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The best wireless headphones you can buy in 2023

Enjoy much-needed peace and quiet with these top-rated noise-cancelling headphones.

Updated ·10-min read

While AirPods and other earbuds are easy to carry in a pocket, they offer only a fraction of the battery life that over-the-ear cans have and have comparatively tiny speakers (known as drivers); proper headphones produce a much larger soundstage. Rest assured that you don't need to spend upwards of $500 (I'm looking at you, Apple AirPods Max) in order to find the best wireless headphones for your needs, as you'll discover when you peruse my picks. Whether you're looking for industry-leading noise cancellation, super-balanced sound, a great budget pick or something else, you'll find it here.

Quick overview
  • Best budget headphones

    Wyze Noise-Cancelling Headphones

  • Best headphones for TV watchers

    Zvox AV52 Noise Cancelling Headphones

  • Best headphone battery life

    1More SonoFlow Active Noise Cancelling Headphones

  • Best headphones for audiophiiles

    Soundcore Life Q35 Noise Cancelling Headphones

  • Best headphones overall

    Sony WH-1000XM4 Noise Canceling Headphones

What headphones qualify as 'best,' and why?

With dozens of different models to choose from, how did I decide which made the cut? Audio is a highly subjective thing; what sounds great to one set of ears might sound less so to another. For example, if you're not a fan of heavy bass, you might dislike 'phones designed to boost that thump. And if you're older, maybe you care more about dialogue enhancement (for movies and such) than anything else.

There's also the question of fit: Not every headphone sits comfortably atop every head. A tight headband or mushy earcups can make for an uncomfortable experience.

Finally, when evaluating audio, there's always the source to consider: If you use a music streaming service like Apple Music or Spotify, data compression can result in a slight loss of fidelity. Will the average listener care about that, or even notice it? Probably not, but it's still a piece of the puzzle.

Modern over-the-ear headphones offer incredible sound and impressive noise-canceling, often for a surprisingly low price. (Photos: 1More, Soundcore, Sony)
Modern over-the-ear headphones offer incredible sound and impressive noise cancelling, often for a surprisingly low price. (Photos: 1More, Soundcore, Sony)

All this is to say that different people have different ears, heads, needs and preferences. Budgets too. Therefore, my picks for this roundup are based on a combination of personal experience, product reputation, professional reviews, user ratings and, finally, price. You won't find only super-expensive headphones here, nor will you find cheap off-brand junk. Every product I've selected deserves its "best" designation for one reason or another.

A word about active noise cancelling (ANC)

The hot headphone feature of the 21st century is active noise cancelling, otherwise known as ANC. Flip a switch (or press a button) and the earpieces magically reduce a certain range of ambient sounds. Jet engines, for example, or backyard lawn mowers. The result is that you're able to fly, work or exercise in relative peace.

Some headphones perform this trick better than others, but the good news is it's now a staple feature: Even the most affordable ones have it. Take note, however, that activating ANC will cost you a bit of battery life and possibly some audio fidelity as well. But it's optional, so you can always turn it off if it's not necessary or if you decide you don't like it.

Best budget headphones

Wyze Noise-Cancelling Headphones

These are a steal, offering great sound and ANC for under $100 — sometimes well under. (They go on sale often, so keep an eye out for discounts.)
$90 at Amazon

If you're wondering whether a $90 product can possibly rival one costing three or four times as much, get ready for a surprise: It can. I've tested the Wyze Noise-Cancelling Headphones; they sound great and deliver robust ANC. On those merits alone, I'd have no qualms about recommending them. But to quote the old commercial: Wait, there's more.

Available in black or white, these 'phones can play for up to 20 hours on a charge, and just 10 minutes of USB-C quick-charging nets you up to four additional hours. (That's for wireless play, by the way; Wyze also supplies a stereo cord for wired listening, which requires no battery at all if you disable ANC.)

Like much higher-end headphones, these will automatically pause the music when you take them off your head and resume again when you put them back on. Want to have a quick chat with someone? Cup your hand over the right earcup and the headphones will immediately pause playback and enable Transparency Mode (which disables ANC so you can converse more comfortably). That's probably my single favorite feature.

Double-tap that right earcup and you've got onboard Alexa (by way of your phone), meaning you can ask questions, issue commands...all the usual stuff.

All this for around $90. (The price fluctuates a lot, though, sometimes dipping as low as $60 — I've even seen it hit $44. If you can, wait for a sale.) Oh, and don't just take my word: These 'phones earned a 4.5-star average rating from over 3,500 Amazon customers.

Best headphones for TV watchers

Zvox AV52 Noise Cancelling Headphones

It may look like an ordinary noise-cancelling headphone, but the Zvox AV52 has an extra trick up its sleeve: dialogue enhancement. That's great for anyone with some hearing loss.
$150 at Amazon

If you like to binge movies and TV shows while logging your miles on the treadmill (or sitting on the couch — no judgment), you may have discovered that headphones aren't always great for that. All too often, the dialogue gets lost in the mix, an especially common problem for users with older ears. (I know; I'm one of them.)

That's why Zvox's AV52s are the no-brainer pick for TV watchers. Equipped with the company's AccuVoice technology (also found in Zvox soundbars), these headphones were designed specifically to give voices a boost. At the same time, they offer ANC, the better to reduce the noise made by your workout machine, neighbor's lawn mower and the like.

Available in a nice array of colors — black, blue, white or rose gold — these folding 'phones come in a zippered carrying case and include an audio cord if you want to switch to wired listening (like on an airplane). Zvox promises up to 24 hours of battery life on a charge (with ANC enabled), which is about average.

These aren't the best noise-cancellers in the group, not by a longshot, but they can definitely help those with hearing challenges better enjoy video.

Able to play up to 70 hours on a charge (or 50 with ANC turned on), the SonoFlow is an amazingly good headphone for the price. They look nice, sound great and even come with a carrying case.
$100 at Amazon

You may not recognize the 1More brand, but the company has built a loyal following over the years with solid audio products at surprisingly low prices. Witness the 1More Aero wireless earbuds with spatial audio for just $80. Now, witness the SonoFlow over-the-ear headphone, which sound superb and can last a whopping 70 hours on a charge. It sells for $100.

Granted, that battery life can be achieved only with ANC turned off, but if it's on, you still get a virtually unrivaled 50 hours. That's great for commuters and road-trippers, as you could literally go days without having to recharge.

The headphones look fancier and more substantial than their price would suggest — Sony's $150 WH-CH720N feels downright flimsy by comparison — and fold for easy storage and transport. To that end, 1More supplies a zippered hard case.

In my tests I found the SonoFlow fairly comfortable overall, with perhaps a bit more pressure from the headband than I'd like. The volume control buttons are large and perfectly placed (at the rear of the right earcup), with the ANC toggle button just above them. Pressing that button produces one of three different tones that indicate which mode is selected (ANC, Transparent or Off), but a verbal cue would have been preferable. Thankfully, you can also use the 1More app to choose your preferred mode, and to access equalizer settings as well. There are a dozen presets and a custom-EQ option.

Having just come off testing the aforementioned Sony headphones, I was pleased to discover the SonoFlow sounded nearly as good — richly detailed and nicely balanced, with commendable ANC (but not quite as robust). Worth noting: There's LDAC hi-res audio support included here, though not AptX. If you don't know what any of the means, don't sweat it; those are codecs that matter only to audiophiles. Everything I listened to — using Spotify on my iPhone — made my ears very happy.

I'm less happy about having to hold the power button for a full five seconds to turn off the headphones, and I wish the SonoFlow had a head sensor to auto-pause/auto-resume audio. Another gripe: ANC isn't available in wired mode, like when you jack in on an airplane (which is arguably where you need it most). Novice users should also be aware that 1More's printed instructions are incomplete at best, and there's little additional help to be found online.

Those complaints aside, these are amazing headphones for the price. Nice look, great sound, bonkers battery life — pretty hard to beat!

Best headphones for audiophiiles

Soundcore Life Q35 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Want lossless sound without the high price? Soundcore's Q35 headphones deliver. They look extra-snazzy, too.
$100 at Amazon

Although Sony's WH-1000XM4 (see below) is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to audio quality, Anker's Soundcore Life Q35 headphones come very close — for around one-third the price. That's because they're certified for Hi-Res Audio and Hi-Res Audio Wireless and they incorporate LDAC technology, which allows for lossless audio transfer over Bluetooth. Translation: much less compression, much higher audio fidelity.

Where the Q35s fail to rival the Sony product, however, is in their noise cancelling. It's good, but not great. Even so, there's a lot here to like, starting with design: Anker offers three colors, each adorned with some glossy accents that really make them look like a luxury product.

Usability ranks high here as well, thanks to "wearing detection" that automatically pauses the music when you remove the headphones and a tap-to-talk feature that instantly switches over to transparency mode for quick conversations (without removing the headphones).

Battery life is another standout: Up to 40 hours, according to Anker, and that's with ANC turned on. (It jumps to an amazing 60 hours with ANC off.) I especially like Anker's companion app, which affords control over equalizer settings and even includes a batch of white-noise sounds to help you sleep. Speaking of the equalizer, you may want to tweak it a bit to reduce the bass-heavy default.

A word about price: The Q35 originally sold for $130, with discounts few and far between. However, at this writing they've been discounted to $110 for several months — and there's currently a $10-off coupon that'll get you out the door for $100. That makes an already fantastic headphone deal even better.

If you have ears, you're sure to love Sony's WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling cans. They're a splurge, but worth it for anyone who prizes a premium audio experience.
$278 at Amazon

The Sony XM4 (please don't ask me to type out "WH-1000XM4" over and over, because yeesh!) is widely regarded as one of the best ANC headphones on the planet. Yes, there's a newer version, the XM5, but how do you improve on perfection? Not easily. The upgraded model costs $50 more and offers only a few minor tweaks, so for now I say stick with the XM4.

That's still a splurge, of course, but worth it if you want the best. The XM4 is comfortable, sounds amazing (thanks in part to onboard LDAC, as described above) and offers virtually unrivaled noise cancelling. You can get them in black, blue or silver.

Sony baked some pretty advanced features into them as well, starting with speak-to-chat: If you start talking to someone, the music cuts out while the microphones cut in — the better to allow clear conversation. Touch controls make it simple to adjust volume, skip tracks, access your voice assistant and so on. And Sony promises up to 30 hours of listening on a charge — only about average, but still a good long time.

Any downsides? Just sticker shock: The XM4 has a list price of $350. Fortunately, stores like Amazon and Best Buy often run sales; on many occasions I've seen the headphones for as low as $248, and even down to $228 near the holidays. If you want to treat your ears to the best audio experience possible, break open the piggy bank.

Originally published