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Best noise-canceling headphones for 2024

Our top picks for over-ear headphones and true wireless earbuds

In this article: I’ll share my top noise-canceling headphone picks...

  1. Best budget wireless noise-canceling headphones — Cleer Enduro ANC
  2. Best wireless noise-canceling headphones for running and workouts — Jaybird Vista 2
  3. Best noise cancellation — Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
  4. Best-looking wireless noise-canceling headphones — Bowers & Wilkins PX8
  5. Best wireless noise-canceling headphones for Apple Users — Apple AirPods Pro 2
  6. Best-sounding wireless noise-canceling over-ears — Focal Bathys
  7. Best-sounding wireless noise-canceling earbuds — Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3
  8. Best all-around wireless noise-canceling headphones — Sony WH-1000XM5

...plus, some advice for how to choose the right in-ear or over-ear noise-cancelers for you.

E

very time I fly, I’m reminded: air travel is loud. The noise begins with the airport’s busy energy and really takes off when the plane engine starts rumbling. Luckily, noise-canceling headphones are better than ever.

Jeff wearing the Sony XM4s at airport

As great as the Sony WH-1000XM4s are for work, I find they really perform well for travel.

I’ve certainly put them to the test working from home — my makeshift office sits cornered between our loud, rumbling HVAC system and the kids’ playroom. And as I ease into more of a hybrid work situation, I find that newer noise-canceling headphones are better able to silence office distractions.

That's because noise-canceling circuitry has gotten more sophisticated over the last couple of years and can knock out a wider range of sounds. On a plane, that means everything from engine noise to chatty seatmates.

Noise-canceling earbuds have taken the biggest leap in quality

Newer true wireless earbuds can hold their own against over-ear noise-canceling headphones. I used to say things like, “they cancel noise well, for earbuds.” But the best noise-canceling earbuds of 2024 don’t need a qualifier — they simply bring the silence.

In fact, earbuds from Sony, Bose, and Bowers & Wilkins all reduced my lawnmower’s engine noise so much that I barely heard it. Before I even turned on any music!

Of course, there’s more to consider when choosing headphones, like sound quality, comfort, and how you’ll use them. With that in mind, I'll provide some background info and buying tips, before diving into my top picks.

How do noise-canceling headphones work?

Noise-canceling headphones don’t simply seal out noise with ear tips, ear pads, or heavy-duty earcups. There is special, sophisticated technology at work.

They have built-in circuitry that counteracts exterior sound by emitting an out-of-phase sound wave. This wave effectively cancels out the incoming sound.

Many customers associate noise-cancelling headphones with Bose, because they pioneered and popularized the category. I recently had the chance to talk to Bose legend Dan Gauger, one of two engineers who helped create and develop their noise-canceling heaphones.

dr. bose teaching

In 1978, Dr. Amar Bose got on a plane and put on headphones, but they didn’t block out any noise! So he started scribbling equations for how to effectively cancel noise.

He gave me a deep dive on their history, and explained how a napkin drawing led to the development of some ultra-sophisticated circuitry.

But now there are some very formidable rivals out there — all with different strengths and features. That’s where I can help.

How to choose the right noise-canceling headphones for you

There’s a lot to consider when you’re choosing noise-canceling headphones. And perhaps above all — just like with any headphones — it really comes down to how you plan on using them. But here are a few specific features to keep in mind:

Fit

Over-ear headphones offer a plush fit and a tight seal to help keep out noise. Many of us here at Crutchfield choose them for work — whatever our current “office” setup looks like.

we tested the fit of a lot of headphones

We know a thing or two about fit, thanks to our headphone comfort tests.

But for a daily commute, something smaller might be more convenient. Earbuds with noise cancellation have less bulk, but can still put distractions on mute. A nice in-ear seal is important for noise isolation, but can also help dial in the sound, particularly the bass.

Battery life

Almost all of the noise-canceling headphones these days are also wireless. But even when they’re not, you have to recharge noise-canceling headphones. So stay aware of the listed battery life. These days, most over-ear models offer at least 25-30 hours of noise cancellation on a full charge. For true wireless earbuds you might get 5-12 hours.

JBL Tour Pro 2 true wireless noise-canceling earbuds in case

True wireless earbuds, like the JBL Tour Pro 2, come packed in a case that can bank hours of power to recharge the headphones.

Listening with the noise-canceling circuitry turned off saves some battery life. And many over-ear models will let you listen with a connected cable. This wired “passive mode” comes in handy when the battery runs dry before you have a chance to recharge.

Adjustable/adaptive noise cancellation

Many of the newer noise canceling headphones can tailor their performance to your surroundings. They use built-in microphones to “read the room” and adjust their noise cancellation to your environment — in real time.

app screenshot

Some noise-canceling headphones offer phone apps that allow you to choose how much ambient sound to let in.

Awareness or transparent mode

Some noise-canceling headphones can also use those built-in mics to allow external sounds in. Different brands have different names for this feature, but it lets you hear ambient sounds or conversations, without removing your headphones.

Speaking of, all noise-canceling headphones offer some type of control over music and calls. But some take it even further, with control over the ambient features, sound EQ, and/or your phone's voice assistant.

Now that you know what to look for, here's my list of top picks for 2024:

Cleer enduro anc

Best budget pick — Cleer Enduro ANC

There are few solid over-ear headphones under $200 that offer Bluetooth and noise cancellation. Even fewer perform as well as the Cleer Enduro ANC headphones. And I haven’t seen any of them that boast this much battery life — a whopping 60 hours.

I personally used them off and on for over a month before I ever had to recharge them. They hit my sweet spot for fit — relaxed, but they stay firmly in place. The noise cancellation isn’t quite on the Sony or Bose level, but it performs well against lower frequency sounds (like a plane engine). And they deliver a spacious, outside-the-head sound that’s clear and detailed.

Details

  • closed-back, over-the-ear headphones with Bluetooth 5.0
  • aptX® Adaptive and AAC decoding for high-quality music from compatible devices
  • active noise-canceling circuitry to minimize external noise
  • up to 60 hours of battery life (wireless use with noise cancellation)
  • 10 minute quick charge provides enough power for 2 hours of listening
  • 40mm dynamic drivers with patented "ironless" magnet array
  • spacious sound with clear vocals and strong bass

jaybird vista 2

Best for workouts — Jaybird Vista 2

So far, I’ve focused a lot on the journey, but what about when you get to your destination? Or you’re at the gym more than the airport? If you need headphones for running or working out, the Jaybird Vista 2 true wireless earbuds are an ideal pick. They meet military standards for durability and waterproofing, and can even withstand a rainstorm at 40 mph.

Jaybird is a favorite pick among runners on the Crutchfield staff because of their signature secure fit. They simply stay in place while you move. And they lock in a proper seal for hard-hitting bass.

The Vista 2 earbuds also offer noise cancellation for situations where you might need it — like maybe blocking out the annoying yelps of an overzealous weight-lifter. But Jaybird includes quick access to their "SurroundSense" mode when you need to be more aware. Simply tap the earbud to amplify ambient sounds while you’re out running.

  • 6mm dynamic drivers
  • proprietary Bluetooth 5.0 chip for a stronger, more stable connection
  • active noise cancellation and "SurroundSense" mode for better awareness during workouts
  • 3 sizes of silicone soft-gel ear tips with built-in "fins" for secure, stable fit
  • 6 hours of listening per charge
  • carrying case banks up to 16 hours of power
  • IP68-rated waterproof and dustproof

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

Best noise cancellation in earbuds — Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds

In general, over-ear headphones still cancel noise better than in-ears. Leave it to Bose to create a staggering exception to that rule. Just like their predecessor QC Earbuds II, I've been absolutely floored by the quieting effect of the QC Ultra Earbuds.

In fact, it was more powerful than a locomotive. I wore the Bose earbuds on an Amtrak trip, and was surprised by the sound of the train speeding over the track. Instead of the staccato clickity-clack I expected, it was more of an across-all-frequencies throb and squeal that's harder for noise-canceling circuitry to detect and cancel.

But not the Bose circuitry. I could listen to podcasts with the volume almost completely down and still clearly hear the hosts. Just as noteworthy: to my ears, these are the best-sounding Bose headphones ever.

Details

  • 100% wire-free headphones
  • built-in Bluetooth 5.3 for music and calls
  • aptX® Adaptive and AAC decoding for high-quality music from compatible devices
  • two "immersive audio" modes with dynamic head-tracking for 3D sound
  • CustomTune technology calibrates sound and noise cancellation to your fit and surroundings
  • IPX4 sweat- and weather-resistant
  • three sizes of flexible wings keep earbuds secure during movement
  • three sizes of soft silicone ear tips provide a stable, comfortable fit
  • 6 hours of battery life with noise cancellation
  • carrying case banks up to 18 hours of power

Bowers & Wilkins PX8

Best looking — Bowers & Wilkins PX8

The well-put-together B&W PX8 headphones are no slouch when it comes to sound, either. Their shrewdly angled drivers produce detailed highs along with omnipresent yet well-restrained bass. And I absolutely adore the charming midrange presence — and how vocals leap forward in the mix.

But the first thing you notice is their striking style. B&W used sturdy, high-quality parts and they look sculpted and elegant. They feel heavier in the hand than the other over-ears on this list, but the weight is distributed nicely when worn.

I thought B&W's earlier-generation flagship headphones fit a little too snug, but others loved how well they stayed in place. This time around, B&W provides a more consistent cushioning and seal for all sizes, even if you wear glasses.

And I think they've struck just the right balance — with the look, fit, and sound.

Details

  • materials include ballistic nylon fabric, lightweight polymer, aluminum, and fine leather
  • built-in Bluetooth 5.2 for music and calls
  • aptX Adaptive, aptX HD, and AAC decoding for high-quality music from compatible devices
  • multi-point connection for pairing to two devices at once
  • digital hybrid noise-canceling circuitry designed to preserve listening experience
  • precisely angled drivers offer spacious, articulate sound
  • engineered by the team responsible for the company's flagship 800 D3 loudspeaker
  • rechargeable battery provides up to 30 hours of wireless use
  • snug, secure fit with soft earpads and headband padding

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)

Best for iPhone and Apple users — Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)

All noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones offer some type of control over music and calls. But for iPhone users, the AirPods Pro 2 take it one step further. The new H2 processing chip makes pairing and use with Apple gear even snappier. A one-tap connection syncs up the earbuds to your iPhone®, and then you're automatically paired to other devices on your iCloud account (like your Apple Watch®, iMac®, or iPad®).

My wife has an iPhone and said they were seamless and natural for calls, FaceTime, and watching videos. "They just seem to work," she told me, and there's something to be said for that. This generation also has a fourth "extra-small" ear tip that fit better for her.

And I found that these AirPods have stronger noise cancellation, a better transparent mode, and Apple's most sophisticated sound yet. They have a linear tuning that works well across several genres and styles — including spatial audio tracks on Apple Music mixed for Dolby Atmos.

Details

  • built-in Bluetooth 5.3 for music and calls
  • Apple's H2 chip provides faster, more powerful processing and seamless wireless connection with Apple devices
  • active noise cancellation circuitry adjusts to the level of external sound
  • Adaptive EQ customizes the sound based on how AirPods fit in your ear
  • IPX4 sweat- and weather-resistant
  • dynamic head-tracking and personal profile for customized spatial audio experience
  • includes 4 sizes of silicone ear tips for a secure, comfortable fit
  • dual beam-forming microphones with voice recognition for calls and Siri control
  • 6 hours of battery life with noise cancellation
  • included MagSafe wireless case banks up to 24 hours of power to charge AirPods

Focal Bathys headphones

Best-sounding noise-canceling over-ears — Focal Bathys

The super-premium Focal Bathys over-ears represent a new class of wireless noise-canceling headphones, designed primarily for focused listening. The look, feel, and performance fit in with Focal’s storied line of wired audiophile headphones. But they sport a lighter design that's packed with on-the-go features.

Bluetooth 5.1 is on board, with hi-fi formats like aptX® Adaptive and aptX HD to better preserve musical details. And the active noise cancellation creates a low noise floor for the well-engineered aluminum/magnesium drivers to do their thing. Focal uses the same fast-attack diaphragm design developed for their top-flight headphones, like their flagship Utopia.

Of course, the Utopia headphones deliver a higher resolution — they're in the conversation for absolute best headphones in the world. But it is amazing how close Focal has gotten with a set of portable wireless 'phones. The Bathys headphones deliver an expansive, full-bodied sound with airy highs and a tremendous sense of space.

Details

  • made of high-grade materials like leather, aluminum, and magnesium
  • Bluetooth® 5.1 for wireless music and phone calls
  • high-quality aptX, aptX Adaptive, and aptX HD audio streaming
  • two levels of noise cancellation and "Transparency" mode
  • 40mm dynamic drivers with lightweight aluminum/magnesium diaphragms
  • specially designed "M-shaped" domes provide fast, uniform motion
  • rechargeable battery provides up to 30 hours of wireless use
  • secure, snug fit with oversized, plush earpads and headband padding

Sennheiser Momeuntum 3 true wireless headphones

Best-sounding earbuds — Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3

Sennheiser's Momentum True Wireless 3 earbuds offer the cleanest, most detailed full-range sound I’ve heard from a set of wireless in-ears. And here's something I found interesting: spatial audio tracks on Apple Music sound better to me through these earbuds than the AirPods.

These small ‘buds deliver a large, “outside-the-head” sound. And Sennheiser's premium dynamic drivers nuanced mids and highs, deep, controlled bass, and a genuine sense of space. These are all attributes that allow Dolby Atmos tracks to soar.

Details

  • built-in Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX adaptive and aptX HD
  • adaptive hybrid noise-canceling circuitry uses a four-mic system
  • "TrueResponse" dynamic driver in each earbud
  • spacious soundstage with precise imaging
  • IPX4 sweat- and weather-resistant
  • four sizes of silicone ear tips and three sizes of ear fins
  • 7 hours of battery life with noise cancellation
  • fabric-covered carrying case banks up to 21 hours of power

sony WH-1000xm5 wireless headphones

Best all-around — Sony WH-1000XM5 over-ear wireless headphones

No surprise here — the Sony WH-1000XM5 over-ears simply excel at everything they do. In fact, this top spot has been occupied by the previous two generations of Sony "XM" headphones, one of our best-selling headphone series of all time.

I did find that they weren’t quite the slam-dunk pick that their predecessors were. Not because Sony did anything wrong— these are excellent. But the competition is stiffer, both from the other headphones on this list and the WH-1000XM4s themselves.

But while those headphones are still a formidable option, Sony made some major advancements with the 'XM5s. The most obvious is the completely new redesign, but the changes don’t stop with the sleek, industrial look. The overall fit is more relaxed and the padding on the earcups and headband are thicker and softer.

Sony’s next-level noise cancellation is now better tuned to knock out higher frequencies and voices. They’ve included two of their ground-breaking processing chips along with a sophisticated new series of microphones and algorithms. And I found the out-of-the-box sound better balanced, with better overall clarity and less emphasis on the bass.

Details

  • closed-back, over-the-ear headphones with Bluetooth 5.2
  • LDAC and AAC decoding for high-quality music from compatible devices
  • sophisticated, adaptive noise-canceling circuitry adjusts to the level of external sound
  • dual-chip system includes Sony's QN1 HD Noise Cancelling Processor and V1 Integrated Processor
  • 30 hours of battery life with noise cancellation
  • 10 minute quick charge provides enough power for 5 hours of listening
  • "Quick Attention" feature turns off noise-canceling and engages ambient mode by covering the right earcup with hand
  • 30mm dynamic drivers tuned for clear, detailed mids and highs with deep bass punch

In-ear alternative — Sony WF-1000XM5 true wireless earbuds

Few true wireless earbuds have received such universal acclaim out of the gate as the new Sony WF- 1000XM5s. The wire-free design is super convenient for travel — just pop them in to listen during your flight, then snap them back in the pocket-sized charging case when the plane lands.

To be clear, their over-ear 'XM counterparts do cancel noise better. But you don’t sacrifice much in terms of noise-canceling prowess thanks to Sony’s cutting-edge processing. Soft foam ear tips contour to your ear canal for a more secure fit and a consistent sound. I dig how the rich presentation expands well beyond the head and is punctuated by quick, powerful bass.

Need more help? Contact us!

Have questions about how these noise-canceling headphones compare? Contact us today.

Our expert Advisors know headphones inside and out. Your Advisor can send specific Crutchfield pages to your screen, saving you a lot of browsing time. You'll get a shopping cart loaded up with everything you need.

Free lifetime tech support is included with your Crutchfield purchase.

Popular questions customers ask

There are microphones on the earcup that pick up external noise. The noise cancelation circuitry takes that noise and produces an inverse signal, effectively canceling out external sounds. 

Yes, noise-canceling headphones do block voices. But some models we offer have unique “pass-through” modes that turn off active noise cancelation momentarily so you can have a conversation without taking the headphones off. “Pass-through” modes are typically activated by holding your hand or finger over one of the earcups or earbuds.

Some Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones support voice assistants like Alexa or Google. You can usually access your voice assistant on those headphones by pressing a button or using onboard touch controls.

A lot of noise-canceling headphones have some means of controlling how much noise cancelation they provide. Most models these days either have an onboard button you can use to select noise cancelation levels, an app with several noise cancelation options, or a combination of the two.

  • Commenter image

    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/13/2023

    Thanks for your insight, Keith. Appreciate you giving us some firsthand experience.

  • Keith from Cape Girardeau

    Posted on 11/10/2023

    I wear behind the ear hearing aids and have a pair of Sony WH-100XM3 and Also several Bose sets. My best answer is that it depends on the size of your ears and how they fit underneath the earcups. If the earcups come in contact with hearing aids, you might get and occasional crackle or scratch. Also, I wear NC headphones while walking on my treadmill and have noticed that when I work up a sweat, the crackling can occur as well. The Bose cans work better with my hearing aids than the Sonys but the Sonys sound a little better, in my opinion.

  • Kevin from Warrenton

    Posted on 11/1/2023

    Any thoughts on how over the ear headphones work with behind the ear hearing aids?

  • Dave R from Grafton

    Posted on 5/23/2022

    I was on a long flight and some how managed to lose my Beats over-the-ear headphones - container and all. After trying to recover them I decided to go with Crutchfield's recommendation of Sony WH-1000XM4. I was immediately wowed. I will eventually purchase the Sony's again so I have a pair at work (stamping factory - pretty loud). Mowing the lawn and wearing the Sonys was easy, comfy and yes it blocked the majority of the external noise. As described above - cupping the right ear pauses your music and noise cancelling to hear something without having to remove the headphones. Spot on review!

    Commenter image

    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    on 5/23/2022

    Great to hear, Dave! Glad you are enjoying them.
  • Titus Chon from Big Lake, Ak

    Posted on 1/14/2022

    How would the AirPods Max be in terms of noise cancelling compared to the Bose QC45? Most people are saying that the Airpods Max are the king of quiet but some are crowning the Bose QC45. I love collecting wireless headphones and already have the Maxes in my arsenal. The QC45s may be a welcome addition if they outperform the Maxes' ANC. Thanks for all you do at Crutchfield!

    Commenter image

    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    on 1/17/2022

    I personally felt the QC45s did a better job in terms of pure quiet. I know noise cancellation can be subjective just like anything else -- but the QC45s just provide a blanket of silence.
  • Tony W from Flemington

    Posted on 1/6/2022

    Never been a big Bose fan but after seeing the QC35's as a standard for so long I jumped on the QC45 pre-order. Long story short...I tried them on a few flights and then returned them and picked up the Sony WH-1000XM4 for about a $100 LESS and couldn't be happier.

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