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The Best Noise-Canceling Headphones in 2023: Ranked and Rated

Bestcovery's top picks for best noise canceling headphones
  1. Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700
  2. Sony WH-1000XM5
  3. Apple AirPods Max
  4. Apple AirPods Pro 2
  5. Buyer's Guide

In the hunt for high-quality audio equipment, especially noise-canceling headphones, it can be difficult to gauge which one is the right option for your particular needs and listening preferences. To make the search easier, we've looked through several of the most popular noise-canceling headphone options and compared their specs and reviews to give you a better idea of how these devices might fit into your audio setup, so you can make a more informed decision when you buy your next pair.

Price Legend
$: 0 - 200
$$: 201 - 400
$$$: 401+

Bestcovery's Top Noise-Canceling Headphones

Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 - Best Noise Cancelling Headphones

Bose has long been considered one of the highest performing brands in sound quality, so it's probably not a huge surprise that their Noise Canceling Headphones 700 has earned a spot on our list. With excellent sound fidelity, 11 levels of noise-canceling, and a wide variety of customization options, the 700 puts you in control of the unique soundscape of your audio to better match your listening preferences. One potential drawback, depending on your usage, is the fact that this device requires you to use an official Bose app to connect and control playback, which some may find inconvenient.

  • Unparalleled noise-canceling performance
  • Rich, high-fidelity sound with plenty of customization options
  • Very soft and comfortable
  • Requires use of an app to connect and control playback
  • Cushions have been reported to tear

Connectivity: Bluetooth and 3.5 mm cable
Battery Life: 20 hours
Noise-Canceling: 11 levels of active noise canceling
Style: Over-Ear
Water/Weatherproof: Not waterproof, can withstand light moisture
Sound Quality: Excellent sound quality with lots of customization options
Voice-Calling: Yes
Other Features: Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, Stainless steel headband, Touch-sensitive controls,
Comfort: Lightweight and ergonomic

Price: $$

Sony WH-1000XM5 - Best Audio Experience

A definite high-point in the audio market, Sony's WH-1000XM5 is well-regarded among audiophiles, with high-fidelity sound and a boatload of easy-to-use smart controls and special features. However, given its price, some users have been disappointed in its durability. Some users have reported breakages (namely, earcups popping out and being difficult to fix) after just a few months. That said, the sound quality, smart noise-canceling, technical features, and audio engineering are all top-notch.

  • Great sound quality with adjustable EQ and HD noise-canceling features
  • Long battery life
  • Strong Bluetooth connectivity
  • Durability issues in the ear cups
  • Discomfort for some users depending on head shape
  • Some users experience compatibility problems with certain video-calling apps

Connectivity: Bluetooth and 3.5mm cable
Battery Life: 30 hours
Noise-Canceling: Active
Style: Over-Ear
Water/Weatherproof: No
Sound Quality: Dark sound signature with boosted bass, but customizable through in-app EQ
Voice-Calling: Yes
Other Features: Foldable design, Wearing detection, Touch controls, Built-in Alexa, Ambient sound control, HD Noise Canceling Processor QN1
Comfort: Lightweight, contours well to the head for most users, though your experience may vary

Price: $$$

Apple AirPods Max - Most Comfortable

Due to Apple's well-polarized fans and detractors, it can be difficult to assess the AirPods Max, especially in a space as opinionated as over-ear personal audio. However, all things considered, the AirPods Max is a highly competent — if expensive — piece of equipment. These headphones are well-featured (including digital crown, spatial audio, transparency mode, and "Find My" functionality), have high-quality construction and performance, and have an ergonomic sleekness one comes to expect of Apple. Sadly, the characteristic Apple-isms don't stop at the positives. The AirPods Max does not have a standard audio jack, and using them with third-party devices can be a little spotty. See our list for the best headphone jack adapters. However, if you are all-in on the Apple ecosystem, they can provide an impressively seamless experience from device to device.

  • Noise canceling function and Transparency mode are impressive
  • Spatial audio gives a "surround sound" feel
  • Very comfortable with ergonomic controls
  • No 3.5mm jack - requires a proprietary adapter for wired use with third-party devices
  • No manual shut-off; always on when not charging
  • Expensive

Connectivity: Bluetooth, Lightning Cable
Battery Life: 20 hours
Noise-Canceling: Active
Style: Over-Ear
Water/Weatherproof: No
Sound Quality: Rich, high-fidelity sound with good bass
Voice-Calling: Yes
Other Features: Magnetic charging case, Apple "Find My" support, Siri support, Digital Crown, multiple color options
Comfort: Mesh canopy for great weight distribution and memory foam cushions

Price: $$$

Apple AirPods Pro 2 - Most On Trend

When it comes to on-the-go, in-ear, noise-canceling audio, Apple's AirPods Pro 2 has become the de facto standard. Not only is it sweat- and water-resistant, it also features a customizable fit that doesn't come out without prompting. As such, the AirPods Pro 2 are a great option for sports and activity. They are also feature-rich and have customizable EQ settings if you know where to look. However, while the noise-canceling is impressive for in-ear, they don't quite measure up to the sound isolation of over-ear options. Some users have also reported that Siri activation can be a little spotty.

  • Noise-canceling function and transparency mode are improved over previous model
  • Spatial audio gives a "surround sound" feel
  • Good fit and customizability compared to other in-ear buds
  • Noise-cancellation is great for in-ear, but not on par with over-ear models
  • Siri activation can be spotty

For more like this, see our lists for the best earbud-style headphones and the best wireless earbuds.

Connectivity: Bluetooth
Battery Life: 6 hours
Noise-Canceling: Active
Style: In-ear Earbuds
Water/Weatherproof: Sweat and water resistant, but should not be immersed
Sound Quality: High-quality sound and good bass. Adaptive EQ and customizable EQ settings
Voice-Calling: Yes
Other Features: Magnetic charging case, Apple "Find My" support, touch control, Siri support, skin detection, motion detection, speech detection
Comfort: Customizable fit

Price: $

Buyer's Guide

Bestcovery's Ranking Metrics

We compared our top 4 Noise-Canceling Headphones based on the following criteria.

Connectivity: Do the headphones connect through Bluetooth or a wired connection? If wired, what kind of cord is used?
Battery Life: How long do the headphones last on a single charge?
Noise-Canceling: Is noise-canceling mainly active or passive?
Style: How do the headphones fit on the head? Over-ear or in-ear earbuds?
Water/Weatherproof: Can the headphones handle water, and if so, to what degree?
Sound Quality: What do users say about the sound quality and fidelity?
Voice-Calling: Can the headphones be used for phone calls, video conferences, etc.?
Other Features: What special features do the headphones have to set them apart from the competition?
Comfort: How comfortable are the headphones, and what comfort features do they offer?

How Noise-Canceling Headphones Work

There are two basic forms of noise-canceling: Passive and Active.

Passive noise-canceling uses form-fitting seals and sound-proofing techniques to physically block external sound from reaching your ears.

Active noise-canceling, on the other hand, uses a complex system of microphones and signal processing to cancel out the specific background noise around you. To achieve this, a pair of noise-canceling headphones will listen to the noises around you to understand the precise shape of the sound waves reaching your ears. Along with whatever audio you play through them, the headphones will also play an opposite-shaped soundwave to the external sound, effectively flattening out the waveform and leaving a fresh canvas of clean silence around your ears, allowing you to focus solely on your audio of choice.

Frequently Asked Questions for Noise-Canceling Headphones

Are good noise-canceling headphones worth it?

Since this is a complex technology, not all noise-canceling headphones are made the same, which can lead to huge variances in quality. It also means that noise-canceling headphones tend to be on the higher end price-wise. It takes a lot of research and engineering to make high-performing equipment of this type, and the best are often made by companies that put a great deal of care into the tech and user experience. Though there might be hidden gems at lower prices, you tend to get what you pay for when it comes to noise-canceling headphones.

If noise-canceling isn’t your priority, take a look at our list for best headphones overall.

Why does active noise cancellation give some people a headache?

Though most people don't experience headaches while using noise-cancellation, some people find that using it can have those adverse effects. One common reason is the pressure change that active cancellation creates in the inner ear. The closed seal, paired with consistent pressure, can lead to headaches for those who are sensitive to it. Additionally, some may also be sensitive to specific frequencies within the negative sound used to cancel their surrounding exterior noise.

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