When you need to concentrate, relax or otherwise tune out the world around you, a pair of headphones featuring active noise cancellation can be a godsend. Of course, as with any headphones, you’ll want to consider sound quality, comfort and other features like Bluetooth connectivity. But when you’re in the market for an ANC pair specifically, you want headphones that’ll block out distractions.
So we set forth on a distraction-blocking mission, testing headphones that boast ANC as a headlining feature. We ultimately chose 15 pairs, based on reading reviews and our editorial expertise in the market, and tested them all extensively. And, to be sure of our picks, we continually test the latest and greatest headphone offerings as they come onto the market (evidenced here, as our top overall pick, Sony’s latest over-ear cans, have unseated our previous top choice, the Beats Solo Pros).
After hundreds of hours rocking out to music, using the headphones in loud environments and running battery tests that ran into the wee hours of the morning, we’re ready to share our three top picks.
Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound (they top our list of best over-ear headphones to boot), but Sony also upgraded the newer generation of our previous runner-up with phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.
The Beats Solo Pros don’t fall that far behind the WH-100XM4s. While they still can block out a majority of sound and perform great in the noisiest of environments, the XM4s ultimately came out on top, thanks to their superior seal. The Solo Pros inherently let in more noise (e.g., loud conversations and background sounds), as their ear cups rest on your ears rather than create a seal around them. Still, at $299.99, these on-ear cans have a ton to offer and will get the cancellation job done for a majority of people.
The Soundcore Life Q20s came through as our best budget option. At just $60, these offer surprisingly powerful noise-canceling ability that competes with much pricier devices, plus terrific comfort and sound quality to boot.
Best overall noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 (Prime Day deal: $298, originally $373; amazon.com)
Whether it’s drowning out your neighbor mowing their lawn for the sixth time this week or blocking out your roommate’s endless Zoom meetings, the Sony WH-1000XM4s have your ears covered.
The noise-canceling bliss starts the second you put these headphones on your head — even before switching on ANC. Thanks to their over-ear design with ample cushioning, they passively block out sound. But engage ANC, and the XM4s take sound cancellation to a whole new level. With microphones built in, they monitor audio around you in real time to block it out.
No matter the situation in which we tested them — bass-heavy thumps, background conversation, sirens — no noise seemed to penetrate. We started off by running on a treadmill with the XM4s. Generally, with a non-ANC pair of headphones, you can hear the gears turning, legs hitting the mat and machine humming along. The XM4s were able to break these sounds up into, well, nothing, clearly outperforming the Beats Solo Pro in this regard.
But the XM4s really shone when blocking higher frequencies, such as the hum of a fan or AC unit, chatty neighbors and other general background noise. We put the XM4s to the test against speakers playing a backing track from a restaurant (plates clacking, people laughing and chatting) along with a real-life outdoor dining scenario. In both situations, these were able to block noise — even without music playing — from nearby tables, silverware falling and even the occasional creak of a door slowly opening. Turning just ANC on provides a white noise effect, and you effectively get left alone in your own bubble.
Adding music while ANC is switched on, though, is like Peter Parker getting bit by the spider — it just gives the XM4s a whole new set of superpowers. Yeah, you get the benefit of distraction-free noise blocking, but it also makes the music sound better. The XM4s have the ability to place you in the center of a mix, with tracks clearly flowing from the left and right around you. Take Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” in which you’ll hear the vocals, organ and eager drum beat trickle around you from the left and right. While some headphones can leave you feeling a little cramped or with white noise interfering, the XM4s leave you with just the music. The processor will even work double time to upscale tracks to higher quality that provides stronger soundstage.
The companion app for Android and iOS lets you customize the sound experience with various preset equalizers (or you can create a custom one). You can even choose to let ambient noise in via the app or with the Speak to Chat function of the XM4s. Essentially, when the device hears your voice, it will lower the music and turn ANC off, allowing you to engage with the world around you. It’s on par with the transparency mode found on the Beats Solo Pros and Bose 700s, but we really like this intelligent way to turn it on or off, as it allows you to easily wear these in more scenarios.
Sony promises 30 hours with ANC on, and in our testing we fell slightly short at about 29 hours, 40 minutes. Still seriously impressive and besting anything else on our list.
Runner-up: Beats Solo Pro ($229.95, originally $299.95; amazon.com)
In test after test, these managed to cut out a lot of the bassier sounds you’d normally hear in a variety of environments. For example, during a workout on a treadmill with a loud movie on, the droning hum of the machine was all but eliminated. Even the bass of footfall was dampened, as were the midrange frequency sounds of the treadmill’s belt and a movie blaring loudly on a TV. It underperformed a bit with loud voices or higher frequencies on the TV, which resulted in us hearing those noises.
To simulate windy conditions, we wore them next to a large fan, and the deep, bassy hum of the fan simply left our audio space. Higher-frequency sounds, like the oscillation of the fan, were also barely noticeable at moderate speeds. Picking a fan or AC vent up to a high mode did result in those sounds being a bit more audible. Even so, these are both great signs for those who fly often or have loud AC units in their homes.
The Solo Pros also performed admirably when we tested them against public ambiance and speech. The bassy bustle of a crowded public space (simulated with nearby speakers on high) was barely audible with these headphones on. Speech, both near and far, was significantly dampened as well, with a great overall reduction in environmental volume.
For those occasions when you need to hear the sounds around you, these headphones have a transparency mode that actually amplifies ambient sound so you can hear, for example, someone calling your name. The Solo Pros did not perform as well as the Sony WH-1000XM4s in this category, but they still amplified nearby sounds well and improved the volume of distant sounds.
While ANC is the primary focus of this review, sound quality was also weighted heavily in our testing, and the Beats Solo Pros did not disappoint. Listening to “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish gave us the distinct impression that she was whispering in our ear. And during “I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen, we could really distinguish where the instruments were in the soundstage during the performance. This quality was bested only by the Sony WH-1000XM4s in our testing.
The one place where the Solo Pros fell short on sound quality and didn’t perform as well as the Sony WH-1000XM4s was bass. Playback simply wasn’t as deep, and their sound had a notably less impactful kick than some other pairs. This is something to note if you listen to bass-forward music and find a bass-heavy mix most satisfying.
Call quality, on the other hand, was one of the best on the list. Very clear on both ends, and no notable issues like echoes or feeling boxed in.
In our testing, the Solo Pros, while lasting a staggering 40 hours with ANC switched off, got to only 21 hours with noise cancellation on — falling quite a bit short of the 30 hours we found with the XM4s.
These headphones are built very well, composed of high-quality plastic on the outside and a solid metal skeleton on the inside; this metal runs throughout the design, from the cups through the headband. They fold easily and present very few seams. The cushions also feel durable and high quality, though these cans do seem a bit snug and may not be as comfortable for people with larger heads. Even at their full extension, they did not perfectly fit bigger noggins, which created uncomfortable pressure after some time.
Best budget noise-canceling headphones: Anker Soundcore Life Q20 ($59.99; amazon.com)
The Soundcore Life Q20s performed beyond what we’d expect from such an affordable pair of headphones, at just $60. In fact, they did nearly as well as the Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones 700s in pure ANC at less than one-sixth the price.
The Soundcore Life Q20s delivered solid noise cancellation, significantly muffling the bassy hum produced during our treadmill test. However, the range of deep sound they eliminated was less than that of the Sony WH-1000XM4s. In other words: The Q20s reduced the volume of sounds that were muted by the other two picks. In terms of footfall on the treadmill, we saw similar results: The deep, rhythmic banging sound was dampened, but our winning picks reduced this even further. The volume of higher-pitched sounds like the treadmill belt and TV in the background were also well controlled by the Q20s. And though this reduction wasn’t as dramatic as that of the Sony WH-1000XM4s and Beats Solo Pros, it nearly tied with the more expensive Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones 700s.
During our fan test, the Soundcore headphones impressed once again. They reduced the volume well, to the point where the fan oscillation was barely audible. (Meanwhile, the Solo Pros and WH-1000XM4s completely muted this particular sound.) The Q20s’ control of the bassy hum of the fan gave the Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones 700s a run for their money, though. During our restaurant ambiance test, the low droning of the crowd was eliminated to a great degree by the Q20s. What sounds remained were reduced in volume very well, actually outdoing more expensive devices like the Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs.
The Soundcore Life Q20s scored a bit below average on sound quality. This was in part due to their call quality, which featured decent clarity but unfortunate spikes in volume. That being said, this pair tied with the more expensive Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2s, and among a list of high-end devices, a near average score is no small feat. Listening to “Jazz Crimes” by Joshua Redman, which features pitchy saxophone and intense snare drums, we were never hit with an uncomfortably loud note or muddled bass. The vocals were also on point: During Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” his voice felt authentic, like we were on stage. Overall, their performance matched that of the Bowers & Wilkins PX7s, which retail for much more. Soundstage did suffer somewhat, however. Songs like “I’m on Fire” simply felt a little less three-dimensional than they did with our top picks. This was a minor problem, though — the positions of vocals and instruments on stage were still reproduced pretty well.
These headphones really excelled at handling bass, reproducing the deep and booming tones of “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish, performing just a hair off from the $500 Beoplay H9s. Unfortunately, these headphones experienced an infrequent bug that affected our listening experience when it arose. During some songs, the bass ended up slightly muting the rest of the track, quickly fading back to normal volume after each beat. This occurrence was rare and minor, which won’t be a problem for most users. Audiophiles, on the other hand, may want to look elsewhere.
One of our favorite features of these headphones was the battery performance. The Soundcore Life Q20s clocked in with an incredible 40 hours of battery life with ANC on. This is simply the best out of every device we tested, the next best being the $250 Jabra Elite 85h headphones with 36 hours of battery life. They also deliver impressive quick-charge abilities, topping up four hours of juice from just five minutes of charging.
These headphones sport the popular three-button row organization, where a playback and call control button is flanked by two volume buttons, which are raised for some tactile feedback and not nearly as loud as the controls on the Beats Solo Pros. On the opposite cup are the power button and a button that toggles ANC. Unfortunately, these headphones do not feature transparency mode.
These headphones aren’t flimsy by any means, though the plastic quality certainly feels less sturdy than that of the WH-1000XM4s or Beats Solo Pros. They do feel more solid than some pairs we tested, like the Sony WH-CH710Ns, which cost $140 more. Visually, they share similarities with the Sony WH-1000XM4s. Available in black and silver, they have few seams, and little detail to speak of. But overall, they appear less elegant due to the shiny plastic and geometrically generic ear cups.
The Q20s performed outstandingly on comfort. The cushions are soft and airy, resting gently at both the headband and ear cups. There is a generous amount of cushion, which, combined with its similar weight to the WH-1000XM4s, causes little to no pressure buildup. It’s certainly easy to forget you’re wearing them while you’re going about your day.
When it comes to value, the Soundcore Life Q20s outperformed their price, delivering high-quality noise cancellation and impressive sound quality at a fraction of the cost compared with most headphones in our testing pool.
How we tested
Many of these headphones were included in the testing field for our best over-ear headphone review, where we looked at design, comfort and battery life thoroughly. We also learned every control and listened to a variety of music genres on each device. For this roundup, we overhauled our ANC testing. We wanted to formulate several tests that would examine different properties of ANC as well as common scenarios like air travel and being in crowds. As we did in our other review, we cross-compared devices frequently.
Check out the category breakdowns below.
ANC (Active Noise Cancellation)
- Pure ANC: We devised four noisy conditions under which to test headphones: sitting next to an active washing machine, running on a treadmill with a loud movie playing, sitting next to a large fan and playing a soundtrack featuring busy restaurant ambiance (chatter and silverware clatter) on high through nearby speakers. These tests aimed to measure several parameters of ANC. We wanted to determine how well a pair of headphones eliminated bassy, humming sounds. We compared headphone performance to find out how deep sound had to be before a pair could effectively mute it. We also looked at how well the headphones lowered overall sound, which came in the form of more midrange sounds. On that line, we compared how each device’s ANC reacted to more abrupt mid- and high-frequency sounds that accompany busy environments
- Levels of control: We examined how much control a user has over ANC level. Some devices provide the option to change the ANC strength, either with on-device controls or via a companion app. Others only provide the ability to toggle ANC on and off.
- Transparency: Transparency mode amplifies local sound as opposed to the dampening experienced with ANC. We devised two tests for the quality of transparency mode: snapping fingers a foot away and listening to a news radio 8 feet away. The first test gave us a sense of how much the headphones could amplify sounds in our personal space. For each device, we compared the volume of the snap with transparency on versus its volume without the headphones on. The second test was aimed at how well speech could be heard somewhat nearby. We listened to the radio with each pair on and compared the volume with our experience without them on. We noted whether the words of the radio were intelligible as well.
- Levels of control: We looked into how much control we had over transparency level. Some devices may allow the user to adjust the strength of transparency mode, either via controls on the device or a companion app. Others simply provide a way to toggle transparency mode on and off.
- Battery with ANC: We created a playlist composed of jazz, rock, pop, rap, classical, EDM and other genres to determine battery life. We used a playlist for each pair that was about two hours longer than their projected maximum battery life. We played them with ANC on at 75% volume.
- Bass: To determine how deep a frequency each headphone was capable of, we listened to “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish and “Royals” by Lorde. Both of these songs feature deep, intense bass. They also helped us find out how much satisfying bassy kick each pair of headphones was capable of.
- Compression: In audio, compression is used to amplify very quiet sounds and reduce the volume of very loud sounds. Too much compression, however, can obscure higher-frequency tones and muffle deeper ones. In this subcategory, we listened for the right amount of compression. If tones were shrill or we heard audio artifacts like crackling, there wasn’t enough compression. If tones in the higher range felt muted and/or tones in the lower range were muddled, there was too much. We listened for these qualities in “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish and “Jazz Crimes” by Joshua Redman. The former features extremely deep tones, and the latter features quiet, subtle instrumentals as well as blaring saxophone and drums.
- Soundstage: In audio, soundstage is the feeling of three-dimensional space brought forth by high-quality stereo sound. Great soundstage will allow you to really hear the positions of instruments and vocalists during a song. To test this, we listened to “I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen and “Neon Lights” by Molotov Jukebox. Both songs feature instrumentals with distinct 3D positions and vocals that make you feel like you’re on stage with the artists. This is one category where cross-comparison was especially important, as we wanted to find out the extent to which different headphones presented this three-dimensional effect.
- Overall: This subcategory combined bass, compression and soundstage notes. Aside from observing and rating the headphones’ performance in each of those separately, we also noted how well these aspects came together to produce the overall listening experience. We noted call quality here too, looking for quirks like echoes, voice crispness and background noise. We listened to “Let Me In” by Snowmine and “Might Be Right” by White Reaper, songs that are particularly busy (as in full of different instruments, vocals, subtle beats and bass) to get a broader view of how the above subcategories worked together.
- Build quality: We examined the quality of what each device was made of and how the pieces fit together. On that line, we took a look at overall design and figured out what we liked best visually. To test build quality, we flexed the headband as far as we could safely go and looked into what material held the whole pair together. We also checked whether the ear cups could fold inward and took a look at the button quality, if buttons were present. Finally, we factored in bulkiness and weight.
- Ear cups: We kept the headphones on for at least an hour at a time to determine whether the ear cups created any tightness. We also determined whether they were comfortable enough to forget we were even wearing them after a time.
- Headband: As we wore the headphones, we also determined what kind of pressure, if any, the headband applied. We noted headband flexibility here too and whether the headband would fade from our notice as we wore them.
- Overall comfort: We combined our comfort-related notes and determined whether discomfort arose elsewhere, like in the area where the headband and ear cups meet.
- Controls: We learned and tried out the controls on each device to determine if they were easy to learn. We wanted to know how intuitive it was to control playback, calls, volume, Bluetooth pairing and toggling features like ANC. We noted here whether there was a narrator voicing the controls we selected and providing information like remaining battery life.
- Bluetooth connectivity: We measured the latency of controls between the headphones and device with which they were paired. We also determined how quickly the headphones reconnected to a previously paired device after being turned on. Finally, we tested whether a pair of headphones could be connected to more than one device.
- Companion app: The more control an app provided, the better score it received. Some apps could, for example, display battery life, adjust ANC or even allow you to select and create custom sound profiles. Some were more basic.
- Ports: We determined whether the ports on each device functioned properly.
- Controls off-device: We combined Bluetooth connectivity and companion app notes here and determined which smart assistants could be synced up with each device, if any. We also checked if any included AUX cables had a control box on them. If so, we determined how much control it provided.
- Usage time: We repeated the test under “Battery with ANC” from the ANC category, instead playing each device with ANC off at 75% volume.
- Quick charge: To look at this advertised feature, where headphones receive a large amount of battery in a short amount of time, we first checked whether the device provided this feature at all. Then, among those that did, we compared which headphones gained the most battery in the shortest amount of time.
- Overall: We combined the notes above, looking to find out how good a device’s battery life and quick charge were to give us an overall score.
- Warranty: We looked into what warranty/warranties each device came with. Warranties that lasted longer or were more numerous scored better.
How we rated
We scored each pair of headphones based on its performance under each subcategory. The combined scores of the subcategories add up to a category’s total maximum score. We weighted sound quality a little more than ANC because, as important as ANC is, a pair of headphones should put out good sound first and foremost. See below for a breakdown of this point system.
- Sound quality had a maximum of 40 points: bass (10 points), compression (5 points), soundstage (5 points) and overall (20 points).
- ANC had a maximum of 35 points: pure ANC (10 points), levels of control (ANC, 2 points), transparency mode (10 points), levels of control (transparency, 2 points), battery with ANC (6 points) and overall (5 points).
- Features/usability had a maximum of 30 points: controls on-device (5 points), Bluetooth connectivity (5 points), companion app (5 points), ports (5 points) and controls off-device (10 points).
- Design had a maximum of 25 points: build quality (10 points), ear cups (5 points), headband (5 points) and overall comfort (5 points).
- Battery had a maximum of 20 points: usage time (10 points), quick charge (5 points) and overall (5 points).
- Warranty had a maximum of 5 points: warranty (5 points).
Notably, most of our non-ANC scoring was compiled during the testing for our over-ear headphone review. This was done price-blind. That way, the cost of a pair of headphones wouldn’t bias our ratings. Once the final scores were tallied during this and the previous review, we factored in price to determine the value each pair provided.
The most important subcategory to determine our best ANC and runner-up categories was pure ANC. We wanted to concentrate on which device put out the absolute best ANC experience. We also kept in mind its quality in other categories. If a device had great ANC but scored poorly in another category, we would rethink that device for our recommendation. At the end of the day, our top choices need to be good headphones as well.
For best value, we looked into the pricing of each model. We then compared price to pure ANC score, once again factoring in other categories to make sure the recommendation stood well enough on its own outside of ANC capability.
Everything else we tested
Beats Studio 3 Wireless ($349.95; bhphotovideo.com)
The Beats Studio 3 Wireless headphones put out ANC that eliminated a decent amount of deep sound and dampened sound volume well in general. Their ANC is comparable to that of the Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs but still a ways off from the Beats Solo Pro and Sony WH-1000XM3s. At the same time, the Studio 3 cans beat out the Jabra Elite 85h headphones on sound quality by several points while falling behind on comfort. They also look terrific, both in terms of structure and color options.
Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones 700 ($379.95, originally $399.95; bose.com)
The Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones 700s ranked third on pure ANC. Scoring one or two points below the WH-1000XM3s in our tests, these headphones mute a lot of the deeper hums that accompanied our test conditions. They also excel at reducing overall volume, almost as much as the Sony cans. With the Bose Music app, you can customize ANC and select favorites from 10 different levels. A button on the left cup can be used to switch between three selections and toggle transparency mode. You’ll also enjoy these headphones’ crisp and clear playback with stronger bass than that of the Beats Solo Pros and better comfort. In fact, they scored best in comfort in our over-ear headphones review.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II ($299.95, originally $349.95; bose.com)
The Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs tied the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2s on pure ANC, except these headphones differed, reducing deeper sound better but dampening volume to a lesser degree. They also received exactly the same sound quality score as the Beats Solo Pros, producing quality playback while suffering somewhat on bass. Their simple design is balanced by comfortable, lightweight construction.
Jabra Elite 85h ($249.99; amazon.com)
The $249.99 Jabra Elite 85h cans found themselves a hair above the Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs in ANC performance. While the differences were marginal, the Elite 85hs primarily outperformed the QC 35 IIs and BackBeat Pro 2s in volume control. On the sound quality side, the QuietComfort 35 IIs won out with better compression but similar stats in other fields. The design of the Elite 85hs is rather bulky without many visually distinguishing features. They did, however, win “best for working out” in our over-ear headphone review, in large part thanks to their great control setup.
Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 ($189.84; amazon.com)
The Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2s scored above average on ANC. Their performance was quite solid, eliminating a decent range of bassy sounds that accompanied our tests. And while they didn’t match our top devices’ volume control, we were still impressed. Their sound quality was closer to the average, featuring crisp playback but lackluster bass. We did enjoy the build quality overall. These headphones feature a unique volume dial, and they’re pretty comfortable too, albeit less portable than many on our list, seeing as they don’t fold in at the cups.
Beoplay H9 ($500; bhphotovideo.com)
The $500 Beoplay H9s outperformed the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2s by a small margin on most of our ANC tests and would have tied with the Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones 700s had it not been for their single-point lag on our crowd ambiance test. Generally, these performed better at lowering overall volume and, on certain tests, could eliminate a larger range of bassy sound. In terms of sound quality, they were well above average, with call quality being their only weakness. And like the Beats Studio 3s, these headphones are beautifully constructed and designed but lose out on comfort.
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 ($398.98; amazon.com)
The $398.98 Bowers & Wilkins PX7s scored above the Bose QuietComfort 35 IIs but below the Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones 700s. Like the 700s, this device took a more balanced approach to ANC by doing well at both bass elimination and overall volume management. And while they didn’t put out as crisp a sound as the winners on this list, they matched the Sony WH-1000XM3s on bass performance. On the design front, they are somewhat comfortable, losing the most traction on the headband. They also sport a seamless, minimalistic design that some will enjoy and others may find unexciting.
JBL Live 650BTNC ($149.95, originally $199.95; jbl.com)
The $199.95 JBL Live 650BTNCs took a dive on ANC, eliminating few to no deeper tones in their entirety. They also sported poor volume control, to a point where it appears their performance has worsened with time. On sound quality, these did quite well, with decent bass that beat the Beats Solo Pros. The only issue was compression, which scored below the winner and runner-up. The 650BTNCs have a quality feel to them in addition to giving off a professional vibe. They’re not the best comfort-wise, however, scoring similarly to the Beoplay H9s.
Sony WH-CH710N ($98 originally $199.99; amazon.com)
The $198 WH-CH710Ns were a step up from the JBL Live 650BTNCs in terms of pure ANC. They improved upon both deep sound cancellation and volume reduction. Still, they performed significantly worse than the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2s at the same price point, let alone the ANC winners. Sound quality was decent, almost tying with the Bose QC 35 IIs. Build quality and comfort were some of the lowest on this list. These headphones feel cheap on both hand and head.
Tribit QuietPlus ($59.99, originally $109.99; amazon.com)
The $80 Tribit QuietPlus cans generally performed a little worse on ANC than the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2s. They simply did not eliminate as many deeper frequencies or control volume as well. Still, they did better than the more expensive Sony WH-CH710Ns, though they lack a transparency mode. On sound quality, we experienced decent clarity and vocals, but with ANC on, bass was greatly diminished. Call quality also suffered a lot of echo and choppiness. Overall, these headphones were pretty comfortable but felt cheap in their construction.
JLab Studio ANC Wireless ($59.99; bestbuy.com)
The $60 JLab Studio ANC Wireless headphones were just below the Soundcore Life Q20s on ANC quality. They eliminated a nice range of deep, bassy sound, slightly outperforming the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2s on this and volume control alike. However, this device suffered greatly on sound quality, with flat playback and weak bass. In fact, when listening to “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish, we experienced static-like audio artifacts when the bass got very deep. From a design standpoint, these headphones are very light and pretty comfortable. They feature a unique design, with a metal wire-frame structure connecting the headband and cups.
Sony WH-1000XM3 ($239; amazon.com)
The XM4s made big leaps over its previous-generation flagship headphones, the WH-1000XM3s. While they keep a nearly identical design in terms of looks, they added in extra padding on the ear cups and the top band. It makes a difference for those up to 30-hour jam sessions, which is on par with the XM3s. ANC and sound quality is improved over the XM3s as well. At $239 they’re more affordable, but we think the XM4s deliver more value.
Read more from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing:
DR Congo army says Burundi rebels forced from strongholds
Congolese soldiers killed 27 fighters during an operation to clear rebels from border region, DR Congo army says.
Congolese soldiers have forced fighters from the main Burundian rebel force from their stronghold in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) near the two countries’ border, an army statement said on Monday.
Troops “dislodged and recovered the headquarters of the Burundi FNL rebels [National Forces of Liberation] after three days of intense fighting”, said Dieudonne Kasereka, the army’s South Kivu spokesman.
The FNL, led by Aloise Nzabampema, is considered to be the main Burundian rebel force active in eastern DRC.
The statement said soldiers had also fought members of the CNRD (National Resistance Council for Democracy), another group active in South Kivu.
Troops killed 27 rebels, seizing arms and ammunition, while three soldiers died in the fighting, with another four wounded, the statement said.
The army said the rebels were now fleeing toward the forests of Muranvia, Nyaburunda and Kashongo as well as the Nyanzale Rudaga valley.
In September, the DRC army launched a large-scale operation against three rebel groups active in the east – the FNL, the CNRD and Red Tabara. Several deadly cross-border raids into Burundi in September were claimed by the Red Tabara.
Early in October, DRC Foreign Minister Marie Tumba Nzeza visited Burundi for talks with President Evariste Ndayishimiye.
Burundi boycotted an October 7 regional security summit in Goma, the capital of DRC’s North Kivu province, preferring to discuss such issues directly with Kinshasa.
DRC’s relations with its eastern neighbours Rwanda and Burundi are complicated by the presence of both refugees and armed rebel groups inside its mineral-rich eastern territories.
All three countries have suffered from multiple conflicts over the past 30 years.
Pompeo in India on first leg of Asia trip over China ‘threats’
US secretary of state on five-day Asia trip aimed at strengthening strategic ties in the face of growing Chinese influence in the region.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has landed in India, the first leg of a five-day Asia trip aimed at strengthening strategic ties in the face of growing Chinese influence in the region.
Pompeo is due to meet India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar later on Monday.
On Tuesday, he and US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will hold a joint summit with Jaishankar and Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
Later that day, Pompeo and Esper will call on India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to a draft itinerary of the trip released by India’s foreign ministry.
The trip is part of the latest US effort to bolster allies against an increasingly assertive China, which has been making political and military inroads across Asia, analysts said.
Ahead of the trip, Pompeo said his meetings would “include discussions on how free nations can work together to thwart threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party”.
The world’s two biggest democracies are expected to sign an agreement on sharing geospatial intelligence, paving the way for the US to ship sophisticated missile technology, officials said.
Esper will also be discussing ways to increase cooperation between the two countries’ military forces. This could include intelligence sharing, stepping up joint exercises, and arms sales – including possibly US F-18 fighter jets.
India is locked in a military standoff with China on their contested Himalayan border and has reportedly sought cold-weather equipment from the US as the border showdown between the two Asian giants goes into the freezing winter.
Pompeo is due to travel to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, two Indian Ocean countries where China has financed and built various infrastructure, to the alarm of India and the US.
He will end his trip, which comes in the final week before the US presidential election, in Indonesia, one of several Southeast Asian countries wary of growing Chinese activities in the disputed South China Sea.
Muslim world condemns Macron, France over treatment of Islam
The backlash over French President Emmanuel Macron’s critique of Islam has intensified after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan questioned his counterpart’s mental health, while Muslims in several countries are demanding a boycott of France.
Marking his second sharp criticism against Macron in two days, Erdogan said on Sunday that the French president had “lost his mind”, prompting France’s foreign minister to recall the country’s ambassador in Ankara.
The French debate on Islam was deepened after the beheading of a teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad – previously published by a satirical magazine – in a class on freedom of expression. Muslims believe that any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.
On Friday, the cartoons were projected onto government buildings in France. Earlier this month, Macron described Islam as a religion “in crisis” worldwide and vowed to present a bill in December to strengthen a law that officially separated church and state in France.
Since Friday, social media has been awash with criticism of Macron in countries from west to east, including the UK, Kuwait, Qatar, Palestine, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
People are pouring out their feelings under the English hashtags #BoycottFrenchProducts and #Islam and #NeverTheProphet in Arabic.
The social media campaign has led to several Arab trade associations to announce their boycotts of French products.
The spat has drawn in world leaders as people in Muslim-majority countries organise street protests.
Pakistan‘s Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned the French ambassador in Islamabad to complain about Macron’s comments.
“The seeds of hate that are being cultivated today will polarise the society and have serious consequences,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in a statement.
The move comes a day after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote a letter to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg seeking a ban on Islamophobic content, similar to the website’s measures against Holocaust deniers.
My letter to CEO Facebook Mark Zuckerberg to ban Islamophobia just as Facebook has banned questioning or criticising the holocaust. pic.twitter.com/mCMnz9kxcj
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) October 25, 2020
Qureshi said Pakistan had urged the United Nations “to take notice and action against the hate-based narrative against Islam.”
Demonstrators held protests Sunday in regions of war-torn Syria still outside government control during which they burned pictures of Macron, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.
About 70 people protested in Libya‘s capital Tripoli, an AFP correspondent said. Some set fire to French flags and stamped on pictures of the French president.
“As Muslims, it’s our duty to respect all the prophets, so we expect the same from all other religions,” housewife Fatima Mahmud, 56, said ahead of the Tripoli protest. “Demonising Islam and Muslims isn’t going to keep the social peace in France.”
In Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians burned portraits of Macron, calling his remarks “an attack and an insult against Islam”.
“We condemn the comments of the French president… and whoever offends the Prophet Mohammed, whether through words, actions, gestures or drawings,” said Maher al-Huli, a leader of the Palestinian Hamas group.
In Lebanon, Hezbollah condemned the “deliberate insult” to the Prophet.
Rabaa Allah, a pro-Iran faction in Iraq, said in a statement that one and a half billion people worldwide had in effect been insulted, and warned that its men were “ready to respond when and where they want”.
Morocco‘s foreign ministry also “vigorously” condemned the continued publication of the caricatures, in a statement carried by the official MAP news agency.
Jordan‘s Islamic Affairs Minister Mohammed al-Khalayleh said that “insulting” prophets was “not an issue of personal freedom but a crime that encourages violence.”
Meanwhile, Jean-Luc Melanchon, head of France’s left-wing Unbowed France party and a member of parliament, also attacked Macron.
“Macron has totally lost control of the situation. By Erdogan’s statements, France is demeaned, humiliated and ridiculed. What is Macron’s strategy? What does he plan to do besides tweet?”
Macron a totalement perdu le contrôle de la situation. Par les déclarations d’Erdogan, la France est abaissée, humiliée et ridiculisée. Quelle est la stratégie de Macron ? Que compte-t-il faire à part des Tweets ? #FranceInter
— Jean-Luc Mélenchon (@JLMelenchon) October 26, 2020
But the French president found support with some leaders of the European community.
On Sunday the European Union’s foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell said Erdogan’s words were “unacceptable” and called on Turkey to stop “this dangerous spiral of confrontation”.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) October 25, 2020
Also responding to the remarks, European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said on Twitter: “Sorry to disappoint you but this is our way of life as defined in our Treaty. The European Way of Life”, as he added a screenshot of a treaty article defining fundamental EU values.
— Margaritis Schinas (@MargSchinas) October 25, 2020
“Actually, this is your way of life now,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Fahrettin Altun snapped back, posting on Twitter a link suggesting Frontex, the EU agency tasked with border control, has been complicit in illegally pushing back refugees.
The Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, also said on Sunday that “hate speech targeting France by the Turkish leadership is unacceptable, fuels religious hatred”.
— Fahrettin Altun (@fahrettinaltun) October 25, 2020
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