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Noise-cancelling headphones: 4 notable over-ear and in-ear models

Noise-cancelling headphones: 4 notable over-ear and in-ear models

Headphones with active noise canceling (ANC) ensure a pleasant rest when traveling and in the office by actively blocking out ambient noise. The differences in price, equipment, sound and wearing comfort are decisive when buying - we introduce you to the best wireless ANC models 2022 from Sony, Anker Soundcore and JBL.

Noise-cancelling headphones 2022: All test winners and recommendations at a glance

xiaomist Tip Over-Ear Headphones with ANC xiaomist Tip In-Ear Headphones with ANC Price Tip In-Ear Headphones with ANC Price Tip Over-Ear Headphones with ANC Model Sony WH-1000XM4 Sony WF-1000XM4 Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro JBL Live 660 NC Price (approx.) 300 euros 230 euros 100 euros 150 euros Advantage Sound and ANC top Sound and ANC top Attractive price Long battery life Disadvantage Functional variety can be overwhelming Carrying comfort could be higher Handling too sensitive Carrying comfort not optimal Offer Otto Amazon Amazon MediaMarkt price comparison idealo idealo idealo idealo

xiaomist tip over-ear headphones with ANC: Sony WH-1000XM4


Excellent sound Noise canceling at reference level, adapts to the environment if required Good sound quality even when making calls (headset function) Multipoint Bluetooth for quick player changes


Variety of functions can be overwhelming Comprehensive use requires installation of the associated smartphone app (Sony Headphones Connect)

The noise canceling of the Sony WH-1000XM4 is phenomenal: not only engine noise and aircraft noise are effectively faded out - even clicking keyboards and telephoning colleagues are acoustically pushed into the background. In addition, there is a flawless sound quality with a powerful upper bass and impressive spatiality.

The direct predecessor Sony WH-1000XM3 (2018) was almost perfect. With the new WH-1000XM4, the Japanese have now optimized crucial details and retained the proven design. Multipoint Bluetooth is finally part of the equipment: one of the features that fans had been asking for and which brings the on-the-fly switching between two devices connected at the same time. I've been using the Sony almost every day for months and I'm consistently impressed. More on this in the detailed test on xiaomist:

xiaomist tip in-ear headphones with ANC: Sony WF-1000XM4


Excellent sound Very good noise canceling (ANC) Useful app Multipoint Bluetooth for quick player changes


No Multipoint Bluetooth (but Google Fast Pair) Wearing comfort mediocre Touch operation can lead to incorrect entries

The wearing comfort is only mediocre due to the rather bulky construction. I wasn't impressed by the sensitive touch controls. But that sound! The Sony WF-1000XM4 are headphones that ensure music enjoyment at the highest level - no matter where you are. Reproduction is natural, neutral and detailed. The techno bass drum pushes in hard, the violin solo gently touches the soul, the choir fills a huge stage - the Sony in-ears can cope with any musical genre. In addition, there is excellent active noise cancellation, paired with a high level of passive shielding through memory foam fittings.

You can find detailed information and my personal experiences in the xiaomist test (overall rating: 8.3 / 10)

Price tip in-ear headphones with ANC: Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro


Good value for money Sound tuning goes well with pop and hip hop Mobile app with lots of interesting features


Touch operation is not convincing Slight background noise when no music is playing

At that time there was a certain Dr. Dre in the studio with Scott Storch to produce the hit "X" for rapper Xzibit. Over 20 years later, I pump the track into my ear canals at alarming volume via the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro from Anker . The bass thumps, the snare bangs, Xzibit spits the lyrics straight onto your eardrums – anyone who likes energetic sound tuning will love these true wireless headphones. They are less suitable for relaxed classical music enjoyment, as the highs are too coarse and the lows are too dominant.

The processing quality is decent, the case can be opened elegantly with a sliding lid and fits well in the trouser pocket with its flat design. The two earphones do not press, but could be a little tighter - but that can vary depending on the user. The noise canceling is average at best and can't keep up with my Apple AirPods Pro - but the effect is there and at least audibly dampens low frequencies from the environment. Too bad: Wind noise can be annoying outdoors, which reminds me of Sony's WF-1000XM3, which also struggles with it.

The associated mobile phone app is amazingly rich in functions: it checks the fit (EarTip Test), measures the hearing ability (HearID and Equalizer) and allows the individual configuration of the operation. The latter works by touch and thus (naturally) leads to occasional incorrect entries - I always prefer haptic feedback, i.e. real hardware buttons. If you look at the price of the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro (currently under 100 euros at Amazon), there is only one conclusion: Anker proves once again that you don't have to spend a fortune to get a great gadget. Maybe not perfect, but still worth every penny.

Price tip over-ear headphones with ANC: JBL Live 660 NC


Very good battery life Comparatively cheap


The sound is good, but not great, wearing comfort is not optimal

JBL is only asking 179 euros (RRP) for the JBL Live 660 NC – that is comparatively little. The real sensation, however, is that this headphone model was able to achieve an overall grade of 1.9 ("good") in a comparison by Stiftung Warentest (11/2021) and thus shared first place with Apple's AirPods Max (around 500 euros at MediaMarkt).

One of the clear strengths of the JBL Live 660 NC is the battery life: the Stiftung Warentest was able to achieve almost 42 hours with one battery charge - many competitors only get half that. Sound (grade 2.0) and active noise reduction (grade 2.3) were each rated as "good". At Amazon, it is currently enough for an average customer rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars for the JBL Live 660 NC. Alex Bracetti from Tom's Guide praises the "powerful bass" and the "solid mids", but finds the wearing comfort due to the high contact pressure in need of improvement.

Noise-cancelling headphones: How the recommendations were selected

I have tried almost all models discussed here myself. You can find detailed test reports for some of the products on xiaomist, which are linked to the respective model. The test samples were made available to us by the manufacturers. Current and popular headphone models are also presented here, which have received special praise from the press and customers and are therefore recommended for purchase. Sources used: Stiftung Warentest issue 11/2021, Tom's Guide 5/2021

Active noise cancelling: What you should consider when buying headphones

"Active" noise canceling means more than just a particularly well-sealed headphone. In fact, ANC models have built-in electronics that record the ambient noise and cancel it out in real time . The technology required for this consumes additional electricity, which is also noticeable in practically all models.

In practice, around 20 hours of battery life with ANC switched on is the standard for over-ear models, while conventional Bluetooth headphones can sometimes reach 30 hours or more. Ultimately, however, the runtime is completely sufficient for everyday use, at least for over-ear and on-ear models. Only completely wireless models (true wireless earbuds with ANC) currently barely last a full day, they are limited to around 5 hours.

The noise canceling gives some users a "feeling of pressure" on the ears, sometimes a quiet background noise is also perceptible. This perception varies from person to person, as does how much it actually bothers the wearer in everyday life. Anyone who is sensitive here should definitely try out ANC headphones in stores before buying. By the way, you don't have to have health concerns with noise canceling, as Dr.-Ing. Hannes Seidler (Technical University of Dresden) has confirmed. On the contrary, the noise insulation means you don't turn it up that much, which protects your hearing.

Are you looking for specific types of headphones? At xiaomist you will also find the following purchase advice:

How does noise canceling work on headphones?

In principle, all ANC headphones work with two methods: First, with a high level of passive insulation (insulation through the housing and ear pads), which primarily reduces high frequencies (e.g. birdsong) – i.e. like normal hearing protection. Secondly, anti -noise is used: This means that the headphones with external microphones analyze the ambient noise and generate an inverted sound signal. This signal then cancels out the ambient noise in the wearer's ear, so that the artificially generated silence is perceived here.

You can visualize this with waves in a bowl of water colliding and wiping out each other.

How much noise can ANC headphones actually block out?

How effective the noise canceling is depends on the manufacturer. The general rule is: those who spend more on their headphones also get better results. That's not to say cheap ANC models don't work - they do the job, but not always quite as well. You can find out for yourself how the noise insulation sounds. Put on (normal) headphones and watch this video :

Finally, you have to be aware: Absolute silence like in an anechoic room – no noise-cancelling headphones can do that, no matter how expensive they are. The only thing that is currently technically feasible is a noticeable reduction in ambient noise , so that together with music being played at the same time, the feeling arises of being isolated from the noisy surroundings. Low frequencies in particular, such as the humming on an airplane, are reduced and make noise-cancelling headphones ideal travel companions that you quickly don't want to be without.


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