Update 8/18/2020: We’ve updated our list to include our new top pick.
When it comes to wireless headphones, the over-ear noise-cancelling models typically offer the most comprehensive set of features we want.
The best options combine stellar audio with powerful active noise cancellation (ANC) and other handy tools to create as complete a package as possible. Of course, some companies do this better than others. For this guide, we’ll focus primarily on the over-ear style (with one exception) and offer a range of prices so you can decide how much you’re comfortable spending.
Nearly two years after the introduction of the WH-1000XM3, Sony gave us a successor. The $350 WH-1000XM4 look a lot like its older sibling, but small design tweaks give the headphones a more premium look and a more comfortable fit. Just like the M3 though, the bulk of the upgrades are inside. Most importantly, the M4 allow you to connect to two devices simultaneously — a key feature that was missing from previous generations.
Sony also added wear detection, which automatically pauses playback when you take the headphones off, and a Speak-to-Chat feature, which automatically pauses audio and activates ambient sound when you start talking. Like other recent Sony headphones, the Adaptive Sound Control profiles will now turn on your customized ANC presets based on location — if you allow the app permission to track your movements. Sony tweaked the algorithm for its QN1 noise-canceling chip to make it more effective and the company’s new DSEE Extreme digital sound processing (DSP) technology upscales audio more efficiently. With all the new features (some of which are a bit overdue), Sony has made its flagship headphones even better.