The Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones of 2023: Reviews and Buying Advice

In a world filled with distractions, finding peace and focus can be a challenge. That’s where noise-cancelling headphones come into play, providing an oasis of tranquility in the midst of chaos. Whether you’re a busy professional, a traveler, or a fitness enthusiast, the right pair of noise-cancelling headphones can make all the difference. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the best noise-cancelling headphones of 2023, compare over-ear and in-ear options, and discuss innovative features and budget-friendly choices. Get ready to experience the ultimate audio escape.

Short Summary

  • Top noise-cancelling headphones of 2023 include Sony’s WH-1000XM5, Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, and Apple AirPods Max.

  • Consider over-ear vs in ear options for comfort, portability & effectiveness when choosing the right pair.

  • Look into budget friendly models with noteworthy features such as Adaptive Noise Cancellation & Solar Charging to optimize performance and usage needs.

Top Noise-Cancelling Headphones of 2023

When it comes to active noise cancellation, there are three top brands that consistently outperform the competition: Sony, Bose, and Apple. Each offers a unique set of features that cater to different preferences, but all deliver exceptional sound quality and effective noise canceling performance.

One highly-rated option is Sony’s WH-1000XM5 over-ear headphones, which have been praised by both Wirecutter and CNN Underscored for their superb noise canceling performance, especially when it comes to blocking higher-frequency sounds like voices. These headphones also boast a speak-to-chat feature, allowing users to seamlessly engage in conversation without removing their headphones.

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 are another top choice, garnering acclaim from Wirecutter for their excellent audio quality and noise canceling performance. Additionally, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II stand out as the most effective noise-canceling earbuds available, providing an impressive combination of comfort, sound quality, and noise cancellation.

Apple’s AirPods. Max are a popular choice for those fully immersed in the Apple ecosystem, offering optimal noise cancellation in the airplane band, superior call quality, and multiple microphones that effectively reduce wind noise. However, they can struggle when it comes to blocking higher-frequency sounds, such as a baby’s cries or people’s conversations.

For Android users, ANC headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM5 are ideal, as they support the LDAC codec for hi-res audio. Regardless of your device preference, the key is to find headphones with great noise cancellation, long battery life, and a comfortable fit that suits your specific needs.

Over-Ear vs. In-Ear Noise-Cancelling Headphones

When choosing between over-ear and in-ear noise-cancelling headphones, it’s important to consider your personal preferences in terms of comfort, portability, and effectiveness. Both types of headphones can provide excellent noise cancellation, but they each have their own unique advantages and disadvantages.

Over-ear headphones are typically more comfortable and provide better sound quality, but they are bulky.

Over-Ear Headphones

Over-ear headphones excel in providing efficient active noise cancellation, reducing ambient noise by an average of 10 decibels in the “airplane-cabin band” between 100 Hz and 1,200 Hz. They also offer a comfortable and immersive audio experience, making them ideal for extended listening sessions. Some popular over-ear noise-cancelling headphones include the Sony WH-1000XM5, Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, and Apple AirPods Max. These headphones boast impressive features such as customizable sound profiles, transparency modes, and long battery life, ensuring a premium listening experience.

However, over-ear headphones can be bulkier and less portable than their in-ear counterparts, making them potentially less convenient for travel or on-the-go use. Additionally, they may not be as comfortable for individuals who wear glasses, as the frames can interfere with the headphones’ seal against the ears and cheeks.

In-Ear Headphones

In-ear headphones, on the other hand, offer a more compact and travel-friendly option, while still providing comparable sound quality and noise cancellation to on ear headphones and over-ear models. They can be an excellent choice for those who wear glasses or prefer a less obtrusive listening experience.

However, in-ear headphones require insertion into the ear canals, which some individuals may find uncomfortable. Furthermore, battery life is generally shorter for in-ear models, especially for true wireless designs, which lack the option to run in wired mode when the batteries are depleted.

Notable in-ear noise-cancelling headphones include the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, Sony WF-1000XM4, and Apple AirPods Pro. These models provide effective noise cancellation, exceptional audio quality, and comfortable, secure fits, making them excellent options for those who prefer an in-ear design.

Active vs. Passive Noise Cancellation

Understanding the differences between active and passive noise cancellation technologies can help you make an informed decision when choosing the perfect pair of noise-cancelling headphones. While both methods aim to reduce ambient noise, they work in distinct ways and are more effective in different situations.

Active noise cancellation (ANC) works by detecting ambient sound waves and producing an inverse sound wave to counteract them. This technology is typically more effective at reducing lower frequencies of sound, such as the hum of a jet engine or an air conditioner. Many ANC headphone manufacturers also offer mobile apps that allow users to customize noise cancellation levels to suit their preferences.

Passive noise cancellation, on the other hand, relies on physical barriers and dampers built into the headphones to block or absorb noise. This method is generally more effective at blocking out higher frequencies, such as voices or music. When selecting noise-cancelling headphones, it’s important to consider which type of noise cancellation will be most effective for your specific needs and environment.

Budget-Friendly Noise-Cancelling Options

If you’re looking for effective noise-cancelling headphones without breaking the bank, there are several budget-friendly options available. While these models may not offer all the bells and whistles of their premium counterparts, they still deliver decent performance and can provide a significant improvement over regular headphones.

One such option is the Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC, which offers a comfortable fit, decent noise cancellation, and a customizable EQ via its companion app. Another cost-effective choice is the 1More SonoFlow set, providing good sound quality, adjustable sound, and an impressive 50-hour battery life with ANC on (70 hours with it off).

The Monoprice Horizon ANC earphones also provide a budget-friendly solution with rich sound quality, competent active noise cancellation, and support for AAC and AptX Adaptive codecs. While these headphones may not have all the advanced features of more expensive options, they still offer a significant upgrade over non-noise-cancelling models.

Noteworthy Features in Noise-Cancelling Headphones

The latest noise canceling headphone models come equipped with a range of innovative features and technologies to enhance your listening experience. These advancements not only improve noise cancellation performance, but also provide additional functionality and customization options. Adaptive noise cancellation, for example, adjusts in real-time based on environmental sounds, providing a more personalized and effective noise reduction.

Apple’s Adaptive Transparency mode is another notable feature, offering a more natural way to monitor your surroundings while still protecting your hearing from noises exceeding 85dB. Solar charging is yet another emerging technology in the world of noise-cancelling headphones, allowing users to power their devices using sunlight. This feature not only extends battery life, but also promotes a more environmentally friendly approach to powering your audio gear.

Battery Life and Charging

Battery life is an important consideration when choosing noise-cancelling headphones, especially for those who plan to use them frequently or on long trips. Noise cancellation can impact battery life, with earbuds typically providing 5-8 hours of battery life when ANC is enabled and 7-12 hours when it is disabled. Full-size headphones offer lengthy battery life. With ANC enabled, they provide up to 25-30 hours of use, and with it disabled, they can deliver 40-50 hours.

To optimize battery life, ensure to switch off noise cancellation when not in use, avoid leaving headphones in direct sunlight, and charge them periodically. Some noise-cancelling headphones also feature quick-charge capabilities, allowing you to gain several hours of use after just a few minutes of charging.

In addition to battery life, consider the charging options available for your headphones. Many noise-cancelling headphones now utilize USB-C ports for charging, providing faster and more efficient charging times. Wireless charging is also becoming increasingly popular, offering a convenient and clutter-free charging solution.

Noise-Cancelling Headphones for Specific Use Cases

Noise-cancelling headphones can be tailored to specific situations and use cases, such as travel, work, and exercise. By selecting the right headphones for your needs, you can ensure a more enjoyable and effective listening experience.

Noise canceling headphones can help cancel noise, reduce distractions, and improve focus, allowing you to concentrate.


For travelers, the ideal noise-cancelling headphones should be lightweight, comfortable, and capable of effectively blocking out low-frequency noises, such as airplane engines. As mentioned earlier, the Sony WH-1000XM5 over-ear headphones are a top choice for travelers, praised by Wirecutter for their exceptional noise canceling performance and comfortable fit.

Another excellent option for travel is the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, which provide a compact and travel-friendly design without compromising sound quality and noise cancellation.

When selecting the perfect pair of noise-cancelling headphones for travel, it’s important to consider factors such as comfort, portability, and noise cancellation performance.


In a work environment, noise cancellation can be crucial for maintaining focus and productivity. The best noise-cancelling headphones for work should provide excellent call quality, comfort, and effective noise cancellation to block out office chatter and other distractions.

Some suitable options for work include:

  • Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700: exceptional audio quality and noise canceling performance

  • Sony WH-1000XM5: impressive noise cancellation capabilities and clear call quality

  • Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2: impressive noise cancellation capabilities and clear call quality

These headphones are ideal choices for work settings.


When it comes to exercise, the perfect noise-cancelling headphones should be lightweight, offer a secure fit, and be capable of blocking out low-frequency noises such as gym equipment. Some popular options for exercise include the Sony WH-1000XM4, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II, and the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2.

These headphones not only provide effective noise cancellation, but also feature sweat resistance, secure fits, and ambient sound modes to ensure a safe and enjoyable workout experience. When selecting noise-cancelling headphones for exercise, it’s important to prioritize comfort, durability, and performance.

How to Choose the Right Noise-Cancelling Headphones

With so many noise-cancelling headphones available on the market, choosing the right pair can be a daunting task. To help you make an informed decision, consider the following factors:

  • Comfort

  • Sound quality

  • Noise cancellation effectiveness

  • Budget

Ensure the headphones are comfortable to wear for extended periods, especially if you plan to use them for long trips or during work. Prioritize headphones with excellent sound quality, as this will enhance your overall headphones sound experience. Look for headphones with effective noise cancellation, particularly in the frequency range most relevant to your needs. Determine how much you are willing to spend on noise-cancelling headphones and focus on options within your budget.

By taking these factors into account, you can narrow down your options and select the perfect pair of noise-cancelling headphones that best suit your needs, preferences, and budget.

Learn more, visit Noise Cancelling Headphones and How to Choose Them.


In conclusion, noise-cancelling headphones provide an invaluable tool for enhancing focus, productivity, and enjoyment in various settings. From top-of-the-line options like the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 to budget-friendly alternatives, there is a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to suit every need and preference. By considering factors such as comfort, sound quality, noise cancellation effectiveness, and budget, you can make an informed decision and invest in the perfect pair of headphones to elevate your audio experience. So go ahead and immerse yourself in a world of crystal-clear sound, free from distractions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are noise cancelling headphones worth buying?

Noise-canceling headphones are essential for finding peace and quiet while commuting, traveling, or even working at home. They prevent poor listening hygiene by blocking out droning sounds like computer fans or engines, as well as providing a better overall listening experience when playing music or podcasts.

Thus, noise-canceling headphones are definitely worth buying.

What headphones cancel out the most noise?

The WH-1000XM5 from Sony are the best noise-cancelling headphones available, delivering unparalleled noise cancellation and fantastic sound quality. They offer the ultimate in comfort for long listening sessions and are worth the extra investment.

How does noise cancelling headphones work?

Noise-cancelling headphones use active noise control (ANC) to cancel the lower-frequency portions of the noise. A built-in microphone listens to the ambient sound waves and then creates sound waves that are exactly out of phase with the undesired sounds, effectively neutralising the surrounding noise.

This allows for a more immersive audio experience as you can focus solely on the music coming from your headphones.

Are over-ear or in-ear noise-cancelling headphones better?

Depending on personal comfort, portability, and effectiveness, both over-ear and in-ear noise-cancelling headphones can provide excellent noise cancellation, making either option a viable choice.

Can noise-cancelling headphones be used without playing music?

Yes, noise-cancelling headphones can be used without playing music to reduce ambient noise and create a quieter atmosphere.

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