Noise cancelling bluetooth headphones

My wife and I are now working in the same room and she is on a lot of calls that can make it hard for me to focus.

I’m looking for bluetooth headphones with excellent noise cancelling, that are comfortable enough to wear for a couple of hours at a time.

I’ve tried some several years ago, but they weren’t comfortable and I always got a headache afterwards.


I have Airpods Pro Max and Bose 700, both fit your need and have excellent noise canceling.

I am still using the older Beats Solo³, and they are still doing a good job.

I have Airpods Max and they sound great and have excellent noise cancelling, but they’re also on the heavier side. I find them comfortable but some people report them as being too tight.

My son has the Sony WH-1000XM3 and I can confirm that they are lighter and also have very good noise cancellation. The current model in the line, WH-1000XM5 reviews very well, but I haven’t tried a pair myself.

When asking about headphones, do you just need them for noise cancellation and perhaps also listening to music/podcasts or are you also planning to use them for calls/Zoom/Teams/etc.?

I am happy with the Bose QC35 for just listening but cannot use them for calls even if I’m just on mute and listening. I can’t speak about newer models but the QC35 enables sidetone (feeds external audio to the ears) that cannot be adjusted or disabled when they are in headset mode. This results in ambient sounds coming in at what seems an amplified level. While it may not get picked up on the other end, I find it extremely distracting. This does not happen when just listening to music/podcasts so I’m happy with them for that purpose and are my headphones of choice while flying.

I have misophonia so I basically try every ANC headphone that hits the market from Apple, Sony, Bose, and occasionally others. Like, I’d sacrifice grocery money if I had to for 5% better ANC. For comfort you won’t beat Bose. And, at the moment, they have my vote for aggressive ANC against voice, too. Bose QC 45 if you want over ear and QC Earbuds 2 if you want earbuds. But having said that… ANC headphones are not magically good at blocking voice in general. ANC headphones are good at blocking out steady droning noises, like airplanes. The sound waves of those travel slower, giving the headphone more time to pick it up via the microphone array and generate the counter sound wave that will negate it (which is how ANC headphones work in broad strokes). With speech, traffic, construction, etc, ANC headphones will just muffle it. The best thing you can do against speech is noise masking. Play white noise through your ANC headphones. I recommend; it’s an amazing collection of good masking noises that the owner flies around the world and records himself, and it’s free and runs on very modest donations.


Have to strongly agree with Gem above about the fact that even though ANC headphones are great at cancelling out “constant” unchanging sounds (like wind, airplane drone, vacuum cleaners, etc) they are typically not great at spoken voice.

Even though I really like my Airpods Pro I find over-ear headphones better in an office environment with people talking. I use the older Sony WH-1000XM3 (I’m sure the later models are also great) and partner it with the app Dark Noise to generate some background sound, or simply play music.

Which music to play is a whole different and personal subject but I find stuff without lyrics to work best – think film scores, etc.

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I am fortunate enough to have the new AirPod Pros and the Sony XM5’s after my XM3’s were inherited by my wife a few weeks ago.

Generally speaking and as others have mentioned, over the ear always cancels better for me. I mean, just by way of how they work over the ear will “muffle” more sounds than buds. As others have mentioned, they both excel in the constant noise department (e.g. heating and cooling systems, airplane engines, the chatter and sound of people in a busy room or area). With single loud noises like a voice or a clap – they still help but you’re still going to hear it.

Quick aside – it may seem silly to own two pair of “cancel-ers”, especially given the fact I almost balked at buying my first pair. Didn’t think I ‘needed’ them. But I like the AirPods for on the go, walks outside, and exercising. My Sony’s are for working from home and shutting out my surroundings. I have a good dose of anxiety that follows me around and being able to “turn off” the world has been a godsend.

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Granted, not the most elegant solution, but there are a class of headsets that also double as ear protection - generally used by builders and others working in noisy environments. 3M has the Peltor series which I’m sure will produce a pretty amazing sound isolation. They are also designed for all-day use, so there’s that.

There are of course other suppliers in this market, but for reference:

My boss used very similar ones in our chatty open office and boy they cancelled so much everything that they felt almost uncomfortably surreal. How can I hear nothing here? What’s happening to my ears? They were that good.

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I use a 3M Peltor ProTac when working in datacenters. Very good passive noise reduction and the boom microphone works so well on calls I can speak at a normal volume and folks can hardly tell I’m in a noisy environment.

They are not cheap and can be hard to locate. They also are heavy and your ears get hot when wearing them all day. Replacing the foam ear pads with gel versions does make them more comfortable though; especially if one needs to wear glasses. They do offer the ability to turn side tone (they call it surround sound) down/off which is great. Their media controls, on the other hand, are a bit lacking. They have volume up/down and a button to answer/hang up a call but no media start/stop/fast forward/rewind options on them.

Overall, if in an environment where hearing damage is a possibility and one may need to talk on the phone, I heartily recommend them. Something else may, however, be a better option in different environments or use cases.

Another option I’ve considered testing is a bone conduction headset such as Atfershokz with “dumb”, passive hearing protection (e.g. ear plugs).