The best wireless noise-cancelling headphones

Turn the world into your own private audio oasis with these bold over-ear statements.

By Staff Writers, January 6 2024
The best wireless noise-cancelling headphones

Frequently find yourself above the clouds? Then you’ll know how important noise cancelling headphones are in your travel kit, with the often-sleek and stylish gadgets replacing the drone of the engines with crisp, clear and undisturbed music.

More than just fit, comfort and audio quality, the best noise-cancelling headphones are those delivering extended battery life and the ability to customise your experience via a companion app. There are some great options too.

There's a perfect pair to suit your personality and listening preferences.
There's a perfect pair to suit your personality and listening preferences.

Generally speaking, and as much as marketing teams would disagree, most have the same core features, albeit with different names or approaches. This includes:

  • voice activation and control, whether it’s through Google, Alexa or Siri
  • adaptive or ‘active’ audio to automatically adjust the volume and EQ
  • transparency mode, which briefly lets the outside noise in, such as when ordering a meal or drink from the cabin crew

So, which noise-cancelling headphones are worth buying? These are our picks. 

Apple Airpods Max headphones

For those who enjoy cocooning over-the-ear comfort when listening to music or watching television, Apple’s Airpods Max is the model for you.

While more expensive than its rivals, Airpods Max delivers the sound quality to back it up.
While more expensive than its rivals, Airpods Max delivers the sound quality to back it up.

Available in five colours, they feature a breathable mesh strap and stainless steel earcups, which are easily removable or replaceable. While slightly heavier than rivals, they’re not uncomfortable for extended listening.

It's available in five colours: Silver, Space Gray, Sky Blue, Pink and Green.
It's available in five colours: Silver, Space Gray, Sky Blue, Pink and Green.

Sound quality is among the best in class, however it comes at a premium, sitting around $300 above most of the competition. As with the Pro, pairing is quick and easy.

  • Battery Life: Up to 20 hours of listening time on a single charge, with a quick five minute charge giving you 1.5 hours
  • Weight: 386 grams
  • RRP: $899

Beats Studio Pro

Beats by Dre over ear headphones are the kind you see once and then spot everywhere you go: on the train, at the airport, or even in the supermarket. The latest ubiquitous model? Studio Pro.

The Studio Pro features fully-adaptive ANC, transparency mode and cinematic spatial audio.
The Studio Pro features fully-adaptive ANC, transparency mode and cinematic spatial audio.

Among the notable differences from the Studio 3 Wireless are improved sound quality, a more durable design thanks to upgraded memory foam and stitch-free faux leather cups, plus the addition of USB-C charging.

Lightweight and portable, with an included carrying case.
Lightweight and portable, with an included carrying case.

Controls admittedly aren’t as refined as on some of its contemporaries, but they still deliver where it counts: quality noise cancellation and calling, with easy one-touch pairing for both Apple and Android. Apple users also benefit from spatial audio with head tracking.

  • Battery Life: up to 40 hours listening time
  • Weight: 260 grams
  • RRP: $529.95

Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones

The next-gen of Bose’s acclaimed QuietComfort series, the QuietComfort Ultra headphones live up to their name and pedigree, delivering clear and undisturbed listening no matter the situation.

QuietComfort Ultra replaces Bose's flagship 700 model.
QuietComfort Ultra replaces Bose's flagship 700 model.

Available in black and white smoke, they look great and are well-constructed with a mix of aluminium and faux leather. They’re also comfortable for an extended period, like on a long-haul flight.

Level up your listening with the Bose QueitComfort Ultra.
Level up your listening with the Bose QueitComfort Ultra.

A touch-sensitive volume slider allows you to easily adjust tunes to your liking, while the Immersive Audio feature creates an impressive depth of sound that wraps around you.

  • Battery Life: up to 24 hours
  • Weight: 253 grams
  • RRP: $549.95

Bowers & Wilkins Px8 headphones

British brand Bowers & Wilkins’ flagship Px8 headphones are a thing of beauty adorned in bright metal detailing and supple leather trims. Far from style over substance, they match this aesthetic appeal with genuine audio chops.

Everything about the Px8 feels supremely well thought out.
Everything about the Px8 feels supremely well thought out.

Tested on an Emirates A380 flight to Christchurch, we found sound quality and ANC among the best we’ve tried, delivering a feast for the ears. And they should too, given the brand’s reputation (and price tag). But, you do get a lot of bang for your buck.

The Px8 has cast aluminium arms and a soft, Nappa leather trim.
The Px8 has cast aluminium arms and a soft, Nappa leather trim.

Easy to set up via the B&W Music app, the 30-hour battery life is ideal for long distance travels, while phone calls are clear with almost no background noise. The quality and finish are amazing too. On the flip side, the app lags behind other brands with quite limited customisation.

  • Battery Life: 30 hours one one charge, with an additional seven hours listening from a 15 minute recharge
  • Weight: 320 grams
  • RRP: $1149

Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless headphones

While similarly named to the brand’s earbuds, Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless headphones are a very different beast. Fully redesigned from the retro Momentum 3, they now sport a more contemporary look, yet still with that distinct Sennheiser feel.

Personalise your sound with the Sennheiser Smart Control app.
Personalise your sound with the Sennheiser Smart Control app.

Battery life has seen a huge improvement on the previous model too, jumping from a respectable 17 hours up to a phenomenal 60 hours listening time. When you eventually do run out of juice, fast-charging can deliver an extra 6 hours in 10 minutes.

Personalise your sound with the Sennheiser Smart Control app.
Personalise your sound with the Sennheiser Smart Control app.

Controls are also simple and intuitive, with the addition of a touchpad – doing away with the three-button interface of old – on the right cup allowing you to make calls and control your music.

  • Battery Life: Up to 60 hours listening time, 2 hours to full charge
  • Weight: 293 grams
  • RRP: $479

Sennheiser Accentum Wireless

A sharper-priced but still impressive alternative from Sennheiser is its Accentum Wireless range, which delivers up to 50 hours listening per charge and the ability to quickly charge for an additional five hours in just 10 minutes.

The USB-C cable lets you switch to wired listening when Bluetooth is unavailable.
The USB-C cable lets you switch to wired listening when Bluetooth is unavailable.

Rather than adjusting volume or skipping tracks through taps, Accentum features four physical buttons on its right earcup, reducing potential room for error. And if you want to adjust your listening, the Sennheiser companion app works for this model too.

Accentum headphones are available in white or black.
Accentum headphones are available in white or black.

Putting it through its paces on a flight to New York, we found the Accentum comfortable for an extended listening session, while aircraft noise was reduced to a bare minimum thanks to impressive noise cancelling for the price.

  • Battery Life: 50 hours playtime
  • Weight: 222 grams
  • RRP: $299.95

Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones

A successor to the brilliant WH-1000XM4, the WH-1000XM5 boasts a fresher design with markedly improved noise cancellation, additional microphones (eight, instead of the previous four) for clearer calls, and one of the best battery lifes in the market.

Enjoy up to 30 hours on a single charge with the Sony WH-1000XM5.
Enjoy up to 30 hours on a single charge with the Sony WH-1000XM5.

Although no longer top of the battery class, listeners can still enjoy up to 30 hours on a single charge. If you don’t have time for a full top-up, just three minutes of USB fast-charging can provide an additional 3 hours of listening time.

Out of the box you'll find a carrying case and headphone cable (approx. 1.2m).
Out of the box you'll find a carrying case and headphone cable (approx. 1.2m).

The design has been completely overhauled from the XM4, now with a streamlined head strap giving them a somewhat retro flair. While audio has seen a marked improvement on the previous version, build quality does feel slightly less-premium this time around.

Battery Life: Up to 30 hours on a single charge
Weight: 250 grams
RRP: $549

Like to switch between headphones and earbuds, depending on your mood? Take a look at our best noise-cancelling earbuds guide

21 Jul 2018

Total posts 2

It’s too bad nobody does a wired noise cancelling earbud these days. I find over ear headphones to be uncomfortable and current wireless earbuds don’t have the battery life for a long haul flight. Long live the Bose QuietComfort 20, I’ll never understand why they discontinued them. 

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 966

I agree I still use my Bose QuietComfort 20 even though I have the options with me. 


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