The best noise-cancelling earbuds make sense for many people. In many cases they are wireless designs, so cutting the cable can give you a new sense of freedom, which is useful for commuting or exercising. And the fact that they’ve built in noise-cancelling technology means they’re best placed to make your listening experience as smooth and uninterrupted as possible. With noise reduction activated, earbuds use a combination of built-in microphones and inverted sound waves to turn off certain frequencies.
This means you’ll hear less traffic, chat and sirens, and more of the music playing through your headphones. Not only can you hear the music better, but noise cancellation can also mean you can listen at a lower volume.
Best Noise-Cancelling Earbuds
Noise-cancelling earbuds are not as common as ordinary wireless earbuds, so the function also tends to increase the cost. You will have to budget accordingly, but there are some exceptionally talented options out there from Apple, Sony, and Sennheiser. We have rounded up the best noise cancelling earbuds available at the moment, for a range of prices. Take a look and see which one is right for you.
1. Sony WF-1000XM3
The Sony WF-1000XM3 is the best true wireless earbuds you can buy in 2020, hands down. Considering the fact that it is still rare to get noise cancellation in wired earbuds, the fact that Sony managed to wrap it in a pair that is not only wireless but true wireless is very impressive. While models like the AirPods Pro have tried to replicate this, Sony is still at the top of the true wireless table.
That’s because the Sony WF-1000XM3 is able to offer a level of noise cancellation that is exceptionally good for a pair of earbuds – they do not offer the same isolation as a pair of over-ear headphones, but are a worthy trade-in for that slimmer form. Sony really hit the ball rolling with the WF-1000XM3, with a fist-turning musicality and sleek design. The battery life is above average, and that compact charging case is also pretty smooth.
Continuously improving, a recent update has brought the volume control of the buds themselves, as well as the support of Amazon Alexa. These earbuds might get even better in the near future; on March 5, the earbuds appeared briefly on the Qualcomm website, suggesting that the Sony WF-1000XM3 is about to get aptX HD support – and thus Hi-Res Audio support as well.
2. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
The sound quality, battery life, and design of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 are truly brilliant – and they’re a really good alternative to the Sony WF-1000XM3, especially if you prefer a more flashy design when it comes to genuine wireless earphones. We did find that people with smaller ears sometimes find them a bit uncomfortable, and their high price only keeps them from reaching the top of this round. Different? Sennheiser has pretty much knocked it out of the park with these earbuds, offering great noise cancellation in addition to smart looks and great sound. Overall, this is one of the best noise-cancelling earbuds.
3. Apple AirPods Pro
Apple’s noise-canceling, true wireless earphones, the AirPods Pro, offer a much better fit and improved design compared to the original AirPods. However, at $249, they’re also pretty pricey, and as such, you can’t call them the very best true wireless earbuds in terms of value for money – but they may be the best true wireless earbuds for Apple fans.
These tight-fitting earbuds offer great sound, and the additional microphones provide strong noise cancellation (especially when commuting), as well as a useful Transparency Mode that really lets the outside world in. Apparently, there’s a new AirPods model that connects the original tops with the newer pros. Overall, this is one of the best noise-cancelling earbuds.
4. Technics EAH-AZ70W
Technics is trying to crack the market for noise-cancelling earplugs with this first-class pair of in-ears. The tops include Alexa’s voice control, touch controls, and 18 hours of live battery life (six of the earbuds with a further 12 passing through the case). The noise-cancelling technology used is Technics’ own and features three microphones in each earplug that help reduce background noise. You can change the strength of the noise reduction in the Technics Audio Connect companion app, where you can also choose from a range of different sound modes and even track the location of your earplugs.
The connection is solid and stable, and the earbuds promote lively, entertaining sound with lots of spice. The bass goes particularly deep and the sounds are defined with them. These are not the cheapest pair of noise-cancelling earplugs in this list, but they are a pleasant and talented proposition worth considering. Overall, this is one of the best noise-cancelling earbuds.
5. Samsung Galaxy Buds Live
Say what you want to say about the bean-shaped design of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, but they may be the most innovative new true wireless earbuds of the year. Like the standard AirPods, they have an open design — you don’t jam earbuds in your ear — and they’re quite comfortable to wear and fit my ears more securely than the AirPods. That said, they don’t fit everyone’s ears equally well. These wireless knobs are discreet and basically sit flush with your ear without a small white pipe sticking out.
They deliver good sound and work well as a headset for making calls, with good background noise cancellation so callers can hear you clearly, even when you’re in a noisier environment. Although they feature active noise cancellation, it’s mild compared to earbuds with a noise-canceling design. In other words, buy them for their design and sound, not for their noise cancellation features. Overall, this is one of the best noise-cancelling earbuds.
6. Beats PowerBeats Pro
The PowerBeats Pro wireless headphones are something special – they’re extremely comfortable, sound decent, and never seem to fall out. They may not be the best true wireless earphones in Apple’s audio arsenal now that the AirPods Pro are here, but they’re the most premium Apple headphones, and they’re the best we recommend to most athletes. That’s thanks to features like the pressure-reducing microlaser barometric vent, long battery life, and good sound quality. If we had to choose between wearing these and the original AirPods in the home, office, or gym, we would wear them. Overall, this is one of the best noise-cancelling earbuds.
7. Sony WI-1000XM2
Not all noise-canceling earplugs are really wireless, of course. They have a neckband, where the earplugs are attached via a short cord. However, they are still wireless, so you can do anything without getting tangled. The neckband itself could be a bit more flexible, but there are a lot of possibilities, including different degrees of noise reduction. And they sound beautiful, with a lot of detail and precision. A big step forward for those who want in-ear portability with on-ear battery life and power. Overall, this is one of the best noise-cancelling earbuds.
8. Plantronics BackBeat Go 410
Noise-canceling automatically switches to Low Noise or High Noise mode, depending on the context of your current environment. This works so well that I wouldn’t recommend them if they are walking on the street or running outside. They do, however, hold their own in a busy coffee shop or in the subway. One of the most intriguing aspects of the earplugs, however, is that they allow listeners to listen wired through a supplied micro-USB cable, which wraps around a 3.5 mm plug. To enjoy the benefits of this design, your smartphone must, of course, be equipped with a headphone jack. Overall, this is one of the best noise-cancelling earbuds.
9. Bose QuietComfort 20
The cable ends in a 90-degree connector and a few inches above that you’ll find a slim cube with components. Inside is a battery that gives you about 16 hours of noise reduction and music playback. There’s a Delicate Mode button inside so you can hear what’s going on around you when you need it. Of course, you can also control the volume and playback thanks to a small control module on the wire, but pay attention to which model you get, because they are specific for Android or iOS. Overall, this is one of the best noise-cancelling earbuds.
10. Sony WF-SP800N
Sony’s latest true wireless earphones, the Sony WF-SP800N, are a triple threat. They are IP55 certified to be sweat and dustproof, but they’re also pretty good for commuters because they have active noise cancellation built-in – which is rare for a workout pair of earbuds – and work well for demanding music lovers thanks to their support for Sony’s new spatial audio format, 360 Reality Audio. However, they can be a little uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time, and the bass is a little muddy to our taste – yet these are one of the best true wireless earbuds.