Superior comfort, sound quality, and active noise cancellation (ANC) are just some of the reasons to invest in a set of wireless over-ear ANC headphones. As convenient and portable as most wireless earbuds are, and as great as many sound, they’ll never hit the heights headphones do.
I never visit a coffee shop or airport without my AirPods Max, for example, even though my AirPods Pro are my daily driver. When I’m mostly stationary and ready to drown out the world around me, I’d take headphones any day of the week.
TikTok is awash with people rocking over-ear headphones — many who rock Beats because they’re stylish and come in myriad colors to match fits. There’s nothing wrong with the good Dr. Dre’s headphone brand, but if you’re wanting a different silhouette or better audio, here are the seven best over-ear ANC headphones you can get.
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Both of these wireless headphones feature industry-leading ANC, top-shelf comfort, and terrific sound quality. All of that for under $350 makes sound quality relatively accessible. On sale, they can even come under $300. If you don’t like their default sound profiles, the WH-1000XM4 and QC45 (thanks to a recent firmware update) both feature customizable EQ via app as well.
Your priorities will ultimately determine which pair you choose here. The WH-1000XM4 is the better sounding of the two; it’s our overall winner thanks to an impressive feature set beyond sound quality and ANC performance. Sony's app has loads of ways to customize the sound, ANC, and smart features like auto-transparency mode that comes on when you speak. The WH-1000XM4 also supports Sony’s LDAC for higher-bitrate audio playback on Android.
The QC45 comes close to the WH-1000XM4 on audio quality and basically matches them on ANC unless you really want to split hairs. Where they really win out is on the comfort front: These headphones are in a league of their own. A lightweight build, perfectly distributed clamp force, and pillowy-soft ear cups and headband padding you could sleep on make these some of the only headphones you can realistically spend all day wearing.
Best budget ANC headphones
If the QC45 or WH-1000XM4 aren’t on sale, or if you have an even tighter budget, there are still some great options that go for under $300 or even less.
For those on the tightest of budgets, I cannot recommend the Soundcore Life Q30 enough. “Life” is Soundcore’s sub-brand for budget-conscious products, but these headphones really outperform for the money. For $79 you get a pair of headphones with decent ANC and pretty good sound relative to their price that also knocks comfort out of the park. The Life Q30 headphones have very soft ear pads that feel like a less-padded version of the Bose QC45. Their ANC isn’t class-leading, but it should be more than capable of handling long-haul flights and coffee shop study sessions. Oh, and they come in pink and blue if black isn’t your style (albeit for $10 more).
If you’re willing to spend a little more or still want to prioritize sound quality, look no further than the Shure Aonic 40. These headphones undercut the QC45 and WH-1000XM4 by $100 but you wouldn’t know it by the sound quality. Where they fall short is ANC and overall microphone performance. The ANC here is closer to those of ANC wireless earbuds, not flagship headphones.
The Shure Aonic 40 and Soundcore Life Q30 cut on build quality the most. Not shocking for budget products, but still worth mentioning. The Aonic 40 feel stiff and less comfortable compared to the QC45 and WH-1000XM4, but overall are well built. The Life Q30, despite their comfort, have a build quality that straddles the line between feeling like a toy and a well-made pair of headphones. The plastics feel cheap and light, but not so much I’d be worried about long-term durability.
What’s great about both of these headphones is their app support. They each can be updated and have their EQ tweaked via their respective apps, something you don’t expect to see in something as budget as the Life Q30. If you can live with the tradeoffs, both these headphones will be crowd-pleasers for the right person.
Best luxury ANC headphones
These headphones each have their own take on luxury, but they’re all meant for someone willing to shop in a whole different price class. Each of these headphones commands $150 or more over Bose and Sony’s best, but whether they offer $150 more in value is something only you can answer. Generally, that extra money gets you much nicer materials with premium build quality. These headphones all feel like luxury products and everyone who wears and sees them will know it.
Our top pick is going to be the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX. While not B&O’s priciest headset, the Beoplay HX still features the premium materials and build quality that B&O are known for, paired with great sound and comfort to boot. The standout feature is the lambskin ear cups paired with memory foam for a super plush fit. The finishes here are also great, with an exquisite “Dark Maroon” being our favorite. They have the best battery life of any of our premium picks as well. The reason they’re our top pick is codec support, ensuring you'll get the best quality audio for these high-end components regardless of mobile platform. The Beoplay HX feature AAC for optimal performance for iPhone users, and aptX Adaptive (Qualcomm’s best for the moment) for stable, higher bitrate audio on Android phones like the Galaxy S22+.
If you’re an Apple loyalist then you’re not shocked to see AirPods Max on this list, albeit with more caveats than $550 headphones arguably should come with. Their 20-hour battery life falls short of the competition and the flimsy "smart" case they come with is a joke. But damn do they sound amazing. From dead-silent ANC, to wonderful sound quality, AirPods Max are the ultimate sound experience available for those inside Apple’s walled garden, worts and all. Spatial Audio is what really sets them apart. While both AirPods Pro and AirPods 3 can produce Spatial Audio from music and video playback, AirPods Max’s larger drivers and more advanced acoustic components let these headphones come the closest to bringing a home theater on the go. This makes them a great companion to the Apple TV 4K if you ever want to watch a movie at night without disturbing your family and maintain surround sound playback.
If you’re an Android user, the Master & Dynamic MW65 is another good pick if the Beoplay HX doesn’t suit your sense of style. These headphones still have plenty of leather for comfort and style and feature a retro design language reminiscent of classic audio gear and the days of pairing aviators with bomber jackets. Sound quality and ANC are up to snuff with what you’d expect for headphones this expensive, and the 24-hour battery life is decent. However iOS users should steer clear as M&D failed to include AAC support here. SBC and aptX being the only supported codecs makes these Android-first.