Best Bluetooth ANC headphones: Which comes out on top from Sony, Apple, B&W, & Focal? [Video]


After hearing about the high-end Focal Bathys Bluetooth ANC headphones launch, I was curious how they would stack up against some competition. With other high-end options from Bowers & Wilkens, Apple, and Sony, what is the best pair of Bluetooth ANC headphones? Well, that answer might a bit complicated. Be sure to hit the video below to see all of the details. 

What makes that question complicated is that there are a few aspects that culminate in the best ANC Bluetooth headphones. And those factors will have more weight for different users. We’ll cover comfort, sound quality, ANC, and any extra features that set them apart. Cost also matters considering that the prices of these review units at the time of posting range from $350–$800. Ultimately, I hope this comparison gives you a good idea of which headphones will be able to accomplish exactly what you need. But of course, we need to crown a champion, so I’ll be picking my favorite. 

Sony XM5 – $400 $350


  • Price: $350
  • Frequency response: 20-20kHz Bluetooth, 4-40kHz active wired 
  • Battery life: 30 hours
  • Connection: Bluetooth 5.2
  • App control: EQ 

The most affordable in the bunch here is the Sony WH-1000XM5 – which I would also say are the best ANC Bluetooth headphones for comfort. Their lightweight build with soft ear cushions makes them my top pick when it comes to long listening sessions.

The XM5 is also the most understated visually with a simple yet modern design. Beyond the power button and an ANC/transparency mode toggle, most of the controls are hidden as touch controls on the sides of the earcups. 

Best ANC Bluetooth headphones: Video

Sound quality 

While the Sony XM5 doesn’t sound bad, I would place them at the bottom in this high-end comparison when it comes to overall sound quality. I don’t think that will surprise anyone, though; they are up against some stiff competition here. 

The headphones have generous bass, but imaging and mids are vaguer than the most expensive headphones in the bunch. They just don’t have the same clarity for picking out individual instruments. 

There is quite a bit of customization you can do to the audio through the Headphones app when it comes to EQ. 

ANC performance? 

Combined with comfort for a good travel pick, ANC also performs very well on the Sony XM5 – especially for the price. While not quite the best ANC Bluetooth headphones for noise reduction, I would put them above both the PX8 and the Focal Bathys. 

When it comes down to it if the main purpose of the ANC headphones for you is traveling and noise cancellation, the Sony XM5 might be the best bet thanks to their top marks for comfort and second place for noise cancellation for the $350 price tag. If sound quality is the most important factor in an on-the-go Bluetooth ANC headset, you may want to read on. 

Apple AirPods Max $550 $355 (refurb on Cyber Monday)


  • Price: $450 new, $355 refurbished on Cyber Monday
  • Battery life: 20 hours with ANC
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Other notes: Incredible ANC, head-tracking spatial audio

If you’re on iPhone or in the Apple ecosystem, the AirPods Max are absolutely worth a close hard look. Often on sale, even down to $355 for a refurb on Cyber Monday, they are a well-rounded performer with some neat tricks stuffed into their weird bra-like case.


First up, what blew me away the most was the ANC performance. Using the same fake airplane cabin audio to test all of the headphones here in my office, the AirPods Max were the closest to actually removing all background noise. They were truly impressive. If quiet listening is one of your top priorities, they are a must-have. I’m also curious how they compare to the recent AirPods Pro 2, but that will have to be another video. 


Comfort is in the middle of the road for me on the AirPods Max. I found the PX8 to be more comfortable and, of course, the Sony more comfortable as well but the AirPods Max were better for me than the Bathys. Overall, AirPods Max are okay when it comes to comfort, but I found the Sony and the B&W to be more comfortable. 

Sound quality

AirPods Max sound better than the Sony WH-1000XM5 with huge bass. Once again, you lose some imaging and clarity when compared to the Bathys and PX8, but they really do sound good. For most, I don’t think they’ll be mad with how the AirPods Max sound. It has ample low end that might be too much for some, but the sound modes can be adjusted through the settings on an iOS device. 

Other features

When connected to Apple devices, Spatial Audio and head tracking are unique features that I didn’t think I would like as much as I do. The headphones can track the position of your head and place compatible audio in the correct direction. For example, if you’re watching a movie on your phone and turn your head to the left to look at something else, the audio will move to come out of the right side of the headphones giving a faux theater-like experience. It’s actually kind of neat. While not necessary, these are some of the fun details that Apple builds into their devices and how they interact. 

The downside of the AirPods Max is the downright silly way Apple makes you use them. There’s no off button. The carrying case is very unconventional and not really in a good way.

Full picture

They do everything well and have the most impressive ANC. They are comfortable enough for long listening, and the sound quality is once again good enough for the price. If you want the clearest and cleanest audio, look to the headphones below, but if you’re already on an iPhone and in the Apple ecosystem, the AirPods Max are an impressive piece of audio technology – especially now that they are commonly on sale for $450 new and we saw $355 for a refurbished pair on Cyber Monday. Stay locked to so you don’t miss the next sale.

B&W PX8 – $700


  • Price: $700 
  • Battery life: 30 hours
  • Connection: Bluetooth 5.2 
  • Other notes: Elegant, comfortable build

A close second when it comes to comfort is the Bowers & Wilkins PX8. The earcups are large and generous but not quite as ample as the Bathys. The earcups and ear cushion material are soft and sat comfortably on my head. They still falls short compared to the lighter and better-cushioned Sony XM5, though. 

Sound quality

The PX8 might be the best ANC Bluetooth headphones for overall sound quality in my opinion. From the standard EQ to imaging, the PX8 performed great. Throughout the frequency range, clarity, and detail are much better than the more affordable headphones in this line-up. Mids are especially impressive. Lows are impactful and clean and highs were never harsh. 

It can also be used via the USB-C to 3.5mm cable to listen to wired sources. 


Though the ANC is good on the PX8, I would rank them third behind the Sony XM5 and Apple AirPods Max. Without the direct comparison between the headphones, you would probably still be fine with the PX8, but when you put them back to back with the XM5 and AirPods Max, the PX8 fell a bit short and let more background noise come through to the earcups.

Focal Bathys – $800


  • Price: $800
  • Frequency response: 5Hz-50kHz
  • Battery life: 30 hours Bluetooth with ANC, 42 USB-C DAC
  • Connection: Bluetooth 5.1
  • Other notes: built-in DAC mode for higher resolution wired audio

What sparked this whole video comparison idea for me was the release of the Focal Bathys. I’ve tried Focal’s entire hi-fi line of headphones and even traveled to their production facilities and headquarters in St. Etienne, France, as a part of its 40-year anniversary. Some components like the speakers are made at the HQ that we visited.

Needless to say, when the Bathys were announced, I really wanted to check them out. And, I was curious how they compared to other expensive ANC Bluetooth headphones. 

Bathys are visually the loudest out of the bunch. They stay in line with Focal’s other over-ear headphones. The intricate details on the earcups and glowing Focal logos really make them stand out. If you want to make a statement, the Bathys are a great way to do it


When it comes to comfort, for me, the Bathys get last place. While the earcups are spacious, the ear pads are the stiffest of the bunch and didn’t give as much soft cushion as the competition. Combined with considerable clamping force, this was the most fatiguing pair for me to wear for long periods.

How does it sound? 

The Focal Bathys sound very good. Not surprisingly, lows are full and tight but kept under control. They sound great on pop tracks. Mids are clear as well, but not quite as smooth and detailed as the B&W PX8.

Highs from the Bathys are very clear and can border on harsh in some listening scenarios. That’s another area where the PX8 sounded a bit smoother.

For my ears, Bathys are the second best in this lineup. While imaging is clearer when compared to the Sony WH-1000XM5 and Apple AirPods Max headphones, the Bowers & Wilkens PX8 takes the title of best sound thanks to great mids and imaging. 

Don’t get me wrong, the Focal Bathys sound really, really good but the PX8 seems to take a slight advantage in mids and smoother highs. 

It’s also possible to change the EQ of the Bathys if you want to dial up the lows for a more energizing listening experience or pull down the highs a bit for longer listening sessions. 


Like the PX8, ANC on the Bathys is probably acceptable in most situations except after listening to the XM5 and AirPods Max. It definitely cuts down background noise, but it’s not on par with the amount that the Sony and Apple headphones are able to reduce.

What is the best ANC Bluetooth headphones? 

With all of that in mind, which pair comes out on top as the best ANC Bluetooth headphones? While each pair of headphones seem to have its own pros and cons, there is one that does everything well enough and some things exceptionally well for the price. Sound quality, incredible ANC, and the extra features of the Apple AirPods Max make them the best choice for the price if you use an iPhone and can grab a pair on sale. 

Of course, if you’re not on Apple, then it comes down to what you favor most – is it sound quality, no matter the price? Grab the PX8. Need something extra comfortable with great ANC for hours of traveling? The Sony WH-1000XM5 would be my pick. 

And while Bathys might not have earned my top pick, they are still great. If you’re a fan of Focal or just want something super unique, Bathys won’t disappoint.

Buy Sony WH-1000XM5

Buy Apple AirPods Max

Buy Bowers & Wilkens PX8

Buy Focal Bathys

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