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Best noise canceling wireless earbuds

Want true wireless and noise canceling? You've come to the right place.
By

Published onMarch 14, 2024

The Best
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4
MSRP: $299.95
8.5
Check price
Positives
IP54
Auracast and LE Audio support
Sound quality
ANC performance
aptX Lossless
Wireless charging
Negatives
Mic performance is sub-par
Price
The Bottom Line.
Sennheiser is known for its high-end audio options and the MOMENTUM True Wireless 4 slots nicely among them. Though they're not the best at any one thing, the earbuds are a solid contender in the world of ANC earbuds.Read full review...
Best for iPhone
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
MSRP: $249.00
7.6
Check price
Positives
Effective ANC
Great sound quality - Lossless Audio
Great auto-wear detection
Water-resistant buds and case
USB-C charging
Good fit with four ear tip options
Negatives
Many Apple-exclusive features
No way to customize the EQ without third-party app
Second best noise canceling
Sony WF-1000XM5
MSRP: $299.99
8.3
Check price
Positives
Excellent ANC and Isolation
Comfortable
SBC, AAC, and LDAC support
Great app support
Great battery life
Negatives
Price
Default sound too bassy
Best features
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
MSRP: $299.00
7.7
Check price
Positives
Fit
Comfort
ANC
Battery life
Negatives
App
Price
Too bassy
Bang for your buck
Anker Soundcore Space A40
MSRP: $99.99
7.9
Check price
Positives
Noise canceling
Sound quality
Tons of EQ options
IPX4 water resistance
Bluetooth Multipoint
Bluetooth 5.2 with LDAC support
Negatives
Hinges on case are not secure
Microphone is just okay

True wireless earbuds have come a long way from the original AirPods, but in terms of features, they tend to lag behind on- or over-ear headphones. However, we’re happy to report that enough companies have brought their A-game to wireless earphones—and by “A” game, we mean active noise canceling (ANC). Currently, when it comes to the best noise canceling wireless earbuds, the conversation ends up a three-way fight between the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 4, the Sony WF-1000XM5, and the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds. Still, there are a few other options worthy of consideration if you have more or less cash to burn.

What's new?

The Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 4 edges out the competition

A photo of the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 4 on a wooden table, outside of their charging case.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 4 is definitely made for fashion-forward folks.

The Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 4 enters a crowded market of active noise canceling (ANC) earbuds and prove themselves instantly. Priced at $299.95, these earbuds boast a range of features, including an IP54 rating for dust and water resistance, support for Auracast and LE Audio, aptX Lossless for superior audio fidelity, wireless charging, and notably, an ANC performance that stands out in its category.

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In usage, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 4 offers a premium experience with their stylish design, a variety of ear tip sizes and concha fins for a secure fit, and intuitive touch controls customizable via the Sennheiser Smart Control app. This app further enhances the user experience by offering features such as a fit test for optimal ANC effectiveness, a 5-band equalizer, and firmware updates. The earbuds’ ANC capabilities are commendable, providing an average noise attenuation of 83%, which, when combined with the passive isolation from a good seal, results in a significant reduction of external noise. This makes them an excellent choice for environments like air travel or busy commutes, where effective noise cancelation is crucial.

The chart below shows how the sound of the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 4 was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD Acoustics.

This chart shows the MDAQS results for the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 in AptX Default mode. The Timbre score is 4.9, The Distortion score is 4.2, the Immersiveness score is 4.4, and the Overall Score is 4.8).
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 sounds excellent right out of the box, with an extremely high Timbre score, and high Immersiveness.

Sound quality is another highlight, with the earbuds delivering an excellent audio experience right out of the box. Despite these strengths, the earbuds are not without their drawbacks, particularly the sub-par microphone performance and the high price tag, which may deter some potential buyers. Still, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 4 are well-suited for those willing to invest in high-end earbuds that offer robust noise cancelation, exceptional sound quality, and a suite of future-proof features.

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4
SoundGuys Editors Choice
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4
IP54 • Auracast and LE Audio support • Sound quality
MSRP: $299.95

For iPhone users, the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd gen) is the best noise canceling option

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) resting on a dark wood tabletop with the lid open and buds on display surrounded by phones.
The new USB-C charging port and improved dust resistance make the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) better than ever.

Apple updated its iconic AirPods Pro line with the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen), with even better noise canceling 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.

Apple recently refreshed the AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) with a new USB-C case, replacing the Lightning port, making them compatible with a wider range of charging cables. They also improved the dust resistance, going from IPX4 to IP54, making them even more workout-friendly. You can also more easily find your lost earbuds with the new H2 chip and speaker in the case, which makes a sound to help you locate it when you’ve lost it.

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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 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 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 match your ear best. 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.

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
Impressive ANC • Comfortable fit • Wireless charging
MSRP: $249.00
One of the best true wireless earbuds for iOS users.
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) modestly improve upon the first-generation AirPods Pro and feature the same iconic look. Apple's upgraded H2 chip begets better noise canceling and battery life, while the case's U1 chip and integrated speaker let you precisely locate the case. If you own an iPhone, the AirPods Pro 2 are an obvious choice.

The Sony WF-1000XM5 is a top choice for Android and iOS

Close up of a man wearing the left earbud of the Sony WF-1000XM5
Harley Maranan / SoundGuys
The Sony WF-1000XM5 excels in blocking out sounds around you.

All else being equal, if you want a solid pair of do-it-all wireless earbuds, you want to buy the Sony WF-1000XM5. Sony made several improvements to its noise canceling technology, and these earphones reign as king 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 5.3 improves efficiency. You get the best of both worlds here: over 8-hours of 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.

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Sony equipped the WF-1000XM5 with two new processors: the Integrated Processor V2 and the HD Noise Canceling Processor QN2e to improve ANC performance. In combination, these allow the earbuds to process the signals from the six microphones (three on each bud). New dual feedback mics on the WF-1000XM5 are used to better monitor noise in the low frequencies.

The improved foam ear tips are more flexible and do a great job of blocking out noise, providing better isolation than those supplied with the WF-1000XM4, reducing noise by up to 15dB in the low end and up to 50dB for sounds above 1kHz. That’s comparable to good earplugs.

These Sony earbuds may be expensive, but they do everything very well. If you have the money, you won’t be disappointed picking up these premium noise canceling wireless earbuds.

Sony WF-1000XM5Sony WF-1000XM5
SoundGuys Editors Choice
Sony WF-1000XM5
Great ANC • Improved sound quality • Comfortable fit with four ear tip options
MSRP: $299.99
The Sony WF-1000XM5 have even better noise canceling than the WF-1000XM4. Sony made these its most comfortable earbuds by shrinking them and including XS-L memory foam ear tips. The WF-1000XM5 support advanced features like multipoint connectivity and spatial audio with head tracking. You also get plenty of customization options through the free mobile app.

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds bring next-level features

The capacitive touchpads of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are the main control interface.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The capacitive touchpads of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds allow you to control your earphones without worrying about a compromised seal.

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds stand out in the realm of wireless earbuds, particularly for their superior Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) capabilities and unique design features. These earbuds excel in reducing external noise, especially effective under 400Hz, where they can diminish noise by up to 34dB, making them ideal for noisy environments or travel. Above 1kHz, they achieve up to 39dB noise reduction, which is quite impressive. Their ovoid-shaped nozzle, a departure from traditional cylindrical designs, not only ensures a more secure and comfortable fit but also enhances passive noise isolation. This shape aligns better with the natural form of the ear canal, offering both comfort and improved sound isolation.

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In terms of exclusive features, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds boast Snapdragon Sound with aptX Lossless support, a standout addition that promises high-resolution audio and low-latency listening. This is particularly beneficial for Android users, as it ensures compatibility with the latest technology in sound quality and connectivity. However, it’s worth noting that these earbuds may not be the best choice for those seeking a neutral frequency response or spatial audio, as they tend to emphasize bass and treble.

Despite their higher price point and slightly bass-heavy sound profile, these earbuds are a robust choice for those prioritizing top-tier noise cancelation and unique fitting features. The earbuds’ design and ANC technology make them a strong contender in the high-end earbud market, particularly for Android users looking to leverage the latest audio technology advancements.

Bose QuietComfort Ultra EarbudsBose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
Excellent sound quality • Immersive audio • Customizable fit
MSRP: $299.00
Next-level ANC and comfort from Bose
Designed for maximum comfort and the ultimate in ANC from a wireless earbud, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds offer enhanced spatialized audio, solid battery life, and multiple configurations to ensure a solid fit.

The best bang for your buck is the Anker Soundcore Space A40

The Anker Soundcore Space A40's case open with the earbuds inside, resting on a person's hand.
Sam Smart / SoundGuys
For less than $100, the Anker Soundcore Space A40 is a great purchase.

The Anker Soundcore Space A40 delivers excellent ANC without hurting your wallet. Not everyone has the dough to buy the flagships that pop up on so many lists, and Anker cleverly undercuts the prices of premium earbuds. The Soundcore Space A40 does not skimp on what’s important: good sound, excellent (at any price) noise cancelation, and connectivity. The ANC concentrates mainly on low-pitch noise. For example, at 100Hz, the Soundcore Space A40 filters up to 40dB of noise.

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Out of the box, the earbuds sound fairly subdued, without any substantial exaggerations. However, the accompanying app has a large selection of EQ options to suit most people’s liking too. That the Anker Soundcore Space A40 utilizes Bluetooth 5.2 with LDAC, AAC, and SBC codecs is a boon for Android and Apple users alike, as is the Bluetooth multipoint feature included.

Covering most people’s case uses, the buds are certified with an IPX4 rating. Finally, the battery life reaches 7 hours and 55 minutes, according to our tests, which ought to get you through most work shifts. The only real qualm is that the charging case has somewhat unreliable hinges, requiring some extra attention.

Anker Soundcore Space A40Anker Soundcore Space A40
SG recommended
Anker Soundcore Space A40
Solid battery life • Bluetooth multipoint • ANC
MSRP: $99.99
Effective ANC and lot of EQ customization options
The Anker Soundcore Space A40 true wireless earbuds have great sound and noise canceling. They support Bluetooth multipoint and LDAC connection.

If you have the money, get the Master & Dynamic MW09

Master & Dynamic MW09 earbuds in their charging case.
Austin Kwok / SoundGuys
The Master & Dynamic MW09 have Bluetooth 5.4 with aptX Lossless.

If you have the means to spend this much money on earbuds, you won’t regret buying the Master & Dynamic MW09. In addition to a luxurious design, the MW09 has the performance and features to support its high price tag. You get great noise canceling, the latest Bluetooth technology, and the best battery life of any earbuds we’ve tested.

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The Master & Dynamic MW09 includes many options for adjusting environmental noise. There are three different ANC modes: Max ANC, All-day ANC, and Adaptive ANC. Combining Max ANC with the foam ear tips reduces the loudness of most environmental noise by about 90%. Adaptive ANC actively adjusts the strength of the noise canceling depending on how loud your environment is, while All-day ANC keeps the ANC on a lower attenuation level.

Master & Dynamic MW09Master & Dynamic MW09
SoundGuys Editors Choice
Master & Dynamic MW09
High-quality design and build • Bluetooth 5.4 • ANC
MSRP: $349.00
Premium wireless earbuds available in a luxurious aluminum or kevlar design.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro are great for Samsung users

On a tropical themed outdoor blanket the open case of the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro rests with the lid open.
The buds are prominent and bulb-shaped, making it easier to grasp them and perform touch commands.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro has some of the best noise canceling we’ve tested. If you want a pocketable pair of ANC earbuds, this is your best bet. The sound quality is also very good and requires little tinkering. 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.

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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 previous Samsung 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 not its strength. The earphones last 4 hours and 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. Still, we highly recommend the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro for its excellent ANC, comfort, and features.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ProSamsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
Comfortable fit • Enhanced noise-cancelling technology • Satisfying battery life
MSRP: $229.99
Samsung's reliable earbuds upgraded
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro earbuds provide great sound and feature active noise canceling. They meld a great fit and comfort with a vast range of ear tips. Efficient ANC and five hours of battery life sweeten the deal.

The mic you get in the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro works 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?

8611 votes

Get the Google Pixel Buds Pro for smart features and good ANC

The Google Pixel Buds Pro and Sony WF-1000XM5 right next to each other.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The Pixel Buds Pro are much more affordable than the WF-1000XM5.

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 canceling, wireless charging, better battery life, and multipoint connectivity. The noise canceling 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 canceling isn’t as good as the Sony WF-1000XM4 or Bose QC Earbuds ANC, but few headsets are.

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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. If you have a Pixel phone, you can access spatial audio with head tracking, which is a recent addition via an update.

Google Pixel Buds ProGoogle Pixel Buds Pro
Google Pixel Buds Pro
Active noise-cancelling • Android integration • Google Assistant features
MSRP: $199.00
The Pixel Buds Pro introduce ANC to the series
The Google Pixel Buds Pro are the first in the line to offer active noise canceling. Obviously, they also have tight integration with Android and tons of support for Google Assistant commands, including the popular translation features.

The best noise canceling wireless earbuds: Notable mentions

The Edifier TWS1 Pro 2 Earbuds in their charging case with the lid open.
Austin Kwok / SoundGuys
The Edifier TWS1 Pro 2 performs well enough, given its low price tag.
  • Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro ($99.99 at Amazon): Anker packs plenty of features into this compact package. Adjustable EQ and ANC, alongside a multitude of ear tips and ear wings, provide a truly customizable fit.
  • Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC ($99.99 at Amazon): With an IPX4 rating, long battery life, and good ANC, these are worth a go.
  • Beats Studio Buds ($99 at Amazon): 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.
  • Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II ($249 at Amazon): These have has great active noise canceling (ANC) and some fascinating features but are primarily for those who an affinity for Bose.
  • Bose QuietComfort Earbuds ($169 at Amazon): These are a great do-it-all option for anyone and are cheaper nowadays. You can choose the degree of noise canceling and enjoy features like automatic ear detection.
  • Edifier TWS1 Pro 2 ($49.99 at Amazon): It’s rare to see active noise canceling (ANC) in $50 earbuds. It is exceptionally rare to see ANC in budget earbuds that actually perform well., The Edifier TWS1 Pro 2 earbuds hold their own against popular earbuds that cost four to five times as much money.
  • Nothing Ear 2 ($149 at Amazon): There’s plenty to say about Nothing and its second installment of wireless earbuds. Directly competing against the AirPods Pro and other powerhouse products, the Ear 2 brings ANC, an IP54 rating, wireless charging, and a comfortable fit.
  • Grell Audio TWS 1 ($216.81 at Amazon): 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. It supports the unusual combo of SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive, and LHDC codecs. You get a solid set of ANC earbuds with a beautiful design for a reasonable price.
  • HONOR Earbuds 2 Lite ($74.98 at Honor): While the touch controls could be better and there’s a wonky app situation for North Americans, these buds offer a lot for the price. You get decent ANC and a good frequency response with that AirPods Pro-inspired aesthetic available to Android users.
  • HyperX Cirro Buds Pro ($79 at Amazon): These earphones are excellent gaming earbuds with a decent mic, good sound quality, and better-than-average ANC for less than $80.
  • Jabra Elite 7 Pro ($199 at Amazon): 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.
  • Jaybird Vista 2 ($117 at Amazon): Jaybird adds noise canceling to its beloved Vista wireless earbuds and manages to make the whole package even more durable, from the earbuds to the case.
  • Logitech G Fits ($229 at Amazon): While not a noise canceling product, it uses a custom-molded tip to form directly to your ear to achieve very good isolation. For anyone who doesn’t like the sensation of ANC, this might be a viable alternative.
  • OnePlus Buds Z2 ($99 at Amazon): If you don’t mind the default sound, these IP55 earbuds have good noise canceling and auto play/pause functionality, you’ll find plenty to like about this headset.
  • Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ($99 at Amazon): The Buds 2 earphones are a great pick for Samsung phone owners who don’t want to spend on the Buds 2 Pro from Samsung. You get very good ANC from these earphones and many of the same features as the latest flagship but for much less.
  • Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless ($89 at Amazon): These earbuds build upon the success of the previous CX True Wireless, and this time around, Sennheiser includes noise canceling, which performs rather well on these nice sounding earbuds.
  • Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3 ($149.95 at Amazon): The predecessor to Sennheiser’s latest flagship earbuds proved that you can pack great sound and active noise canceling (ANC) into a sturdy built set of earbuds, and can now be found for a lower price.
  • Skullcandy Rail ANC ($79.99 at Amazon): For under $100, the combined ANC and isolation on the Rail ANC does the job reasonably well. The isolation blocks high-pitched environmental sounds.
  • Sony LinkBuds S ($148 at Amazon): This pair of earbuds has ANC that rivals the WF-1000XM4 from Sony. If you don’t mind the plain design and average battery life, this hits a nice sweet spot.
  • Tozo NC2 ( $39 at Amazon): If you really need the best ANC possible for the least money out of your pocket, this product is it. The sound is a little odd, but for only $40, that’s hard to complain about.

What you should know about the best noise canceling wireless earbuds

Money surrounded by wireless audio products like the Bose SoundLink Micro speaker, Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, 1More Colorbuds, Jabra Elite 45h, JBL True Wireless Flash X, and Shure AONIC 50.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
Audio products can be pretty expensive, and good noise canceling earbuds typically cost at least $150.

If you’re in the market for noise canceling 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 canceling wireless earbuds sound?

Noise canceling 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.

Grell Audio TWS 1 frequency response chart
Closely following our ideal frequency response for consumer headphones, the Grell Audio TWS 1 sounds great.

In the chart above, you can see an example of a pretty standard frequency response from the Grell Audio TWS 1 noise canceling 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 canceling earbuds actually good?

Yes, noise canceling 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 canceling 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.

Jabra Elite 7 Pro in open charging case outside
The Jabra Elite 7 Pro’s ANC is inconsistent but still better than no ANC at all.

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 canceling 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.

Battery life isn’t great, even on the best noise canceling wireless earbuds, so get used to it

A hand inserts the Mobvoi Earbuds Gesture case into a breast pocket.
Wireless earphones rely on their carrying case to charge when you’re not using them.

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?

956 votes

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.

Noise canceling earbuds are not hearing protection

Loop Experience Plus earplug in the ear of a B&K5128 test head.
SoundGuys and testing fixtures agree: AirPods are not hearing protection.

Though the products may cancel noise, earbuds with ANC are not hearing protection and should not be counted on for this purpose. If you want something to protect you from the din of a concert or commute, you need something that’s actually meant for the job. You need hearing protection.

Why you should trust SoundGuys

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 and take our integrity very seriously. Our singular mission is to lay the facts bare as they are, and we have the expertise, drive, and ethics to do it. At the end of the day, we want you to find what you’re looking for and enjoy it enough to keep it.

We don’t do paid reviews. We go out of our way to make sure that our reviews and lists are backed up by objective testing wherever possible so that you don’t have to take our word for anything—you can examine the facts for yourself if you want.


Frequently asked questions

No, generally, noise canceling earbuds are not as good at blocking out noise as noise canceling headphones. Headphones generally have better passive isolation, which yields more effective active noise canceling. 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 canceling. 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.

No. Lossless audio is not a thing with Bluetooth. However, you may find that you don’t actually experience much benefit from it while you’re commuting or are in other high-noise environments, so it’s not a big concern.

Yes, if you often find yourself in noisy environments (e.g., commuting, traveling, or working in a bustling office) and value clarity in audio or peace in silence, noise canceling earbuds can significantly enhance your listening experience.

Active noise cancelation (ANC) is generally the most effective noise canceling technology for earbuds. It uses microphones to pick up external sounds and produces opposite sound waves to cancel them out.

Yes, in the sense that they can allow you to listen to content at lower volumes since background noise is reduced. This can potentially reduce the risk of hearing damage caused by prolonged exposure to loud sounds. However, like any earbuds, they should be used at safe volumes and not for excessively long periods.

  • Cost: They tend to be more expensive than their non-noise-canceling counterparts.
  • Battery Dependency: Active noise cancelation requires power, so there’s a need to charge or replace batteries.
  • Possible Pressure Sensation: Some users report a sensation of pressure or “ear suck” with certain noise canceling headphones.

Prolonged use of any headphones or earbuds can lead to ear fatigue or even contribute to hearing loss if played too loudly. Noise canceling feature per se isn’t harmful, but it’s recommended to take regular breaks to give your ears a rest and ensure you’re listening at safe volumes. Also, being overly isolated can be unsafe in certain situations, like walking near traffic.

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.

The frequency response comparison chart for the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and the QuietComfort Earbuds II, which shows that the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II is much bassier than the AirPods Pro.
That bass boost on the QuietComfort Earbuds II is just a little too much for our liking.

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).

Firstly, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is discontinued. Otherwise, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 is a very good set of noise canceling 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 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.