The best noise-canceling headphones for 2024

The best noise-canceling headphones for 2024

For most wireless headphones, active noise cancellation (ANC) is a primary feature, especially at the mid-range to premium levels. ANC is a popular tool, especially for headphones you’re going to use in a variety of locations and settings. To help you cut through the noise of all the options on the market, we’ve compiled a list of the best noise-canceling headphones you can buy right now. Judged primarily in terms of ANC performance, this guide not only offers suggestions in various scenarios and prices, but also gives you advice on what to look for on a spec sheet while you’re shopping.

How to choose the best noise-canceling headphones for you


When you’re shopping for a pair of wireless headphones, the first thing you’ll need to decide on is wear style. Do you prefer on-ear or over-ear? For the purposes of this guide, I focus on the over-ear style as that’s what most noise-canceling headphones are nowadays. Sure, you can find on-ear models with ANC, but over-ear, noise-canceling headphones are much more effective at blocking sound since your ears are completely covered.

Type of noise cancellation

Next, you’ll want to look at the type of ANC a set of headphones offers. You’ll come across terms like “hybrid active noise cancellation” or “hybrid adaptive active noise cancellation,” and there are key differences between the two. A hybrid ANC setup uses microphones on the inside and on the outside of the device to detect ambient noise and cancel it out. By analyzing input from both mics, a hybrid system can combat more sounds than “regular” ANC, but it does so at a constant level that doesn’t change.

Adaptive ANC takes the hybrid configuration a step further by continuously adjusting the noise cancellation for changes in your environment and any leakage around the padding of the ear cups. Adaptive ANC also does a better job with wind noise, which can really kill your vibe while using headphones outdoors. For the purposes of this best headphones list, I’m only considering products with hybrid ANC or adaptive ANC setups because those are the most effective at blocking noise.


You’ll also want to check to see if the ANC system on a prospective set of headphones offers adjustable levels of noise cancellation or presets. These can help you dial in the amount of ANC you need for various environments, but it can also help you save battery life. Master & Dynamic, for example, has ANC presets that provide both maximum noise blocking and more efficient cancellation that is more energy efficient. Other companies may include a slider in their companion apps that let you adjust the ANC level to your liking.

How we test noise-canceling headphones

The primary way we test headphones is to wear them as much as possible. I prefer to do this over a one-to-two-week period, but sometimes deadlines don’t allow it. During this time, I listen to a mix of music and podcasts, while also using the headphones to take both voice and video calls.

Since battery life for headphones can be 30 hours or more, I drain the battery with looping music and the volume set at a comfortable level (usually around 75 percent). Due to the longer battery estimates, I’ll typically power the headphones off several times and leave them that way during a review. This simulates real-world use and keeps me from having to constantly monitor the process for over 24 straight hours.

To test ANC performance specifically, I use headphones in a variety of environments, from noisy coffee shops to quiet home offices. When my schedule allows, I use them during air travel since plane noise is a massive distraction to both work and relaxation. Even if I can’t hop on a flight, I’ll simulate a constant roar with white noise machines, bathroom fans, vacuums and more. I also make note of how well each device blocks human voices, which are a key stumbling block for a lot of ANC headphones.

ANC-related features are something else to consider. Here, I do a thorough review of companion apps, testing each feature as I work through the software. Any holdovers from previous models are double checked for improvements or regression. If the headphones I’m testing are an updated version of a previous model, I’ll spend time getting reacquainted with the older set. Ditto for the closest competition for each new set of headphones that I review.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

By John Routledge

Founder and owner of - I'm an avid tech junkie, a lover of new gadgets and home automation. You will often find me reading, writing, and learning about new technologies. I've been featured in many leading technology magazines where I've written about my favorite topics.