At the latest since more and more people work in a home office, interest in ANC headphones has risen sharply. The active noise cancellation ensures that ambient noise is effectively suppressed – from a screaming toddler to construction work down the street to music or other distractions. But which models are recommended? And what do you need to consider? We present you the best ANC headphones 2023 in the test and tell you in the purchase recommendation, which headphones are really worthwhile.
Best ANC headphones: what is ANC anyway
ANC, these three letters you have certainly seen more than once. And know perhaps also in the rough, what is hidden behind it. ANC stands as an abbreviation for “Active Noise Canelling” or “Cancellation” – depending on the interpretation. Translated, it means as much as “Active Noise Cancellation”.
And that is exactly what the headphones do. They suppress ACTIVE noise from the environment, and that with the help of the technology installed in it. The counter-part marks the passive noise suppression, which is achieved by sitting above, on or in the ears.
With an ANC function, a pair of headphones measures the ambient noise (especially its intensity and frequencies) on the outside with the help of microphones and sends it for processing to a chip inside, which in turn outputs a corresponding counter signal in the same frequencies.
In the ideal case, both pitches should thus cancel each other out completely. +baby cry minus -baby cry equals zero baby cry. You could say. So much for the theory. In practice, this now works very well, especially for low and monotonous sounds. With medium-high and high frequencies, which then also change (now give the baby his milk at last!), the wheat is separated from the chaff among the ANC headphones.
The best ANC headphones cope very well with all types of ambient noise. However, there are enormous differences, regardless of the price of the model. The design of the headphones also plays an important role.
Tip: It is also important in the purchase decision, where you want to use your headphones. So, for example, also outdoors and / or during sports. In contrast to most in-ear headphones, over-ear and on-ear models are almost never protected against water and dirt. (Look for the so-called IP certification before buying).
The best ANC is only available in over-ear headphones. Or not?
Basically, headphones are distinguished between three different types of construction:
- Over-ear headphones sit above the ears and include them completely
- On-Ear headphones, on the other hand, rest on the ears
- In-ear headphones sit in the ear and thus, with an appropriately good fit, offer the best passive noise cancellation
Now there are but, design-dependent, also huge differences.
Over-ear headphones: usually best ANC and top sound
Over-ear models, for example, offer the most space for the sound to unfold and thus – in theory – the best sound quality. However, depending on the nature and material of the ear pads, heat buildup can also develop and sweat can form, since no fresh air reaches the ear.
Commonly, over-ear headphones have the best active noise cancellation and sound.
On-Ear headphones: open, airy sound; weakest ANC
On-ear models on the other hand tend to be lighter and more compact. The seal is, due to the fit on the ears, not as good. The semi-open or open design allows the sound to achieve extra spaciousness, which some people prefer.
On the other hand, many find on-ear headphones uncomfortable in the long run. For this reason, among others, these models are a bit on the sidelines – the selection here is much less wide-ranging than for their over-ear or in-ear colleagues.
In-ear headphones: best passive attenuation, rich sound but danger for eardrums
The third in the bunch is the in-ear headphone which, as the name suggests, takes up space in the ear. Accordingly, the shielding to the outside is good, at least if you choose the right ear inserts.
In-ears are also smaller and a popular companion, especially when traveling. Unlike models outside the ear, however, the fit here is even more crucial for good wearing comfort, as the models from different manufacturers differ greatly.
You feel an in-ear headphone in your ear. And always. You have to like that and, in the worst case, it can become very uncomfortable in the long run. In addition, in-ears sit very close to the eardrum and thus put more strain on the ear when listening to loud music.
On the other hand, they offer the best bass response and sometimes an excellent, tight sound. When it comes to ANC, most in-ear models don’t quite play on the same level as over-ear headphones, with some variants now entering the realms of the best ANC headphones.
Buying the best ANC headphones: Here’s what you should look out for
So now you know what ANC is all about. But still don’t know which one is the best ANC headphones. The bad news: the one, best model simply does not exist.
Because, as with many things, personal preferences, circumstances and also requirements for headphones play an important role. Because the best headphones for you should not only be able to block out ambient noise well, it should also sound good, right?
Note: An active noise cancellation can also be deactivated in all ANC headphones. Sometimes turning ANC on and off also has an impact on the sound.
For some, a long battery life is just as important, others prefer a lightweight design and still others place a high value on the quality of the built-in microphones to be prepared for video calls on the road or in the office.
Although personal requirements differ greatly, there are a few points you should pay particular attention to when buying ANC headphones:
- Wear comfort: Very important. What good are headphones that sound good and are super isolating if they’re not comfortable? Best to try on before buying, because here’s huge differences.
- Sound: How good does the ANC headphones sound? Is of course also important, because listening to music with the sound of a tin can is no fun.
- ANC: Who buys the best ANC headphones, of course, also expects that the active noise cancellation has something on the box.
- Transparent mode: The counterpart to ANC, where ambient noise and voices are amplified. Here, too, there are huge differences in quality.
- Battery life: Does the headphone only hold out for 3-4 hours? Or is he also on longer trips a faithful companion?
- Wireless range and codecs: How high does the range turn out? Can I even go into the kitchen with the headphones? And are there possibly high-resolution codecs that provide better sound?
- Operation: Here it (also) depends on the preferences. Do you prefer a touch-sensitive touch control or classic buttons?
- Other features: Other functions can also play an important role in the purchase decision. Bluetooth Multipoint, for example, allows simultaneous connection to two different audio sources.
Best ANC headphones 2023 in test: our purchase recommendations
So now you know what makes a good ANC headphones and what you should look for when buying. But does the question still remain, which models are worth their money in the first place? In 2023 alone, we tested several variants from different manufacturers in all price ranges to find out exactly that for you.
Here now follow our recommendations for the best ANC headphones in various categories. If you know it’s definitely going to be in-ear headphones, then additionally check out our guide, where we also introduce the best true-wireless models.
The best ANC headphones up to 100 euros: 1MORE SonoFlow
Just under the 100 euro mark, the 1MORE SonoFlow over-ear headphones run into the finish line. Manufacturer 1MORE has just made a name for itself in 2023 with an excellent price-performance ratio of its in-ear headphones and continues this trend with its first over-ear model.
In our test, the headphones achieved 93 out of a possible 100 points. We were very taken with the sound as well as the wearing comfort and the high-quality workmanship. The battery life is also more than respectable: up to 70 hours without ANC, 50 hours with noise cancellation are excellent.
So in the end, we came to a clear conclusion:
With the SonoFlow, 1MORE offers an all-around successful total package in the form of headphones, which, in addition to a terrific battery life and good sound, is ideally suited for use in the home office or on the road. In this price segment, the headphones can definitely stand out from the crowd with numerous premium features and convince.
- Buy 1MORE SonoFlow – Price: € 99.99 *
- Alternative: Creative Zen Hybrid (our review) – Price: € 59.99 *
The best ANC headphones up to 150 euros: Soundcore Life Q35
Minimally more expensive, the Soundcore Life Q35 goes to the start, which actually leaves nothing to be desired in terms of its features. High-resolution audio codecs? Check! Bluetooth multipoint for connecting to two audio sources simultaneously? Check! A battery life of up to 60 hours? Check!
Add to that a rich, detailed sound, excellent wearing comfort, and good Active Noise Cancelling. As you can see, it’s an absolutely coherent overall package that convinced us in our test.
The biggest competitor, however, comes from within the company in the form of the Soundcore Life Q30. It’s almost on par with the Q35, but is now often reduced in price, making it a good choice as well.
- Buy Soundcore Life Q35 – Price: € 123.99 *
- Alternative (slightly more expensive): Valco VMK20 – excellent ANC headphones from Finland (our review) – Price: € 169.00 *
The Best ANC Headphones Up To 300 Euros
If your budget stretches to 300 euros, there are several excellent options right away. But is the jump from a 150 euro headphones really still that big? It is! Basically, there are three top ANC models vying for customers’ favor here. You can’t go far wrong with all three, as the devices only differ in nuances.
For example, there is the Bose QuietComfort 45 (our review). It scores with a classic button operation, a comparatively low weight and a very good ANC function. The QC45 also does a lot right in terms of sound, but the battery life of around 24 hours is quite manageable. In addition, it can get quite warm under the somewhat tight ear pads.
The Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 4 (our review) is a very strong alternative. Although the current iteration has shed its iconic design and is extremely susceptible to fingerprints, it makes up for these criticisms with its excellent sound and strong ANC. A whopping 60 hours of battery life and strong microphone quality round out the overall package in a harmonious way.
The third in the bunch is the Sony WH-1000XM4 (our review). It offers the best active noise cancellation and the best sound in the range up to 300 euros – not least thanks to Sony’s high-resolution LDAC codec. Add to that some exciting extra features like the ability to automatically pause playback when the headphones detect your voice and an excellent app.
The XM4 is (almost) only topped by its successor, the WH-1000XM5, which is even more expensive. And beyond the 300 euro mark, it has to duel with top models like the Apple AirPods Max and the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 S2.
However, all three recommendations up to 300 Euros mark excellent headphones that you are guaranteed to have quite a bit of fun with. They are among the best ANC headphones you can buy and definitely worth the money.
- Buy Bose QuietComfort 45 – Price: € 239.00 *
- Buy Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 4 – Price: € 279.00 *
- Buy Sony WH-1000XM4 – Price: € 270.06 *
The best in-ear headphones with ANC
And if it should be an in-ear model with the best ANC? Then there’s no way around the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. The manufacturer definitely didn’t promise too much when they announced the in-ear headphones with the “world’s best active noise cancellation” in September, because these can actually keep up with over-ear models and even cope with high and mid-high frequencies.
However, you have to accept a few compromises in terms of sound and wearing comfort. Here, other in-ear models offer a bit more for the money and are sometimes even a bit cheaper.
- Buy BOSE QuietComfort Earbuds II – Price: € 239.00 *
The Best ANC Headphones 2023: Conclusion
So when looking for the best ANC headphones, you’re spoiled for choice. There are a few things to consider when looking for your personal favorite, and your own preferences also play an important role.
The one best headphone that shines in all areas simply does not exist. You should definitely listen and test them. However, our tests show a clear picture, because you can get a really convincing quality for around 100 Euros.