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The 5 Best Noise Canceling Headphones With Microphone Today

The Best Noise Canceling Headphones with Microphone in 2023

In today‘s world full of distractions and noise, a great pair of noise canceling headphones can be a game-changer. Whether you‘re working from a noisy home, traveling on a plane, or gaming online with friends, headphones that block out ambient sound while providing high-quality audio and clear voice pickup are practically a necessity.

As someone who has tested dozens of headphones over the years, I‘m excited to share with you my top picks for the best noise canceling headphones with microphones in 2023. I‘ll explain the different types of noise canceling tech, key factors to consider when choosing, and my recommendations for various budgets and use cases. By the end of this guide, you‘ll be equipped with the knowledge to select the ideal headphones for your needs.

How Noise Canceling Headphones Work

Before we dive into the top picks, it‘s helpful to understand a bit about how noise cancellation works. There are two main types:

  1. Passive Noise Isolation
    This is the most basic form of noise reduction and involves physically blocking sound waves from reaching your ears. Over-ear headphones with thick, snug-fitting ear pads that create a tight seal can provide decent passive isolation, especially for higher-frequency sounds. However, they aren‘t as effective at blocking lower frequencies like the rumble of an airplane or noises with heavy bass.

  2. Active Noise Cancellation (ANC)
    ANC headphones use built-in microphones to detect low-frequency ambient noise, then generate an opposing sound wave with the same amplitude to "cancel out" the unwanted noise. This anti-noise greatly reduces the amount of ambient sound that reaches your ears. Different headphones use varying numbers of microphones and noise canceling algorithms, with more advanced models able to adapt the cancellation to your environment in real-time.

What to Look for When Choosing Noise Canceling Headphones

Investing in a high-quality pair of noise canceling headphones is worthwhile, but there are several factors to consider to ensure you‘re getting the best value for your needs and preferences:

  • Noise Cancellation Performance:
    Models with hybrid ANC using both feedforward and feedback mics tend to be most effective. Adjustable ANC levels and transparency/ambient sound modes are also very useful features.

  • Sound Quality:
    Look for headphones that deliver clear, balanced, detailed sound. Many NC headphones boost bass but make sure the mids and highs aren‘t muddy or veiled as a result. Support for high-res Bluetooth codecs like aptX HD or LDAC is a plus for discerning listeners.

  • Comfort and Fit:
    Since you‘ll likely be wearing these for extended periods, a comfortable, secure fit is a must. Well-cushioned headbands and ear pads, adjustable sizing, and multiple ear tip options all contribute to a pleasant wearing experience.

  • Battery Life:
    Most premium wireless ANC headphones offer 20-30 hours of playback per charge, but some can last up to 40-50 hours. Consider how long you need them to last between charges.

  • Microphone Quality:
    For headphones with integrated mics, look for those using multiple microphones with noise reduction, so your voice sounds clear and natural to call recipients, even in noisy environments. Bonus points for sidetone so you can hear your own voice while talking.

  • Controls and Extra Features:
    Having easy-to-use onboard controls for playback, ANC modes, volume, and calls makes a big difference in day-to-day usability. Extra features like auto play/pause, multi-device pairing, fast charging, a mobile app with EQ, and smart assistant support are also nice to have.

Top Picks

With those factors in mind, here are my recommendations for the best noise canceling headphones with mic for different needs and budgets:

Best Overall: Sony WH-1000XM5
The latest iteration of Sony‘s flagship wireless headphones takes ANC and sound quality to new heights. With an incredible 8 microphones, these headphones deliver unrivaled noise cancellation, especially for low-end frequencies. The new 30mm drivers offer sublime audio with excellent detail retrieval and expansive soundstage. The plush, redesigned headband and earpads provide all-day comfort. And with features like speak-to-chat, wear detection, and support for LDAC and 360 Reality Audio, these are the most advanced and best all-around ANC headphones you can buy.

Best Budget Option: Anker Soundcore Life Q30
You don‘t have to spend a fortune for effective noise cancellation. The Anker Life Q30 headphones use hybrid active noise canceling to reduce up to 95% of low-frequency ambient sound. The 40mm drivers deliver impressive sound quality for the price, with deep bass and crisp details. With a remarkable 40-hour battery life, comfy memory foam earcups, adjustable EQ via the app, and a handy bass boost button, these headphones offer outstanding value under $100.

Best for Work & Calls: Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
When it comes to business-class headphones for the office and all-day use, the Bose NC 700s are unbeatable. The adaptive 11-level noise cancellation is highly effective at quieting office hubbub. The unrivaled microphone system with 4 mics provides the clearest calls even in busy environments, while sidetone mimics the natural sound of your own voice. The headband is made of smooth stainless steel for a durable yet sophisticated look, with soft earpads for long-wearing comfort. Support for multipoint Bluetooth, adjustable EQ, and 20 hours of battery complete this winning package.

Best for Travel: Apple AirPods Max
If you frequently travel and want the most immersive, convenient experience, the AirPods Max are worth the premium. The custom-built drivers and computational audio provide spacious, detailed sound, while the knit-mesh ear cushions are supremely plush. The 9 microphones power unmatched active noise cancellation and voice clarity on calls. But what really sets these apart is the seamless integration with other Apple devices – auto switching, spatial audio support, Find My, and hands-free Siri put these a notch above for travelers in the Apple ecosystem.

Best for Gaming: SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless
Immersive audio, clear chat, and multi-device connectivity make the Arctis Nova Pros the ultimate headphones for gamers. The 360° spatial audio and powerful ANC transport you into your game worlds while dual-battery fast charging delivers unlimited playtime. The clear cast microphone with AI noise canceling ensures you‘re always heard by your teammates. And the multi-system connect hub lets you easily switch between your phone, console, and PC. With sleek style, personalized EQ, and the signature ski goggle headband for a comfy fit, these headphones tick all the boxes for gamers.

Getting the Most Out of Noise Canceling Headphones

To ensure you‘re getting the maximum benefit from your ANC headphones, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Get a proper fit. Since a good seal is essential for both blocking noise and optimal sound, take the time to adjust the headband and experiment with the included ear tip sizes to find the best fit.

  2. Adjust ANC and transparency modes based on your environment. Take advantage of different levels and modes to find the right balance – use high ANC on a plane, low in an office, and transparency mode when you need to talk to someone or stay aware of your surroundings.

  3. Optimize sound with EQ. Many companion mobile apps let you tweak the EQ to your liking. Experiment with different presets and manual adjustments to find your preferred sound signature.

  4. Use the right Bluetooth codec. For the best possible sound quality, use a compatible device and make sure you‘re using the highest-quality Bluetooth codec available, like aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, or LDAC.

  5. Keep them charged and clean. Make a habit of recharging after use, so they‘re always ready to go. And periodically clean the ear pads and tips with a soft, dry cloth to avoid buildup and maintain hygiene.

I know that investing in a great pair of noise canceling headphones can be daunting with all the options out there. But whether you go with one of my top picks or use the key factors I outlined to find your ideal pair, you‘ll be amazed at the difference they make in your everyday life. From better focus and productivity to immersive entertainment to peaceful travel, high-quality ANC headphones with mics are a worthwhile investment that can benefit you for years to come.

So tell me, what matters most to you in a pair of noise canceling headphones? Do you prioritize the highest noise cancellation, best sound, clearest calls, gaming performance, or other factors? Let me know in the comments and I‘ll do my best to provide more personalized recommendations to help you find your perfect headphones.