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The best noise-cancelling earbuds in 2021

Best noise-cancelling earbuds
(Image credit: James Archer/Tom's Guide)

The best noise-cancelling earbuds can, like their over-ear counterparts, cut out ambient sound to help you focus. The only major difference is that ANC earbuds are more portable. So, whether you’re studying, resting on a long flight or just trying to enjoy your music without distractions, active noise cancellation (ANC) allows for a much more pure listening experience — and can be pulled straight out of your pocket.

Trying to fit the additional microphones into such small devices is a tough design challenge, so there aren’t actually that many pairs of CAN earbuds on the market. But don’t worry, because just like the best over-ear headphones there are still plenty of top-quality, sound-silencing earpieces to pick from, and this list of the best noise-cancelling earbuds we’ve tested will help you choose.

What are the best noise-cancelling earbuds?

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds takes the top spot as the best noise-cancelling earbuds you can buy today. There are alternatives with better battery life or more futuristic features, but when it comes to simply silencing sound, nothing beats Bose. We’ve seen it on the over-ear Bose 700 and the QuietComfort Earbuds continues the tradition of delivering the most effective ANC around.

The fact that the Jabra Elite Active 75t takes second place is a major achievement, considering it didn’t even launch with ANC — this was added via an over-the-air update. Even so, it made a fantastic set of true wireless buds even better.

Spend a little more and you can alternatively pick up our third pick, the Apple AirPods Pro. Its noise-cancelling isn't as effective as the Bose buds, but it may be an even better all-rounder when connected to an iOS device specifically — this will unlock various impressive features, such as spatial audio surround sound and Adaptive EQ.

Best noise-cancelling earbuds: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

1. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

The best noise-cancelling earbuds overall

Size: 1.5 x 1 x 1 inches | Weight: 0.3 ounces (per bud) | Battery Life (Rated): 6 hours, 18 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 35 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Adjustable ANC, Bluetooth 5.1, Self Voice mode for enhancing calling

Unbeatable ANC
Excellent call quality
Dynamic sound
Strong, reliable connectivity
Battery life is shorter than advertised

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds has a few faults that prevent it from being our pick for best wireless earbuds overall, but none of them are related to its ANC. As far as its noise-cancelling goes, it's the best in the ANC earbuds business, and by some margin, managing a level of sound-silencing that even approaches that of the Bose 700.

Sound quality in general is very good, and Bose gets another microphone win with the QuietComfort Earbuds’ excellent voice call performance. The buds are a bit big and don’t have the longest battery life, but with the charging case you should easily be able to snuff out the engine sounds on a lengthy flight.

Read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.

Best noise-cancelling earbuds: Jabra Elite Active 75t

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

2. Jabra Elite Active 75t

The best noise-cancelling earbuds for all-round performance

Size: 0.8 x 0.7 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud) | Battery life (rated): 7.5 hours; 28 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (9 meters) | Special features: Active and passive noise cancellation, customizable EQ, fully waterproof

Crisp and well-balanced audio
Sleek, waterproof design
Strong battery life
Active and passive noise cancellation
Can get extremely loud at max volume

The Elite Active 75t was already a stellar set of buds before Jabra updated it with active noise cancellation; it sounds warm and detail-rich, and features one of the most comfortable and secure fits of its type. Battery life is pretty good too: we got 7 hours of playback from a single charge.

The ANC itself isn’t on Bose’s level, but it works well enough to be a very welcome upgrade. It can quieten both consistent droning sounds and speech, the latter of which lesser ANC earbuds can struggle with. And, if you want to save battery, you can turn off ANC and use the surprisingly effective passive noise cancellation feature instead.

Read our full Jabra Elite Active 75t review.

Best noise-cancelling earbuds: AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

3. Apple AirPods Pro

The best noise-cancelling earbuds for iOS users

Size: 1.2 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches | Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud) | Battery life (rated): 4.5 hours; 24 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 800 feet | Special features: Active noise cancellation, “Hey Siri” support, spatial audio

Great active noise cancelling
Easy to use controls
Comfortable fit
Great sound
Battery life could be longer

As the top model in Apple’s wireless earbuds range, the AirPods Pro offers ANC where the standard Apple AirPods doesn’t. And that’s not the only benefit to this premium set of ANC earbuds, especially if you pair it with a recent iPhone or iPad.

Doing so gives you access to a range of features you wouldn’t get when used with an Android phone, such as fast pairing and spatial audio. The latter is particularly impressive: when watching videos with surround-sound support, the origin points of different sounds will stay consistent with the position of the screen, even as you move your head, creating a 3D effect.

Read our full Apple AirPods Pro review.

Best noise-cancelling earbuds: Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

(Image credit: Samsung)

4. Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

The best noise-cancelling earbuds to pair with Samsung Galaxy phones

Size: 0.8 x 0.7 x 0.8 inches | Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud) | Battery Life (Rated): 5 hours (ANC on), 8 hours (ANC off), 18 hours (with charging case and ANC on), 28 hours (with charging case and ANC off) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (9 meters) | Special features: Adjustable ANC, Ambient mode, Voice Detect, 360 Audio, quick source switching, IPX7 waterproofing

Improved design
Full waterproofing
High call quality
Lots of features
Some features only work with Samsung Galaxy smartphones
ANC improved, but still not the best

The Galaxy Buds Pro has its own version of spatial audio, called 360 Audio, though you’ll need a relatively new Samsung Galaxy phone for it to work. Still, even if you don’t have one you can take advantage of its ANC, which massively improves on that of the old Samsung Galaxy Buds Live.

This is a much better pair of buds in general, with a more stylish, better waterproofed design and upgraded sound output to complement that enhanced ANC. And it’s worth installing the Galaxy Wearable companion app for lots more features and personalization options.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review.

Best noise-cancelling headphones: Master & Dynamic MW08

(Image credit: Future)

5. Master & Dynamic MW08

ANC earbuds with premium design and sound quality

Size and Weight: 0.8 x 0.8 x 1 inches | Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud) | Battery Life (Rated): 10 hours (ANC on), 12 hours (ANC off), 42 hours (with charging case) | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (9 meters) | Special features: Hybrid active noise cancellation, two-level ambient listening mode, Bluetooth 5.2, customizable fit, smart controls

Stylish, durable design
Great sound
Active noise cancellation
Decent battery life
Expensive

The Master & Dynamic MW08 actually beats a few of this list's higher-ranked ANC earbuds on metrics like design, overall sound quality and battery life; it's in this position because the effectiveness of its noise cancellation isn't quite on the same tier as the likes of the QuietComfort Earbuds.

Even so, there's plenty to recommend it. Crafted from polished ceramic and water-resistant to the IPX5 standard, it's one of the best-designed pairs of earbuds in any category, and the powerful, bass-rich (but balanced) sound makes listening to any genre a joy.  If you've got the cash to burn, the MW08 is a superb higher-end option.

Read our full Master & Dynamic MW08 review.

Best noise-cancelling earbuds: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

(Image credit: Future)

6. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

Noise-cancelling earbuds with top-tier sound quality

Size: 1.1 x 0.6 x 0.9 inches | Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud) | Battery Life (Rated): 7 hours without ANC (28 hours with charging case); ANC life not rated | Bluetooth range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Special features: ANC, transparency mode, IPX4 water resistance, customizable EQ

Balanced, detailed sound
Comfy fit
Full EQ customization
Short battery life
Low call quality

Sennheiser is known more for its audio quality than its ANC tech, but the Momentum True Wireless 2 is a successful marriage of both. The comfortable buds do a good job of quietening down most outside noises, while delivering some impeccably detailed, high-balanced sound into your ears.

This is one of the most expensive pairs of ANC earbuds on the list, and truth be told if it were cheaper, it would rank even higher. But you’d be paying for genuine quality, extending from the design of the buds to its performance. The mobile companion app is also superb, giving you an extremely fine degree of control over the EQ, should you wish to customize it.

Read our full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review.

Best noise-cancelling earbuds: Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro

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7. Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro

The best noise-cancelling earbuds on a budget

Size: 1.5 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches | Weight: 0.4 ounces (per bud) | Battery Life (Rated): 5 hours (ANC on), 7 hours (ANC off), 18 hours (with charging case and ANC on), 26 hours (with charging case and ANC off) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (9 meters) | Special features: Adjustable ANC, transparency mode, IPX4 water resistance, customizable EQ

Effective ANC
Aggressively priced
Personalized sound
Competitive battery life
Unattractive design
Can become uncomfortable after a while

What if you’re looking for cheap noise-cancelling earbuds? Then you have two good options: the JLab Epic Air Sport (below), and the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro. The latter is a little pricier, but still excellent value by ANC earbud standards — and it even comes with various modes so you can tweak the noise cancellation depending on whether you’re indoors or outside.

Like the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, this (much more affordable) pair also offers extensive EQ customization through the app, though its best sound-based feature is HearID. This analyses how you hear different frequencies to create a personalized sound signature, which in our case sounded much better than the default settings.

Read our full Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review.

Best noise-cancelling earbuds: Jabra Elite 85t

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

8. Jabra Elite 85t

Premium noise-cancelling buds with serious sound quality

Size: 0.9 x 0.8 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 0.3 ounces (per bud) | Battery life (rated): 5.5 hours (ANC on), 7.5 hours (ANC off), 24 hours (with charging case and ANC on), 28 hours (with charging case and ANC off) | Bluetooth range: 35 feet (10 meters) | Special features: Adjustable ANC, customizable EQ, wireless charging

Bold, dynamic sound
Strong active noise cancellation
Lots of personalization features via companion app
Robust spec sheet
Middling battery life

Another high-end option, the Jabra Elite 85t is one of the few pairs of noise-cancelling earbuds that can come near Bose on ANC effectiveness. Three microphones on each earbud do some serious heavy lifting, resulting in anything from passing traffic to barking dogs sounding blissfully muted.

Battery life is middling, voice call quality is on the low side and there are some software bugs, but none of these can spoil the Elite 85t entirely. If you want top-quality ANC without the slightly bulky size of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, this could serve as a fine alternative.

Read our full Jabra Elite 85t review.

Best noise-cancelling earbuds: Sony WF-1000XM3

(Image credit: Sony)

9. Sony WF-1000XM3

Great-sounding wireless earbuds with effective ANC

Size: 0.9 x 0.9 x 1.2 inches | Weight: 0.3 ounces | Battery life (rated): 6 hours (NC on), 8 hours (NC off) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (9 meters) | Special features: Active noise cancellation, customizable EQ, NFC, Sony 360 Reality Audio

Stellar audio performance
Great noise cancellation
Serviceable app with lots of features
Touch controls could use some work
Poor call quality

While we wait for the rumored Sony WF-1000XM4, the current model remains a great pair of noise-cancelling earbuds. Battery life is decent, at 6 hours per charge, and if you wear the right tips the buds are very comfortable in the ear for long periods; even if that is partly thanks to a loose fit.

Sony has built the WF-1000XM3 for a bassy, exciting sound profile, and it’s one that quickly grows on you. The ANC works well, too. Some louder sounds can bleed through, but otherwise it’s easy to focus on music without interruptions. It’s also worth noting that with price drops, the WF-1000XM3 can easily be found for less than other high-end models such as the AirPods Pro and Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.

Read our full Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

Best noise-cancelling earbuds: JLab Epic Air Sport ANC

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

10. JLab Epic Air Sport ANC

Affordable and fitness-friendly ANC earbuds

Size: 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches | Weight: 0.3 ounces (per bud) | Batttery Life (Rated): 15 hours (ANC on); 55 hours (ANC on with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (9 meters) | Special features: Adjustable ANC, transparency mode, IP66 water resistance, customizable controls, customizable EQ

Stable design
Affordable
ANC and transparency modes
Great battery life
Discharge times are off
Poor call quality

The idea that noise-cancelling earbuds would ever be this cheap would have been unthinkable not long ago. But the Epic Air Sport ANC manages it, and you might be relieved to know that this isn’t a cheap and nasty pair of buds underneath a sound-silencing sheen. On the contrary, it’s actually very practical on the whole, with great battery life and respectable sound output.

Unlike similar, ear hook-equipped earbuds, the Epic Air Sport ANC rarely feels uncomfortable, and you get a few different tip sizes to find the perfect fit. Special mention goes to the buds’ longevity: around 11 hours per charge with ANC enabled, comfortably more than twice that of the AirPods Pro.

Read our full JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review.

Best noise-cancelling earbuds: Sony WF-SP800N

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

11. Sony WF-SP800N

Sporty, sweatproof noise-cancelling earbuds

Size: 0.8 x 1 x 1 inches | Weight: 0.3 ounces (per bud) | Batttery Life (Rated): 9 hours (ANC on); 18 hours (ANC on with charging case) | Bluetooth range: 30 feet (9 meters) | Special features: Adjustable ANC, transparency mode, IP55 water resistance, customizable EQ, Sony 360 Reality Audio

Deep, customizable sound
Long battery life
IP55 rating
Very buggy
WF-1000XM3 sounds better

As a sporty alternative to the Sony WF-1000XM3, the WF-SP800N ups the fitness focus while still offering active noise cancellation. IP55 water resistance makes each bud essentially sweatproof, and battery life is even better: 9 hours with ANC on. That means you’ll seldom need to worry about having workouts interrupted by a flat pair of buds.

However, sound quality and ANC effectiveness are both higher on the WF-1000XM3, so the newer WF-SP800N isn’t a direct upgrade. It is, however, cheaper. Almost as cheap as the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro, in fact, giving you another option if you want to keep your ANC earbuds budget below $150.

Read our full Sony WF-SP800N review.

How to choose the best noise-cancelling earbuds for you

We’ve ranked these earbuds partly with respect to how effective their ANC tech is — but this doesn’t need to be the absolute most important thing to everybody. You may be willing to have slightly less effective ANC if it means getting a pair with the best general sound quality, or you may be a keen runner who needs extra stability and waterproofing as well as noise cancellation.

In any case you should think about which qualities are most vital to your own needs. Do you want headphones that sound a certain way, or to have perfectly neutral balance between the bass, mids and treble? Do you want the most comfortable buds possible so you can wear them for hours without discomfort? Do you have a particular phone that would pair well with specific earbuds, like the AirPods Pro and Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro do?

Only you can decide what your priorities are, though be sure to read the full reviews linked above if you want more detail on a particular quality.

Battery life

That said, it’s worth going over a few earbud quirks here. Battery life can be a tricky one: some buds can last much longer than others, but with included charging cases, the total possible uptime might be much more competitive. Think about how long and how often you’d want to wear your headphones: for lengthy trips, a longer “per charge” battery life is better, but if you only want some entertainment on short commutes then this matters less, as you’ll probably be storing the buds in their case more often.

Price

Pricing also varies quite drastically. You simply can’t find ANC earbuds at true bargain-basement prices — the tech is costly to implement — but a “cheap” pair will usually run you $100 to $150. Much more premium buds are likely to cost anywhere between $200 and $300.

Fortunately, if you’re on a tight budget, the ANC on cheaper buds can be perfectly serviceable. The price difference is usually made up for with additional features or higher build quality, rather than just how well the ANC blocks sound.

How we test noise-cancelling earbuds

THE BEST HEADPHONES AND EARBUDS

Take a look at our comprehensive guides for the best headphones and earbuds you can buy, across every major category and price point.

·      Best Noise Cancelling Headphones

·      Best Cheap Wireless Earbuds

·      Best Headphones

·      Best Fake AirPods

·      Best Running Headphones

·      Best Workout Headphones

·      Best Wireless Headphones

·      Best Cheap Running Headphones

·      Best Cheap Wireless Headphones 

·      Best Cheap Noise-Cancelling Headphones

·      Best Cheap Headphones

·      Best Cheap Earbuds

When testing noise-cancelling earbuds, we test for comfort, ease of setup and use, sound quality and — yes — how well the ANC works in different situations. This might mean taking them into a busy store, or alongside a traffic-heavy road, or just wearing them while sitting near other people having conversations.

We always aim to test headphones over the course of a week, including sessions where we wear them for at least a couple of hours at a time. This lets us know how comfortable they are in extended use, and whether the manufacturer’s battery life claims stand up to real-life usage.

We also listen to a range of musical genres, plus podcasts, to see how each pair performs on audio quality. That goes for anything from hip-hop to rock, jazz, classical, pop and R&B. Different models may be better suited to different genres, so we’ll let you know how each pair handles different frequencies and musical styles.

Finally, we’ll rate noise-cancelling earbuds on our five-point system, with 1 being the worst and 5 the best. If a pair is particularly excellent, with a robust range of qualities, we may award it an Editors' Choice badge.