The best noise cancelling earbuds make it easier to hear your music even in noisy conditions. They're comfortable to wear over long periods. Plus you get the convenience of them being totally wireless.
Also known as ANC (active noise cancelling) earbuds, they've traditionally tended to bulkier than other earbuds. But that's changed a lot recently and now some weigh as little as a couple of grams. Battery life has leapt up at the same time – many can now handle a whole workday of listening unbroken. We've tried out a range of noise cancelling earbuds and really put them to the test, harnessing our skill and experience at reviewing audio gear to make sure we've only included the very best models on our list below.
So read on to discover very best models for a whole range of budgets. All offer solid noise cancellation, and all offer impressive audio reproduction. Want more over-ear options? Check out our list of the best noise cancelling headphones.
Best noise cancelling earbuds overall
We'll make it simple for you: the Panasonic Technics EAH-AZ80 are the best noise-cancelling earbuds available today. They offer sound quality that's truly equivalent to top-spec over-ear headphones. Our reviewer found the noise cancellation super-effective, without causing a 'blocked ears' effect. And the buds themselves very comfortable to wear even with all-day use.
You get around seven hours of battery with noise-cancellation on, and seven and a half without. That isn't the most on our list, but it isn't half bad either. Best of all, Panasonic's JustMyVoice tech makes your voice crystal-clear even against traffic noise, wind and other disturbances. For more details, see our full Panasonic Technics EAH-AZ80 review.
Best budget noise cancelling earbuds
If you're happy to spend more than $100 on noise-cancelling headphones, but not a lot more, then here's our top recommendation for a budget price, offering excellent audio quality and noise cancellation smarts.
While they offer similar Panasonic Technics audio quality to our number one picks, our reviewer found them a less good fit in the ear, leading them to dislodge after a while. Plus that lower price means you won't get the JustMyVoice tech of our number one Panasonic buds.
However, if you're more interested in listening to stuff than making calls, that might not be an issue. And on the plus side, battery life of around five hours with noise-cancellation on, and 18 hours with it off, is pretty impressive. For more details, see our Panasonic Technics EAH-AZ40M2 review.
Best noise cancelling earbuds under $100
If you want to keep your spend down below $100, here are the noise-cancelling earbuds to look at. Especially because they offer an incredible nine hours of battery with noise-cancellation on, and a massive 36 hours with it off.
In order to get this extra juice, and the low price, you'll have to compromise a little on audio quality: these do not offer the same high-end level of sound of more expensive models. But at the same time, they're a lot more affordable, and they have a slightly higher waterproof rating than most of XP5. So overall you're getting excellent value for money. For more details, see our Tranya Nova review.
Best premium noise cancelling earbuds
When it comes to noise-cancelling prowess, the Sony WF-1000XM5 is right up there with the top models. It offers a rich, deep and wonderfully balanced sound . And if battery life is the most important thing for you, you'll be pleased to hear these buds offer eight hours with noise-cancellation on, and 12 hours without.
The only reason they're not at number one on our list is that, to our mind, they're a little overpriced and we feel the Technics EAH-AZ80 offer better value. But if money's not object then hey, knock yourself out.
Best noise cancelling earbuds from Apple
Apple pioneered the noise cancelling earbuds with its Airpods, and the latest incarnation of these industry-defining devices is the greatest yet. They're designed to work with Apple kit first and foremost, so we wouldn't recommend them for Android users. But if you own an iPhone or iPad, they're definitely ones to be looking at.
The noise cancellation capabilities of these earbuds are top-rate, and so is the audio quality. In the words of our reviewer, "Low-end notes land with as much weight as the song wants to give them – hard bass lines hit deep and sink into your head, but more subtle the low-end resonance of an acoustic instrument offers convincing reality without feeling overblown." For more details, see our AirPods Pro 2nd Gen review.
Best light noise cancelling earbuds
Bose is a huge name in audio, and these are some of the best noise cancelling earbuds you can buy today. They're beautifully light at just 2.55g, and while the audio quality isn't the absolute best on our list, it's not far from it at all. The sound you get from these buds dynamic is detailed, and they don’t let any part of it feel lost. The bass is bold, treble is tinkly, and the mid-range is masterful.
It’s a shame, then, that the battery life is a little under par, offering just four hours with noise cancellation on, and six with it off. Which is a shame given the premium price these buds demand. But if neither of those things bother you, these are very capable, high-end buds with a lot to offer.
Best noise cancelling earbuds for style
When you review gear, you can sometimes get hung up poring over the technical specis, and forget that a lot of people don't care about that. In fact, for many people the look of the thing is as, if not more, important than its performance.
That's something Apple has always understood, as have Beats by Dre... and more recently Nothing have popped up to remind us that style and individuality is something people still crave, despite a sea of bland designs and copyists.
Of course, Nothing's buds wouldn't sell if they didn't sound good too. And our reviewer found that the successors to their original model, the Nothing Ear (2) buds, have boosted the audio quality further. "These earbuds sound delightful, with a crystal clear yet warm and lively soundstage – and the noise cancellation is much improved," she wrote. "They totally took away the annoying roar of a train on a long journey (and the chat between a nearby couple as well), and that's all you can ask for, really." For more details, see our Nothing Ear (2) review.
How to choose the best noise cancelling earbuds
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There are a ton of noise cancelling earbuds on the market, so how do you choose between them? Well, most obviously, active noise cancellation (ANC) performance is the most important factor to consider when choosing noise cancelling earbuds. Look for earbuds with a wide range of ANC frequencies, and that offer different levels of noise cancellation to suit your specific needs. For example, you may be particularly interested in reducing low-frequency noises such as aircraft engines, or high-frequency noises such as human voices.
You also want noise cancelling earbuds that provide decent quality audio. Look for earbuds with high-quality drivers and a well-balanced sound profile. You should also consider the type of music you listen to, and choose earbuds that are well-suited to your genre of choice.
Noise cancelling earbuds should be comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. Look for earbuds with a snug but not too tight fit, and that come with a variety of ear tip sizes to choose from. Finally, noise cancelling earbuds can use up a lot of battery power, so it's important to choose a pair with a long battery life.
How do noise cancelling earbuds work?
Noise cancelling earbuds use tiny microphones to detect ambient noise. The captured external sounds are then processed by an onboard digital signal processor (DSP) or a dedicated noise-canceling chip. This processor analyzes the incoming sound waves and identifies the frequencies and patterns of the noise, then generates an anti-noise signal to cancel it out. This anti-noise signal is essentially the same as the ambient noise, but with the polarity reversed. When the two signals are combined, they cancel each other out, reducing the amount of noise that reaches your ears.
Are noise cancelling earbuds worth it?
Whether or not noise cancelling earbuds are worth will vary from person to person. If you are often in noisy environments, such as on an airplane or in a busy city, then noise cancelling earbuds can be a great way to reduce noise and improve your listening experience. This can be particularly useful in work or study environments where you need to maintain focus.
However, if you are not often in noisy environments, then you may not find that noise cancelling earbuds are worth it, especially as they tend to be more expensive than other earbuds and run down the battery more quickly.
Are noise cancelling earbuds safe?
While noise-canceling technology is excellent for reducing background noise, it can also be a distraction if used in situations where you need to stay alert, such as when crossing the street or operating machinery. Be cautious about using noise-canceling earbuds in situations where situational awareness is crucial for safety. As with ordinary earbuds, it's also important to keep to a moderate volume, because listening to music at a loud volume, even for short periods of time, runs the risk of damaging your hearing.