Functionally, active noise cancellation (ANC) works in the same way on earbuds to how it does on full size over-ear headphones. Both styles employ built-in microphones to detect the level of external ambient noise around the wearer, and an identical audio signal of the surrounding noise is inverted and played back to the listener through the headphones.
Listeners aren't aware of this of course, as the inverted (or out of phase) signal effectively reduces or 'cancels out' the noise of the surroundings for the headphone wearer, effectively removing the external sound, which results in total silence, or at least a significant reduction in the level of intrusive sounds.
For more information check out our complete guide to active noise-cancelling.
The best noise-cancelling earbuds bring a useful reduction in outside noise in a pair of headphones that can easily fit in your pocket. As with some over-ear headphones, they benefit from forming a complete seal around your ear, passively blocking out even more noise from your surroundings. ANC earbuds can produce a similar effect by sealing your ear canal, minimizing the amount of external noise that can reach your ears and allowing you to enjoy your music and podcast without getting distracted by the world outside.
We test dozens of headphones each month, assessing them for sound, comfort, and features. This list include a wide variety of models we've tested at a broad range of prices spanning $60 to $300, so there should be something here for everyone.
Read on to find out which models are the best noise-cancelling earbuds on the market right now.
Top 3 best wireless noise-cancelling earbuds
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Best ANC overall: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2
A remarkable follow-up that delivers better sound, great call quality, and unrivaled ANC, these next-gen Earbuds take ANC to the next level. Proprietary technologies like ActiveSense and CustomTune balance sound and noise neutralization extremely well, and the redesigned buds feel much better than the original.
Best value: 1More PistonBuds Pro
At $69, these are the best value wireless earbuds with ANC. Even better news for buyers is that they're discounted to $59 on the 1More website (opens in new tab) as well as through online retailer Newegg (opens in new tab). ANC is effective at the price, and the 'buds are a win for consumers looking for great performance in a stylish and affordable package.
Best Bose alternative: Sony WF-1000XM4
Sony's WF-1000XM4 are highly recommended, and one of the best wireless earbuds (opens in new tab) money can buy. Sound is refined, battery life is decent and the inclusion of new Sony Headphones Connect app features alongside old favorites like 360 Reality Audio (opens in new tab) and EQ customization, make for one terrific package.
What are the best noise-cancelling earbuds to buy right now?
After weeks of leaks, the QuietComfort Earbuds 2 are now official, and they've gone straight to the top of our buying guide for their outstanding noise canceling capabilities. They perform even better than the original Earbuds (below) that are still available. These are a remarkable follow-up that delivers better sound, great call quality, and unrivaled ANC. Proprietary technologies like ActiveSense and CustomTune balance sound and noise neutralization extremely well.
Bose’s redesign also makes these buds less of an eyesore compared to the original, and only the high price and mediocre battery life count against them. CustomTune automatically calibrates ANC and the sound frequency profile to the unique properties of your ear and optimal performance that's right for you. Sadly, there's no wireless audio codec support for aptX or LDAC.
Read our full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 review.
The PistonBuds Pro are a win for budget-conscious consumers who desire outstanding ANC and sound in a stylish, affordable package. Are they going to replace your AirPods Pro? No, but they are easily one of the best AirPods alternatives that can be had for a third of the price.
Okay, battery life isn’t anything to write home about, nor is call quality. But these shortcomings are forgivable when factoring in the audio and noise cancellation these buds deliver, and are enough to satisfy (especially at the $69 price) and give the Piston Buds Pro mass appeal.
Read our full 1More PistonBuds Pro review.
The old Sony WF-1000XM3 was a longtime member of the best ANC earbuds club, and the heavily upgraded WF-1000XM4 sounds even better. With the aid of a new Sony V1 chip, the noise cancellation on these buds is worthy of the high price tag, and a generally immersive sound helps you ignore distractions even more.
Battery life is up on the old model, too. The WF-1000XM3 could last for 6 hours at most with ANC on, while the WF-1000XM4 can comfortably manage between 7 and 8. The case also gets wireless charging capabilities, alongside a host of other tweaks and improvements to the buds themselves.
Read our full Sony WF-1000XM4 review.
Apple's next-gen AirPods Pro 2 have arrived, bringing significant upgrades to the popular original to take performance to the next level. Externally, they look pretty similar to the first generation but battery life has been increased to offer 6 hours on a single charge from the earbuds and a further 30 hours from the wireless charging case. Not only are the earbuds IPX4-rated, but now too is the case itself.
Designed for iPhone owners looking for a more tailored listening experience, these are the pinnacle of Apple technology. On the audio front, Apple has included a new H2 chip with custom amp and driver that delivers better lower and higher frequencies, and you can use the iPhone's TrueDepth camera to create a personalized spatial audio sound to listen to some of the best Dolby Atmos sound in any pair of earbuds. Noise cancellation is double what the last pair of AirPods Pro offered, and it is among the best we’ve yet to see, period.
Read the full Apple AirPods Pro 2 review.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are still available while stock last but fall down this list slightly due to the arrival the top-performing next-gen QuietComfort Earbuds 2 and Apple AirPods Pro 2. The originals Bose Earbuds are can be found for $199 at Amazon (opens in new tab).
A software update enhances ANC performance over the version they launched with, and includes Aware and Transparency modes. Although sound quality, in general, is very good, it is not quite to the latest standards, although they do have 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.
Samsung’s ANC holds its own against the category best and blocks out close to 90% of ambient noise. The updated design also provides improved comfort and noise isolation. Each earbud houses three mics to block out external sounds at the highest level and soften wind presence, which the mic array does extremely well in combination with the wind shield.
It’s disappointing to see Samsung’s noise-cancelling models provide short ANC playtime. Sound alone makes the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro worth the investment, though, giving you a high quality audio experience and compelling 3D sound with precise head tracking. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are a stellar option to consider and have excellent mic quality for calls too.
Read our full Samsung Buds 2 Pro review.
In the third generation of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 it has shrunk the earbuds, and tidied them up while it’s at it, and managed to hold the price down to a level most realistic rivals compete at. Battery life is good. Control options are both extensive and reliable, and the app is great. Noise-cancellation, especially where wind is concerned, is competitive. And the sound is a combination of fanatical attention to detail, a naturalistic approach to rhythms and tempos, and a very pleasant unity of tonality.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 review.
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.
OnePlus' first pair of ANC buds are a super-stylish design that offer good comfort levels in the ear and a durable build with IP55 water resistance. What's more, you get incredibly quick Warp Charging that can give you 10 hours of use from just 10 minutes of charge, when using the supplied charging case.
Of the three main ANC modes on offer, Max gives you the best noise neutralization; it's not quite as good as the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds or Sony WF-1000XM4, but it beats the AirPods Pro and does an excellent job of blocking out household disturbances. There's also a Transparency mode that allows ambient sounds to filter through, and a Zen mode that plays calming white noise. Extra treats for OnePlus users include a gaming mode and fast pairing, and if you have a OnePlus phone then this is a fine choice to consider.
Read our full OnePlus Buds Pro review.
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.
Another high-end option, the Jabra Elite 85t is one of the few pairs of noise-canceling 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. Plus for Prime users, they are $120 off on Prime Day.
Read our full Jabra Elite 85t review.
It’s shocking to see Beats release two pairs of wireless earbuds just months apart from each other. While the Studio Buds remain an impressive model with adequate ANC and great sound, the Fit Pro takes performance up several notches, while integrating minor changes to its sibling’s design. Adding wingtips is a huge plus for exercisers and those living active lifestyles, ensuring the buds remain locked on the ears when moving around. AirPods Pro features like active noise cancellation and Spatial Audio for 3D-like sound come part of the package, both of which perform at high levels. There are also the many perks that come tied to the H1 chip like automatic switching, audio sharing, and FindMy support to locate misplaced buds.
Android users end up losing out on several iOS-exclusive features like “Hey Siri” voice activation and head-tracking. The Eartip Fit Test also isn’t as accurate as the AirPods Pro’s version, granted the wingtips and bundled ear tips in different sizes should accommodate all ear shapes.
Read our full Beats Fit Pro review.
The Sennheiser CX Plus face stiff competition, but offer articulate, high-quality sound combined with normal playtimes, effective ANC, and dependable connectivity.
Sennheiser's CX Plus improved on the noise cancellation capabilities of its predecessors, and handles higher frequencies better than its big brother — the Momentum True Wireless 2 (see below). Blocking out loud noises produced by landscaping tools (e.g., hedge trimmer, lawnmower) when working in the backyard was blissful. Other distractions like airplanes flying over the house, bird chirping, and even the sound from a portable speaker didn’t affect my workflow either. Indoors was just as rewarding, keeping chatter around the kitchen table silent and my toddler’s incessant crying outside of the play area to a minimum.
Read our full Sennheiser CX Plus review.
The Google Pixel Buds Pro are a great pair of noise-cancelling earbuds built for Android users with multiple devices and those looking for the very best Google Assistant experience. They have powerful sound with a usefully wide frequency range, and listening with ANC enabled doesn’t affect quality or the level of enjoyment. Google has increased battery life on the Pixel Buds Pro, offering up to 7 hours with ANC on and 11 hours with ANC off. Realistically, these playtimes drop by 1 to 1.5 hours when factoring in listening at high volumes, and using Google features.
Our only grumbles concern the potential of a loose and unsecure fit for some ears, and there's no third-party digital assistant support. Despite this, their versatile functionality makes them a very exciting earbud option with a full Google experience like no other.
Read our full Google Pixel Buds Pro review.
The Technics EAH-AZ60 is a bit of a bargain. Not only are you getting high-end sound enhanced via EQ or LDAC support, but also dynamic noise neutralization and a wide feature set that not many luxury models offer. The addition of Bluetooth 5.2 and intelligible controls for responsive operation add to the buds list of strong selling points.
Not all functions hit their mark, but any drawbacks are forgivable when you consider the excellent level of audio performance, making the Technics EAH-AZ60 well worth the investment for music lovers.
Read our full Technics EAH-AZ60 review.
When rumors first started swirling around the Beats Studio Buds, we weren't sure if it would feature active noise cancellation at all. Against the odds, though, this pair of buds combines affordable pricing with full ANC — complete with ambient sound mode. Who knew Apple would come out with such a bargain?
The Studio Buds also surprise by being much more platform-agnostic than previous Beats headphones. That means that while there are some exclusive goodies for iOS users, Android owners can also take advantage of fast pairing and Google Assistant support. Whatever mobile platform you're on, this is another good way to get ANC without premium pricing.
Read our full Beats Studio Buds review.
A cheaper (but still premium-priced) alternative to the PI7, the Bowers & Wilkins PI5 rivals even the AirPods Pro in noise-cancelling effectiveness. The ANC on these buds, which can switch to an equally impressive pass-through ambient mode, does a fantastic job of blocking out sound regardless of your immediate surroundings.
There are a few reasons why it’s not further up this list, like the underwhelming 4.5-hour battery life, the occasionally iffy controls and a fit that gets more uncomfortable as the hours tick by. If you just want top-notch ANC and are willing to pay for it, this is a worthwhile consideration.
Read our full Bowers & Wilkins PI5 review.
Replacing the Elite 7 Active in our list, the recently introduced Elite 4 Actives are an impressively good mid-range model with effective ANC, excellent call quality, rich sound, strong connectivity, and waterproof protection. Access to the Sound+ app for audio customization sweetens the deal even further.
The cheaper price tag means losing out on popular features like multipoint technology and wireless charging, as well as some of Jabra’s newer settings. However, the Jabra Elite 4 Active is the most convincing noise cancelling purchase for active lifestyle and fitness types on a budget.
Read our full Jabra Elite 4 Active 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.
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.
Pricing varies quite drastically. You simply can’t find effective ANC earbuds at true bargain-basement prices — the tech is costly to implement — but a “cheap” pair will usually run from $100 to $150. Premium buds are likely to cost anywhere between $200 and $300, but even our best performing models can be found for less, so check back regularly to keep track of models with the biggest discounts. Bookmark our best headphone deals to bag a bargain.
How we test noise-cancelling 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.
Each pair of headphones and earbuds is worn over the course of a week for 2 hours at a time. During this time, reviewers evaluate comfort and fit, ease of use, and audio. We test sound by listening to tracks across different music genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical, and pop. Volume, clarity, and fullness of sound are taken into consideration in our ratings. Movies, podcasts, and video games are considered, when necessary.
Find out what we listen for during our testing process and how to get the best headphone sound for you.
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 Editor's Choice badge.
Contributions from Alex Bracetti, Simon Lucas, Nick Pino
Next: Still undecided about which style of headphones are right for you? Check out our guides to the best over-ear headphones and the best noise-cancelling headphones overall to get a broader view of best available headphones on the market right now.