When it comes to wireless headphones, the noise-cancelling over-ear models typically offer the most comprehensive set of features we want. The best options combine stellar audio with powerful active noise cancellation (ANC) and other useful tools to create the most complete package possible. Of course, some companies do this better than others. For this guide, we’ll be focusing mainly on the over-ear style and offer a range of prices so you can decide how much you’re comfortable spending.
Best Overall: Sony WH-1000XM5
Sony’s 1000X line has been our top pick for a long time. Until another company manages to pack in as many features as Sony, and do it with a great mix of sound and effective ANC, the crown is safe. With the WH-1000XM5Sony has redesigned its flagship headphones, making them much more comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The company also made noticeable improvements to active noise cancellation by adding a separate V1 chip in addition to the QN1 included in the M4. There are now a total of eight ANC microphones – the previous model only had four. All this combines to better block high frequencies, including human voices.
The 1000XM5 still has all the features that make Sony’s premium headphones quintessential. That includes 30 hours of battery life and crisp, clear sound with balanced tuning and powerful bass. A combination of touch controls and physical buttons gives you onboard access to music, calls and noise modes without reaching for your phone. Speak-to-Chat automatically pauses the audio when you start talking, and like previous Sony headphones, the M5 can change the sound modes based on your activity or location. In addition, this model offers better call quality than most competitors. The only real downside is that they are $50 more than the WH-1000XM4†
Second place: Bose QuietComfort 45
The Bose 700 was one of our top picks last time around, but the company recently revived a workhorse with the QuietComfort 45† The design is largely unchanged from the previous QC models, which could be a deal breaker for some. But once you get past that, the QC45 combines Bose’s excellent active noise cancellation with clear and balanced sound. You can count on a battery life of up to 24 hours on a charge and a comfortable fit that won’t tire during long listening sessions. We’ve already seen them on sale for $50 less than full price, which makes the QuietComfort 45 even more appealing.
Best budget: Sony WH-CH710N
If you want capable noise cancellation that won’t break the bank, Sony’s WH-CH710N is a solid bet. These headphones are much less than a flagship model for $150 — and they often sell for even less — but you’ll be sacrificing a few things. The biggest place where these fall short is in overall sound quality. There’s decent range and good clarity, but they lack a deep, punchy bass that would help create a fuller sound. For casual listeners who want a decent pair of headphones that still have ANC, these will probably offer enough in the sonic department.
In terms of noise cancellation, the WH-CH710N exhibits enough noise-blocking power to keep distractions to a minimum. Thanks to Sony’s dual noise sensor technology, these headphones pick up much of that unwanted noise and automatically select the best noise cancellation for your environment. There’s also an ambient sound option if you want to keep an eye on what’s going on around you. With 35 hours of battery life, a quick charge feature and handy onboard controls, the WH-CH710N offers a glimpse of the luxury of a flagship headphone for under $200.
After months of rumours, we finally discovered that Apple has successfully built a set of premium over-ear headphones. The AirPods Max combine the best features of AirPods earbuds with noise cancellation, including spatial audio and easy access to Siri. At the moment, spatial audio is limited and there is no high-res music streaming. But even if there’s still work to be done, the overall sound quality, great ambient sound mode, and all-Apple aesthetics are enough to make the AirPods Max recommend. That is, if you’re willing to splurge.
Back at CES, Panasonic announced the EAH-A800: a new set of ANC headphones under the iconic Technics brand. While most of the features are what you see on any number of headphones, one number stood out. The company says you can expect up to 50 hours of battery life on the A800, and that’s with active noise cancellation enabled. These are currently in my stable of review units for detailed analysis, but I’ve already tested them on a long flight. The ANC is impressive and they are comfortable enough to keep them from becoming a burden after a few hours. The sound quality is also pretty good (there’s LDAC support too) and there are enough features to justify the premium price tag.
Audio Technica ATH-M50xBT
The wireless version of Audio Technica’s M50 Headphones may not have ANC, but that’s okay. The ATH-M50xBT quickly became one of my favorite sets when it debuted in 2018 thanks to its warm, natural sound profile and a very comfortable fit. The company revamped the wireless model in 2021 and added multipoint connectivity, quick access to Alexa and a low latency mode to the M50xBT2. Everything else from the previous model is still there and that’s excellent news. If you spend most of your time listening to music in a place where you don’t need active noise canceling to shut out the world, the M50xBT2 is a great choice for $199.
All products recommended by cafe-madrid have been selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.