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Which ANC headphones should you buy? The best noise-cancelling cans for every budget

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Best noise-cancelling headphones

You’re probably reading these words because you typed “best noise-cancelling headphones” into Google. If so, congratulations: you’re in the right place. Take a seat and get comfy, because there are quite a few options to consider. Don’t worry though — we’ve done all the leg work by testing out the best headphones around, so by the time you’ve scrolled down, you should have a solid shortlist.

From Sony and Bose, to Apple and Sennheiser, there are all sorts of in-ear and over-ear noise-cancelling headphones fighting for the coveted spot in (or around) your lugholes. Some excel at the noise-cancellation part. Others provide better sound. And some do both. They’re all available across different budgets, and we’ve even included some older models which still offer excellent performance, at an even better discounted price.

So without further ado, let’s dive straight into our top picks of the best noise-cancelling headphones — because no one deserves to be bombarded with the sound of screeching tube breaks, incessant engine noises, or the piercing, soul-cleaving shriek of a toddler in full Tantrum Mode.

Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony’s convoluted product names have a lot to answer for, but there’s no denying that the Japanese company makes some of the best headphones in the world. Take the WH-1000XM4: it surpasses its WH-1000XM3 predecessor as the new champion of noise-cancelling headphones – and it’s our top pick for most people.

Retaining their lightweight comfort while providing an even more enjoyable listening experience (thanks to improved audio quality made possible by a new DSEE Extreme sound processor), they’ll pump delightfully balanced tunes into your eager ears.

Throw in extremely capable noise-cancellation for blocking out the outside world, along with a new Speak to Chat feature that lets you converse with someone without having to remove them, and it’s easy to see how these cans have earned their coveted reputation.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

Simply the best all-round noise-cancelling headphones you can buy

Sony WF-1000XM4

Best DJI drone: Ryze Tello

That’s right — Sony also makes one of the best overall noise-cancelling wireless in-ear headphones too, in the form of the WF-1000XM4.

Sound quality is top-notch, with tight, balanced audio that’s as accurate as it is enjoyable. Their design is sleek, with a comfortable and secure fit, while eight hours of continuous battery life should be more than enough for most people.

Touch-sensitive controls make operation a breeze, while noise-cancellation is among the best we’ve seen from wireless ‘buds. With the same Speak to Chat feature as its over-ear sibling, it’s got all the bells and whistles you’re ever likely to need.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

The WF-1000XM4 continue Sony’s long and proud tradition of building the best true wireless in-ear headphones you can buy

Bose QuietComfort 45

Best DJI drone: Mavic 3

Bose spearheaded the noise-cancelling revolution – and the QC 45 over-ears showcase the company’s noise-blocking skills with masterful effect. If cutting yourself off from the madness of the world is a priority, then look no further.

While the cans are delightfully comfortable with solid sound quality, they don’t offer the best soundscape: rivals from the likes of Sony offering a tighter listening experience. Some features like auto-pause and EQ customisation are also missing. Still, if you’re a Bose fan, these remain some of the best around.

Stuff says: ★★★★

Lacking a few features we’ve come to think of as standard, Bose are still right up there when it comes to no-nonsense noise-cancelling

Apple AirPods Pro

Best DJI drone: FPV

The AirPods Pro aren’t the best noise-cancelling wireless in-ears money can buy when it comes to raw sound quality. But they still sound great, have impressive noise-muting skills to help carve out some peace and quiet from loud surroundings, and they’re delightfully light and comfortable for all-day wear.

Their connection is rock-solid too, with a handy Transparency mode that lets you hear the outside world at the touch of a button, saving you from having to remove them to hear train announcements and the like. A no-brainer for iPhone users.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

Apple’s AirPods Pro are fantastic wireless in-ears, with a comfortable fit and intuitive interface making for a seamless user experience – even if their sound quality doesn’t quite match up to similarly priced competitors

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Best DJI drone: Mavic Mini

The QuietComfort Earbuds are Bose’s first foray into the world of noise-cancelling wireless in-ears. They’re sleek, attractive and comfortable, with delightfully bassy performance to boot. Impressive noise-cancellation smarts are also bolstered by a handy Transparency mode, with 11 levels of ANC available in the app.

Battery life is around six hours per single charge – respectable, but not the best around. Still, a total of 18 hours with the case included isn’t too shabby, as long as you remember to actually charge them.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

If silence is what you seek from your true wireless earbuds, the QC Earbuds turn it up to 11

Bowers & Wilkins PX7

Best DJI drone: Mavic Mini

The PX7 scream luxury, thanks to their solid metal build and premium materials – though the inability to fold the cans down to a more compact size might put off seasoned travellers.

Sonically, they sound superb, elevating anything you care to throw at them with practised ease. Noise-cancelling is mighty impressive too, with three different levels of intensity depending on your preferences and/or surroundings.

Throw in aptX Adaptive Bluetooth  for a solid connection and reduced latency, and you’ve got yourself a very compelling (not to mention, handsome) set of contenders indeed. If you want Sony-like performance and don’t mind forking out more cash for a premium build, this is the pair for you.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

They’re not cheap, but Bowers & Wilkins has produced another fine pair of noise-cancelling headphones

Apple AirPods Max

Best DJI drone: Mavic Mini

If you’re an Apple fan with a penchant for over-ears, the AirPods Max are clearly going to catch your eye. With beautiful anodised aluminium ear cups, a stainless steel headband and an open knit mesh canopy, they ooze Apple’s design DNA. While comfortable at first, you might find them a little pinchy after prolonged use, as they’re heavier than quite a few rivals. Heads come in all shapes and sizes though, so your experience may vary.

As for their performance, you won’t be disappointed. Coupled with beefy 40mm drivers, Apple’s H1 processor-powered adaptive EQ produces an exceptional soundscape, with some of the best noise-cancelling results thrown in to boot.

You’ll be paying a premium for the privilege though – and the AirPods Max offer less bang for buck than certain Sony rivals. But if you’re an avid Apple user and can handle the weight, you’ll be more than happy with the results.

Stuff says: ★★★★

Apple’s first over-ears are big, heavy, often brilliant, and far too expensive

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

Best DJI drone: Mavic Mini

The Momentum True Wireless 2 wireless buds strike a beautifully accessible song signature. In other words, they’ll happily handle any genre you care to throw at them with ease, with balanced mids, highs and lows providing plenty of controlled oomph.

Lightweight and comfortable, with a respectable 28 hours of total use including the three additional charges, there’s plenty to love here. The only real niggle is the fact that flipping the active noise-cancellation on seems to have little effect on blocking out surrounding noises —but only because the buds themselves do such a great job at passively eliminating those anyway.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

With a single bound, Sennheiser consolidates its position as the brand that builds some of the best true wireless in-ears around

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Best DJI drone: Mavic Mini

The Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 have a horrifically convoluted name, but we’ll forgive them because they nail it where it counts — namely, noise-cancellation.

With six microphones working in conjunction to serve up 11 increments of noise-blocking, these cans are aimed at those looking to master their environment above all else. Not only that, but they also have the bonus of letting you clearly hear the outside world without taking them off, if you want to be aware of your surroundings or chat to a member of staff about any false discrepancies in your bagging area.

They sound great too, though they can’t quite reach the same sonic levels of Sony or Apple’s offerings.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

There are superior sounding headphones out there, but as an all-rounder the 700s are hard to beat

Sony WH-1000XM3

Best DJI drone: Mavic Mini

Sony’s previous generation champion cans are still absolutely worth snapping up, offering brilliant bang-for-buck performance at their cheaper price. With comfort, audio, and noise-cancelling performance in spades, your money will go a very long way here.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

Killer active noise cancellation headphones that nail just about everything

Sony WF-1000XM3

Best DJI drone: Mavic Mini

In a similar vein, Sony’s last-gen wireless in-ears are also available at a reduced price, and while they’ve got a very different design to their updated successors, your ears will still be treated to delightful tones and formidable noise-cancellation.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

Design? Tick. Build? Tick. Specification? Big tick. Performance? Biggest tick so far