Rock out with the 5 best noise-canceling headphones of 2024

Bose, Bowers & Wilkins

When you’re trying to relax and enjoy music or a podcast, or when you need to drown out ambient noise during an important call, the best option is a pair of noise-canceling wireless headphones. Then you can focus on the audio you really want to hear. This might also include sound from a TV show or movie or even a popular audiobook. 

Audio from the best headphones sounds lifelike and immersive, but there are other benefits to noise cancellation: It can be used on its own, so you can just bliss out in near total silence. Plus, since noise-canceling headphones have built-in microphones, they also deliver clear, hands-free calls via your smartphone, tablet, smartwatch or computer. Many of the latest noise-canceling headphones have other features, too, like spatial audio with dynamic head tracking and Dolby Atmos support.

Some people find headphones too bulky to carry around or don’t like wearing them for extended periods. In this case, we recommend a premium pair of noise-canceling wireless earbuds.

The best noise-canceling headphones

For the best listening, our in-house consumer technology experts recommend brands with reputations for pushing the limits of what audio tech can offer. 

We also suggest headphones that offer a long battery life and additional features, like spatial audio with dynamic head tracking or Dolby Atmos support. Don’t forget to look for headphones that come with a carrying case — all the better for stress-free travel. Whatever your budget, you can easily find a quality pair of headphones that’ll make audio sound truly immersive.

Best noise-canceling headphones overall: Bose QuietComfort Ultra

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones


Battery Life: Up to 24 hours | Weight: 0.56 pounds | Driver Size: Not disclosed by Bose | Microphones: 12 | Case: Included | Special Features: Supports Bluetooth 5.3; Superior noice cancellation; Customizable sound via Bose Music app 

With the launch of its QuietComfort Ultra headphones, Bose has upped its already impressive noise cancellation reputation. The model also makes audio more customizable via the Bose Music mobile app.

Another major new feature: support for spatial audio. This makes audio sound more immersive — as if it’s emanating from all around you. If you’re listening to music, it’ll sound more like you’re in the middle of a live show. If you’re watching a battle scene in an action movie, it’ll sound as if you’re actually on the field.

We also like the plush ear cups and headband, which make these headphones extremely comfy, even for extended listening sessions. Battery life is up to 24 hours, but there’s a quick-charge feature. Just a 15-minute charge adds up to two hours of listening time — with the immersive audio feature turned on. 

The QuietComfort Ultra headphones work with any Bluetooth smartphone, tablet or computer. They’ll also pair with any Bose TV soundbars to allow for private TV viewing and listening. When it comes to hands-free audio calls, a dozen microphones ensure your voice is heard clearly, while ambient noise is eliminated. This makes the headphones ideal for an office, a commute, or just sitting at home relaxing.

Best budget noise-canceling headphones: Soundcore Space One

Soundcore Space One Headphones


Battery Life: Up to 40 hours | Weight: 9.1 ounces | Driver Size: 40mm | Microphones: 3 | Case: Not included | Special Features: LDAC Hi-Res audio support; 8-degree floating axis design; Reduces 2x more crowd noise (up to 98%) compared to previous versions; Fast Charge feature; Bluetooth 5.3 support

In most cases, our in-house consumer tech experts advise against cheap noise-canceling headphones, because that age-old phrase, “You get what you pay for,” usually applies. But that’s not the case with the Soundcore Space One headphones.

Priced under $100, these headphones offer decent sound quality and impressive active noise cancellation for the price. Soundcore promises that these headphones can reduce ambient sound by up to 98%. But when you need to communicate with someone in the real world, you can select between five levels of transparency.

The Space One headphones offer 40-millimeter drivers. When compressed audio is played, the headphones capture up to three times more data than standard Bluetooth codecs, so you’ll hear more nuance in whatever you’re listening to. You’ll also enjoy up to 40 hours of playtime with ANC turned on. A quick five-minute charge will keep the headphones functioning for up to four additional hours.

From a quality standpoint, these headphones don’t compare to what you get from premium brands like Bose, Sony, Apple or Bowers & Wilkins, so keep your expectations in check. After all, these headphones are less than one-third the price. What the Space One headphones do provide is a really good value with impressive sound quality for the money.

Best noise-canceling headphones for music: Sony WH-1000XM5

Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones


Battery Life: Up to 30 hours | Weight: 8.82 ounces | Driver Size: 30mm | Microphones: 8 | Case: Included | Special Features: Supports Bluetooth 5.2; DSEE Extreme support; Hi-Res audio support; Integrated touch sensors for volume control

The WH-1000XM5s are Sony’s top-of-the-line consumer headphones. They offer superior noise cancellation, up to 30 hours of battery life and support for hi-res audio. These headphones also make hands-free calls sound crystal clear.

Keep in mind, while the WH-1000XM5 headphones support spatial audio, this feature can only be used with a supported streaming music service (such as Amazon Music Unlimited or Tidal); Sony PlayStation games; a “360 Reality Audio Certified Smartphone,” or a compatible Sony TV. You also need to use the Sony app to make use of spatial audio and to customize your listening experience.

One feature we love in these headphones is their support for DSEE Extreme. This tech upscales compressed digital audio files in real-time to restore high-range sounds that would otherwise be lost to compression. Overall, the WH-1000XM5s does a superior job playing any type of music.

The headphones work well with spoken audio — whether it’s from a podcast, audiobook or hands-free phone call. And these headphones have an elegant form factor, so they’ll fit nicely in a work environment and can be used for hands-free calls, or when you just want to block out ambient noise.

Yes, these are expensive headphones, but you get the quality audio that Sony is known for. You’re also paying a slight premium for the Sony brand name.

Best noise-canceling headphones for Apple users: Apple AirPods Max

Apple AirPods Max headphones


Battery Life: Up to 20 hours | Weight: 13.6 ounces | Driver Size: 40mm | Microphones: 8 | Case: Covers just the ear cups | Special Features: Auto pairs with all Apple devices; Offers spatial audio with dynamic head tracking; Can be located using Apple’s Find My service; Functionality is built into the iOS, iPadOS and MacOS operating systems, so no special app is required 

If you can get past the hefty price tag, you’ll be rewarded with amazing audio, adaptive noise cancellation and spatial audio with dynamic head tracking — amazing listening overall.

Whether you use these headphones with Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Podcasts or Apple Arcade, the audio will be clear and robust, no matter the type.

The AirPods Max are relatively lightweight and comfortable. But it’s the spatial audio with dynamic head tracking that makes them truly stand out, especially with supported movies or TV shows. These headphones also work with Apple’s Find My feature and will automatically pair with whichever Apple device you’re using, such as an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, MacBook, or iMac.

The one drawback is that these headphones come with a rubber housing that protects just the ear cups, not the headband, so you need to be careful when transporting them. And the ear cups are connected to the headband using magnets, without the casing to keep them in place, so they could fall off and get lost. What’s great about these headphones, however, is that they don’t require a special app. AirPods Max control features are incorporated into the operating systems for Apple devices. You also get intuitive onboard controls.

Best premium noise-canceling headphones: Bowers & Wilkins Px8

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 Over-Ear Wireless Headphones

Bowers & Wilkins

Battery Life: Up to 30 hours | Weight: 11.29 ounces | Driver Size: 40mm | Microphones: 6 | Case: Included | Special Features: Built-in wear detection sensor; Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX adaptive support; luxury design

When it comes to cars, you could drive a budget-friendly Mazda, or spend more for the unparalleled luxury of a Rolls Royce. Think of the Bowers & Wilkins Px8s as the ultimate in luxury listening.

The Px8s come in your choice of black, tan or burgundy. Prepare to hear 24-bit audio that uses digital sound processing to eliminate distortion and enhance high-frequency detail. In fact, when you stream music or audio from the internet, these headphones decompress the audio in a way that delivers far more detail.

While the headphones work to improve audio quality, the active noise-cancellation feature simultaneously removes ambient sounds. This also applies when using the Px8 headphones for hands-free calls.

Sure, sound quality is essential, but the Px8s also focuses on comfort and appearance. The ear cups and headband are covered with napa leather and use memory foam to provide added comfort, while the metal (not plastic!) frame adds durability and a more sophisticated and premium appearance.

The Bowers & Wilkins Music app gives you maximum control over your listening experience. But if the almost $600 price point is too steep for your budget, the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e headphones are priced at $399 and offer also a truly impressive listening experience packed into a slightly less premium design.

What to look for in noise-canceling headphones

Regardless of the brand name, design or price, what’s most important when it comes to headphones are sound quality, comfort and performance. Here are seven key things to consider:

  • Design: The size, weight and shape of headphones contribute to their comfort level, but can also impact sound quality and the accessibility of onboard controls. Build quality contributes to durability and overall performance.
  • Driver size and audio quality: The larger the drivers in the headphones, the better the audio quality. That said, it’s the tech plus the hardware that determines clarity, level of distortion and the overall quality of the sound. Features like hi-res audio, spatial audio and Dolby Atmos, along with digital signal processing capabilities all make a difference.
  • Number of microphones: The microphones measure ambient sound, so the ANC technology can reduce or eliminate unwanted noise. The microphones also pick up your voice, so you sound clear on calls. In some cases, the microphones know that you’re speaking with someone close by, and automatically activate transparency mode. The more microphones built into the headphones, the better.
  • Noise-canceling technology and transparency mode: Active noise cancellation reduces or removes ambient sound. Adaptive tech adjusts the level of noise cancellation. Some headphones, like the Bose QuietComfort Ultra, let you manually adjust the level of noise cancellation.
  • Battery life: The longer the battery life, the better. Seek out headphones that offer at least 15 hours of listening time per charge. You may also find a quick charge feature useful; plug the headphones into an external power source for just a few minutes to extend listening time by up to several hours.
  • App: Except for Apple AirPods Max, most of the best headphones work with a free mobile app. The app often lets you choose from a handful of audio presets, tweak the audio EQ, use transparency mode, or customize noise cancellation. The AirPods Max offer some of this functionality integrated into iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, MacBooks and iMacs, so a separate app is not needed.
  • Special features: We recommend headphones that support features like spatial audio (or better yet, spatial audio with dynamic head tracking), Dolby Atmos support, or the ability to generate hi-res audio. 

To learn all about the latest consumer tech, read in-depth product reviews, discover informative buyer’s guides for popular products and find the best deals, be sure to check out our constantly updated tech coverage.

Source link

Leave a Comment