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Best noise canceling earbuds
In today’s fast-paced world, finding a moment of peace can be a challenge. Whether you’re traveling, commuting, or just enjoying your morning coffee, noise canceling headphones can be a game-changer. However, their size isn’t always convenient. For those looking for a more compact solution without sacrificing quality, noise canceling earbuds are the answer. Many brands have stepped up, offering top-notch earbuds that effectively block out distractions. Here’s our roundup of the best noise canceling earbuds available right now.
- This list of the best noise canceling earbuds was updated on August 28, 2023, to include the all-new top picks, update our notable mentions, and answer more frequently asked questions.
- If you are curious about how noise cancelation works, read our explainer to learn more about active noise canceling (ANC) and the different types of technology involved.
Why is the Sony WF-1000XM5 the best set of noise canceling earbuds?
Sony’s latest flagship, the WF-1000XM5, sets a new standard in the true wireless category. Building upon the foundation laid by its predecessor, the Sony WF-1000XM4, these earbuds are designed for both comfort and performance. The enhanced active noise canceling (ANC) technology ensures that ambient distractions are minimized, allowing for an ck with ANC activated, and the charging case provides additional power for extended use.
Accompanying the WF-1000XM5 is the versatile Sony Headphones app, available for both Android and iOS users. This platform offers a range of customization options, from EQ adjustments to ambient sound settings. Supported codecs include AAC, LDAC, and SBC, ensuring optimal sound quality across devices. Advanced features like DSEE Extreme enhance the playback of lossy music files, enriching the overall listening experience. With the Sony WF-1000XM5, true wireless listening reaches new heights.
iPhone owners should just go with the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)immersive audio experience. With an IPX4 rating, they’re resilient against light splashes and sweat, making them suitable for a range of activities. On a single charge, expect over 8 hours of playba
Building upon the success of its predecessor, the 2nd Gen AirPods Pro boasts an improved active noise canceling (ANC) feature powered by
Apple’s second generation of the AirPods Pro line has even better noise canceling than their predecessors. The AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) has four ear tip options to ensure a good seal, so you can block out the noise with proper isolation. The IPX4-rated earbuds also have an IPX4-rated case, making them even more workout-friendly and water-resistant.
For iPhone users, the integration is seamless. The AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) introduces the Adaptive Transparency mode. This feature, relying on the H2 chip, minimizes the intensity of sudden loud noises, such as passing sirens or construction sounds, making your listening experience more comfortable and adaptive to your environment. Moreover, the earbuds come with Apple’s signature Spatial Audio personalization, ensuring a tailored listening experience, with the Adaptive EQ feature adjusting the audio in real-time based on the fit in your ears.
For those who prioritize call quality, the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) microphone system has been enhanced to better reject background noise, ensuring clearer communication. With the integration of the U1 chip and the Find My app, you can easily locate your earbuds or the case, adding a layer of convenience to the premium experience.
The AirPods Pro microphones are very good, and the stemmed design aids in clear voice transmission, but it isn’t the absolute best option for conference calls. Outside noise can make voices cut out though, so if you need to take a call, try your best to do that in a quiet environment.
AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Office conditions):
AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Street conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Get great sound on any OS with the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 stands out as one of the premier noise canceling earbuds in the market, and the review underscores several reasons for this acclaim. Firstly, the earbuds are equipped with a potent active noise canceling (ANC) feature that not only effectively mutes external disturbances but also boasts an innovative anti-wind mode. This mode has been highlighted for its proficiency in countering the disruptive effects of wind, ensuring that listeners can enjoy an uninterrupted audio experience even in challenging outdoor conditions.
Moreover, the earbuds’ sound quality is exceptional, with a frequency response that caters to a wide range of music genres. The bass and midrange sounds are particularly emphasized, ensuring a rich and immersive listening experience. Additionally, the MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 is not limited by operating systems. Sennheiser has ensured broad codec support, making these earbuds versatile and compatible with both Apple and Android devices. This universality, combined with their superior noise canceling capabilities, positions the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 as a top choice for audiophiles seeking the best in noise canceling technology.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is great for more than just Samsung users
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro emerges as a compelling choice for true wireless earbud enthusiasts, offering a blend of innovative features and top-tier performance. While they are particularly tailored for Samsung Galaxy device owners, boasting exclusive features like the Samsung Seamless Codec and seamless auto-switching between Samsung devices, they are by no means restricted to this audience. Even without a Samsung phone, these earbuds are a prime pick for those seeking some of the best active noise canceling (ANC) on the market.
The design of the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The buds are coated with a matte, rubberized texture, providing a comfortable fit for extended listening sessions. Their IPX7 rating ensures durability against water and sweat, making them suitable for various activities and environments. One of the standout features is the “Intelligent Conversation Mode,” which automatically switches to Ambient sound mode, allowing users to engage in conversations without removing the earbuds. Furthermore, the earbuds offer impressive ANC performance, effectively filtering out noises below 100Hz and providing a serene listening environment. Sound quality is another highlight, with the earbuds closely following a consumer-friendly curve, ensuring a balanced and immersive audio experience.
However, it’s not just the sound and ANC that make the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro shine. The earbuds come with a range of thoughtful features, such as reading notifications aloud, voice detection, and even reminders to stretch your neck. The Galaxy Wearable app enhances the user experience, although it’s worth noting that full feature access is limited to Android users. Even while Samsung device owners will undoubtedly get the most out of the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, their robust feature set, exceptional sound quality, and state-of-the-art ANC make them a worthy consideration for a broader audience.
Don’t overlook the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II have certainly made waves, especially when juxtaposed against their predecessor, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. The Earbuds II has introduced the much-appreciated feature of using each bud independently, a luxury the first-gen QC Earbuds didn’t offer. While the original QC Earbuds have an edge with their impeccable noise canceling and nuanced frequency response, the QC Earbuds II will undoubtedly resonate with bass aficionados straight out of the box. However, for those seeking auditory equilibrium, a dalliance with an EQ app might be in order.
Diving into the data, charts comparing the two siblings offer a few insights. The original QC Earbuds, with their superior default sound, seem to be a connoisseur’s choice. However, when it comes to drowning out the low-frequency rumbles of the world, the QC Earbuds II take the lead. But let’s not dismiss the first-gen’s ANC prowess; it’s still a force to be reckoned with. Some audiophiles might even argue that a smidgen-less ANC might be a worthy trade-off for the richer sound tapestry of the original.
The initial inability of the Bose Music app to equalize the sound for the QC Earbuds II was also swiftly addressed with a software update, hinting at Bose’s dedication to refining the user experience. The Bose QC Earbuds, with their snug ear tips, IPX4 rating, and a commendable 5-hour battery stamina, have carved their niche. Their touch controls are a masterclass in sensitivity, outshining even the revered Galaxy Buds Pro from Samsung. With the luxury of tailoring the ANC to one’s environment and the added charm of automatic ear detection, the Bose QuietComfort series, be it the original or its successor, promises a reliable auditory experience.
The best ANC earbuds: Notable mentions
- Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) ($119 at Amazon): Amazon debuted its proprietary noise canceling with these earbuds, and it does a great job of blocking out droning sounds. In fact, the ANC here is better than the Sony WF-1000XM3 and Apple AirPods Pro. Of course, there are some concessions like microphone and sound quality, but if ANC and Alexa support are your top priorities, the Echo Buds will serve you well.
- Denon AH-C830NCW (£139 at Amazon Site): The Denon AH-C830NCW technically has better active noise canceling than the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless, and you get the same IPX4 rating. However, it isn’t listed as a top-five pick because you don’t get volume controls, and there’s a noticeable degree of lag on Android since it only supports SBC and AAC.
- Jabra Elite 4 Active ($89.99 at Jabra): At $120, Jabra stuffs the buds with ANC, Bluetooth 5.2, Google Fast Pair, and a solid IP57 rating. You lose some premium surround sound features found in pricier options, but not everyone needs that.
- Jabra Elite 85t ($167 at Amazon): These earphones feature very good noise canceling and microphone quality. You can create a custom EQ profile within the mobile app if you aren’t happy with the bassy default sound. With the debut of Jabra’s other Elite series earphones, like the Elite 7 Active and Elite 7 Pro, the Elite 85t has dropped in price.
- Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless ($89 at Amazon): At the midpoint between budget and premium, Sennheiser strikes a balance of good sound, effective ANC, and aptX, AAC, and SBC codecs.
- Shure AONIC Free ($199 at Amazon): Here’s a novel option, noise canceling without active noise canceling. The AONIC Free features such good isolation you don’t even need to fuss with ANC settings. It helps that the buds sound great and have a useful companion app with a comprehensive equalizer. If you’re looking for a wired option, the Shure SE215 uses the same buds to isolate your ears.
- Razer Hammerhead USB-C ANC ($106 at Amazon): Razer’s USB-C headset is at the top of its very small class. If your smartphone is without a headphone jack, and you want wired earbuds without the dongle, get these. If you’re open to checking out true wireless options, the Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pro may be more up your alley.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ($99 at Amazon): Though missing some of the more premium features of the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, this set features basically the same ANC as the flagship for a few bucks less.
Hold up! Something’s different:
Some of our picks’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this review (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and ANC performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
What you should know about the best noise canceling earbuds
Hearing loss is a pervasive issue, and noise canceling technology can help prevent it: it combats the permeation of external noise by way of destructive interference. Anyone who’s been on a subway platform while listening to music knows that as the train comes to a halt to pick up riders, it becomes nearly impossible to hear your music. That’s because our brains only have so much bandwidth to process simultaneous stimuli; our prehistoric brains are programmed for survival.
Back in the prehistoric days, it was important to register loud noises over all else because they were likely threats (e.g., a prowling leopard). Now, this prioritization of loud sounds is less needed since we don’t typically have run-ins with wild creatures ready to pounce on us. Instead, it impedes music playback in the form of auditory masking: a loud sound makes it difficult to perceive a quieter one. We often reach for the volume rocker to increase music loudness as a way of combating loud external noises, but active noise canceling earbuds do much of the heavy lifting, making us less compelled to put our hearing at risk.
We have a full breakdown of how noise canceling technology works, but the shortened version is that it uses destructive interference. Each sound has its own waveform, and the microphones in ANC headsets record your surroundings and emit an inverted waveform to combat ambient noise.
In a perfect world, it would be as simple and neat as 1-1=0. However, the technology isn’t there yet and may never be. Environmental noise still permeates the barrier created by noise canceling headphones. Generally speaking, though, the technology has advanced quite a bit: Apple, Bose, and Sony have impeccable performers.
This technology is complicated, and to get an effective pair of headphones or earbuds with ANC, you should expect to pay around $150. This is pricy but has proven well worth the investment for daily commuters and readers with loud neighbors.
How do you wear earbuds?
Each set of earbuds has a slightly different way you should wear them, but for the most part, you just need to make sure the ear tips fit well into your ear canal entrances. This means you should take the time to experiment with each ear tip size and mix and match if you have to. Shake your head around a bit and take note of your comfort level. Usually, one of the sizes works, but on the off chance that they don’t, you may want to invest in third-party ear tips.
Just like standard earbuds, noise canceling earbuds greatly benefit from a proper seal. No matter how good the ANC tech inside the earbud is, if the nozzles aren’t physically blocking external noise out, auditory masking will affect your ability to hear your music.
How we choose the best noise canceling earbuds
When it comes to noise canceling earbuds, we performed our due diligence by researching the ones we’ve yet to get our hands on. Bose, recognized as the brand to get when looking for noise canceling headphones, is awarded as our top contender. However, we made sure to include other, less ubiquitous options that will still suit a wide array of listener profiles. While the Bose QuietComfort 20 still reigns as our pick for the best noise canceling earbuds, you’re bound to enjoy any of the above.
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Frequently asked questions about noise canceling earbuds
Noise canceling earbuds are worth the money because they effectively block out external sounds, allowing for an immersive listening experience. This not only enhances audio quality but also reduces the need to increase volume, promoting ear health. Additionally, they provide a quieter environment in noisy settings, making them ideal for travel, work, or relaxation. Investing in them means prioritizing your audio experience and well-being.
It is unlikely that they will block out dog barking. It depends on two things, mainly: how sporadic the barking is and what frequency range the barking is in that you’re hearing. If it’s sporadic, like one bark every now and then, it probably won’t work. Because dogs bark in a fairly wide frequency range, it’s hard to know how effective any ANC is with the specific dog(s) you’re hoping to block out.
You’re better off looking for very good passive sound isolation, like good-fitting closed-back headphones or really snug earbuds without vents. Look into something like the Audio-Technica ATH-M50xBT2 or Shure AONIC Free.
We recommend the Bose Sleepbuds: these aren’t designed to play music and are only compatible with the Bose Sleep app. You can use said app to select a number of ambient recordings to help you catch some Z’s. It’s a miniature white noise machine that won’t keep your partner awake.
Both Bose and Sony make great noise canceling earbuds. If you’re already invested in the Bose ecosystem, you may find yourself more at home with Bose’s ANC earbuds. Bose has made a name for itself when it comes to noise cancelation and comfort, be it with its earbud or headphone audio solutions. Sony’s noise canceling earbuds are no slouch, and it has a tight grip on the noise canceling true wireless market.