Noise-cancelling headphones are very popular in the consumer market and are used in leisure and professional settings around the world every day. Whether we're looking to drown out outside noise while we listen to our favourite audio or simply trying to minimize audible distractions to work in silence, noise-cancelling headphones can be used to our great advantage.
Of course, like anything, certain noise-cancelling headphones stand out among the others. In this article, we'll discuss the best noise-cancelling headphones that fit within a $500 USD budget.
The Top 2 Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones Under $500 Are:
There are options above $500. That being said, the $500 limit has plenty of superb options for noise-cancelling headphones. $500 USD is a lot of money and can get you a great pair of active noise-cancelling headphones. The models listed above are the best in this price range.
Since we're having a discussion within the context of a price cap, I figure I should leave a link to a related My New Microphone article: Are Expensive Headphones (Or Cheap Headphones) Worth It?
What Makes A Great Noise-Cancelling Headphone?
Though the term “best” is subjective, we should still list the criteria used to determine what makes a great noise-cancelling headphone.
- Comfort: this is perhaps the simplest yet most important criterion of any headphone. Though highly subjective, specifications such as weight; contact pressure; earpad shape/material; stiffness, and the overall dimension play a role in comfort.
- Noise cancellation: this is obvious but a pair of noise-cancelling headphones needs good noise-cancellation. Often this is specified in negative decibels. Low frequencies are generally easier to cancel out so listen for higher frequencies when trying noise-cancelling headphones out.
- Battery life: because active noise-cancellation requires power, noise-cancelling headphones will generally require batteries. The amount of time it takes for the battery to drain from fully charged is an important factor to consider. It's also worth noting whether the battery is internal or if the headphone will require external batteries.
- Impedance/device compatibility: consumer-grade noise-cancelling headphones should be compatible with mobile devices. This means that the impedance should be low to avoid required a portable headphone amplifier. The sensitivity rating should also be considered in this discussion.
- Frequency response: a great pair of headphones should be able to reproduce the full audible spectrum from 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz with clarity.
Wireless (especially Bluetooth) capabilities are also seen as a benefit since they further improve the functionality and general comfort of the headphones. Many noise-cancelling headphones today are wireless since they require power anyway (why not add in a Bluetooth receiver that runs off the same battery source?).
With that, let's get into our top 2 best noise-cancelling headphones for under $500!
To learn more about noise-cancelling headphones before we jump into the best models under $500, please consider reading the following My New Microphone articles:
• How Do Noise-Cancelling Headphones Work? (PNC & ANC)
• Passive Vs. Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones
- Top Best Noise Cancelling Earphones Under $100
- Top Best Noise Cancelling Earphones Under $200
- Top Best Noise Cancelling Headphones Under $100
- Top Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones Under $200
The first headphone we'll be discussing is the well-respected Sony WH-1000XM4.
The Sony WH-1000XM4 is a circumaural (over-ear) closed-back headphone with advanced active noise-cancellation technology and Bluetooth 5.0 wireless connectivity.
Typical ANC headphones are great from low-end rumble but struggle with higher, more transient sounds. The WH-1000XM4 is remarkable in how well it attenuates these more difficult noises.
Sony’s industry-leading noise cancellation technology features additional microphones that assist in isolating high and mid-frequency sounds. This is made possible via the proprietary HD Noise-Canceling Processor QN1 and advanced algorithms that sense and adjust the cancellation signal over 700 times per second.
To maximize noise-cancelling performance, Sony incorporates 2 different noise-cancelling technologies into the WH-1000XM4.
First is the Personal Noise-Canceling Optimizer (available via the Sony | Headphones Connect app), which takes your unique hearing profile into account after testing it. Second is the Atmospheric Pressure Optimizing, which is designed specifically for air travel.
The Sony | Headphones Connect app also allows users to adjust the amount of ambient sound passed through the headphones. We can also engage an array of smart technologies to improve the listener experience.
One such smart function is the Adaptive Sound Control, which senses where you are and what you’re doing, then adjusts ambient sound settings for the ideal listening experience. It can even learn your regularly-visited spots and automatically adjust the ANC/Ambient settings to the location.
The Quick Attention functionality lets users instantly turn down the audio and allow ambient sound in by simply placing their hand over the headphone housing.
Another cool smart function is Speak-to-Chat, in which the WH-1000XM4 automatically recognizes your voice and stops playing audio as you begin speaking.
Yes, the WH-1000XM4 has microphones for ANC and telephony. Precise Voice Pickup Technology combines five built-in microphones with advanced audio signal processing for crystal clear communication on calls and with voice assistants.
So whether we're after superb active noise cancellation or the opposite, the highly functional Sony WH-1000XM4 has us covered! Let's move on to the other talking points of this excellent headphone, shall we?
As mentioned previously, the WH-1000XM4 has Bluetooth 5.0. It supports high-quality codecs and the necessary profiles for strong yet easy-to-make connections. The wireless range of the headphones is 30 feet (10 metres).
Sony’s LDAC technology allows for high-quality wireless audio transfer via Bluetooth. It transmits 3 times the data, providing an enhanced wireless listening experience with superior audio quality.
To learn more about wireless headphones, please consider reading the following My New Microphone articles:
• How Bluetooth Headphones Work & How To Pair Them To Devices
• How Do Wireless Headphones Work? + Bluetooth & True Wireless
The headphone can even be paired to two devices simultaneously and switch between these devices at the touch of a button.
Both ANC and Bluetooth connectivity require power. The built-in battery offers 30 hours of operational time with both Bluetooth and ANC engaged. Quick charging gets us an additional 5 hours’ worth of charge after just 10 minutes with the optional AC adapter. Alternatively, use the USB-C charger cable to charge from 0% to 100% in 3 hours.
The WH-1000XM4 comes with a detachable 4-foot headphone cable with OFC strands, and gold-plated stereo mini (3.5mm) plugs for wired connectivity. A 3.5mm to 6.35 (1/4″) adapter is also included.
With a rated nominal impedance of 47 ohms, the headphone will sound amazing when connected to mobile and professional audio devices alike via the cable.
The built-in analog amplifier (integrated into the QN1 processor) realizes an unmatched signal-to-noise ratio for low distortion and exceptional sound quality in wired and wireless connections.
The 40mm dynamic drivers are designed with liquid crystal polymer (LCP) diaphragms, neodymium magnets and copper-clad aluminum wire voice coils to produce superb bass, clear mids and non-fatiguing highs that extend well beyond the range of human hearing. The published frequency response is an impressive 4 Hz – 40,000 Hz.
To learn more about dynamic drivers and driver size, check out my articles The Complete Illustrated Guide To Moving-Coil Dynamic Headphones and What Is A Good Driver Size For Headphones? respectively.
In addition to all of that, DSEE Extreme (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) utilizes artificial intelligence to upscale compressed digital audio files in real-time. This tech aims to restore the lost quality that comes with compression for a more complete listening experience.
Other features include automatic pause/play as the headphones are taken off and put back on, respectively; quick attention touch control to swiftly turn down the music and open up ambient sound; and full voice assistant compatibility.
These headphones are also wonderfully comfortable for all-day wear.
The super-soft, pressure-relieving ear pads use foamed urethane for an evenly distributed pressure and increase ear/pad contact for a stable fit. The lightweight design is barely noticeable, and with such great sound, the listener's focus will be on the audio and not the headphones themselves.
- Transducer Type: 1.57″ Dynamic with Neodymium magnets & CCAW Voice coil
- Impedance: 47 Ω
- Frequency Response: 4 Hz – 40,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 105 dB / mW
- IP Rating: no info
- Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Closed-back
- Weight: 254g
- Wireless/Wired: Bluetooth 5.0
To learn more about headphone specifications, be sure to read my article Full List: Headphone/Earphone Specifications w/ Examples.
Bose is known for its super noise-cancelling headphones. At under $500, the Bose 700 is one of the best in the world.
The Bose 700 offers controllable active noise-cancellation with 11 settings in a circumaural (over-ear) closed-back headphone design. Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology allows for a 33-foot operational range.
Bose is well-respected for its excellent noise-cancelling headphones. The 700 represents the company perfectly in this regard. It features incredible hybrid active noise cancellation circuits to give listener's a deeply immersive experience.
The 700 has 11 sound control settings that range from full noise-cancellation to full transparency. Select the settings for your specific situation via the highly functional Bose Music App.
By default, the headphones are set to 3 Favorite noise cancelling levels:
- Full Noise Cancellation
- Some Awareness
- Full Transparency
The App also offers access to EQ, Bluetooth management, battery life indication and more.
Conversation Mode is engaged with a single click to pause the music/audio and engage Full Transparency mode simultaneously for a momentary break from private listening.
The 700 headphone has 10 built-in microphones, and 6 of these microphones work together to cancel noise around the listener in the aforementioned hybrid ANC design.
A 4-microphone system is designed for optimal voice pick-up for calls and voice assistant activation while suppressing noise in the environment. This all happens in real-time and adjusts as the environmental noise changes around you.
The 700 from Bose has a battery life of up to 20 hours with a maximum charge time of 2.5 hours. A quick 15-minute charge will boost battery life by 3.5 hours. Charging is made possible via the included USB-C cable.
This headphone comes with a 42-inch audio cable with 3.5mm stereo plugs to allow for wired connectivity as well.
For more info on headphone cables, check out my article An In-Depth Look Into How Headphone Cables Carry Audio.
The headphone is capable of a solid Bluetooth 5.0, which offers an incredible connection in terms of quality, range and connection strength.
The dynamic drivers offer superb, transparent sound across the audible spectrum. For a pair of wireless headphones, the audio is reproduced with excellent accuracy, from deep bass to extended highs.
The earcups of the 700 are tilted at 15º to better suit the anatomy of the ears and head. Earpads made of plush protein leather offer superb comfort and an excellent fit for long listening sessions and secure passive noise isolation (to complement the active noise cancellation). A durable and adjustable steel headband has an underside of soft silicone-covered foam and clamps securely and comfortably to the listener’s head.
Capacitative touch sensors are included on the right earcup, allowing users to manage volume, calls and audio files without ever touching the paired Bluetooth audio device.
In addition to touch options, several low-profile buttons are used to control power, noise-cancellation presets, and voice assistant access. Use VA to control the connected device with your voice.
If you’re really a fan of Bose, you probably already know about the 700 and the company’s SimpleSync technology that allows Bose owners to pair the 700 headphones with a Bose Soundbar 500 or 700. Play audio through everything simultaneously with independent volume control.
- Transducer Type: Dynamic
- Impedance: no info
- Frequency Response: no info
- Sensitivity: no info
- IP Rating: IPX4
- Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Closed-back
- Weight: 0.56 lbs
- Wireless/Wired: Bluetooth 5.0 or wired
- 6 microphones for Active Noise Cancelling (ANC)
- 4 microphones for Voice Pickup (2 are shared with ANC)
Here are another 5 noise-cancelling headphones within the same price range that didn't quite make the cut but are still definitely worth considering:
- Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless
- Microsoft Surface Headphones 2
- Nura Nuraphone
- Master & Dynamic MW65
- Plantronics Voyager 8200 UC
Former Top Noise-Cancelling Headphones Under $500 Picks
Here are headphones that used to be on this list and the reasons they are no longer.
Shure AONIC 50 (Discontinued)
The Shure AONIC 50 (discontinued) once had a spot on this list.
The Shure AONIC 50, like the other headphones on this list, is a circumaural (over-ear) closed-back headphone with excellent active noise-cancelling. Its Bluetooth 5 wireless technology offers a solid range of 33 feet or 10 meters.
The AONIC 50 utilizes a hybrid ANC system with feedback and feedforward circuits to eliminate distractions for a truly immersive listening experience. There are 4 microphones used, in total, for ANC (one inside each earcup and one outside each earcup).
In addition to excellent active noise cancellation, the AONIC 50 also has an Environmental Mode, which passes external sound through the headphone. This allows users to hear the environment without having to take the headphones off.
Flip the ANC/Environmental switch on the headphones to engage either mode (or leave it in the centre to disengage both modes).
In the ShurePlus PLAY app, you can adjust the ANC between two levels (max and normal), depending on your needs. This app also allows for customization of the Environment Mode levels.
The app can also apply EQ to the headphones (presets and custom), control volume, create playlists, and import/play multiple, high-resolution and standard file types.
This headphone is designed with a Bluetooth 5 wireless chip for easy and strong wireless connectivity with compatible devices. The range is 33 feet (10 metres).
Charge the AONIC 50 with the included USB-C cable for a full battery life of 20 hours. Improve the battery life by going with a wired audio connection with the same USB-C cable or the 3.5mm analog audio cable (also included).
These Shure headphones sound awesome with 50mm dynamic neodymium drivers and a professional-grade premium headphone amplifier. With a frequency response of 20 Hz – 22,000 Hz, the AONIC 50 brings studio-level quality to mobile Bluetooth headphones!
This headphone is durable and comfortable, and with on-earcup fingertip controls, it's easy to answer calls, adjust volume, or pause music with the push of a button.
- Transducer Type: 50 mm Dynamic with Neodymium magnet
- Impedance: 39 Ω @ 1 kHz
- Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 22,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 97.5 dB/mW @ 1 kHz
- IP Rating: no info
- Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Closed-back
- Weight: 334 g (11.8oz.)
- Wireless/Wired: Bluetooth 5 or wired
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9 (Discontinued)
The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9 (discontinued) noise-cancelling headphones were fully deserving of a spot on this list.
The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i is one of the best noise-cancelling headphones out there. It has a lightweight design with circumaural closed-back earcups and Bluetooth 4.2 technology for wireless connectivity.
The advanced active noise cancellation of the Beoplay H9 uses a hybrid system with 4 dedicated electret microphones. Two electret mics in each earcup pick up sound in the exterior (feedforward) and the interior (feedback) of the earcup. Instant-by-instant, the anti-noise signal is altered to eliminate unwanted noise from the listener's ears.
The low-end is significantly blocked out, and the H9 even does a great job attenuating low-mids and speech (to a limited extent).
Transparency Mode lets you hear your surroundings when you need to by simply swiping upward from the bottom to the top of the earcup exterior.
This Bang & Olufsen headphone can be connected wirelessly with Bluetooth 4.2. The system supports high-quality codecs (aptX™ Low Latency, AAC, SBC, CvC) for superb, uninterrupted audio transfer to and from the headphone.
The rechargeable lithium-ion battery takes approximately 3 hours to charge from 0% to 100%. Charging is done via USB-C, and the headphone comes with a 1.25 m USB-A to USB-C cable. Depending on the features we use, a fully charged battery will have the following lifespan before needing to be charged again:
- Up to 25 hours with Bluetooth and ANC
- Up to 32 hours with Bluetooth
- Up to 33 hours wired with ANC
If we'd rather go with a wired connection, the headphone also comes with a1.2 m audio cord with a 3.5mm jack and a flight adapter. The nominal impedance of 25 ohms tells us these headphones will sound great with professional and consumer-grade audio players alike, including mobile and smart devices.
These over-ear headphones deliver Bang & Olufsen Signature Sound with 40mm dynamic drivers. In order to really produce the headphone's full, rich sound across the entire frequency spectrum, B&O engineers have expertly tuned the housing and added bass ports to extend the low-frequency range.
2 MEMS microphones are built-in for cVc telephony. Making and taking calls is easy with on-ear controls, and communication is made crystal clear with this 2-mic system.
The headphones also have a dedicated button for voice assistants and built-in Google Voice Assistance.
The headphones can be further tuned via the Bang & Olufsen app. A fully customizable EQ with presets will get us the exact sound we need from these excellent headphones.
An ultra-comfortable fit (which also helps with passive noise isolation) is made possible with earpads made from soft lambskin and adaptive memory foam. Polished, anodized aluminum and genuine cowhide leather complete the design, making the headphones look and feel as great as they sound.
- Transducer Type: 40 mm Dynamic with Neodymium magnets
- Impedance: 24 Ω ±15%
- Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: 95 dB/MW @ 1 kHz +/-3 dB
- IP Rating: no info
- Open/Closed-Back: Cicumaural/Closed-back
- Weight: 10.05 oz / 285 g
- Wireless/Wired: Bluetooth 4.2 or wired
- Microphone: 2 x Electret
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 (Discontinued)
To finish things up, let's talk about the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 (discontinued), which was once on this list.
The Bowers & Wilkins PX7 is a circumaural (over-ear) closed-back headphone with adaptive active noise-cancellation technology and Bluetooth 5.0 wireless connectivity.
The hybrid active noise-cancelling of the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 utilizes 4 microphones. A microphone is inside each earcup for feedback ANC, and the second pair of microphones is outside the earcups.
The result is remarkable noise cancellation that covers the low-end rumble and even works to mitigate a surprising amount of mid-frequency sounds and percussive noises. Higher-end cancellation is made possible by the passive noise isolation from the circumaural closed-back design.
In addition to superb ANC, Bower & Wilkins has developed “Real-World Listening” features in the PX7. These features include:
Ambient pass-through, when engaged, passes external sounds from the environment, such as conversations, through to the headphone, allowing them to be heard clearly.
Wear-sensing technology can be set to stop and start audio as the headphone is taken off and put back on the listener’s head.
Enable these features and further customize the sound of the B&W PX7 with the Bowers & Wilkins Headphone App.
Along with the built-in mics for ANC, the PX7 from Bowers & Wilkins offers mics for two-way communication. It employs 2 mics for telephony (CVC2 – Clear Voice Communication v2), offering a crystal clear voice pickup for easy calls and voice assistant utilization.
With Bluetooth 5.0, the PX7 will pair easily and maintain a strong wireless connection within a range of 33 metres (10 feet). The high-end codecs and internal DAC keep audio sounding clean and as intended over the entire frequency range. The headphones can even connect to two devices at the same time. Just note that you can only play audio or take calls from one device at a time.
The PX7’s battery offers 30 hours of Bluetooth and ANC time. A 15-minute quick charge can boost this time by 5 hours. Connect the headphone to a charging block with the included USB-C charging cable.
In addition to Bluetooth, this B&W headphone can also connect to audio sources directly using the supplied 3.5mm audio or USB cables.
The PX7’s 43.6mm dynamic drivers are expertly tuned to reproduce audio with stunning clarity and presence. These high-performance headphones deliver high-end audio across a 10 Hz to 30 kHz frequency response.
The woven carbon fibre composite arms of the PX7 are modelled after the strength of the fastest race cars. In terms of durability, the PX7 is hard to beat in the headphone game.
Along with superb ruggedness, the PX7 is also very comfortable, and the adjustable headband can be set to achieve the perfect fit.
The controls on the right earcup are typical: Power, Volume +, Multi-function and Volume –. Use different actions with these controls to play/pause/skip music or make/take calls.
- Transducer Type: 1.72″ / 43.6 mm Dynamic
- Impedance: 20 Ω
- Frequency Response: 10 Hz to 30 kHz (Wireless)
- Sensitivity: 111 dB
- IP Rating: no info
- Open/Closed-Back: Circumaural/Closed-back
- Weight: 10.7 oz / 302 g
- Wireless/Wired: Bluetooth
The Bowers & Wilkins PX5 is also worth checking out.
Choosing the right headphones or earphones for your applications and budget can be a challenging task. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive Headphones/Earphones Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next headphones/earphones purchase.
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