Whether you’re wearing them for the morning commute, while traveling, or if you’re simply trying to find some peace and quiet while working at home, noise-canceling headphones are a more essential piece of kit nowadays than ever before. And you’ve got a slew of great options to pick from; it’s hard to make a bad choice.
No matter how you’re using them, the criteria for picking the best noise-canceling headphones haven’t changed: the most important measures are comfort, how well they can eliminate outside noise, sound quality, battery life, and whether they support multipoint pairing so you can connect to two audio sources at once. The right headphones for you will differ based on which of those things you prioritize, but our overall pick for the best noise-canceling headphones is Sony’s WH-1000XM5. They offer a combination of sound quality, comfort, and great noise cancellation that’s hard to beat.
But if you’re looking for something a bit different, there are still plenty of options. If you want sublime comfort during those long-haul flights, Bose’s QuietComfort 45s are the answer. If you’re an iPhone owner and will only settle for the best, the AirPods Max live up to their price. But Bowers & Wilkins and Sennheiser also sell some tremendous ANC headphones if sound quality is your main focus. Trying to find the best headphones for Zoom life? Bose has a strong contender. And if you’re after something a little more stylish, Marshall’s headphones just might surprise you.
Best headphones of 2023
The best wireless headphones for most people
Sony’s WH-1000XM5 are the best noise-canceling headphones for most people. Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge
Sony’s WH-1000XM5s have a completely different design from their predecessors. The changes result in greater comfort when you’re wearing them on your head for extended periods of time — like on a flight or if you’re at the office.
Noise cancellation has been further improved from the already-stellar performance of the M4s, putting Sony at the front of the pack compared to all major competitors. Sound quality is more detailed and balanced than the older 1000XM4s; the low end is still punchy but tighter and less boomy than before. The M5s offer the best voice call performance in the 1000X series to date, and they can connect to two devices simultaneously, so you can stay clued in to what’s happening on your phone when you’re working away on your laptop or tablet.
With improved comfort, refined sound, and even better active noise cancellation, Sony’s WH-1000XM5 offer a compelling mix of features for the price.
Sony’s headphones also include unique features like “speak to chat,” which automatically pauses your music and pipes in ambient audio whenever you start talking. Or you can hold one hand over the right ear cup to activate quick attention mode, which is convenient when grabbing a coffee or listening to airport announcements. And like other high-end headphones, the 1000XM5s can detect when they’ve been removed from your ears for auto-pause.
The main downside of the WH-1000XM5s is that at $399.99, they’re more expensive than prior models. That’s a big reason to consider the 1000XM4s, which were our previous top pick for noise-canceling headphones. They remain part of Sony’s lineup and can often be found on sale.
The best over-ear noise-canceling headphones for work
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge
Bose’s QC45 headphones are a return to form in the best way. They have a design that’s very similar to the QC35II, meaning they’re remarkably light and comfortable on your head, even when worn for an entire day. The oval ear cups never fatigue your ears, and no one can match Bose when it comes to comfort. Best of all, unlike the Noise Canceling Headphones 700, these can be folded to make them easier to travel with.
Bose’s QuietComfort 45 headphones update the company’s popular, impossibly comfortable design with USB-C, improved noise cancellation, and longer battery life.
Bose made modest improvements to the active noise cancellation and stretched battery life to 24 hours from the previous 20. The QC45s also have a USB-C port instead of the Micro USB connector of their predecessors. And they add a transparency mode for when you need to have a quick chat with someone or want more awareness of your surroundings.
Sound quality on the QC45s is a little more even-handed than the bassy Sony 1000XM4s. But you can switch up the default sound: Bose added the ability to customize EQ in a firmware update in February 2022. One frustration that remains is that there’s no way to turn off noise cancellation without activating the transparency mode. It’s one or the other with no basic “off” mode. I’m still hoping Bose will address both of these shortcomings with future software updates, but you shouldn’t count on that.
The best wireless headphones for iPhone owners
The AirPods Max don’t come cheap, but they’re the best noise-canceling headphones for sound quality. Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge
There was definitely some sticker shock when Apple introduced a $549 set of noise-canceling headphones. The AirPods Max cost significantly more money than any of our other recommendations. But Apple’s build quality is on another level: these trade the plastic you’ll find in many noise-canceling headphones for steel and aluminum, and the ear cups are a breathable mesh fabric. They’re hefty headphones, there’s no denying that. But aside from Apple refusing to include a headphone cable in the box, there’s nothing about the AirPods Max that feels cheap. And I appreciate the simplicity of using the digital crown for controls instead of relying on hit-or-miss gestures like taps and swipes.
Apple’s AirPods Max feature exemplary build quality, sound phenomenal, and keep up with the best at noise cancellation.
The most important part is that the AirPods Max deliver audio quality that’s up there with the best high-end Bluetooth headphones. They have an immersive, wide soundstage, fantastic dynamics, and you’ll find yourself hopping around your music library just to hear what they bring out in your favorite songs. Apple’s noise cancellation is on par with Sony and Bose, and no one does transparency mode better; at times, it can make you think you’re not wearing headphones at all. Extra features like Spatial Audio (surround sound for movies and TV shows) and automatic switching between Apple gadgets help make it a bit easier to swallow that daunting price.
But the AirPods Max do have faults. The carrying case is abysmal, battery life is only average for the category, and just like regular AirPods, they’re designed with Apple’s ecosystem in mind. It gets much harder to justify dropping $550 on them if you live outside the iPhone and Mac universe.
The best sounding wireless headphones
The PX7 S2 headphones from Bowers & Wilkins offer fantastic audio quality.
If sound quality is priority number one, then Bowers & Wilkins has you covered with the PX7 S2 headphones. They exhibit superb, detailed sound quality that some people prefer to the AirPods Max. The Bowers & Wilkins cans are true to the company’s legacy and style, with a fine-crafted design that exudes quality.
I prefer their physical buttons over the tap/swipe ear cup gestures of Sony’s 1000XM5s. With 30 hours of battery life, they’re more than competitive with mainstream, less expensive picks. And the sound profile is delightfully warm and will bring out the most from your favorite music. The main downside of the PX7 S2s is that there’s no traditional 3.5mm or 2.5mm output for a headphone cable. You can still listen wired over USB-C, however.
The PX7 S2 noise-canceling headphones from Bowers & Wilkins feature a luxurious design, phenomenal sound quality, and physical controls instead of awkward tap and swipe gestures.
The best noise-canceling headphones for travel
The Sennheiser Momentum 4 have the best battery life among noise-canceling headphones. Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge
60 hours. They can last for up to 60 hours on a single charge. That’s really all you need to know about the Sennheiser Momentum 4 headphones if you’re looking for an endurance champ. But they also sound terrific and prove extremely comfortable over long listening periods. This combination doesn’t come cheap, but you can find some good occasional deals on them.
Sennheiser’s Momentum 4 Wireless headphones edge out Bowers & Wilkins on comfort thanks to their lighter design, and the noise cancellation is slightly better. Next to the Sonys and QC45s, it doesn’t get much cozier. These are headphones you can wear for multiple hours without any fatigue or pressure on your ears.
With marathon 60-hour battery life and sublime comfort, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless noise-canceling headphones also make good on the company’s reputation for detailed, expansive sound quality.
Sennheiser’s sound signature is a bit more expressive and puts more emphasis on bass than B&W, but that upper treble range still comes through crystal clear. My only real nitpick with the Sennheisers is that they tend to occasionally power on inside the case for no obvious reason and automatically connect to my phone.
Both the B&W and Sennheiser headphones support multipoint connectivity and a range of Bluetooth codecs including SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX Adaptive.
The best noise-canceling headphones for voice calls
Bose’s Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are excellent for all your Zoom and voice call needs. Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge
Bose is the brand synonymous with noise-canceling headphones, and the Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are another example of why that reputation is well-earned. They have satisfactory sound, excellent voice call quality, and great noise cancellation. It’s really a flip of the coin between these and Sony’s 1000XM3 headphones in the eyes of many. Sony ekes out superior battery life and more lively, impactful sound, but Bose’s support for multipoint pairing with two devices at once is a big plus. The Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are comfortable to wear for long stretches of time, even if they aren’t as feather-light as the company’s less expensive QC35 II headphones.
Bose’s flagship noise-canceling headphones improve on the QC35IIs with a nicer design, better voice mics, and more control over the powerful noise cancellation.
When it comes time to join a Zoom meeting or call someone, you’ll be heard loud and clear by whoever’s on the other end, which can’t be said for all wireless headphones on this list. Bose’s microphone setup on the Noise Canceling Headphones 700 is second to none, though Jabra also fares well here. Battery life is where Bose trails its competitors, with the Noise Canceling Headphones 700 rated at up to 20 hours — short of the 30 hours you can reach with Sony or other picks below.
The best noise-canceling headphones for style
The Marshall Monitor II ANC headphones have a stylish design that ties into the company’s history. Photo by Avery White for The Verge
Marshall Monitor II ANC
Marshall’s wireless headphones have proven surprisingly popular, and the company’s most expensive pair is also its best yet. The Monitor II ANC headphones are priced at $320, which puts them on the same playing field as Bose, Sony, and other tech companies that have been making premium noise-canceling cans for many years.
Marshall falls short of those brands in sound quality and ANC, but the Monitor IIs still provide warm, textured sound and perform decently at cutting down on ambient noise. But they definitely stand out from the pack in looks, with a design that speaks to the company’s heritage. The headphones fold up for easy carrying, and Marshall’s signature gold joystick makes the Monitor IIs simple to control.
Marshall’s noise-canceling headphones stand out for their unusual look and easy-to-use joystick for controlling your music. They’re also a battery life champ with up to 45 hours of playback.
They can also last up to 30 hours with NC enabled or up to a staggering 45 hours if you’re already someplace quiet and can do without the feature. That impressive longevity beats our primary picks. A lack of AAC codec support at this price stings, but I’ve enjoyed the Monitor IIs every time I’ve put them on. They’re more than just an amp brand stamped onto an average pair of headphones.