When it comes to noise-canceling headphones, it’s hard to beat the Sony WH-1000XM4. These active noise cancellation (ANC) cans are so good, they top many of our best-of lists including the best headphones, the best noise-canceling headphones, and the best wireless headphones. But as awesome as the XM4 are, at $348, they’re not all that affordable. So we went in search of wireless ANC headphones that achieve most of what the XM4 can do, but for way less coin.
We found three great alternatives: The $50 Wyze Headphones, the $60 Tribit QuietPlus 72, and the $80 Soundcore Life Q30.
Each is a set of black, over-ear wireless headphones with active noise cancellation and Bluetooth multipoint (for connecting two devices simultaneously), and USB-C charging, but that’s where the similarity ends. How do they perform? Let’s check ‘em out.
Let’s start at the top of the price range. Soundcore might not have Sony’s credibility as a brand when it comes to personal audio, but the Anker-owned division is quickly making gains. We’ve been very impressed with the company’s true wireless offerings like the Liberty 2 Pro and Liberty Air 2 Pro, and the Life Q30 also has much to recommend them.
They have a fold-up and fold-flat design that is identical to the Sony WH-1000XM4 and they ship inside their own zippered carrying case, with a charging cable and a 3.5mm analog cable.
Although all three headphones are very light, weighing less than 10 ounces, the Life Q30 are the lightest at 9.3 ounces — only 0.3 ounces heavier than the XM4. They have well-padded and comfortably-shaped ear-cushions and a sleek metal headband that offers more adjustment travel than any of the other models including the Sonys.
The Life Q30 are also the leaders of the pack in terms of endurance. Their 40-hour battery will run for 60 hours if you turn off ANC — miles ahead of the other models. Equally impressive is the quick-charge feature which adds four hours of life for just five minutes of charging time.
Sound quality is excellent, with a warm but balanced signature. There’s plenty of bass, but it’s restrained and never overwhelms the mids and highs. With the exception of some muddiness that creeps into the midranges, they’re beautifully clear. You can tweak their EQ to your personal preferences via the Soundcore app.
The Life Q30 are the only model (other than the XM4) that claim to be hi-res audio compatible when used with a wired connection and when connected to a hi-res player like the Astell&Kern SR25, they sound much better than our other two contenders.
Noise cancellation isn’t quite as good as the XM4 — hardly a surprise at this price — but the Soundcore app gives a lot of control over ANC, including Indoor, Outdoor, and Transportation modes — which is similar to what you get in Sony’s Headphones app. The result is a very good reduction in outside noise.
The Life Q30 also borrows Sony’s trick of engaging a conversation mode when you cover the right earcup with your hand. Unlike the XM4, this mode stays active until you repeat the gesture. Both the conversation mode and the selectable transparency modes do a good job of letting you hear the world around you.
Like the Life Q30 and the Wyze Headphones, the QuietPlus 72 use a fold-up and fold-flat design. Unlike those other models, when wearing the QuietPlus 72 around your neck, the earcups lie upside down, with the ear-cushions facing outward. Tribit includes a zippered carry case, charging cable, and a 3.5mm analog cable.
The headband and ear-cushions are both very comfortable, but those with small heads may want to pick another model. Even at its smallest size, the headband proved too big for me, positioning the bottom of the earcups well below the bottom of my ears.
Battery life is very good at up to 30 hours, but there’s no quick-charge function and Tribit does not make any claims as to how long you’ll get if you leave ANC turned off.
The QuietPlus 72’s sound quality is good. EQ is very balanced, and the highs are surprisingly accurate for a set of headphones in this price range. The soundstage is narrower than the Life Q30 and Wyze models. Tribit doesn’t offer a mobile app, so there’s no way to fine-tune its frequency response.
Curiously, the ANC mode on the QuietPlus 72 makes a big difference to the bass response. When it’s turned off, the bass is pale and struggles to make itself felt. Turn ANC on and it’s like waking up the low-end; suddenly everything balances out. This is especially apparent when using the wired connection.
ANC on the QuietPlus 72 isn’t adjustable — it’s either on or off and you engage with a dedicated switch on the right earcup. The upside to this arrangement is that you can take advantage of ANC without powering up Bluetooth, giving you the quiet you seek even when not playing music. Engaging ANC definitely helps to reduce outside sounds, but it’s not quite as effective as the Life Q30. A bigger drawback, however, is the lack of a transparency mode.
The Wyze Headphones are the debut audio product from a company that is best known for its wireless security cameras. Their $50 price is shockingly low, but what’s more surprising is just how good they are considering how affordable Wyze has made them.
Design and construction are every bit as good as Sony’s and I think the single-sided and elegantly curved earcup pivots are gorgeous. They fold-up and fold-flat, and the hinges articulate smoothly. They look and operate like they cost $200, not $50.
The ear-cushions are bigger and better padded than the Soundcore or Tribit, and I found them to be more comfortable for long sessions.
But Wyze had to find a way to save in other areas, so these headphones come with a protective pouch, not a carry case. A USB charging cable and a 3.5mm analog cable is also included. Battery life, at 20 hours, is also the lowest of our three contenders, but it’s worth keeping in mind that both the $380 Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and $549 Apple AirPods Max don’t offer any more than this. A quick-charge gets you four hours of use after 10 minutes of charging.
The Wyze Headphones’ sound quality is great for $50, but it’s not quite in the same league as the Life Q30. Bass is good, but doesn’t offer that ultra-meaty low-end you expect when cranking up tracks like the Black Eyed Peas Boom Boom Pow. It’s also not as precise. You should also be aware that these cans like to be played relatively loud. At 50% volume or lower, things get muffled. Run them higher and they perform much better.
But, again, for their price, I think they’re superb. Wyze even provides its own smartphone app so you can tweak EQ, do firmware updates, and customize some functions like voice assistant access. Speaking of which, they are the only model among the three that are Amazon Alexa compatible in addition to whichever native assistant is on your phone.
ANC works well, with two different levels to choose from, plus a transparency mode. You can toggle between maximum ANC and transparency using the dedicated button on the left earcup, but strangely, you can only access the medium ANC mode from within the Wyze app.
Like the XM4 and Life Q30, you can engage a conversation mode by holding the right earcup with your hand. It instantly mutes your music and switches to transparency. Let go and you’re back to normal in a heartbeat.
That’s a feature I wouldn’t normally expect on headphones at this price, but then again neither is auto-pause and yet the Wyze Headphones have this too. That’s insane when you consider Sony only just added this feature to the XM4 — the XM3, which sold for the same price, didn’t have it.
Finally, I have to point out that the Wyze instantly power-up or power-down when you press the power button. Virtually every other wireless headphones I’ve tried require long, two-to-three second presses to do either function.
While none of these ANC headphones replicate the Sony WH-1000XM4 experience in its entirety, depending on the features that matter most to you, it’s possible to get very close and save a lot of money.
- Is a carry case important? The Soundcore Life Q30 and Tribit QuietPlus 72 both come with sturdy, zippered cases.
- Is sound quality your biggest concern? The Soundcore Life Q30 has a wider frequency response and the best bass of the group.
- Need lots of battery life? Once again, the Soundcore Life Q30 is the winner.
- Looking for the best bang for your buck? The Wyze Headphones are an incredible value with more features than the others.
- Those who like the idea of using their ANC headphones just for peace and quiet will appreciate the Tribit QuietPlus 72’s independent ANC switch, and their sound quality is very good too.
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