Before you get your hopes up, allow us to level-set: even the best true wireless noise-cancelling headphones are in their infancy. The first pairs were only released last year, and the big headphone players are still fine-tuning their offerings—so adjust your expectations accordingly. (Even Michael Jordan needed seven years to win a title.) They're expensive for what they do, and suffer from mayfly-like battery life. Don't expect them to last through a Zoom-filled work day. They're also amazing, in the most literal sense of the word.
I mean, even in their infancy, the best true wireless noise-cancelling headphones right now feel like some Jetsons-grade future-magic. They have solid audio quality, great microphones for taking calls and making demands of Siri-type assistants, they cancel noise (without needing to strap massive cups to your head), and they're, what, the size of your pinkie? They're the kind of thing you'd see on a 1950s cover of Popular Science, alongside flying cars and all the other stargazing space-tech that never really came true. Except they did.
If you're looking for great WFH, Zoom-crushing headphones, look over here. But for anything else—house-escaping strolls, podcasts during dishes, hands-free phone calls, subway commutes (when those come back), and beyond—they're the headphones you'll want. Here are the best true wireless noise-canceling headphones.
The Best Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones for Apple Users: Apple AirPods Pro headphones
Apple's AirPods are everywhere for good reason. They pair to an iPhone instantaneously, sound extremely okay, and have a good microphone for phone calls. Last year, Apple released the Pro version to address the original AirPods biggest flaw: that they're basically unusable in any environment with background noise. To summarize our review, the combo of better sealing and effective active-noise cancelling make a world of difference. Gone is the one-size-fits-some sizing; the Pro offers three ear tip options and an even smaller, lighter form factor—plus sweat- and water-resistance. They aren't perfect—I've found the headphones's transparency mode, which pipes in a non-adjustable amount of ambient noise, largely unusable (it's always too much!). But the ease of use with Apple gear and the jack-of-all-trades functionality mean they're currently the top of the pile if you're living that iPhone life.
The Best Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones for Everyone Else: Sony WF-1000XM3 headphones
If you've chosen to live life outside the walled garden that is Apple, your best bet for true wireless noise-cancelling headphones are the Sony WF-1000XM3. They look a little dorkier—they're big, with a wing that sticks out (which can also make them uncomfortable, depending on the shape of your ears). So why do we like the Sonys? Because they sound better—and cancel noise more effectively—than the AirPods Pro. If your ears aren't a bad match, you might arguably be wearing the best wireless noise-canceling buds on the market.
The Best Budget Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones: Amazon Echo Buds
Amazon's earbuds are not going to win any awards for sound or for looks, nor do they cancel noise as effectively as the AirPods Pro or Sony earbuds. But they sound...okay. Music is clear, if not impressive—audiobooks and podcasts are great, though!—and phone calls don't suffer any distortion. That faint praise is buttressed by, you know, the price. They're $70 cheaper than the Sony buds and the baseline AirPods; more than $100 cheaper than AirPods Pro. Built-in Alexa integration is obvious, since we're talking Amazon, which means you can enjoy fun parlor tricks like asking your earbuds to control your smart home devices. All things considered, that's a ton of value for a pair of headphones that are cheaper than regular AirPods.
Two More True Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones, Just Because
Sennheiser's headphones are probably the best sounding true wireless noise-cancelling headphones available—and the price reflects that. Diehard audiophiles should look this way, so long as they don't mind tiny antennas sticking out of their ears.
1More's true wireless headphones have the same design problems as Sony and Sennheiser: the shape can make getting a good fit difficult, especially for anyone with small ears. They don't have the low-end oomph of Sony's earbuds, but the 1More pair sounds more balanced and clear than the AirPods Pro.
The Best Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones That Aren't True Wireless
If you're looking for solid noise-cancelling WFH headphones, you might consider extending your search beyond the true wireless in-ear options. Over-ear noise cancelling headphones have better battery life and sound quality. They're clunkier, sure, but you probably won't be bothered by that if you're just looking to block out your apartment's window AC.
You won't be surprised to hear that the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 headphones have the best noise-cancelling in the category. To summarize our review from last year: they're expensive, but nothing sounds as good or cancels out ambient noise as effectively. Plus, the battery will actually last through an entire workday.
The Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones are basically the over-ear predecessors to the WF-1000XM3—who is coming up with these names?—from above. Before the Bose Noise Cancelling 700 headphones came out last year, these were hands-down the best noise-canceling option. The sound quality on both headphones is comparable, but the Sonys are a bit less balanced, and emphasize the bass to the disservice of higher frequencies. If you're in the group that prefers extra boom, the Sony's also happen to be a tad cheaper than those from Bose.
Don't think your couch, ficus, and flatscreen setup deserves to be called a “home theater?” Let's fix that.
Originally Appeared on GQ