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Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones 2022: Shut the world out

Want to shut off from the world around you? Then for some peace and quiet, you’ll want to take a look at our list of the best noise cancelling headphones.

With noise cancelling technology available in affordable and premium pairs, there’s now more choice than ever in picking a pair of ANC headphones. But not every headphone offers the best noise cancelling skills, so we’ve looked at some of the options available, testing them in real world conditions to determine which pair of noise cancelling headphones is worth your cash.

We take in various factors such as noise cancellation, comfort and wireless performance into account, as well as how they sound. The list of headphones below are the ones we rate as the best for noise cancelling.

We’ve also made sure to include a good range of options, with over-ear and in-ear options so there is, hopefully, a pair that will interest you. We’ll be adding more pairs of headphones to this list if they past they muster.

If you’re after a specific type of headphones, you can always have a look at our round-up of the best wireless earbuds or best wireless headphones in general. If you’re looking for ANC in-earphone then check out our best noise cancelling earbuds, and if you want the best of the best, look at our best headphones page.

Best noise-cancelling headphones at a glance

How we test

Learn more about how we test headphones

Not just anybody can review a pair of headphones. You don’t need superhuman hearing to tell what’s good, but you do need to know what to listen out for.

Our headphone tests are done by some of the best and most prolific reviewers in the industry, with years of experience listening to everything from the plasticky freebie earbuds that come with your smartphone, to five-figure beasts of glass and marble. We love music and we want your tunes to sound good, too.

So we listen every pair of headphones we can get on or in our ears. We use a variety of sources, from basic MP3s playing on a laptop to high-quality tracks on dedicated hi-res audio players.

Our test tracks are wide-ranging to give headphones a thorough challenge. They’re also familiar, so we know every track backwards, and we know which bits might trouble the lesser performers.

We listen again and again, and we do that for weeks in case the sound changes – because it usually does. Then we’ll listen to similarly priced rivals and come up with a verdict that reflects the performance and features for the money.

Sony WH-1000XM5

Best noise cancelling over-ears
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Pros

  • Excellent comfort
  • Musical, rich audio performance
  • Impressively clean and natural noise cancellation
  • Superb Ambient Mode
  • Great call quality

Cons

  • Non-foldable design
  • Connection gets choppy in busy areas

Sony’s WH-series of wireless headphones have been some of the best we’ve tested, especially on the noise cancelling, and the WH-1000XM5 are Sony’s latest and greatest effort yet.

Improvements to the noise cancellation bring refinements over the WH-1000XM4, with Sony claiming they deal with voices and higher frequency sounds better than previous generations did. We found that large crowds were silence and commutes were noticeably quiet, though we’d say that with voices the XM4 dismiss them slightly better, though in the XM5’s favour is that the tone of their noise cancellation is much cleaner. The Sony Headphone app offers 20 different levels of noise cancellation, with the Ambient Mode much clearer and more expansive in its performance than the older models.

The biggest change is the look of the headphones, with redesigned earcups (now more oval in shape to fit more ears), tweaked earpads for comfort. They carry a more modern look and like the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and the AirPods Max, they can no longer be collapsed and folded. It’s a change that some won’t like but comparing it to the XM4 model we did feel that it helped reduce the impact of wind noise.

There’s a lot to appreciate with regards to its feature set, the XM5 plunders the best features from the XM4 by carrying over the Quick Attention (which filters outside sound for a brief moment) and Speak To Chat (which pauses music when you’re speaking.

Despite including new V1 processor that lengthened battery life for the WF-1000XM4, the battery life (with ANC) is the same as the older models at 30 hours. With noise cancelling off the XM5 ekes out a couple of hours more than before at 40 hours. Over the course of testing, we managed to get a week’s use before we felt the need to charge, so it’s still plenty enough to last a while.

The steady rate of small, but useful improvements continue in the audio department, with the WH-1000XM5’s mid-range sounding richer, the soundstage more spacious and a low-end of the frequency range that has more depth and texture to it. It’s not a complete overhaul of the sound but in terms of audio quality, they’re still above the likes of the Bose QuietComfort 45 and Technics EAH-A800 we’ve tested.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Sony WH-1000XM5

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Best noise cancelling earbud
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Pros

  • Class-leading noise cancellation for an earbud
  • Neutral sound quality
  • Comfortable fit
  • Excellent transparency mode

Cons

  • Average battery life
  • No higher quality Bluetooth codecs
  • Design affected by wing noise

Of course, it’s not just over-ear cans that offer best-in-class ANC, but also in-earphones as the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds demonstrate.

During our testing, the QuietComfort Earbuds suppressed virtually all the noise around us, with large crowds reduced to a hush, busy traffic sections quietened down and people’s voices reduced to a barely noticeable patter. The Bose managed this type of noise cancellation without any music playing, which provides benefits in terms of hearing health in that you don’t need to turn volume as much. It is, in our opinion, a class-leading performance, better than that of the Sony WF-1000XM4.

Not so class-leading is the battery life, especially for a pair of earbuds prices this much. They only offer a total of 18 hours from its charging case, six hours less than the WF-1000XM4 and 10 hours less than the Sennheiser Momentum True 3 Wireless. While the battery life is enough to get through several days of use, these Bose earphones will likely need to be charged more frequently than other pairs we’ve tested.

The passive noise isolation on offer here also proved rather good, especially thanks to Bose’s StayHear Max ear-tips provide an excellent seal to block noise, as well as also making these comfortable to wear and preventing them from falling out. The fit is so secure that it would make these a good choice for indoor exercise, as will the IPX4 water resistance that keeps water splashes and sweat at bay. When we used them for outdoors running we encountered wind noise, so if you’re looking for a pair specifically for exercise then consider the Bose Sport Earbuds.

The sound quality is typically Bose with a clear, sharp and detailed sound along with a neutral presentation. The top end of the frequency range is particularly bright, and bass is conveyed with decent depth. A recent update has allowed for customisation of the sound, offering options in managing bass and treble performance. The QuietComfort Earbuds have been replaced by the QuietComfort Earbuds II, and we’ll be looking to get a review of those earbuds in the near future.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Apple AirPods Pro 2

Best Apple ANC earbuds
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Pros

  • Excellent ANC
  • Rich, warm sound
  • Charging case gets some neat features

Cons

  • Many of the best features are iPhone and Mac only

It’s not as if Apple has launched many true wireless earbuds with noise cancellation – two in fact – but in the AirPods Pro 2, Apple has, in our opinion, made one of the best noise cancelling true wireless available.

The design is not much different than the original AirPods Pro, carrying the same look but feature an extra ear-tip size (XS) to fit a wider range of ears. The force sensor also has the ability to tweak volume levels, though we found using it was not always the most reliable option. IPX4 resistance against moisture remains, so these earphones could be used for exercise as well as listening to music.

And in terms of sound quality, they’re an improvement over their predecessor. Bass has a richness and warmth to it, but there’s still good clarity to vocals within the soundstage and instruments are defined with more detail.

The star of the show, though, is arguably the AirPod Pro 2’s noise cancelling prowess. Used on the underground and compared to the WF-1000XM4 and they edged the Sony buds with how much high frequency noise and rumble of the train that they removed.

The noise cancellation is adaptive, ramping and down depending on how much noise is detected in the surrounding environment. The same is true of the transparency mode, which has been improved. We found it piped through a clearer, more realistic impression of the world around us. Again though, the lack of control over the noise cancelling/transparency is a bug bear.

Battery life is good at six hours per bud and 30 hours overall. That’s a better figure overall than the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II (6 and 24 hours) and around similar to the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 (7 and 28 hours). There are much cheaper noise cancelling buds, such as the JBL Live Pro 2, that offer more longevity (10 and 40 hours).

If you’re an iOS user in need of a ANC true wireless then arguably no other integrates as well as the AirPod Pro. Non-iOS users will want to look elsewhere, as many of the features such as Spatial Audio are exclusive to the iOS ecosystem.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full Review: Apple AirPods Pro 2

Final UX3000

Best affordable noise cancelling headphones
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Pros

  • Good comfort
  • Effective ANC
  • Rich, warm sound
  • Solid battery life
  • Simple operation

Cons

  • Stripped-down feature set
  • Minimalist looks may be interpreted as bland

The Final UX3000 demonstrate the point that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get solid noise cancelling headphones.

The UX3000 is not the most feature-packed of headphones, lacking a transparency mode and app support, but the active noise cancellation is solid for the price, dealing with busy road junctions and crowds of people well. You can even use noise cancellation without powering the headphones if you just want some peace and quiet. We’d recommend turning the ANC on if you’re listening to music, as much like the Ausounds AU-XT ANC, they are a pair that sounds better with it on.

We also found battery life here to be good enough for around a week when used for a few hours a day, the battery rated at 25 hours with the ANC on and up to 35 with it off. The design is minimalistic and simple, the UX3000 proved comfortable to wear for extended periods, which we found made them a good partner for commutes into work.

The finish is what Final refer to as ‘Shibo’, an old Japanese term that refers to wrinkled paper or leather. and here it is used to repel dirt and dust. With no touch or gesture controls in sight, Final has utilised a handful of physical buttons for volume, ANC, and media playback, which makes this an accessible pair of headphones to operate.

The audio here is some of the best you’ll find for less than £150, producing a confident, musical performance with weightiness to the bass, expressive highs and rich mids. The warmth of their sound means they’re quite as detailed or incisive as while the Cleer Enduro ANC model, but overall we found the UX3000 to have a better handle over music, showcasing a good depth, solid dynamics and decently wide soundstage.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Final UX3000

Microsoft Surface Headphones 2

Best office noise cancelling headphones
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Pros

  • Very comfortable to wear
  • Smooth, textured mid-range
  • Excellent noise cancellation
  • Rotary dial controls
  • aptX Bluetooth support

Cons

  • Could be more exciting
  • Soft bass performance
  • Battery life could still use improvements

In need of noise cancelling headphones for the office? Well there’s a familiar name who’ve produced a pair of headphones that would make for a great choice in an office environment.

The Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 might not be the flashiest pair or grab the headlines, but these cans do impress with their performance. The design is excellent, offering tremendous levels of comfort with soft earpads and a lightweight frame. We feel these headphones could easily be worn for hours without discomfort.

For office users (and indeed Office users) there are Windows specific features that includes dictation in Word, Outlook mailbox and PowerPoint. The Play My Emails in Outlook feature is iOS compatible but requires a subscription and seems to only be available in the U.S.

Battery life isn’t massive at just around 18 hours, which is much less than the Sony WH-1000XM5‘s 30 hours. With regular use our reviewer felt like the battery loses charge much quicker than it should.

On much better terms are the controls, which we felt were wonderfully intuitive to use. The rotary dials on each earcup made it simple and easy to adjust the volume and noise cancelling levels at a moment’s whim, with bleeping sounds to indicate whether you’ve gone up and down.

There are 13 levels of noise cancellation, which does sound like overkill but does offer ample room to find a level that suits you. We found the ANC to be formidable. General sounds close by evaporated as we walked past, vehicles were reduced to less distracting ‘whooshing’ sounds and with music playing at normal levels, we couldn’t much of what was around us. This is an excellent noise cancelling performance.

And the headphones also sound very good too. Bass errs to being warm and soft and can sound tubby from time to time when more punch is required. The mid-range is rich and expressive with good clarity and dynamism with voices that draws a listener in. They’re not as aggressive or as exciting as the WH-1000XM5 can be, but for those who enjoy a laid-back sound, these are a good showcase for that approach.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Sony WH-1000XM5

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FAQs

What are the best noise cancelling earbuds?

Our vote goes to the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. No other earbud we’ve tested offers as much suppression as they do, though it comes at the cost of reduced battery life compared to rivals. They’ve also been replaced by the sequel, but are still available to purchase at a reduced price.

What are the best noise cancelling over-ears?

Sony’s WH-1000XM5 still tops out list of the best over-ears. with a superb noise cancelling performance that suppresses most sounds very effectively.

What are the best noise cancelling headphones for the office?

The Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 are a good shout for office use with their Swift Pair functionality for Windows 10 PCs.

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