Bose pioneered noise-canceling headphones a while ago, but since then virtually every brand under the sun has released its own models of headphones with comparable technology. The field is almost completely occupied by headphones that feature noise canceling. The best noise-canceling headphones can be difficult to identify, because the quality varies wildly between options, so it’s important to know which pairs are worth the investment. The market is extremely competitive, which makes it better for all of us — there’s no shortage of great noise-canceling headphones orif you prefer those.
The best noise-canceling headphones tend to cost more than $200 — and some premium models cost double that or more — but you can find plenty of good ANC headphones and earbuds at more affordable price points. So while some of the models on the list are indeed expensive, I’ve also included some value models that perform decently for not too much money. I’ve fully reviewed or had hands-on listening time with all the headphones and earbuds on this list, which gets updated regularly as new models hit the market.
When you have a product that a lot of people love, change can be risky. Such is the case for Sony’s WH-1000XM5, the fifth generation of the 1000X series headphones, which were first released in 2016 as the MDR-1000X Wireless and have become increasingly popular as they’ve improved with each generation. Over the years, Sony has made some tweaks to the design, but nothing as dramatic as what it’s done with the WH-1000XM5. Other than the higher $400 price tag ($50 more than the WH-1000XM4), most of those changes are good, and Sony’s made some dramatic improvements with voice-calling performance as well as even better noise canceling and more refined sound.
Read our Sony WH-1000XM5 review.
No earbuds are perfect and not everybody will love the fit of the Sony WF-1000XM4 buds or be able to afford their high price. But if you’re looking for great-sounding earbuds with great noise canceling, solid voice-calling capabilities and good battery life, these buds check all the boxes.
Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds also have top-notch noise canceling and sound quality, but the Sony is right there with the Bose for noise canceling (and some might say it’s a touch better in that department), but the Sony offers slightly better sound quality and also has a more compact design, particularly for the case (though the Sony buds certainly aren’t small).
Read our Sony WF-1000XM4 review.
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The Bose QuietComfort 45 essentially looks the same as its popular predecessor, the QuietComfort 35 II, with the biggest design difference being a USB-C port in place of the older Micro-USB. (At 238 grams, the QC45 weighs just 3 grams more than the QC35, which should be imperceptible.) And while the Bose 700 has plenty of fans, a lot of people, including me, think this QuietComfort design is slightly more comfortable and the headphones fold up and fold flat. It’s arguably the most comfortable pair of headphones out there.
They also sound very similar to the QC 35 II, with no change to the drivers. Where you’ll see an improvement is with the noise cancellation (there’s a transparency mode), which very well could be the best out right now. According to Bose, there’s a new electronics package that powers the new ANC system, which now better muffles “unwanted sounds in the midrange frequencies” (voices) that you’d “typically find on commuter trains, busy office spaces and cafes.”
I found that to be true and give these the slight edge over both the Headphones 700 and Sony WH-1000XM4 for noise canceling. That said, you can’t adjust the level of noise canceling like you can with those models, which offer a more robust feature set, particularly the Sony. However, after a firmware update, you can now tweak the sound in the app with equalizer settings.
The headset performance has also improved, with better noise reduction during calls. And these offer multipoint Bluetooth pairing. That means you can pair the QC45 with two devices simultaneously — such as a smartphone and PC — and switch audio as needed. They’re equipped with Bluetooth 5.1 and support the widely compatible AAC audio codec but not aptX.
While these have advantages over the Headphones 700 and Sony WH-1000XM4 and do sound quite good, those models sound slightly better: The 700 is slightly more natural sounding and tuned more for audiophiles, while the Sony has more dynamic bass. So that makes choosing between these three models that much more difficult.
Sony has released its new WH-1000XM5 but the WH-1000XM4 remains on sale. While I prefer the WH-1000XM5 — it’s a little more comfortable and has improved noise canceling, more refined sound and significantly better voice-calling performance — the WH-1000XM4 is still a great headphone and some people may prefer its slightly more energetic sound and how it folds up into a smaller case than that of the WH-1000M5. It also costs less, and we should see some nice discounts on it going forward.
Read our Sony WH-1000XM4 review.
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Hot on the heels of the third-generation AirPods, Apple has another new set of earbuds, this time from its subsidiary audio company, Beats. Technically, the new Beats Fit Pro ($200) aren’t AirPods, but they’re built on the same tech platform as the AirPods Pro. Unlike Beats’ earlier and less expensive Studio Buds, the Beats Fit Pro include Apple’s H1 chip and have most of the AirPods Pro’s features, including active noise canceling, spatial audio and Adaptive EQ. I’d venture to call them the sports AirPods you’ve always wanted. And for some people, they might just be better than the AirPods Pro.
Read our Beats Fit Pro review.
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Unlike the “open” LinkBuds, the LinkBuds S are traditional noise-isolating earbuds with tips you jam into your ears. They’re more compact and lighter than Sony’s flagship WF-1000M4 and also feature Sony’s V1 processor. While their sound and noise canceling don’t quite measure up to the WF-1000XM4’s, they’re close and cost less. They’re the Sony buds for people who can deal with larger buds like WF-1000XM4 but are looking for 80 to 85% of those buds’ features and performance for $80 less.
Read our Sony LinkBuds S review.
The No. 5909 are premium audio brand Mark Levinson’s first headphones and, yes, they’re really expensive at $999. But they’re also really good. They have a sturdy design without managing to feel hefty on your head (read: they’re substantial but not too heavy) and they’re comfortable to wear over long periods thanks to their nicely padded (and replaceable) leather-covered earcups and headband.
Not only do they feature good noise canceling and excellent sound, but their voice-calling performance is top-notch. Plus, they have multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can pair them with two devices, such as a computer and a smartphone, simultaneously.
The No. 5909 are high-res certified with support for Sony’s LDAC and Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive codecs that allow for near-lossless streaming over Bluetooth. Apple’s iPhones and iPads don’t support those codecs while certain Android devices do. Using the No. 5909 headphones over Bluetooth on my iPhone 13 Pro, it sounded a tad more natural and refined than the AirPods Max (the No. 5909 had a touch more “pure” and accurate sound).
I did notice a difference when I paired the No. 5909 to my Google Pixel 4 XL, which has support for LDAC, and using the Qobuz audio streaming service that offers high-res streaming. Overall, the sound had a little more depth and texture, and there’s a touch more sparkle, definition and openness.
Read our Mark Levinson No. 5909 review.
The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 have been out a while but are still one of the best over-ear noise canceling headphones, with excellent sound, noise cancellation and top-notch headset performance for voice calls. Bose’s newer QuietComfort 45 headphones probably have the slight edge in terms of comfort and offer a tad better noise canceling, but the Headphones 700 arguably sound a little better with slightly more refined sound.
Read our Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review.
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Even if the AirPods Pro may not sound quite as magical as you’d hope for their price, they’re still a great pair of true-wireless earphones. That’s largely due to their winning design and fit, improved bass performance and effective noise canceling — and now they’ve been updated with spatial audio, a new virtual-sound mode for watching movies and TV shows (only works with iPhones and iPads running iOS 14).
They’re an excellent choice when you want to make a call or listen to music during your workout. While they’re expensive, the good news is they tend to sell for 25% off their list price.
Read our Apple AirPods Pro review.
Featuring excellent sound, improved noise canceling and voice-calling performance as well a smaller, more refined design that includes stabilizing fins (so the earbuds stay in your ears more securely), the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 are among the best new true-wireless earbuds for 2020. They’re also one of the best true-wireless earbuds overall, giving the Sony WF-1000XM4 a run for the money.
Read our Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 review.
Bang & Olufsen’s earlier Beoplay E8 earbuds were good, but underwhelming for their high price. The new Beoplay EQ are also rather expensive, but they’re among the very best true wireless earbuds available right now, with top-notch sound, adaptive noise canceling and a natural sounding transparency mode. Multipoint Bluetooth pairing means you can simultaneously connect them to a smartphone and computer. They have three microphones on each bud and are good for voice calling, though not exceptional.
Needless to say, the premium design elements are here: The aluminum-shelled case opens and closes with precise smoothness, and the buds themselves have an aluminum accent on the outer surface where the touch controls live.
The buds are fairly large and do stick out of your ears like premium buds from Sony and Sennheiser. They fit me comfortably and securely and were suitable for sporting activities, with an IP54 splash-proof rating. Battery life is rated at around 6.5 hours at moderate volume levels, and you get an extra two charges from the case, which has USB-C and wireless charging.
The sound is big and dynamic with deep, well-defined bass and a wide soundstage. The mids sound natural and the treble has a nice sparkle to it. They’re a pleasure to listen to and among the best-sounding true wireless earbuds. I didn’t experience any listening fatigue over longer listening sessions. There is aptX for devices that support the aptX audio codec; these have aptX Adaptive and use Bluetooth 5.2.
Are they better than the Sony WF-1000XM4, which cost a fraction less? The answer to that will depend partially on how well they fit your ears and how good a seal you get from the included ear tips. I personally ended up getting the best fit using Sennheiser’s large tips, which work best for my ears. They’re a great set of earbuds if you can afford them. Just buy them from a retailer that has a good return policy in case you’re not satisfied.
As far as sound, comfort level and build quality, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than Anker’s SoundCore Life Q30 for the money. It doesn’t quite have the clarity or bass definition as some of the top premium models, but it’s less than a third of the price and gets you about 75% of the way there in terms of sound (it’s well balanced overall with punchy bass and there’s an app that allows you to tweak the sound). Noise canceling is good for the price, though not up to the level of the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. Battery life is rated at an impressive 40 hours with USB-C charging.
The only area where the Q30 falls a little short is for voice calls. It picks up your voice fine in quieter environments but it just doesn’t reduce background noise all that well.
Compared to the Q20 (see below), the Q30 does offer improved sound (it’s not a huge difference, but it definitely is a notch up) and a more premium design. Anker often offers the Q20 at a $10 discount at Amazon. Eventually, we should see something like that on the Q30.
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Yes, they’re expensive, but the AirPods Max deliver richer, more detailed sound than lower-priced competitors from Bose and Sony. They also feature arguably the best noise canceling on the market along with premium build quality and Apple’s virtual surround spatial audio feature for video watching. While they’re heavy, they manage to be surprisingly comfortable, though I did have to adjust the mesh canopy headband to sit a little more forward on my head to get a comfortable secure fit when I was out walking with them. They should fit most heads well, but there will be exceptions.
Read our Apple AirPods Max review.
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In many ways, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are excellent true wireless earbuds, particularly when it comes to their sound and to their noise canceling, which is among the best out there right now in a set of earbuds. In performance they clearly have a leg up on Apple’s best-selling AirPods Pro true wireless noise-canceling buds. However, the AirPods Pro’s smaller design, somewhat more comfortable fit and superior voice-calling capabilities make it hard to declare the Bose the straight-up champ. Ultimately, it depends on what your priorities are.
Read our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.
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Available in four colors, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 hew more closely to the newer Galaxy Buds Pro and Galaxy Buds Live, both of which have eye-catching glossy curved designs and the same compact charging case as this new model. In fact, it’s the Buds 2’s design and fit — they’re 15% smaller and 20% lighter than the Buds Plus — that make them a potentially more likable alternative to the better-sounding Buds Pro.
Like the Buds Pro, the Buds 2 are equipped with active noise canceling. That means all the latest Galaxy Buds models now feature some form of active noise canceling, though it’s slight with the Buds Live, which have an open design sans ear tips. While the Buds 2 look more like shrunken versions of the Buds Pro, I found them more akin to the Buds Live in that they barely stick out of your ears and are fairly discreet. Because they sit more flush with your ears — and have that curved design — they also pick up less wind noise. They’re IPX2 sweat-resistant.
Read our Galaxy Buds 2 review.
There’s a bit of an old-school vibe to the Technics EAH-A800 — and it’s not just the Technics brand, which Panasonic resurrected in the last few years. Their design is something of a throwback but the headphones are comfortable and both fold up and fold flat. They feature a big, energetic sound with powerful bass and good detail (however, they take a day or two to break in).
They feature ear-detection sensors that automatically pause your music when you take the headphones off, as well as multipoint Bluetooth pairing (you can connect them to two devices at the same time like a computer and smartphone). Additionally, they have support for Sony’s near lossless LDAC audio codec for Bluetooth streaming that’s available on certain Android devices. I mainly listened to these headphones with an Android device and the Qobuz music service, which offers high-resolution tracks. That setup offers the best possible wireless sound quality.
The headphones are available in black and silver and according to Panasonic, can deliver up to 50 hours of battery life at moderate volume with ANC on. That’s excellent, and the EAH-A800 also works well as a headset for making calls with eight onboard microphones for noise reduction and voice pickup.
The new Shure Aonic 40 noise-canceling headphones are a bit smaller and more affordable than the company’s well-received Aonic 50 headphones ($299) that were released in 2020. My quick take: They sound quite good with clean, well-balanced sound that you can tweak in the Shure companion app for iOS and Android (you can choose from preset EQ settings as well as a customizable manual EQ setting).
The active noise canceling is solid but not quite up to the level of Sony’s or Bose’s and like the Aonic 50, they work well for making calls (Shure is known for its microphones) and you can connect them to your computer via USB-C. For those with aptX-enabled Android devices, the headphones support aptX HD Bluetooth streaming.
You don’t get extra features like ear-detection sensors that automatically pause your music when you take the headphones off your head and resume playback when you put them back on. However, the headphones have a dual-hinge design so they both fold up and fold flat, allowing them to have a more compact case than the Aonic 50’s (its case is pretty huge). In other words, these are more travel friendly. Battery life is rated at 25 hours with noise canceling on.
They’re very good headphones — sturdy, too — but I didn’t find them quite as comfortable as competing models from Bose and Sony. For some people, the top of the headband may put a little pressure on the crown of your head (the headband’s padding is OK but could be better). I pushed the headband forward a bit on my head to get a more comfortable fit. They’re also available in white.
Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay HX is the successor to the company’s H9 series headphones (that X is a Roman numeral 10) and like those earlier H9 models, the HX carries a list price of $500 (some colors are discounted at Amazon). That price point makes it a direct competitor with Apple’s AirPods Max, a heavier headphone at 384.8 grams vs. 285 grams for the HX. I don’t know if the HX is more comfortable than the AirPods Max, but I found the two models pretty equal in the comfort department over longer listening sessions and these do feature the usual swanky B&O lambskin covered memory foam ear pads.
The HX has custom 40mm drivers, Bluetooth 5.1 and support for Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive (that includes aptX HD) for high-resolution wireless streaming when you combine an aptX-enabled Android device with certain music streaming services like Qobuz.
Their sound measures up well to the AirPods Max’s sound, with deep, well-defined bass, natural-sounding mids (where vocals live) and inviting detail in the treble (the sound is overall well-balanced). If you want to push the treble or bass, you can tweak the EQ in the Bang & Olufsen app for iOS and Android and give the headphones a warmer or brighter profile.
While these are expensive, they offer more accurate sound than the Sony WH-1000XM4. Their noise canceling is also very good and voice-calling capabilities are also quite solid. Additionally, they offer multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect them with a smartphone and PC simultaneously (Microsoft Swift Pair enabled for Windows machines) so you can easily switch between the two (the Sony WH-1000XM4 also has this feature). Battery life is rated at up to 35 hours with noise canceling on and 40 hours with it off. Those are excellent numbers.
Earlier Bang & Olufsen’s models included a soft case (a pouch really), but the HX comes with a hard case. As I said, it’s expensive, but the small improvements over earlier flagship Bang & Olufsen noise-canceling headphones help make the HX’s case as a worthy alternative to the AirPods Max.
After a long wait, Bowers & Wilkins finally released a couple of sets of true wireless earbuds in 2021 — the PI7 ($400) and PI5 ($250) — both of which are excellent and feature active noise canceling along with a transparency mode. The flagship PI7 has a different driver design and sounds slightly more detailed and refined with a little more bass energy. They both sound excellent, but if you’re looking for the absolute best sounding set of earbuds, the PI7 are arguably just that, besting the Sony WF-1000XM4 by a small margin (they also sound slightly better than the excellent Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless II and Master & Dynamic MW08).
While the PI7’s noise canceling is quite decent, the Sony’s noise canceling is superior. I also thought the Sony did better with voice calling (it has better noise reduction so people can hear you better in a noisier environments) and it has better battery life.
The PI7’s case does transform into a Bluetooth transceiver, so you can plug it into your laptop for Qualcomm aptX streaming or an in-flight entertainment system. The PI7 supports aptX Adaptive wireless transmission (which includes the aptX HD codec) from compatible mobile devices, allowing for “high-resolution music transmission from suitable streaming services, such as Qobuz.”
They’re IPX54 splashproof and have 4 hours of battery life with noise canceling on (that’s a little disappointing), plus an extra 4 charges from the case.
The PI5 buds also sound excellent and are a touch lighter than the PI7. At $250, the PI5 competes directly with the $280 Sony 1000XM4. As with all in-ear headphones, you have to try them to see how they fit your ears. Bowers & Wilkins’ buds may fit your ears better than Sony’s and vice versa.
Read our Bowers & Wilkins PI7 first take.
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The Momentum True Wireless 3 are Sennheiser’s flagship new true-wireless earbuds. But if you can’t afford them, the CX Plus are a good alternative. They look nearly identical to the standard CX buds ($130) but have a glossy black finish on the touch-sensitive exterior surface — cosmetically, they’re more akin to the older and slightly larger CX400BT.
I like the CX for the money, and the CX Plus delivers the same excellent sound while rounding out the feature set with active noise canceling and a transparency mode. Battery life is rated at up to eight hours at moderate volume levels and these are splash-proof, with an IPX4 rating. They do stick out of your ears a bit.
The noise canceling isn’t quite as good as the Sony WF-1000XM4’s, but I thought it was effective and the headset’s performance was decent, though not stellar. These are all-around solid noise-canceling earbuds that can count sound quality as their biggest strength.
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Master & Dynamic’s earlier MW07 and MW07 Plus delivered top-notch sound for true wireless, but they were a little lacking in the features department and weren’t so great for making calls. MW08, the newest update, offers some significant improvements, including the addition of solid noise canceling and call quality, that makes it one of the top models for 2022. Alas, it’s expensive at $299.
Battery life has improved a bit (up to around 12 hours of battery life at 50% volume versus 10 hours for the MW07 Plus), and the earbuds are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, active noise cancellation with three microphones on each earbud (noise reduction during calls isn’t up to the level of the AirPods Pro but overall call quality has improved). The noise canceling on the MW07 Plus was pretty weak; the MW08’s is much more effective.
You can opt for two levels of noise cancellation in the new M&D Connect app for iOS and Android, as well as two levels of transparency that lets you hear the outside world. The app currently has no way to tweak the sound profile (I’m OK with that because the sound profile is just fine for my tastes) and the earbuds have a physical button on each bud to control playback, not touch controls.
These buds may not fit everyone’s ear equally well, but they certainly have a distinct look, as well as excellent sound and a great listening experience if you can get a tight seal (I was able to get a secure fit with the largest tip). They deliver more of an audiophile sound profile, with smooth, well-balanced sound and well-defined bass. This model has new 11mm drivers, which add a bit of punch to the bass and a touch better clarity. The MW08 works well with all genres of music.
Available in a variety of color options, like their predecessors, the MW08 includes a swanky stainless-steel charging case (it charges via USB-C) that’s compact but carries more weight than your typical buds cases. You also get a secondary pouch for safekeeping (yes, the charging case can get scratched up if you leave it in a bag).
These truly wireless earbuds now support both the aptX and AAC audio codecs and have an extended range of more than 20 meters, according to Master & Dynamic. They have an IPX5 water-resistance rating, which means they can withstand a sustained spray of water.
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The Earfun Air Pro 2 not only features solid active noise cancellation but their sound is also impressive for their relatively modest price, with overall well-balanced sound, decent clarity and solid bass performance. Some of Earfun’s buds have had a bit too much treble push — sometimes referred to as “presence boost” — but these mostly manage to avoid that. They do sound better than the original Air Pro.
The earbuds have some extra features, like an ear-detection sensor (your music pauses when you take the buds out of your ears) and a case that has USB-C and wireless charging, that you don’t often find at this price. Equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, they’re splash-proof with an IPX5 rating and offer up to seven hours of battery life on a single charge at moderate volume levels, though you’ll probably get closer to six hours with noise canceling on.
There’s also a transparency mode that lets ambient sound in. It actually sounds pretty natural and is closer than I thought it would to the AirPods Pro’s excellent transparency mode. Alas, there’s no companion app that allows you to tweak the sound or upgrade the firmware.
Earfun talks up the Air Pro 2’s voice calling capabilities — the buds have three microphones in each earbud — and I thought call performance was good but these didn’t reduce background noise as much the new Soundpeats T3, which are also good for the money ($40). However, while the Soundpeats T3 are better for calls, the Earfun Air Pro 2’s noise-canceling and transparency modes are superior and the Soundpeats don’t have the ear-detection sensor. Active noise cancellation is the name of the game with these earbuds. Also, the Earfun Air Pro 2 buds sound better, with richer, more dynamic sound.
Anker’s SoundCore Life Q20 headphones are arguably the best value in the category of noise-canceling headphones. Not only do these over-ear headphones sound quite decent for their regular list price of $60 (they often sell for $10 less), but they’re also comfortable to wear thanks to the secure earcups.
No, they don’t sound as good as premium Bluetooth headphones from Sony and Bose, but the audio quality is pretty good, which is all you can ask of noise-canceling headphones at this price. The sound quality is fairly well balanced with a reasonable amount of clarity and plump bass that’s not bloated or muddy (there’s a bass boost or BassUp mode if you want an extra helping of bass with your music). Also, the noise cancellation is acceptably effective and they’re solid as a headset for making calls. Battery life is good at 40 hours. A simple carrying pouch is included.
Microsoft’s over-ear noise-canceling Surface Headphones 2 were released in early 2020, and the biggest change from their predecessor is the price: The original Surface Headphones launched at $350, while the Headphones 2 cost $250. Like the original, there’s a lot to like about this second-gen model. While they’ve lost their hands-free Cortana voice control feature (a change no one will lament) and the sound quality hasn’t improved (it’s quite good but not stellar), the combination of some small design tweaks, better battery life, upgraded Bluetooth and the new lower price (especially when they go on sale) helps make them more recommendable.
Their multipoint Bluetooth pairing capability allows you to pair them with two devices at the same time, such as a computer and a phone, and quickly switch the audio from each device to the headphones. That’s an appealing feature from a work-from-home standpoint, and these also work well for making voice calls.
Read our Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 review.
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The Sennheiser PXC 550-II didn’t get much attention when it was released in 2020 and with its list price of $350, it faced daunting competition from Sony and Bose. But we’ve spotted it for less than $200 on Amazon and it’s a good value there, featuring very good sound (it’s got a slightly warmer sound profile), good noise canceling and solid voice calling. Battery life is impressive at around 30 hours with noise-canceling on.
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The Solo Pro are among the best on-ear noise-canceling wireless headphones and feature Apple’s H1 chip, which enables several nifty features for Apple devices. However, these headphones don’t have the dynamic head-tracking required for Apple’s spatial audio feature while watching TV and movies — only the AirPods Pro, third-gen AirPods, AirPods Max and new Beats Fit Pro have head-tracking. These support spatial audio for music listening, and while they’re way overpriced at their list price of $300 but they’re more attractive at half that price — or less. Most colors are selling for $130 or so. They’ve technically been discontinued by Apple, so buy them only if they’re heavily discounted.
Read our Beats Solo Pro first take.
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If you’re looking for a very clean-sounding headphone with more of a neutral sound profile, the well-built Shure Aonic 50 is that noise-canceling headphone. The treble is clear and articulate and the bass is well-defined but may be a little underpowered for those who want a little more oomph. The noise canceling is good but not quite up to the level of top noise-canceling models from Bose and Sony that cost a little less.
The headphones fold flat but they’re a bit bulky, as is their case. But they work very well as a headset for making calls — Shure is known for making excellent microphones — so they’re a good work-from-home headphone that’s comfortable to wear (but might be a little big for some folks).
While the Aonic 50 suffers a bit from being a little too expensive, it’s an excellent headphone that seems built to last. Battery life is rated at 20 hours — the headphone charge via USB-C — and it supports a variety of audio codecs, including aptX, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency audio, Sony LDAC, AAC and SBC.
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Sennheiser updated its well-regarded 4.50BTNC noise-canceling headphones in 2020. The new headphone model is called the 450BT and it has some notable upgrades, including better battery life (up to 30 hours with noise canceling on), USB-C charging, Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX support for devices like the Samsung Galaxy smartphones that support it and more comfortable earpads. The 450BT noise-canceling headphones list for $200, but usually cost around $150 although they have dipped to as low as $100 in flash sales (they’re a very good value at that price).
The 450BT headphones don’t have quite the clarity or bass definition of Sennheiser’s Momentum Wireless 3 headphones, but they cost much less and deliver very good well-balanced sound that’s easy to listen to for long periods. I thought the 450BT model also worked quite well as a headset making calls, with the sidetone feature that allows you to hear your voice inside the headphones.
The only potential downside is that regular headphones may not be the most comfortable for some people. I have a smaller head, so they worked fine for me, but they do clamp a bit and those with larger heads may find that to be an issue. Also, while the earpads have been upgraded, they’re still covered in a faux leather material that doesn’t breathe quite as well as some earpad coverings. Still, if you can’t afford premium models in the $300 to $400 range, this is a more affordable option that’s well built and delivers premium sound. The headphones fold up to fit into an included soft carrying case.
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I liked Bowers & Wilkins’ original PX noise-canceling headphones, but they were slightly lacking in both the earcup comfort and noise-canceling departments. The company’s PX7, released in the fall of 2019, improves on both fronts, with excellent sound, four noise cancellation settings (Automatic, Low, High and Off) and well-padded earcups in a sturdy, eye-catching design. There’s also an adjustable ambient transparency mode that allows you to hear the outside world.
The headphones are a tad heavy at 10.7 ounces (304 grams), but the build quality is top-notch — and it better be considering these are a little pricey at $400. Bowers & Wilkins previously made a more compact on-ear model, the PX5. But these do sound a little better.
The sound is rich and detailed, with deep bass that remains well-defined even at high volumes. These are pretty dynamic headphones, with a touch of extra energy in the mid-highs. They’re not laid-back like the earlier PX5 Wireless and their most direct competitor is probably the Sennheiser Momentum 3 model listed above. That Sennheiser is arguably superior for making calls, but this B&W probably wins on design.
The PX7 headphones support AAC and aptX, use Bluetooth 5.0, charge via USB-C and have up to 30 hours of battery life at moderate volume levels. The noise canceling isn’t quite at the level of the Bose or Sony in this roundup, but it’s not far off — as I said, it’s improved from the original PX model’s noise cancellation.
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