Best noise cancelling headphones 2024: ace ANC from Bose, Sony, Apple & more

Elevate your listening experience with the best ANC headphones for every budget

Best noise cancelling headphones 2024

A pair of the best active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones can transform your listening experience – whether that's because you walk a lot, travel a lot or because you have to commute to work. They'll cut out distracting noises so you can keep your focus on the music, or whatever type of media you choose to play. 

From chilling out at home to trying to focus on your work in a busy office, noise cancelling headphones will make you feel totally immersed in your tunes. They're also great for taking calls: think catching up with friends and family, or joining online meetings with colleagues, where you'll be able to hear everything completely clearly. 

To assemble this best ANC headphones list, we've selected the finest noise cancelling headphones at a number of distinct price points, including the best noise cancelling earbuds if you're looking just for in-ears specifically.

T3 top picks

The best noise cancelling headphones in 2024

Why you can trust T3 Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Best overall

Bose QuietComfort Ultra HeadphonesT3 Awards 2024 Winner logos

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)
The best noise cancelling headphones overall

Specifications

Battery life: 24 hours
Type : Over-ear
Weight: 250g

Reasons to buy

+
Active noise cancelling really works
+
Compact, comfortable, lightweight
+
18-hour battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the cheapest
-
Limited touch controls

Headphones are about listening to music and the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones are not only fantastic at that, their active noise cancelling is unrivalled. These are particularly ideal for blocking out the outside world when on your travels.

Throw is a great carry case and folding design and, for us, that makes the Bose the best ANC headphones overall. You could even sleep in these, making them perfect for drowning out the hiss of airflow and passenger droning on flights.

As we said in our Bose QC Ultra Headphones review: "All hail the noise cancelling king! If you're looking for incredible travel headphones then you can do no better." They will cost you a considerable sum, but we'd say that they're worth every penny.

Best luxury

Sonos Ace reviewT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)
The best luxury ANC headphones

Specifications

Battery life: 30 hours
Type: Over-ear
Weight: 312g

Reasons to buy

+
Superior-level comfort
+
Big sound that includes spatial audio
+
Fun personal cinema features

Reasons to avoid

-
Case could be improved
-
Not the best for travel

The Sonos Ace headphones are the first pair we've seen launched by Sonos, and while it's a shame they don't offer full integration with existing Sonos Wi-Fi speaker systems, there's enough in the positives column for us to recommend them.

As you would expect from Sonos, the audio quality is absolutely top notch, and that extends to the active noise cancelling, which effectively blocks out the world. We like a lot of the design choices as well, and there's a decent amount of battery life here.

On top of all that, the Sonos Ace offer a superior level of comfort, thanks to the memory foam headband and snug fit. In our Sonos Ace review, tech editor Mike Lowe called them the most comfortable pair of headphones he's ever worn.

Best earbuds

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds in whiteT3 Awards 2024 Winner logos

(Image credit: Future / Emily Pursel)
Best noise cancelling earbuds

Specifications

Battery life: 6 hours (24 hours with case)
Type: In-ear
Weight: 7.7g per earbud

Reasons to buy

+
Top notch sound
+
Incredible comfort
+
Unrivalled noise cancellation

Reasons to avoid

-
Case is larger than some
-
Pricier than most

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are, as their name suggests, the ultimate noise cancelling earbuds. They're pricier than many of their competitors, but if blocking out extraneous noise to the extreme is your goal, these are perfect.

As we say in our Bose QC Ultra Earbuds review: "You'll find exceptional noise cancelling properties and a listening experience which doesn't fatigue on long sessions." The audio is great overall, and so is the accompanying phone app.

If it's in-ears that you specifically want for your ANC then, in many respects, these are the very best on the market. There's no getting around their high price, but if your budget is able to stretch to these wireless earbuds, they won't let you down.

Best on offer

Sony WF-1000XM4 reviewT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Sony)
The best noise cancelling headphones when on offer

Specifications

Battery life: 8 hours (24 hours with case)
Type: In-ear
Weight: 7.3g per earbud

Reasons to buy

+
Fabulous audio
+
Super-sharp ANC
+
Decent battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Looks could be divisive
-
Quite large 

Not everyone loves these in-ears' looks, but one listen is enough to prove that these have precisely what it takes to win you over. During the time we used Sony's top-tier earbuds we found the ANC to be exceptional, hence their position on our list.

The overall sound one of the best, most dynamic and detailed audio experiences we've ever had from earbuds too. This is, at least in part, down to the DSEE Extreme audio processor with Edge-AI to upscale whatever you're listening to. 

As we said in our Sony WF-1000XM4 review: these earbuds "are profoundly impressive across the board", offering an "all-round package [that] is very hard to beat". Wait until you can find them at a discount somewhere online though.

Best for sports

Jabra Elite 8 Active reviewT3 Awards 2024 Winner logos

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)
The best ANC headphones for sports

Specifications

Battery life: 8 hours (32 hours with case)
Type: In-ear
Weight: 5g per earbud

Reasons to buy

+
Extra durable construction
+
Includes Dolby Audio with spatial sound
+
Updated, comfortable form factor

Reasons to avoid

-
Wingtip-less design won't suit everyone
-
Adaptive ANC could be better

We've picked the Jabra Elite 8 Active as the best ANC headphones for sports right now, and that's down to a number of factors – including the durable, premium-level quality of their construction, and the tight fit offered by these wireless earbuds.

Of course it's not all about the tough design: these Jabra Elite 8 Active headphones are able to pump out some fantastic-sounding audio as well, complete with noise cancelling. Whether you're jogging out working out, you'll love the soundscape.

Read our full Jabra Elite 8 Active review and you'll see that we described these earbuds as "brilliant workout buds, the most rugged on the market, with excellent sound" – which is quite an advertisement if you're looking to make a purchase.

Best battery life

Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless close up of headphone's controlsT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Future)
The best noise cancelling headphones for battery life

Specifications

Type: Over ear
Battery life: 60 hours
Weight: 293g

Reasons to buy

+
Energetic, powerful sound
+
Very effective adaptive ANC
+
60 hours of battery, fast charging

Reasons to avoid

-
Could look more exciting
-
EQ control could be more extensive

If you're the type who regularly forgets to charge their headphones then the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless are undoubtedly the best ANC choice: with a massive 60 hours of playtime, you can listen for hours on end with these.

In our tests, we were seriously impressed with the sound quality, it's clear and precise with plenty of energy and there's an equaliser in the app to customise it according to your tastes. There's very little in the negative column here.

You'll be able to keep focused on the music too, thanks to the adaptive noise cancellation which blocks out distracting sounds very well. Considering the price is reasonable too, we can see these headphones appealing to a lot of people.

Best Sony

Sony WH-1000XM5T3 Awards 2022 Highly Commended logo

(Image credit: Sony)
The best Sony noise cancelling headphones

Specifications

Battery life: 30 hours
Type: Over-ear
Weight: 255g

Reasons to buy

+
Superb noise cancellation
+
Stunning sound 
+
Great battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Don't fold
-
Pricier than predecessors

It's a no-brainer that the WH-1000XM5 have arrived on this list: these headphones are truly astounding all-rounders, and we suspect that a lot of people are going to choose them when shopping for the best noise cancelling headphones for them.

As our Sony WH-1000XM5 review says "Sony has managed to replace the best all-round wireless active noise cancelling over-ear headphones you can buy with, you guessed it, the best new all-round wireless ANC over-ear headphones you can buy."

There's no doubt this is the best ANC technology that Sony has ever managed to build into a pair of headphones, and the design and build quality are superb too. Even in a busy and crowded field, these headphones manage to stand out.

Best for Apple users

Apple AirPods Max review

(Image credit: Future)
Best active noise cancelling headphones for Apple users

Specifications

Listening time per charge: 20 hours
Type: Over-ear
Weight: 385g

Reasons to buy

+
Beautiful and natural sound
+
Excellent noise cancelling
+
Fit is really comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
On the pricey side
-
Smart case isn't useful

We know that Apple headphones work great with Apple devices, and if you're already invested in this ecosystem, the AirPods Max are a sensible choice for the best ANC headphones – even if they're comparatively expensive for what you get.

Active noise cancelling is only one of the areas where these over-ear headphones appeal though, because they're also really comfortable and very well designed. You're not going to be tired of wearing them after several hours of listening.

In our full Apple AirPods Max review we described these cans as sounding "rich, natural and detailed", with "absolutely excellent" ANC. They're some of the best headphones we've ever tried, and definitely worth a place on this particular list.

Best premium

Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e reviewT3 Awards 2024 Winner logos

(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)
The best premium headphones

Specifications

Battery life: 30 hours
Type: Over-ear
Weight: 307g

Reasons to buy

+
Confident, detailed, hi-fi level sound
+
Capable active noise-cancelling
+
Superior build and finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Similar to the Px7 S2
-
On the expensive side

Our premium pick are the Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e headphones: they're not the cheapest out there, but the audio quality is undeniable. You get superb details and ANC performance, with a prestige sound to match this prestige brand name.

The build quality and the materials used here are top-notch too, at the expense of a little extra weight that we don't think most people will mind. There are easy-to-use on-board controls, as well as the option of a wired connection if you need it.

Add in the 30 hours of battery life between charges, and it's a fantastic deal. As we said in our Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2e review, these headphones represent a "marvellous ensemble of sound quality, luxurious build and sublime comfort".

How we test

At T3 how we test our headphones is beautifully simple: we listen to them. A lot. And not just sitting in the office or in a quiet room. Out in the street. On public transport. On planes. Out shopping. The only way to test active noise cancelling is to find as many things to cancel as possible to make sure we can still hear the Encanto soundtrack. 

And speaking of soundtracks, we hit every genre of music to make sure we can hear the full breadth of what each pair of headphones can offer. Treble, bass, mid tones and EQ all come under an aural microscope to make sure we get the most accurate impression. This also helpfully means we can get through plenty of battery to test manufacturer promises when it comes to how much juice is lurking in carry cases. And we'll always check fast charging too. 

Finally we also understand that our busy lives mean music is only half of what we expect from our headphones. We spend plenty of time testing call quality, not just in terms of speaker clarity but also making sure that those on the other end can actually hear what we have to say. We test in both calm and windier conditions to make sure that mic quality will always stand up to everyday life. 

How to pick

When it comes to picking the best headphones for you, the good news is that you don't automatically always have to go for the most expensive option. First of all, it's important to think about where you want to use your headphones. Are they for exercise? Wearing in the office? Or maybe to put the mute into your morning commute?

Dreadful puns aside, if you do want the rest of the world to disappear, you definitely want to invest the extra in a pair of active noise cancelling headphones, and if you're a gym bunny you'll really want something sweat-proof too.

Once you've worked out what you need, your next choice is what style of headphone you want. And truthfully it's all about comfort and subjectivity. Maybe you want the subtlety of a pair of true wireless in-ear buds, or maybe you want the world to know you are actively listening to music. We've given you the best ANC headphones for all budgets, so all you need to do is choose what's right for you.

Mike Lowe
Tech Editor

Mike is the Tech Editor at T3.com. He's been writing about consumer technology for 15 years and, as a phones expert, has seen hundreds of handsets over the years – swathes of Android devices, a smattering of iPhones, and a batch of Windows Phone too (remember those?). But that's not all, as a tech and audio aficionado his beat at T3 also covers tablets, laptops, gaming, home cinema, TVs, speakers and more – there's barely a tech stone unturned he's not had a hand on. Previously the Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint for 10 years, he's also provided work for publications such as Wired, The Guardian, Metro, and more. In addition to his tech knowledge, Mike is also a flights and travel expert, having travelled the globe extensively. You'll likely find him setting up a new mobile phone, critiquing the next MacBook, all while planning his next getaway... or cycling somewhere.