation refers to how the physical design of the headphones—including the foam and other materials within the earcups—muffle ambient noise as it reaches your ear canals by forming a seal around your ears. Passive noise cancellation typically works best reducing mid- to high-frequency sounds by between 15dB and 30dB.
Meanwhile, active noise cancellation (ANC) takes advantage of technology within the headphones to cancel out ambient noise. Headphones with ANC use built-in microphones to gauge the level of outside noise and counteract it by creating a sound wave of equal amplitude that’s inverted from the original sound wave. This keeps the audio you want to listen to as clear as possible. ANC often has difficulty blocking high-pitched sounds or sounds that constantly fluctuate in volume and frequency. It works best with consistent low-frequency sounds, like an airplane engine or the sound of an air conditioner, for example.
Adaptive noise cancellation kicks active noise cancellation up a notch and is the most desirable. It does this by constantly monitoring ambient sounds and countering it with AI-based, auto-adjusting noise cancellation in real-time. This allows the headphones to remove most or all of the ambient sound where you are, even if the noise level constantly changes. While doing this, the headphones maintain the audio you want to hear (including hands-free phone calls) at a consistent volume. The Sony WF-1000XM5s are an example of headphones that use adaptive noise cancellation.
The Bose Noise Canceling 700s are an example of headphones that have manually adjustable noise cancellation, but not automatic and adaptive noise cancellation. The result can be the same, but it requires you to choose manually which of the 11 noise cancellation levels works best in any given situation.
Most headphones with active or adaptive noise cancellation also take advantage of passive noise cancellation. We recommend buying headphones with adaptive noise cancellation, since this approach gives you the most flexibility.
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