Whether you travel for work, commute to work, or just like listening to music while you drink your morning coffee, active noise cancelling headphones are great. They’ve seen a huge rise in popularity which is probably due to how good the technology has become. Tiny microphones hear what’s happening around you and then the headphones produce the opposite sound, which effectively cancels the outside sound wave. It’s simple (or not-so-simple) physics.
In order to fit all of the components necessary the most common kind of ANC headphones are usually fairly large over-ears. But there are quite a few manufacturers that have stuffed this tech into small earbuds. Most failed, but some of them made some truly great products. These are the best noise cancelling earbuds you can get.
Bose is one of the leaders in ANC technology, and after years on top of the game their larger noise cancelling headphones have just begun to be challenged by other manufacturers. But when it comes to their earbuds, Bose remains king. Although the QC20’s have been updated with a newer wireless version we’re keeping these at the top spot mainly because if its battery dies, you can continue listening to music. Kind of important. The cable ends in a 90-degree connector and a few inches above that you’ll find a slim block of components. This flat block of plastic isn’t the most convenient thing ever, but it’s effective. Inside is a battery that will give you about 16 hours of ANC and music playback. On it you’ll find a small switch that lets you turn ANC on or off and also allows you to turn on Aware mode, so you can hear what’s going on around you when you need to. Of course you’ll also be able to control volume and playback thanks to a small control module on the wire, but make sure to pay attention to which model you get as they’re specific to Android or iOS. If you’ve used Bose products before, you know what to expect in terms of sound quality. They have good mids and strong lows, but are far from accurate.
B&O Beoplay H3 ANC
B&O is known for their high end audio products. In fact, compared to some of their other products, the Beoplay H3 ANC earbuds seem almost tame. But as far as minimal earbuds go, these are gorgeous. The housing is made of a lightweight metal that keeps them protected against scratches and drops while weighing only about 40g. Where you would usually find a bulky control module, B&O puts a tiny puck-like module on the audio cable. In it you’ll get a battery that should last you about 20 hours of constant playback with noise cancelling turned on. They also come with comply memory foam tips which provide a great seal for a stronger low end, but numerous holes (29 to be precise) in the earbud housing allows for a more natural sound. Nothing compared to the soundstage of open-back headphones, but not bad for a pair of earbuds.
Bose QuietControl 30Full Review
The “QC” in the Bose QC30 headphones mean something a little different here when compared to the previous QC20’s. These are dubbed “Quiet Control” because you can physically adjust the amount of noise cancelling you prefer right on the headphones. Instead of switching over to an Aware mode, the ability to adjust your ANC the same as you would volume is what makes these one of the best ANC headphones we’ve seen. Besides that, these are also wireless. All of the Bluetooth and noise cancelling components are located in the neckband, which thankfully eliminates any bulky control modules to carry around. Battery life takes a hit at only 10 hours of ANC and music playback, and because these are wireless you’re basically out of luck if they die. If you’re going on a particularly long flight these might not make it, but for average use 10 hours should be more than enough. On the cable connecting to the right earbud you’ll get a small control module that lets you control playback, adjust volume, and also adjust the ANC strength. If you find less wires more convenient, the QC30’s are a great option.
Phiaton BT 220 NC
These earbuds are the successors to the well received Phiaton 210 NC, and are slightly better in pretty much every way. Everything needed for the ANC to function properly is found in the dongle that resides on the audio cable. The dongle itself has a switch that turns ANC on or off as well as all everything normally found on headphones, such as the power button, playback controls, and volume controls. To help keep the weight of the dongle from pulling the ‘buds out of your ears it also has a cleverly placed clip on the back for easy attachment to your clothing. Phiaton also upgraded the Bluetooth, stepping it up from version 3.0 to version 4.0. Though this has little practical applications for audio quality, but it’s good to know that they spared no expense to make these top of the line. They also threw in NFC capabilities for easy connecting to compatible devices and an improved battery life which, if we’re honest with ourselves, is sometimes the most important feature in anything wireless. Phiaton claims to have packed in a battery that will get you a solid 10 hours of constant music playback with active noise cancellation, or up to 300 hours of standby time. If you travel a lot, or just hate the idea of having another device that needs charging every night, then these just might be perfect for you.
If you’re not sure if you want to spend massive amounts of money on in-ears, then the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 ‘buds might be more up your alley. These have 13mm drivers and have a frequency response of 20Hz – 20kHz which covers pretty much anything us humans are physically able to hear.You’ll find the microphone and everything needed for the ANC to be effective packed into the small control module that resides on the audio cable. It also maxes out at 105 dB and can actively reduce noise up to 20 dB. The ATH-ANC23’s don’t have a built-in rechargeable battery, instead opting for standard AAA batteries. This can be considered a plus as all you have to do is carry a spare AAA battery just in case the headphones die on you, though with 60 hours of constant playback that shouldn’t happen all too often. The module has a switch for you to turn ANC on and off, so assuming you dont accidentally keep ANC turned on, you probably wont encounter too many battery life issues.
ANC is a feature primarily used for over-ears, but as their prevalence increases among earbuds we’ll be sure to update this list with the best of the best. Let us know what you think the best noise cancelling earbuds are in the comments below and let us know if we missed any.
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