True wireless earphones as a category have come a long way from the original AirPods, but in terms of features, they tend to lag far behind on or over-ears. However, we’re happy to report that enough companies have brought their A-game to true wireless earphones—and by “A” game I mean active noise cancelling (ANC).
As we have several talented testers digging into the best noise cancelling true wireless earbuds, we’re constantly updating this list to make sure that the best ANC true wireless options on the market appear here.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on April 15, 2021, to include information about the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen).
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 2 are the best around
Sennheiser is regarded as a staple brand amongst audiophiles, and that reputation reigns true with its flagship true wireless earbuds: the MOMENTUM True Wireless 2.
Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 2Full Review
Unsurprisingly, the sound quality of the MOMENTUM True Wireless 2 is great—so long as you’re using the right ear tips to create a good seal. There is a slight emphasis on the lows and mids which caters to more modern songs. The earbuds reproduce bass lines and vocals clearly, without masking higher frequencies. A dip in the highs between 2-7 kHz combats unwanted harmonic resonances, though the attack of guitars and other instruments may sound slightly de-emphasized.
The MOMENTUM True Wireless 2 is $100 more expensive than its predecessor for one main reason: it now features active noise cancelling. It does a good job of quieting long, droning sounds like air conditioner hums, and other ambient noise like cars, trains, and light conversations.
Other features that justify its near-$300 price tag include an IPX4 water-resistant build, USB-C charging case, and voice assistant support. Additional functions can be unlocked by downloading the Sennheiser Smart Control app. It gives you access to firmware updates, software EQ, transparency hearing (passthrough), and tuning presets.
What you should know about noise cancelling true wireless earbuds
If you’re in the market for noise cancelling true wireless earbuds, you need to know a few things about what you’re getting into. True wireless fans probably already know what to expect from their new sets, but if you’re taking the plunge for the first time there are a few things to go over. We don’t want you running into something unexpected, after all.
Battery life isn’t great, so get used to it
Because true wireless earphones can only fit so much battery into a teeny-tiny housing, they’re unsurprisingly terrible at the whole “not needing to recharge” thing. That’s why most true wireless earphones stash a bigger battery in their carrying case to recharge the individual buds when you’re not using them. This way, they appear to have much better battery life than they actually do. If you’re on a long commute, however, you’ll notice that your buds drain faster than they ought to.
Thankfully, battery life tends to last more than the average 4 hours required by most people to get to and from work without a recharge. Well, that would be true if the nature of true wireless earphones didn’t put immense wear on the tiny cells they have.
True wireless earbuds aren’t built for the long haul
Because of the fact that you’re going to be charging and depleting true wireless earphones so many times more than you would a normal set of Bluetooth headphones, you’ll find that they hold their charge less and less over time. Some owners of the original AirPods find that after two years, the buds only seem to hold their juice for about 15 minutes at a time. Obviously, that’s a huge bummer, but don’t let that dissuade you: just be aware that buying true wireless earphones isn’t an investment in the future.
Noise cancelling is all over the place
One constant we’ve found among true wireless earphones with noise cancelling is that the performance of the noise cancelling units in true wireless earbuds probably don’t perform as you’d expect. Active noise cancelling works best against loud, droning sounds that don’t have a lot of changes to them over time. You’ll find that people talking near you still come through, but computer fans, office noise, and engine sounds get muted out.
The difference between having ANC on and off isn't really all that big
Because true wireless earbuds generally don’t have the space to cram in the hardware necessary to cancel out a ton of noise, it’s a miracle they’re able to work at all. Major props to any company that can get an ANC unit working reasonably well in this form factor!
Related: What is isolation?
Active noise cancelling is extremely important to listeners because it not only allows you to listen at a lower volume, but also improves the perceived quality of your music. That said, you may find that the difference between having ANC on and off isn’t really all that big, and in fact, you may want to turn the feature off sometimes to squeak out some extra battery life. While you only get on average 20-40 minutes more, it could help out in a pinch.
If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll want the Apple AirPods Pro
Finally, Apple listened to the cries of the audiophile crowd and created a version of the AirPods that seal the ear canal. Not only is this important for sound quality, but it also enables the feature you’re all here for: noise cancellation. The older AirPods don’t seal the ear canal, which lets in a bunch of outside noise—and also makes active noise cancellation a monumentally difficult task.
Apple AirPods ProFull Review
But now that this tiny little issue is taken care of, Apple’s flagship earphones are actually quite good, albeit expensive as hell. The AirPods Pro offer the latest suite of features supported by Apple’s H1 chip, and they’re a rock-solid set of earphones.
Apple AirPods Pro microphone demo:
On the whole, the noise cancellation of the AirPods Pro is really good, save for the fact that it doesn’t attenuate any one note to a crazy degree. You’ll notice outside noise being reduced in loudness to about half or one-quarter as loud, but not really much beyond that. The Sony WF-1000XM3 on the other hand, will reduce high-pitched sounds to 1/8th or 1/16th their original intensity, so that’s something to consider.
Unlike the Sony model mentioned above, the AirPods Pro’s battery also lasts north of 5 hours, and the Apple earphones also offer a few hidden perks like a constantly running DSP engine that alters the performance of the units to best match your ear. Additionally, you can take a break from blocking out the world to listen in to conversations by pinching one of the stems to activate transparency mode.
iOS 14 added new features to the AirPods and AirPods Pro headsets: Spatial Audio was a highlight (Pro only), which is Apple’s approach to the in-ear surround sound experience. Spatial Audio on the AirPods Pro makes it feel as if you’re at a live concert or in the middle of a war zone, depending on the content you’re playing. Another new feature is automatic device switching, which lets you effortlessly move from one Apple device to another.
With all the new features coming to the AirPods Pro, it seems that Apple is going to great lengths in securing its title as the king of convenience when it comes to earbuds.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 are the best noise cancelling true wireless earbuds for most people
All else being equal, if you want a solid pair of do-it-all true wireless earbuds, you want to buy the Sony WF-1000XM3. While the Apple AirPods Pro are comparable to these earbuds, Sony’s ANC blocks out a greater volume of noise, and the earbuds reproduce more accurate audio. The only real downside is the battery life, which the AirPods Pro defeat the Sony WF-1000XM3 handily at.
Sony WF-1000XM3Full Review
True wireless earbuds tend not to do such a great job at attenuating outside noise because they simply can’t devote a lot of power to the task. Those batteries are tiny, and they struggle to power each earbud on a good day. Throwing ANC into the mix is downright cruel to those.
Sony WF-1000XM3 microphone demo:
Noise cancellation is pretty good with the Sony WF-1000XM3, but it weirdly doesn’t attenuate much noise at the 1kHz mark. That’s really okay, though, as the more important part of the audible range of sounds comes below that, from 100-900Hz. This range has most of the music notes you know and love, as well as most basic speech sounds. You can see that it all but mutes high-frequency noise, as well as offer some low-end attenuation. While it’s not as good as their bigger, over-ear brother the WH-1000XM4: it’s still respectable for a set of true wireless earbuds.
Additionally, the Sony WF-1000XM3 offers a lot of features like voice assistant integration, custom equalization through Sony’s headphone app, and USB-C charging.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds are very comfortable
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro drop the bean-shaped build of the Galaxy Buds Live, and return to a more traditional earphone design. These earbuds actually seal to the ear, with the help of silicone ear tips. These are Samsung’s most durable Galaxy Buds yet: they feature an IPX7 rating, which means they withstand a drop in the pool. While they’re cheaper than much of the competition, the Galaxy Buds Pro compare favorably to the Sony W-1000XM3.
Samsung Galaxy Buds ProFull Review
Battery life is fine, but it’s nowhere near the best, which is disappointing considering how the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus supply some of the best standalone battery life of any true wireless headsets. The Galaxy Buds Pro last 4 hours, 48 minutes on a single charge with ANC enabled, and the USB-C wireless case provides an additional 13 hours of battery reserve.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro microphone demo:
Samsung lets you toggle between two ANC modes, low and high. The high setting effectively blocks out upper-bass and low-midrange frequencies, which is where you’ll hear sounds like a refrigerator whirr or the hum of an old A/C unit.
Sound quality very good when you listen from a Samsung Galaxy device, thanks to support for the Samsung Scalable Codec. Sub-bass notes are amplified and sound almost twice as loud as midrange frequencies, which is par for the course when it comes to consumer headsets. Treble notes are amplified, too, which makes it easier to perceive detail from your favorite tunes, though it may be unpleasant during certain tracks like Modulogeek’s song One Day We’ll be Okay.
The Jabra Elite 85t provides the best bang for your buck
Jabra’s latest true wireless earbuds aren’t the cheapest on the market, however it packs some high-end features for less than $230.
Jabra Elite 85tFull Review
The Jabra Elite 85t boasts very good active noise cancelling that effectively attenuates ambient noise like whirring fans, refrigerator hums, and even light conversation. These buds also feature HearThrough, which allows you to hear your surroundings without having to take off the earbuds.
These true wireless earbuds boast a consumer-friendly frequency response, with added emphasis in the low-end that helps kick drums and bass lines cut through a mix. If you’re not a fan of this EDM-oriented sound profile, you can make adjustments via the equalizer in the Jabra Sound+ app.
Besides active noise cancellation and good sound quality, the Jabra Elite 85t comes with a slew of other features, including IPX4 water resistance, Bluetooth 5.1 support, USB-C wired and wireless charging, and fast charging.
Best noise cancelling true wireless earbuds: notable mentions
Of course, this list doesn’t have all the ANC true wireless earphones represented. While we don’t recommend all of them, there are a few that might be worth a look at if your needs aren’t met by what we’ve discussed.
- Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen): Amazon unveils its active noise cancelling technology with its second-generation true wireless earphones. You get a USB-C charging case and, like Apple’s pricing strategy, can pay an extra fee for a wireless charging case. If you’re a smart home fanatic with an array of Internet of Things products, these seem like a promising pair of affordable earbuds.
- Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: If you want stellar noise cancelling, a comfortable fit, and great sound quality, look no further than Bose’s earphones. Unfortunately, the QuietComfort Earbuds cost much more than the competition, and the sound can’t yet be equalized in the Bose Music app.
- Edifier TWS NB: The most affordable ANC true wireless earphones on this list, they look cool—but noise cancellation is just okay.
- Huawei Freebuds 3: These were a notable debut at this year’s IFA Berlin, but the uncertainty surrounding the US market and Huawei means Americans may not be able to buy this one.
- Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus: These earbuds prioritize function over form, offering excellent sound quality, impressive battery life, decent noise cancelling, and an IPX5 water-resistant build. If money is no object to you, these near-$300 true wireless earbuds are worth considering.
- Panasonic RZ-S500W: Panasonic uses hybrid ANC in its mid-tier noise cancelling earphones, and it works very well. If you want a great pair of affordable earbuds, that are durable too, get these.
- Razer True Wireless Hammerhead Pro: For under $199, Razer’s new true wireless earbuds offer decent active noise cancellation and good sound quality—all wrapped in an IPX4 water-resistant build. It also features a low latency game mode, which may entice mobile gamers and video streamers.
- Sol Republic Amps Air Plus: These retail for $200 and boast great noise cancelling for the price. They also double as a pair of workout earbuds, thanks to the IPX4 rating.
- Sony WF-SP700N: This is an older ANC option, but no less worthy of your attention. It falls behind the pack in battery life, but it also offers a good middle-ground in terms of price.
- 1MORE True Wireless ANC: If you’re trying to stick to a budget below $200 and want a great feature set with very good noise cancellation, look no further than what 1More has to offer.
This is a pretty thin category as of publishing, but we imagine this will be different once the end of the year rolls around. True wireless is still maturing as a category, even though it’s been around for a couple of years now. Check back, as we keep this article updated as new models get tested in our labs.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Sadly, no. In order to update the firmware of your AirPods Pro, you'll need to connect it to a compatible iOS device—an important limitation to consider when buying these earbuds. If you're looking for earbuds outside of Apple's ecosystem, check out our list of the best AirPods Pro alternatives.