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Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones 2022: Block the world out

Want to block out the outside noise so it’s just you and whatever you’re listening to? Then you’ll want to take a look at our list of the best noise cancelling headphones.

Knowing which pair to go for can be difficult, so we’ve decided to step in and offer a helping hand. We’ve looked at some of the best options available, testing them in real world conditions to determine which pair of noise cancelling headphones is worth your while, taking various factors such as their noise cancellation, comfort and wireless performance into account, as well as the main factor, how they sound.

We’ve also made sure to include a good range of options, with over-ear and in-ear options so there is, at the very least, 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 headphones
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Pros

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

Cons

  • Don’t fold anymore
  • Connection can get choppy in busy areas
  • No water resistance
  • Slight jump in RRP

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

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

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

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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 in character, bearing 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. We didn’t find these headphones as musical sounding as either the Sony or Sennheiser pairs, but they’re still a very talented sounding pair.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

We also considered…

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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.

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.

Comparison specs

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