Sponge filters are best for small tanks, even up to say a 55 gallon tank. They create low flow, which the vast majority of fish prefer, and as said they are easy to clean and nothing needs replaced.
They do make noise though, the sound of the bubbles is pretty minimal, the air pump however is noisy, but not much different than a HOB.
Internal filters (small tanks) and Canisters (larger tanks) are the quietest options if noise is the primary concern. There are *some* internal filters that are slow enough to be used in the ~5g size range.