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 of the best noise cancelling true wireless earbuds was updated on August 6, 2020, to address the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 are the best noise cancelling true wireless earbuds for most people
All else being equal, if you want the best noise cancelling true wireless earbuds, you want to buy the Sony WF-1000XM3. While the Apple AirPods Pro are a very close second, Sony’s buds block out a greater volume of noise, as well as offering better sound performance. 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-1000XM3: 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. Currently it’s the best true wireless option on the market, but there’s a bunch out there hot on its heels.
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 aren’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!
Active noise cancelling is extremely important to listeners because it not only allows you to listen at a lower volume, but it 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 1/2 or 1/4th 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.
Related: Best AirPods Pro accessories
With the upcoming release of iOS 14 later this fall, the AirPods Pro are slated to receive some upgrades. Spatial Audio will be the highlight addition to the earbuds, which is Apple’s approach to the in-ear surround sound experience. Using existing technologies built into both the AirPods Pro and your iOS device, this feature promises accurate spatial reproduction, making 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 feature coming to the AirPods Pro is automatic device switching, allowing you to effortlessly move from one Apple to another. With all the new features coming to the AirPods Pro, it seems that Apple is going to great lengths in securing their title as the king of convenience when it comes to earbuds.
The upgrade pick for audiophiles is the Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus
Of course, you may not really care about all the bells and whistles, and just want raw sound quality. If that’s the case, the Master & Dynamic offer something very special in their MW07 Plus. Of the models listed here, it has the most audiophile-friendly performance, with a very gentle hand in guiding which notes are emphasized over others.
Master & Dynamic MW07 PlusFull Review
The only reason we didn’t afford this model the top spot is because its noise cancelling performance is slightly behind the AirPods and WF-1000XM3, and they cost about $50 more. However, they’re no slouch when it comes to the ANC—they’re just competing with a couple other models that also perform very well.
The Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus also has a number of lighter perks, like offering the best IP rating of this group (IPX5), and it also has by far the best battery life of any noise cancelling true wireless earphones. Will you notice the 9 hour battery life over the Sony’s just-shy-of 5 hour life? Probably not, if you’re a commuter or gym rat. You’d really only notice the difference if you plan on listening for more than 5 hours in a single go—which can happen, just not that often. Most people stuff their true wireless earbuds into the charging case after a couple hours, and that recharges them pretty quickly anyway.
Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus microphone demo:
The Panasonic RZ-S500W is a great mid-range pick
Panasonic’s RZ-S500W true wireless earbuds doesn’t disappoint: these earphones use hybrid feedforward and feedback noise cancelling for extremely effective attenuation. Upper-bass and midrange frequencies sound ¼ to ⅙ as loud as they sound without the earbuds in.
Panasonic Technics RZ-S500WFull Review
It’s not all about the noise cancelling performance with these buds, though: Panasonic created a unique earbud exterior with a matte black finish. This sophisticated aesthetic looks great, and happens to be durable as proven by the IPX4 rating. The charging case feels a bit tenuous at the hinge, but that’s the weakest part of the entire package.
Panasonic RZ-S500W microphone demo:
Microphone quality is stellar for an embedded system; however, be aware that background noise is pretty clearly transmitted as you can hear in the voice sample above. Anyone who fields calls while outside should consider something else—perhaps the AirPods Pro. Battery life is also very good, especially considering just how power-hungry ANC technology can be. These earphones lasted 5 hours, 36 minutes on a single charge with noise cancelling on the highest setting.
Despite the lack of aptX support, sound quality doesn’t disappoint either. Sub-bass notes are amplified and sound twice as loud as midrange frequencies, which is par for the course when it comes to consumer headsets. Amplification in the upper midrange frequencies allows for vocal resonances to stand out by making them easier to perceive. This sound signature is sure to please a wide range of users, while tinkerers may still get their fixes by equalizing the sound in the Panasonic app.
You may like: Best aptX headphones
You may want to consider the Mobvoi TicPods if you’re on a budget
Obviously, true wireless earbuds aren’t exactly the cheapest products out there, but you can get some good ones for less than $100. Unfortunately, the only model of noise cancelling true wireless earphones under $100 is the Mobvoi Ticpods Free. While they’re a rock solid set of true wireless earphones: they’re not the greatest at noise attenuation.
Mobvoi Ticpods FreeFull Review
Just be aware that you may have some difficulties with the sleeve fitting, as they tend to come off in your ear more easily than other in-ears. Beyond that though, this is a solid bet for under $100.
What about the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live?
Samsung’s noise cancelling true wireless earphones are different than anything we’ve seen: the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are an open-type earphone with ANC. The two mix like oil and water, or at least they should. Samsung pushed the envelope with these beans, and released something between the standard AirPods and AirPods Pro. Unlike the famed AirPods, the Galaxy Buds Live actually stayed in Lily’s ears during her review period. However, compared to the AirPods Pro, the Galaxy Buds Live has a lot of room for improvement—particularly when it comes to creating a proper seal with your ear.
Listeners who want an open-type fit that stays put should consider these earbuds, but not without weighing the pros and cons of buying them. Noise cancelling performance is fallible and severely limited: these aren’t the best noise cancelling earbuds because Samsung didn’t try to make another standard pair of ANC buds. It already has that in its AKG portfolio. No, instead, Samsung ventured out and tried something new. Only time will tell what the popular consensus is on the earbuds. From Lily’s time with the Galaxy Buds Live, it seems city dwellers will benefit the most. They’ll be able to remain aware of their surroundings while also enjoying their music.
These models didn’t quite take the top spot, but are worthy of your time and money
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 if your needs aren’t met by what we’ve discussed.
- Amazon Echo Buds: Bose noise reduction works effectively to reduce external noise, and you also get hands-free access to Alexa. If you’ree a smart home fanatic with an array of Internet of Things products, these are a great and affordable pair of ‘buds.
- Edifier TWS NB: The most affordable ANC true wireless earphones on this list, they look cool—but noise cancellation is just okay.
- Huawei Freepods 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.
- 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 publish, 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.
Keep an eye out for these models
While we didn’t publicize it well, the SoundGuys team was at CES 2020, and to put it bluntly: a lot of ANC true wireless earphones are coming in the next few months. Some that we’ve got a keen eye on are:
- Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2: these will likely earn a spot on this list once we get them in for review, as they’re similar to the original Momentum True Wireless… but with noise canceling.
- Audio-Technica ATH-ANC300TW: Audio-Technica is another manufacturer famed for their sound, and while these are $249.99, a big battery promises good runtime.
- Klipsch T10: These are largely build around creature comforts, and they’d better damn well have features at $649.
- Klipsch T5 ANC: essentially a carbon-copy of the Klipsch T5 II (but with ANC), these are a rock-solid option, with a fun Zippo-like container.
- Nuheara IQBuds2 : with the added benefit of having an app to tailor the sound to your personal hearing ability, these earphones are pretty standard otherwise. But that $400 pricetag might be a little tough to swallow.
- Panasonic Technics EAH-AZ70W: winners of our sister site Android Authority’s CES 2020 Spotlight award, these $249 true wireless earphones offer dual-hybrid ANC, and a very light earphone weight.
Why you should trust us
Not only is this our day job, but we’ve tested the best of the best out there for as long as “true wireless” has been a thing. But we’re a little different at SoundGuys: we show our work as well. Our singular mission is to lay the facts bare as they are, and we have the expertise, drive, and ethics to do it. We only make money when you find what you’re looking for, and enjoy it enough to keep. We take our integrity very seriously.
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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.