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Best noise cancelling wireless earphones
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 wireless earphones—and by “A” game I mean active noise cancelling (ANC). As we have several talented testers digging into the best noise cancelling wireless earbuds, we’re constantly updating this list to make sure that the best ANC wireless options on the market appear here.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on October 7, 2022, to add the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II to the Bose QC Earbuds section and to update the Notable mentions section.
Why is the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro the best pair of noise cancelling wireless earbuds for most people?
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro has some of the best noise cancelling we’ve tested and undercuts other flagships with its $229 USD price, which isn’t cheap by any means. If you want a pocketable pair of ANC earbuds, this is your best bet. Sound quality is also very good and requires little tinkering. Note: you can’t create a custom EQ in the Galaxy Wearables app (Android only), but you can choose from a handful of EQ presets. Plus, when you pair the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro with a Samsung device running One UI 4.0 or later, you can use Samsung’s Seamless Codec. This way, you can fully enjoy 24-bit audio streamed right to your new Galaxy Buds 2 Pro.
The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro drops the shiny exterior of the Galaxy Buds 2, and features a rubberized matte finish instead. These earbuds seal to the ear with the help of oblong silicone ear tips. Like the Galaxy Buds Pro, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro buds merit an IPX7 rating, which means they withstand a drop in the pool.
Battery life is fine on the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, but it’s nowhere near the best. The earphones last 4 hours, 50 minutes on a single charge with ANC enabled, and the case supports USB-C and wireless charging. Battery life is longer when you disable ANC. This is disappointing considering how the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus supplies some of the best standalone battery life of any wireless headset. Still, we highly recommend the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro for its excellent ANC, comfort, and features.
The mic you get in the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro work well in most situations, and cuts down on a sufficient amount of background noise. However, it isn’t perfect and the person on the other end of a phone call will still hear some of your surroundings. Those with particularly low voices will sound a bit quiet or “tinny” compared to how they sound in real life.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro microphone demo (Office conditions):
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
For iPhone users, the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) is the best noise cancelling option
Apple updated its iconic AirPods Pro line with the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), with even better noise cancelling this time. The AirPods Pro has four ear tip options to ensure a good seal, so you can get the most out of the ANC. The IPX4-rated earbuds also have an IPX4-rated case, making it even more workout friendly. You can also more easily find your lost earbuds with the new U1 chip and speaker in the case, which makes a sound to help you locate it when you’ve lost it.
The ANC can reduce most noises anywhere between 20 to 30dB, depending on the range, which is a massive improvement from the previous generation. For even better ANC in AirPods, we recommend either stepping up to the Apple AirPods Max—which outperforms even the best from Bose, Sennheiser, and Sony.
Unlike the Samsung model mentioned above, the batteries also last north of 5 hours, and the Apple earphones also offer a few hidden perks like a constantly running DSP engine that alters the units’ performance 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.
iPhone owners, if you want the best noise cancelling wireless earbuds, get the AirPods Pro (2nd generation).
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?
The Sony WF-1000XM4 packs in plenty of features that work on Android and iOS
All else being equal, if you want a solid pair of do-it-all wireless earbuds, you want to buy the Sony WF-1000XM4. Sony made huge improvements to its noise cancelling technology, and these earphones reign as kind regarding raw ANC performance.
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, but Bluetooth 5.2 improves power efficiency. You get the best of both worlds here: a near 8-hour battery life and effective ANC. The USB-C case provides two additional charge cycles and can fast charge the earphones. You can also place it atop a Qi wireless charging mat.
The sound quality is fine though there are a few quirks: bass and midrange notes are significantly louder than treble notes. If you want a more accurate frequency response, you may want to equalize the bass and midrange response down a bit to make it easier to hear higher notes. You can do this, again, from the OS-agnostic Sony Headphones Connect app.
These Sony earbuds may be expensive, but they do everything very well. The buds earned an IPX4 rating, so you can bring them to the gym or on your next run. You also get a more compact, attractive design than the previous generation. If you have the money, we highly recommend these luxurious earphones.
Sony supplies a handful of memory foam ear tips, so you can get the best, most comfortable fit. When you download the Sony Headphones Connect app, you can take the ear tip fit test to make sure everything fits properly. This is a must-have for noise cancelling earphones as passive isolation is key to optimal noise cancellation.
The microphones on the WF-1000XM4 are pretty good but won’t mute background noise as you speak. Still, this should be perfectly fine for standard phone calls.
Sony WF-1000XM4 microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Sony WF-1000XM4 microphone demo (Office conditions):
Sony WF-1000XM4 microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
What makes the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) a great value?
Amazon unveils its noise cancelling technology with the Echo Buds (2nd Gen). You get a USB-C charging case and, like Apple’s pricing strategy, can pay an extra fee ($20) for a wireless charging case. If you’re a smart home fanatic with an array of smart products, these seem like a promising pair of affordable earbuds.
Alexa integration is the backbone of the new Echo Buds, and when you download the Alexa app, you get immediate access to a host of features like a custom EQ module, voice assistant preference, and Amazon’s Ear Tip Fit Test. This test tells you if the ear tips create a proper seal to your ear, and instruct you to swap them out for another size if not. Apple offers this feature too but it’s limited to its AirPods Pro and only works with an iOS or iPadOS device, while the Amazon Alexa app is available on Android and iOS.
Active noise cancelling is quite good and outperforms that of the AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3 and AirPods Pro, for nearly half the price. If you want a solid set of wireless earphones with an IPX4 rating and a slew of software features, the Echo Buds are an affordable pick.
In our non-standardized microphone sample below, you can hear that the headset picks up a bit of reverb and some sibilant sounds (-s, -sh). This is acceptable for most phone calls, but the person on the other end will recognize this as a headset mic.
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) microphone demo (Non-standardized):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 sounds great and works on any OS
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 (MTW3) has a great frequency response with bass and mids that closely follow our house curve. You can see this in the last two images of the gallery below. The treble response is slightly under-emphasized compared to our house curve, but this is easy to fix in the Smart Control app’s (iOS/Android) limited EQ module.
The headset uses Bluetooth 5.2 and supports the SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codecs. This means you can enjoy high-quality audio to any source device, and with aptX Adaptive, your music quality will automatically adjust to balance connection stability (Android only).
The active noise cancelling is very good and rivals that of Bose and Sony. Sub-bass and bass frequencies sound up to one-eighth their original loudness when you have the MTW3 earbuds in with noise cancelling on. Sennheiser provides three ear tip sizes to get you started though there’s no fit test here.
There’s nothing too fancy about these earbuds, though they do sport an IPX4 rating which makes them a fine pair of buds for the gym. Commuters will also enjoy this pair of earphones, again for its excellent noise cancellation and passive isolation performance. This is a great all-rounder headset if you can swallow the $249 USD price.
The microphone system is just okay, really. This is a fine option for those taking calls from quiet rooms but if you’re walking down the street or in a loud office, this will transmit a lot of background noise.
Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 microphone demo (Office conditions):
Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 microphone demo (Street conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
When is it better to buy the Beats Fit Pro instead of the AirPods Pro (2nd generation)?
You’ll want to pick up the Beats Studio Buds over the AirPods Pro series if you switch between Android and iOS regularly. The Beats Fit Pro does sport an H1 chip, so Apple users will get some features like Spatial Audio, but the experience on Android isn’t bad by any stretch. Android users get the Beats app, so you can toggle listening modes, do an ear tip fit test, and get firmware updates.
Noise cancelling is pretty good, though not quite as good as the AirPods Pro (2nd generation.) It uses adaptive ANC, so the intensity of the noise cancelling is calibrated in real time. The frequency response is also pretty good, though it does have a boost in the bass range, in typical Beats fashion. It’s not as close to our target curve as the AirPods Pro (2nd generation), but people who like bass will probably like this sound profile.
This pair of earbuds made by Apple works just as well on Android phones as it does on iPhones, making it a good option for people who switch phones often.
Should you buy Bose QuietComfort Earbuds or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II?
As of October 7, 2022, we recommend buying the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds over the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. With the first-gen QC Earbuds, you get great noise cancelling and a better frequency response to boot. Extremely dedicated bassheads will like how the Bose QC Earbuds II sounds out of the box, but everyone else will need to patiently play with an EQ app to make the earbuds sound bearable.
It’s true the low-frequency nosie cancellation is better with the QC Earbuds II compared to the original QC Earbuds, but the first-gen ANC is still great. In fact, we’re willing to be most people will trade slightly less effective ANC for significantly better sound quality.
Bose may update the QC Earbuds II to change the default frequency response, however. At first, you couldn’t equalize the sound from the OS-agnostic Bose Music app, but Bose has since released a software update that lets you equalize the frequency response, so it’s known to improve its products over time.
We like Bose QC Earbuds for its comfortable ear tips and IPX4 rating. The touch controls have a perfect degree of sensitivity which can’t be said of even our favorite ANC earbuds the Galaxy Buds Pro from Samsung, or most of its wireless earbuds, really.
Get the Google Pixel Buds Pro for smart features and good ANC
While the Google Pixel Buds Pro looks very similar to the Google Pixel Buds A-Series, a few key differences separate these earbuds. With the Pixel Buds Pro, you get active noise cancelling, wireless charging, better battery life, and multipoint connectivity. The noise cancelling makes the Pixel Buds Pro a solid set of earbuds for your daily commute, which we can’t quite say for the A-Series. Indeed, the Pixel Buds Pro noise cancelling isn’t as good as the Sony WF-1000XM4 or Bose QC Earbuds ANC, but few headsets are.
Android users will appreciate the Pixel Buds app, sparse as it may be, because it lets you access firmware updates and customize the experience a bit. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t have a native equalizer, so you’re stuck with the bass-heavy sound unless you seek outside help.
Uniquely, the case comes with an IPX2 water resistance rating, and the earbuds have an IPX4 rating. An IPX4 rating is common for earbuds, but few cases have any kind of water resistance. This is a standout feature for those who live in unpredictably rainy climes. The Pixel Buds Pro isn’t a mind-blowing set of earbuds, but it comes in a nice package and works well. Google promises its own spatial audio to come, which isn’t available as of October 2022. Perhaps we’ll see it soon, but for now, 360 audio is one of the features that may draw listeners to the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro over the Google Pixel Buds Pro.
Yes, the Pixel Buds Pro ANC is quite good, especially when it comes to low frequencies. The passive isolation is a bit inconsistent, but this is likely a consequence of the pressure relief vent built into each bud to mitigate that “clogged ear” feeling.
The best noise cancelling wireless earbuds: Notable mentions
- Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro: Anker packs plenty of high-end features into this compact package. Adjustable EQ and ANC alongside a multitude of ear tips and ear wings provide a truly customizable fit.
- Beats Studio Buds: This pair of earbuds made by Apple works just as well on Android phones as it does on iPhones, making it a good option for people who switch phones often. It doesn’t have an H1 chip so you miss out on some special features like battery optimization or hands-free Siri, and the ANC isn’t as good as the AirPods Pro.
- Grell Audio TWS 1: This is the first pair of buds from Grell Audio, a company of former Sennheiser chief headphone engineer Axel Grell. The TWS 1 focuses on sound quality above all else: there’s no fancy packaging or gimmicks. You get a solid set of ANC earbuds with a beautiful design and a reasonable $199 USD price tag.
- HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite: While the touch controls could be better and there’s a wonky app situation for North Americans, these buds offer a lot for under $100. You get decent ANC and a good frequency response, with that AirPods Pro-inspired aesthetic available to Android users.
- Jabra Elite 7 Pro: A tight fit brings a ton of passive isolation to the Jabra Elite 7 Pro. Throw in ANC on top, and these earbuds have no problems blocking out environmental noise.
- Jabra Elite 85t: The sequel to the fan-favorite Elite 75t adds active noise cancellation that can turn down the volume on your surroundings, and just as quickly amplify background noise to keep you safe.
- Jaybird Vista 2: Jaybird adds noise cancelling to its beloved Vista wireless earbuds and manages to make the whole package even more durable, from the earbuds to the case.
- Klipsch T5 II ANC: Klipsh’s earbuds don’t provide the most comfortable fit but if you can get them to comfortably stay in place, you’ll enjoy great passive isolation, a standout charging case, and good ANC.
- Nothing Ear 1: There’s plenty to say about Nothing and its debut wireless earbuds. Directly competing against the AirPods Pro and other powerhouse products, the Ear 1 brings ANC, an IPX4 rating, wireless charging, and a comfortable fit for less than $100 USD. You can’t create custom EQ from the app (iOS/Android), but you probably won’t even want to: these buds sound very good out of the box.
- OnePlus Buds Z2: If you don’t mind giving up an EQ and aptX for IP55 earbuds, good noise cancelling, and auto play/pause functionality, you’ll find plenty to like about this headset.
- Razer True Wireless Hammerhead Pro: For under $199, Razer’s 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.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds 2: The Buds 2 earphones are a great pick for Android phone owners who don’t want to spend $249 USD on the Buds 2 Pro from Samung. You get very good ANC from these earphones, and many of the same features as the latest flagship but for almost half the cost.
- Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless: These earbuds build upon the success of the previous CX True Wireless, and this time around, Sennheiser includes noise cancelling, which handily outperforms the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 2.
- Sony LinkBuds S: This pair of earbuds costs $199 USD and has ANC that rivals the flagship WF-1000XM4 from Sony. If you don’t mind the plain design and average battery life, this hits a nice sweet spot.
- 1MORE ComfoBuds Mini: 1MORE hits it out of the park with this sub-$100 USD set of buds. You get standout ANC, IPX5-rated earphones, and a wireless charging case. When you turn ANC off, you get a sound that closely follows our studio curve, and when ANC is on, there’s a greater boost to the bass and midrange.
What you should know about the best noise cancelling wireless earbuds
If you’re in the market for noise cancelling wireless earbuds, you need to know a few things about what you’re getting into. Wireless earbud 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.
How should the best noise cancelling wireless earbuds sound?
Noise cancelling earbuds shouldn’t necessarily sound a certain way, but you’ll see commonalities between how the most popular headsets sound. Why? A majority of consumers prefer a sound profile with boosted bass and treble relative to the mids. Seeing how all of the earbuds we recommend here are marketed toward the general consumer, you’ll find a similar frequency response among these headsets.
In the chart above, you can see an example of a pretty standard frequency response from the Grell Audio TWS 1 noise cancelling earbuds. This headset very closely follows our target consumer curve, though it boosts sub-bas a bit more than we recommend but it remains tasteful. Perhaps you’re in the minority who really likes bass, or have an aversion to it, in that case, you may need to EQ the sound.
Are noise cancelling earbuds actually good?
Yes, noise cancelling earbuds can be quite good and effective, but one constant we’ve found among ANC wireless earphones is that the ANC performance is inconsistent. 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.
Because 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! Bear in mind, that you also need to get a proper fit with your earbuds in order to get the best isolation. Good isolation yields the best possible ANC because it means there’s a physical barrier between your ear canals and the outside world.
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.
Battery life isn’t great, even on the best noise cancelling wireless earbuds, so get used to it
Because 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 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 four hours required by most people to get to and from work without a recharge. Well, that would be true if the nature of wireless earphones didn’t put immense wear on the tiny cells they have.
Have you noticed battery life degradation with your true wireless earbuds?
Because of the fact that you’re going to be charging and depleting 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 wireless earphones isn’t an investment in the future, just so long as you recycle them when they die.
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Frequently asked questions about the best wireless noise cancelling earbuds
The AirPods Pro (2nd generation) is the better option for you since you own an iPhone than the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. With the AirPods Pro (2nd gen), you can actually disable the ANC and access features like personalized spatial audio. Unlike the Bose QC Earbuds II, the AirPods Pro (2nd gen) case supports wireless charging, but the QC Earbuds II case charges via USB-C (instead of Lightning) which is nice.
Compare how the AirPods Pro (2nd gen) and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II sound, and you’ll find the AirPods Pro 2 comes out on top. As of October 17, 2022, Bose’s earphones wildly boost bass notes. While dedicated bassheads may like this, the masses won’t. At least with Bose’s earbuds, you can create a custom 3-band EQ from the app (something you can’t do with Apple’s AirPods unless you download a third-party app).
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 is a very good set of noise cancelling earbuds; in fact, its ANC edges out the Galaxy Buds Pro. What holds the Galaxy Buds 2 back is that the Buds Pro has a more durable IPX7 rating and has a slightly better frequency response for most listeners.
There’s a less exaggerated difference between lows, mids, and highs through the Buds Pro compared to the Buds Plus. This is important as neither the Galaxy Buds 2 nor the Galaxy Buds Pro has iOS app support, so what you hear is what you get. When you use the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 and Pro on Android, you can at least use the Galaxy Wearable app to choose from a handful of EQ presets to adjust the sound accordingly.
If you want to save $50 USD and feel that an in-app ear tip fit test would help you figure out which ear tips to choose, the Galaxy Buds 2 is a great pair of earbuds. For most listeners, however, the greater durability and better sound quality of the Buds Pro is worth the extra cash.
iOS 14 added new features to the AirPods and AirPods Pro headsets: Spatial Audio was a highlight, 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.
No, generally, noise cancelling earbuds are not as good at blocking out noise as noise cancelling headphones. Headphones generally have better passive isolation which yields more effective active noise cancelling. Headphones are also just bigger and can house more microphones to record and bock out noise through destructive interference.
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.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is better than the Sony WF-1000XM4 with regards to noise cancelling. It’s not by a lot, but the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro cancels out low-end noise better than the WF-1000XM4, giving it a slightly higher score in our testing. For more on how the two compare, check out our article on Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM4 here.