Thanks to modern audio engineering, you no longer need a bulky pair of over-ear headphones to get top-notch active noise-cancellation (ANC). Well-known companies like Sony, Bose, and even Apple now have true wireless earbuds that can block out distracting noise, allowing you to enjoy smooth jams on your daily commute, morning run, or just about anywhere else. What’s even better is that the best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds do this without compromising sound quality or battery life, and many even pack in some extra useful features like adaptive transparency modes, so you don’t need to worry about missing the important sounds around you.
Noise-cancelling earbuds to drown out the world
The earbuds you want
$220 $280 Save
Sony’s over-the-ear ANC headphones are often lauded as being the best in class, and the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds bring that premium experience into these excellent in-ear machines. What makes them worthy of their price tag? For starters, they have an excellent battery life of 8 hours on the buds with ANC enabled and about 12 hours without ANC. The case, which charges via USB-C or wirelessly with your favorite Qi charger, holds roughly 16 more hours of battery life, so your Sony WF-1000XM4 won’t run out on you if you’re away from an outlet for a while.
- Fantastic sound quality
- Great ANC performance
- Amazing value when on sale
- A tad expensive at full price
No doubt, Sony’s sound profile is a bit more bass-heavy than what Bose (the main competitor to these buds) typically offers; however, the WF-1000XM4s can use Sony’s LDAC codec, which can stream audio at 990 kbps at 24 bit/96 kHz. If you can take advantage of that high-quality stream will largely depend on how or what device you’re using your Sony earbuds with. Still, it’s great to see this on a pair of Bluetooth earbuds for people who are serious about audio quality.
On top of all that, the WF-1000XM4s has some excellent extra features like Sony’s 360 Reality Audio for virtual surround sound and a companion app that lets you adjust EQ to change the sound of the buds to something you love.
The updated WF-1000XM5 earbuds are out now too, with a smaller design and updated audio, so look for our review of them soon.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Top-notch ANC performance
$249 $299 Save
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are the successor to our first QuietComfort Earbuds and are an improvement in every way. If you want the best Bose has to offer, you’ll need to spend $299 to get it. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth it if you have the money, though. These are everything you would expect from a second-generation, and since they still have the Bose name on them, you know they sound delightful, and ANC is top-notch — even a smidgen better than our top pick Sony WF-1000XM4.
- Stellar ANC performance
- Pretty comfortable to wear
- Excellent balanced sound profile
A newer and sleeker design makes the QuietComfort Earbuds II lighter, and they fit in the ear better than their predecessors, making wearing them a more pleasant experience. The charging case still can’t be wirelessly charged, but it holds more battery, about 18 hours in total. Couple that with the 6 hours you’ll get on the buds themselves, and you’re looking at a whole day’s worth of battery in your pocket. Plus, a quick 20-minute charge gives the QuietComfort Earbuds II about 2 hours of listening time.
With the latest version of Bluetooth (5.3) onboard, you will have the best connection possible, and the IPX4 rating means you can take them to the gym and sweat all you want. If the nearly $300 price point isn’t a deterrent for you, then the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II offers that premium experience you’re craving.
Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro
$109 $170 Save
While Anker may not have the same name recognition as other companies on this list, it’s been making quality accessories for years, and its headphones are no joke. We loved a lot about the Anker Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro when we reviewed them because they did so many things right. With excellent ANC, decent call quality, and an app you’ll actually want to use, the Liberty 3 Pros are among the best wireless earbuds you can buy today.
- Excellent price and often on sale
- Supports LDAC
- IPX4 rating
- Battery life could be better
- Charging case is a little bulky
The sound quality of the Liberty 3 Pro will pleasantly surprise most users (unless you’re a real stickler), and the ANC works great. The rumble of a plane engine or the humming of the bus will stop once you pop these in your ears, making them great for commuters. Another surprise is the decent call quality. The microphone is often where companies like to skimp, but if you’re talking on the phone with the Liberty 3 Pro, you shouldn’t run into any major issues.
A few disadvantages: the battery life is pretty mediocre, with only about 5.5 hours on the buds (with ANC on), and they aren’t too much of a looker. They are also a bit big and bulky, especially the charging case. However, they aren’t low on the features of a good pair of earbuds. For instance, the IPX4 water resistance will allow you to get a little sweatier or accidentally get caught in the rain without much worry. And they even support Sony’s LDAC codec, which is a nice touch.
You could do a lot worse for $170, and we’ve noticed that the Anker Liberty 3 Pro tend to go on sale quite often, even for about $100, making them an excellent budget buy.
Google Pixel Buds Pro
Furious fast pairing
Excellent companion to any Android phone
$139 $200 Save
With nice audio, strong ANC, and excellent battery life, the Pixel Buds Pro deliver a premium earbud experience in ways that Google’s past attempts could not. If you are an Android user with $200 to spend on earbuds, these are a great pick.
- Great battery life
- Decent balanced sound
- Supports Google Fast Pair
- Only supports AAC and SBC codecs
- ANC is a little weaker than our top picks
Even though the Pixel Buds Pro are stuck using either SBC or ACC codecs to listen to music, the sound was overall pretty balanced out of the box. The highs and mids are crisp and clear, and the bass is full and bouncy but not overpowering. And if you want, you can adjust the EQ with the Pixel Buds app, so you aren’t stuck with the default sound profile if you don’t like it.
The biggest perk of the Pixel Buds Pro for Android users is Google’s Fast Pair feature, which makes pairing the earbuds to your Android phone a breeze. Just open the Pixel Buds Pro charging case near your phone, tap the notification, and you’re off to the races.
Lastly, the earbuds offer seven hours of battery life with ANC enabled and about 11 hours without — pretty good for a set of earbuds that cost $200. Plus, the charging case holds two extra full charges for the buds, so you’ll get a lot of playtime out of them before you need a power outlet.
Sennheiser Momentum TW 3
Fantastic audio quality
Support the best audio codecs
$175 $280 Save
If you’re looking for the top sound quality in a pair of wireless earbuds, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 should feature in your decision-making. It offers terrific sound, which can be further customized to your liking, thanks to the detailed equalizer settings available. With about 7 hours of battery life on the buds (with ANC enabled) and an additional 21 hours n the case, they will keep your music playing when you need it.
- Terrific sound
- Supports Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive and aptX audio codecs
- Transparency mode isn’t the best
With a decent amount of battery life on the buds (about 7 hours with ANC on) and an extra 21 hours in the charging case, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 are a great companion to carry with you anywhere. You can even wear them to the gym; they will hold up to getting a little sweaty, thanks to their IPX4 rating.
While the ANC performance and sound quality are excellent, the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3’s Transparency Mode is a little lackluster, often making the audio a bit tinny. However, we love the control you get over the sound with the Sennheiser Smart Control app. On top of messing around with the EQ to make it sound just right, it lets you switch up the touch controls to personalize your experience further.
The standout feature of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 is the support for Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive and aptX audio codec, which have superb audio quality and stable low-bit rate connections. There aren’t that many true wireless earbuds that give you this option, but this solves a lot of issues that Bluetooth audio can have using other, more standard codecs.
Jabra Elite 7 Pro
Great for the gym
A durable IP57 rating
$190 $200 Save
If you’re looking for ANC earbuds to primarily use at the gym, the Jabra Elite 7 Pro are well worth a look. Thanks to their IP57 rating, these earbuds aren’t shy of a little water, as they can survive being completely submerged (though you shouldn’t make a habit of doing this). Still, even the most sweat you can muster up during your workout won’t be a problem for the Jabra Elite 7 Pro. Plus, the ANC and transparency modes are pretty good for the price.
The battery life is also quite impressive, offering 8 hours of listening time with ANC activated and another 30 hours in the case. That makes the Elite 7 Pro an excellent pair of earbuds to use around the office because they should last you a whole workday when you need them.
The biggest drawback is their ANC performance; it’s fine but not nearly as good as the Sony or Bose earbuds on this list. However, the Sound+ app gives you a ton of controls over how the headphones sound and act, so you can customize it to your liking. What surprised us the most was the microphones, which were among the best we’ve tried on a set of wireless earbuds. If you make a lot of calls, these could be perfect for you.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro
For Samsung fans
Supports 24-bit audio
$180 $230 Save
If you’re rocking a Samsung phone, we would be remiss not to mention the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, as they are the company’s smallest, lightest, and best earbuds to date. Their biggest standout is 24-bit audio support and how well they pair with Samsung Galaxy phones.
- Pair excellently with Samsung Galaxy Phones
- Support 24-bit audio
- A little pricey at full price
If you’re rocking a Samsung phone, we would be remiss not to mention the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, as they are the company’s smallest, lightest, and best earbuds to date. Their biggest standout is 24-bit audio support. If you use high-quality streaming apps like Tidal, you may appreciate it, but to most people’s ears, the discernable difference between 24-bit audio and the more standard 16-bit audio is negligible.
Still, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro nail all the basics. With decent battery life (5 hours with ANC and 8 hours without), an IPX7 rating to keep them safe from sweat at the gym, and a pleasant full sound profile, they certainly are worth a look. They don’t necessarily stand out regarding ANC and sound quality — they are good but nothing special. Of course, they are explicitly made to work with Samsung Galaxy phones better than anything else, so if you’re all in on Samsung, they are a decent choice.
Apple AirPods Pro 2
Best for Apple users
Stellar transparency mode
$200 $250 Save
Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 are very pricey and only worth it if you’re an Apple user; however, they have some really awesome features if you are heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem. With fast pairing across all Apple devices, great ANC, and an absolutely stellar Transparency Mode, Apple fans won’t want to miss out.
- Sound great
- Have a stellar Transparency Mode
- On the pricey side
- Lots of Apple-specific features
Apple’s virtual surround sound, Spatial Audio, is our favorite implementation of the feature we’ve heard across the various brands that offer it. Plus, the ultra-fast pairing with an iPhone is unmatched, and the seamless switching between your Apple devices is flawlessly executed. The touch controls, which require a little pinch of the earbud steam, work great once you get the hang of them too, and Siri is just a “Hey, Siri” away from completing almost any task you want.
With a stellar Transparency Mode, great ANC, and nearly 6 hours of listening time with ANC enabled, the AirPods Pro 2 are a great pair of buds for any Apple fan.
Source: Beats / Apple
Beats Fit Pro
AirPods Pro Lite
Basically, a cheaper version of AirPods Pro
$160 $200 Save
The Beats Fit Pro nail the fit and feel of unobtrusive earbuds for those on the go. Their prominent wingtips help the buds stay in place while working out or jogging. We wish the carrying case was water-resistant; however, the buds themselves are at least IPX4 “sweatproof.” All in all, the Beat FIt Pro offers most of what the AirPods Pro can give you but at a slightly better price.
- Tons of features on iOS
- Fantastic Transparency Mode
- Doesn’t play as well with Android
- No wireless charging
While the Beats Fit Pro won’t be everyone’s cup of tea — especially since they still only get access to all their fun features on iOS — they offer most of what the AirPods Pro gives at a significantly lower price point. Therefore, they are a great alternative to the AirPods Pro if you’re in the market for new ANC earbuds.
The slightly overturned bass on the earbuds is excellent if you like your earbuds to have a little oomph in the low end — it makes listening to bangers more fun. Plus, the call quality is great, so they are equally good to use in your gym and office.
The sound quality is pretty good for the price, even if it sounded slightly more bassy out of the box than expected. Of course, we don’t expect these under $100 earbuds to sound as great as our top picks, but they certainly won’t spoil your listening experience. Also, you can adjust the EQ with the Soundcore app (which is great, by the way) and turn these buds into something pleasing to most people.
The battery life with ANC on is pretty run-of-the-mill, about 6 hours on the buds, but the buds can get up to 10 hours without ANC enabled, making it a good idea to only switch the ANC on when you need it. In addition, the charging case holds a whopping extra 40 hours of listening time with ANC off, which is an incredible amount of time to carry around in your pocket.
Noise-cancelling headphones vs. earbuds
As great as modern ANC earbuds are, it’s still a fact that over-ear headphones have the advantage simply because they block out more sound by covering your ears entirely instead of just plugging in your ear canals. They also pack in larger drivers that can deliver more nuanced sound, plus many folks find it more comfortable to have something around their ears rather than inside them. However, they tend to be pricier than comparable ANC earbuds and are certainly not as portable.
Are noise-cancelling earbuds worth it?
It’s more than the lower price tag that makes noise-cancelling earbuds a worthwhile investment. Quality ANC that can fit in your pocket is very appealing, and ANC earbuds are hard to beat when it comes to portability. Of course, earbuds also weigh substantially less than even the lightest headphones, and they’re more likely to be sweatproof, which makes them ideal for workouts.
Noise-cancelling earbuds: What’s important
The Sony WF-1000XM4 continue to impress us as best-in-class wireless earbuds. It’s been two years since they were released, and no other earbuds have been able to topple Sony’s off the top of the list. It will likely take Sony’s latest pair of wireless earbuds, the WF-1000XM5, to unseat the XM4.
Their ANC performance, battery life, and sound quality are all phenomenal, considering their size. They also work equally well across Android and iOS platforms and can run for eight solid hours of listening time even with ANC enabled. In the unlikely event that you push that to its limits, popping them into the case for a few minutes will give you another hour of listening time. Naturally, they also pack in support for Sony’s high-resolution LDAC codec, which puts them among the best true wireless earbuds you’ll find if top sound quality is your priority.
These are the earbuds you want
$220 $280 Save
Sony’s over-ear ANC headphones are often lauded as the best in class, and the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds bring that premium experience into these excellent in-ear machines. What makes them worthy of their price tag? For starters, they have an amazing battery life of 8 hours on the buds with ANC enabled and about 12 hours without ANC. The charging case, which charges via USB-C or wirelessly with your favorite Qi charger, holds roughly 16 more hours of battery life, so your Sony WF-1000XM4 won’t run out on you if you’re away from an outlet for a while.