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Best noise-cancelling headphones 2022: ANC headphones to suit every budget

Andy White
31 Mar 2022
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Enjoy distraction-free audio with our pick of the best noise-cancelling headphones on the market

If you want to enjoy audio free from the distractions of the outside world, you need a pair of the best noise-cancelling headphones.

Noise-cancelling headphones (often referred to as active noise-cancelling/ANC headphones) attenuate environmental sound to ensure you can hear your music, movies or podcasts without having to crank the volume up to ear-damaging levels.

ANC technology has come on leaps and bounds in recent years but how effectively headphones dampen external sound varies greatly from product to product. With hundreds of options to choose from, working out which pair to buy can be a little overwhelming.

That's where we come in. We've tested countless pairs of noise-cancelling headphones and have compiled a list of our favourites across a range of styles and price points. If you just want to start shopping, scroll down the page for bite-size reviews of the products we deem worth splashing out on.

If you're keen to learn about how noise-cancellation technology works or need a bit more guidance in terms of what to look for, we've put together handy video and written buying guides that will arm you with all the information you need.


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How to choose the best noise-cancelling headphones for you

With prices starting from around £50 and soaring well over £300, there's a pair of noise-cancelling headphones out there for everyone, no matter their budget. But which style is right for you and what features should you look out for? The answers to both of those questions can be found in both the video and written buying guides below.

What types of noise-cancellation are there?

Headphones can feature two types of noise-cancellation: active and passive. Passive noise cancellation simply means physically blocking out external noises. It's often referred to as “sound isolation”, and the style of headphones you choose will have a significant impact on how effective it is.

Active noise cancellation is a much smarter process using clever technology to reduce ambient noise so nothing disturbs your listening.

The only downside of the technology is that it's rather expensive, though we're seeing more affordable options emerging. If you can't stretch your budget to a pair of ANC headphones, you may want to take a look at our roundups of the best Bluetooth headphones and best cheap headphones for some less dear alternatives.

What style of noise-cancelling headphones should I buy?

Noise-cancelling headphones come in all shapes and sizes, and their ability to passively block out ambient sound varies greatly from style to style.

Over-ear headphones of the closed-back variety offer the best passive noise-cancellation as their earcups are sealed and envelop your ears. Open-back over-ear headphones actively let sound in, so you won't find any noise-cancelling headphones sporting an open-back design.

On-ear headphones let some sound in owing to the way they sit on your ears. This doesn't make ANC redundant, but there aren't nearly as many on-ear headphones with ANC as there are over-ear options.

In-ear headphones do passive noise cancellation slightly differently: they use silicone eartips to seal your ear canals and isolate sound that way. There are some in-ear noise-cancelling headphones that use an open-fit design – where the earpieces rest just inside your ears – but we recommend you steer clear of these if you're after decent ANC as they let too much sound in.

Ultimately, the style you choose will be the style you find most comfortable and is most practical for the conditions in which you plan to use your noise-cancelling headphones.

How does active noise cancellation work?

ANC relies on a combination of outward-facing microphones built into the headphones and clever digital signal processing. The microphones constantly listen to the ambient sound around you, while the digital signal processor takes that audio and plays the exact inverse of that sound alongside your music. The result is that those outside noises are effectively cancelled out, allowing you to enjoy your music as it was meant to be heard.

ANC is a very impressive technology, but it doesn’t completely eliminate every type of background noise. As high frequencies have a much shorter wavelength than lower tones, they’re harder to eliminate in real-time. The technology is most effective at blocking out lower-frequency sounds, such as the rumble of aeroplane engines.

What are the benefits of noise-cancelling headphones?

Noise-cancelling headphones don't just help you enjoy your music: they can protect your hearing. Without noise-cancelling technology, the only way to drown out ambient noise is to crank up the volume. Done on a regular basis, this can lead to permanent hearing damage. Noise-cancelling headphones let you listen at lower volumes, reducing the impact on your eardrums. ANC is also useful if you have hypersensitivity, hyperacusis or a similar health condition, as the technology can help reduce the strain on your ears.

It's worth noting that ANC can affect the overall sound quality of your headphones because the noise-cancelling wave can interfere with the frequencies in what you’re listening to. The effect is usually minimal though, and preferable to putting up with background noise. You might also hear a slight high-pitched hiss in the background when nothing is playing – but, again, it’s a small price to pay for the ability to enjoy your music untroubled by intrusive external sounds.


The best noise-cancelling headphones to buy in 2022

1. Sony WH-1000XM4: The best noise-cancelling headphones, bar none

Price: £279 | Buy now from Amazon

Sony’s WH-1000XM3 have finally been ousted as best noise-cancelling headphones by their successor, the WH-1000XM4. These over-ear cans take everything that was great about the previous generation and improve on it: the noise cancellation is smarter and more effective, the audio sounds better and the fit is more comfortable than ever.

The WH-1000XM4’s new features are what really set them apart, though. Speak-to-Chat automatically pauses your audio when you strike up a conversation, multipoint Bluetooth pairing allows for simultaneous connection to two devices and wear detection pauses your audio when you take the headphones off. These intelligent new additions elevate what was an already stunning product, though sadly there’s still no water resistance: the WH-1000XM4’s only real weakness.

If you want the best ANC headphones that money can buy, look no further. If they’re outside of your price range, however, the WH-1000XM3 remain a fantastic option years after their initial release.

Read our full Sony WH-1000XM4 review for more details

Key specs – Headphone type: Over-ear, built-in microphone, touch and physical controls; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 254g; Cable length: 1.2m


2. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: Best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds

Price: £250 | Buy now from Amazon

The Bose QuietComfort are the most effective noise-cancelling earbuds on the market. They offer ten discrete levels of ANC, the most potent of which cuts out all but the most obnoxious high-pitched sounds. Though they don't adjust the ANC automatically based on your surroundings, you can program three presets to cover just about every situation and switch quickly between them using simple touch controls.

Sound quality is sensational, with balanced audio across the frequency spectrum and a pleasing amount of low-end impact. The QC Earbuds are also among the most stable-fitting and comfortable buds going: we used them extensively while exercising and they didn't budge a millimetre even during the most strenuous of workouts.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review for more details

Key specs – Headphone type: True wireless earbuds, built-in microphone and touch controls; Connectivity: Bluetooth; Weight: 8.5g per earbuds, 76g charging case; Cable length: N/A


3. Anker Soundcore Life Q30: The ultimate budget noise-cancelling headphones

Price: £80 | Buy now from Amazon

The Life Q30 may not be the best-looking noise-cancelling headphones around but they've got a lot going for them. Their ANC is highly effective given their budget price and there are three modes available catering for different circumstances: Transport, Indoors and Outdoors, all of which successfully help mitigate environmental sound.

The Soundcore companion app that lets you freely switch between those modes is one of the most comprehensive around, with 22 different EQ presets to choose from and an eight-band graphic equaliser to create your own EQ. Those audio customisation options are particularly welcome as the Life Q30's default sound profile is overly bassy to the point where the earcups vibrate and things sound rather muddy. But tone the low-end down a bit and things start to sound much better.

The Life Q30 also have an outstanding battery life of up to 40 hours with ANC turned on. With that stamina, impressive noise-cancelling capabilities and audio you can tweak to suit your own preference, the Life Q30 are the ultimate budget ANC headphones.

Read our full Anker Soundcore Life Q30 review for more details

Key specs – Headphone type: Over-ear, built-in microphone, touch and physical controls; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 265g; Cable length: 1.2m


4. Sony WF-1000XM4: The smartest noise-cancelling earbuds

Price: £250 | Buy now from Amazon

The Sony WF-1000XM4 sound great and are comfortable too, but what really sets them apart is ambient sound control, which automatically adjusts noise cancellation based on your actions and surroundings.

You can set specific sound profiles for staying (sitting or standing still), walking, running and transport, and the buds will pick up on what you're doing and switch to the relevant profile. But their smarts don't end there. They'll also learn about the places you visit over time and the noise-cancelling requirements when in those locations. From there you can register sound settings for specific areas within the Sony Headphones Connect app. Such personalisation options are unmatched in the earbuds world, although the technology is also incorporated by the WF-1000XM4's over-ear stablemates, the WH-1000XM4.

If the WF-1000XM4 are a little out of your price range, it's worth checking out their predecessors the WF-1000XM3, which also offer high-quality ANC but are available for under £150.

Read our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review for more details

Key specs – Headphone type: True wireless earbuds with built-in microphone and touch controls; Connectivity: Bluetooth; Weight: 6g per earbud, 41g charging case; Cable length: N/A


5. Beats Solo Pro: Best on-ear noise-cancelling headphones

Price: £199 | Buy now from OnBuy

You don't find too many on-ear headphones making use of active noise cancellation, as their design allows a fair amount of sound to make its way into your ears. However, the Beats Solo Pro do a top job of dampening external sound despite sitting on your ears rather than over them.

The whole ANC process is handled automatically, with the internal and external mics picking up ambient sound and adjusting the level of noise cancellation based on what's going on around you. During testing, we found that whatever situation we were in, the Solo Pro managed to put a decent dent in environmental sound.

In addition to those noise-cancelling capabilities, the Beats Solo Pro offer a solid battery life of 22 hours with ANC on and 40 hours with it off, hands-free control courtesy of Siri on iPhones and high-quality sound. Bass is especially well handled; it's tight and punchy and doesn't overshadow mids and treble, which are detailed and articulated crisply.

Read our full Beats Solo Pro review for more details

Key specs – Headphone type: On-ear, built-in microphone and touch controls; Connectivity: Bluetooth; Weight: 267g; Cable length: 1.2m

Buy now from OnBuy


6. Philips PH805: Superb over-ear noise-cancelling headphones

Price: £160 | Buy now from Amazon

The Philips PH805 over-ear headphones are an impressive combination of comfort, sound quality, impressive active noise cancellation and affordability. They may not be quite as efficient at cutting out background noise as the best in the business, but they’re significantly cheaper and compete with pricier alternatives in terms of audio performance.

In addition to their great sound, the PH805s utilise intuitive touch controls, support Bluetooth 5.0 and are compatible with both Siri and Google Assistant. Fully charged they’ll give you 25 hours of playtime with ANC switched on, and a handy travel case allows for safe storage and easy transportation.

Read our full Philips PH805 review for more details

Key specs – Headphone type: Over-ear; built-in microphone and music control buttons; Plug type: 3.5mm jack (optional) Weight: 280g Cable length: 1.3m


7. Bowers & Wilkins PI7: The best-sounding ANC earbuds

Price: £350 | Buy now from Amazon

While their adaptive noise-cancellation can’t quite match that of the class-leading Bose QC Earbuds, the B&W PI7 do a very solid job at reducing ambient sound. They put a sizeable dent in low-end frequencies and make enjoying your audio far easier in loud, hectic environments.

Where they truly shine, however, is in the sound quality department. The PI7 deliver sensational sound no matter what genre of music you’re listening to, with rich, deep bass complemented beautifully by crisp, clean mids and treble. And to further cement their place as some of the best noise-cancelling headphones around, the earbuds offer a unique feature in the form of audio retransmission.

This enables you to use the charging case as a Bluetooth transmitter and transform non-Bluetooth audio sources. It’s an innovative and useful inclusion and one that goes a long way to justifying the buds’ hefty price tag.

Read our full Bowers & Wilkins PI7 review for more details

Key specs – Headphone type: True wireless earbuds, built-in microphone and touch controls; Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 8g per earbuds, 50g charging case; Cable length: N/A


8. Apple AirPods Max: Best noise-cancelling headphones for iPhone users

Price: £549 | Buy now from Amazon

They may be the most expensive entry on this list, but Apple's AirPods Max deliver where it matters most: noise cancellation and audio quality. The ANC uses six external microphones and two internal mics and does a superb job at reducing external sound, while the transparency mode works extremely well, too.

When it comes to their sound signature, the AirPods Max are relatively laid back. Their soundstage is nice and wide and this provides plenty of room for you to make out different elements of more complicated musical arrangements. Top-end frequencies are slightly rolled off so the AirPods Max never become fatiguing to listen to.

But what really sets the AirPods Max apart from the competition is their incorporation of Spatial Audio. This uses head tracking to deliver surround sound and works wonderfully while watching content that supports the technology. Sound comes from different directions based on your head's position and the result is a truly immersive experience.

If you own an iPhone and are after the most luxurious over-ear noise-cancellers around, the AirPods Max should be top of your wishlist.

Read our full Apple AirPods Max review for more details

Key specs – Headphone type: Over-ear headphones with built-in microphone; Connectivity: Bluetooth; Weight: 384g; Cable length: N/A


9. Anker Soundcore Life P3: Best cheap noise-cancelling earbuds

Price: £70 | Buy now from Amazon

The Life P3 are the most effective ANC earbuds we've tested costing less than £100 and, like their over-ear counterparts the Life Q30, offer three different noise-cancelling levels: Transport, Indoor and Outdoor. The difference between them isn't huge but each attenuates sound to an impressive degree given the P3's very reasonable price tag.

The Life P3 also offer a huge range of EQ options, with 20 preset EQs available within the companion app along with the ability to create your own custom profile. Customisation options are also available for the P3's touch controls but while the commands the controls cover are comprehensive, executing is a little hit and miss.

Still, if you can live with occasionally having to tap them a few more times than should really be necessary, you'll be getting a pair of earbuds capable of cutting out a significant chunk of external sound and delivering decent audio while they're at it.

Read our Anker Soundcore Life P3 review for more details

Key specs – Headphone type: True wireless earbuds, built-in microphone and touch controls; Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 5.5g per earbud, 50g charging case; Cable length: N/A


10. NuraLoop: Best noise-cancelling wireless earphones

Price: £149 | Buy now from Amazon

While the NuraLoop will rightly receive plaudits for their ability to create you an amazing-sounding, personalised EQ profile, their noise-cancelling capabilities should not be underestimated. Pop these earphones in your ears and activate ANC and you’ll cut out a significant proportion of the noise going on around you, allowing you to focus on the exceptional sound quality.

ANC mode is easily switched on and off with a single press on the outside of your left earbud and the Social Mode works well if you need to hear important announcements or converse with a friend. The stable fit provided by the looped earhook design means you never have to worry about the earbuds falling out and sweat resistance makes the NuraLoop a solid choice to wear when exercising. Microphone quality is also impressive and there’s even Immersion Mode, which lets you boost the bass if you want a bit more low-end oomph.

All in all, the NuraLoop are an outstanding pair of earphones.

Read our full NuraLoop review for more details

Key specs – Headphone type: In-ear, built-in microphone and touch controls; Connectivity: Bluetooth (aptX HD), 3.5mm jack connector; Weight: 27g, Cable length: 1.3m


11. Apple AirPods Pro: Best noise-cancelling earbuds for iPhone users

Price: £239 | Buy now from Amazon

The AirPods Pro are the most popular earbuds on the market and for good reason: they offer great sound quality combined with excellent noise-cancelling capabilities and unrivalled compatibility with Apple handsets. Upon opening the charging case, the AirPods Pro are automatically discovered by nearby iPhones and can be paired with just a single tap on your phone.

Their effective ANC adjusts automatically based on your environment, with the built-in microphones analysing external sound 200 times every second to ensure it's best meeting your current noise-cancellation needs. For those situations where you want to be able to hear what's going on around you, there's also a handy transparency mode that highlights ambient sound.

Battery life of the buds clocks in at under five hours, which isn't anything to write home about, but when you take the wireless-charging enabled charging case into account, you'll get an ample 24 hours of listening at 50% volume.

Read our full Apple AirPods Pro review for more details

Key specs – Headphone type: True wireless earbuds, built-in microphone, touch controls; Connectivity: Bluetooth 5; Weight: 5.4g per earbud, 45.6g charging case; Cable length: N/A


12. Nuraphone: Best noise-cancelling headphones with personalised audio

Price: £349 | Buy now from Nura

The Nuraphone headphones are unlike any headphones you've ever seen before. These headphones not only fit around your ears but inside them, too. That's right, they feel like a set of soft in-ears with an over-ear cushion. The headphones have ultra-sensitive microphones embedded in the cups, which are used to analyse which frequencies your ears are most sensitive to. This information is then used to create a truly unique, tailor-made sound for you.

These also have ANC technology, combined with impressive passive noise cancellation (in-ears and over-ears), making the Nuraphone headphones the perfect companion for commuting.

Read our full Nuraphone review for more details

Key specs – Headphone type: Over and in-ear, built-in microphone and touch controls; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm jack plug (optional); Weight: 329g; Cable length: 1.3m


13. Urbanista Los Angeles: Best noise-cancelling headphones for battery life

Price: £169 | Buy now from Urbanista

We've been impressed by Urbanista's headphones over the past couple of years, with the London earbuds receiving our coveted Best Buy award and the Miami securing a commendable four-star rating. The Los Angeles are essentially a solar-charged version of the Miami, with a headband housing a solar cell that draws power from any light source to top up the Los Angeles' battery.

Because the cell is always charging the headphones regardless of whether they're turned on or not, you should never have to charge the Los Angeles using via their USB-C port. They're the first headphones to incorporate such technology and it's certainly a unique selling point. The Los Angeles also look good, and sound quality will appeal to those that favour a bass-forward presentation. The noise cancellation isn't the most effective going but does the job well enough and ultimately, less capable ANC is a sacrifice worth making if you never want to have to charge your headphones again.

Read our full Urbanista Los Angeles review for more details

Key specs – Headphone type: Over-ear, built-in microphone and physical controls; Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 322g; Cable length: N/A

Buy now from Urbanista


14. Bose NC700: Most stylish noise-cancelling headphones

Price: £299 | Buy now from Amazon

Bose is well-known for its noise-cancelling tech and the NC 700 are probably its best over-ear headphones yet. These supremely stylish cans have adjustable ANC, touch-based controls, and have the virtual assistants Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant built-in.

Aside from their design, the NC 700 have excellent noise-cancelling performance – one that slightly betters their predecessors, the QuietComfort 35 Series II. Sonically, they retain the calm and composed sound signature of other Bose headphones, making them easy to recommend.

Read our fullBose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 review for more details

Key specs – Headphone type: Over-ear, built-in microphone and touch controls; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm jack plug (optional); Weight: 250g; Cable length: 1.2m


15. 1MORE Dual Driver ANC Pro: Best neckband-style noise-cancelling headphones

Price: £130 | Buy now from Amazon

Neckband earphones don’t get much better than the 1More Dual Driver ANC Pro. They offer two distinct levels of noise-cancellation – mild and strong – with the latter particularly effective at reducing unwanted background noise. There’s also a wind noise resistance feature, which combats light breezes well but doesn’t completely cancel out the noise of a blustery autumn day.

Sonically, the Dual Driver ANC Pro deliver crisp, detailed audio through balanced armature drivers and there’s support for both the AAC and LDAC Bluetooth codecs. Controls on the neckband are simply laid out and easy to use, though you can also use the 1More Music app to switch between ANC and wind reduction modes. The earphones are comfortable to wear for long periods, too, with a choice of seven sets of eartips ensuring you’ll be able to find the right fit.

The Dual Driver ANC Pro are IPX5-rated for water and sweat resistance, meaning they hold up perfectly well in the rain or when exercising, and the earpieces house magnets that clip together when not in use. The attraction is strong enough to prevent them from becoming accidentally separated, which isn’t isn’t always the case with similarly designed headphones.

Key specs – Headphone type: In-ear headphones with neckband, built-in microphone, physical controls; Connectivity: Bluetooth 5, USB-C; Weight: 45g; Cable length: 1.2m


16. B&W PX: Stylish, portable and with excellent sound

Price: £330 | Buy now from Amazon

The PX are B&W's first noise-cancelling headphones and they've been worth the wait. Before you even put them on, the look and feel is a significant cut above similarly priced rivals – B&W's engineers and design team have outdone themselves.

Pair them with your nearest Bluetooth device, though, and you best be prepared for aural fireworks. While B&W's own P7 Wireless opt for bass-heavy bombast, and Bose tends to prioritise excitement over accuracy, the PX sound crisp and incisive from the deepest subs to the highest highs. Bass fiends may want to look elsewhere and some may find the upper frequencies a little too subdued (especially with ANC enabled), but be in no doubt – these are among the finest noise-cancelling headphones you're ever likely to encounter.

There is room for improvement, however. Comfort isn't up there with the best and their noise-cancelling abilities aren't as refined as its Bose and Sony-branded rivals, either.

Read our B&W PX review for more details

Key specs – Headphone type: Over-ear, built-in microphone and music control buttons; Connectivity: Bluetooth (aptX HD), 3.5mm jack plug, USB-C (charging and direct connection); Weight: 335g; Cable length: 1.2m

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