Skip to content

The Best Noise-Canceling Earbuds: Reviewed for 2024

Are you tired of constantly cranking up the volume on your earbuds to drown out background noise? It may be time to invest in a pair of noise canceling earbuds. In recent years, this technology has greatly improved, providing an immersive listening experience free from distractions. Read on to learn how noise canceling works, what to look for when shopping, and our top picks for the best noise canceling earbuds you can buy.

How Noise Canceling Technology Works
Noise canceling headphones use built-in microphones to detect low-frequency sound waves from ambient noise in your environment, like the humming of an airplane engine or the rumble of a train. The headphones then emit an opposite sound wave to counteract this background noise, effectively "canceling" it out so all you hear is your audio content.

There are two types of noise cancellation: active and passive. Passive noise cancellation works by physically blocking out sound waves and is achieved through the design and materials of the earbuds – for example, memory foam tips that create a tight seal in your ear canal to prevent outside noise from leaking in. Active noise cancellation (ANC) is a more advanced technology that uses the microphone/anti-sound wave system described above.

Most high-end noise canceling earbuds today use a combination of passive and active noise cancellation to provide the most effective reduction in ambient noise. The best models can lessen background sounds by up to 40 decibels.

The Benefits of Noise Canceling Earbuds
The most obvious benefit is that your music will sound better and you‘ll be able to listen at lower volumes since you won‘t have to turn it up to overcome background noise. This is better for your hearing health in the long run. Noise canceling is also invaluable for listening in louder environments, whether commuting on public transit, trying to concentrate in a busy office, or flying on an airplane.

Earbuds with transparency mode allow you to let in important ambient sounds, like conversations or announcements, without removing your earbuds – a very convenient feature. And the compact, portable design makes them perfect for travel compared to bulky over-ear headphones.

For those who struggle with distractions while working, studying, or trying to relax, noise canceling earbuds can provide much-needed peace and focus. Students, professionals, and anyone else looking for quiet can benefit from this technology.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing
Noise cancellation ability is the top consideration for most people shopping for ANC earbuds. The best models can achieve a dramatic reduction in ambient noise, but there is some variation between brands. Read reviews and look for earbuds that excel at canceling out a wide range of low and mid frequency sounds.

Sound quality is the next major factor. The whole point is to be able to enjoy your music, podcasts, and calls to the fullest. Look for earbuds with powerful, high-quality drivers, a wide soundstage, deep bass, and clear mids and treble. Adjustable EQ is a nice bonus for tailoring the sound to your preferences.

Since you‘ll be wearing these earbuds for extended periods, comfort is key. There‘s nothing worse than your ears getting sore or fatigued after an hour. Look for lightweight earbuds with multiple ear tip sizes and materials to find the perfect fit. Many newer models use pressure-reducing vents for increased comfort.

Battery life is another important consideration, especially if you‘ll be using your earbuds during long work days, flights, or working out. The best noise canceling earbuds offer 6-10 hours of playback per charge, with extra juice in the charging case. Quick charge features are also very handy when you need to top up in a hurry.

Additional features to look out for include transparency mode, customizable ANC and EQ settings via companion app, touch/voice controls, auto play/pause functionality, and sweat/water resistance for exercise.

And finally there‘s the question of price. While you can find some affordable noise canceling earbuds under $100 these days, the best performing models are still quite pricey, in the $200-$400 range. Deciding your budget ahead of time can help narrow down your options.

The Best Noise Canceling Earbuds You Can Buy

Best Overall: Sony WF-1000XM4
The Sony WF-1000XM4 currently take the crown for the most powerful noise cancellation in any pair of true wireless earbuds. Sony has really perfected their ANC technology and it shows – these block out an incredible amount of ambient noise across all frequencies. But they‘re not just a one-trick pony – the sound quality is also stellar, with textured, well-defined bass, natural mids, and sparkling highs. The fit is comfortable and stable, plus they offer solid 8-hour battery life. The touch controls take some getting used to but overall these are the best noise canceling earbuds on the market.

Best Value: Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro
You no longer need to spend upwards of $200 to get good noise cancellation. The Liberty Air 2 Pro earbuds from Anker offer shockingly competent ANC at a very affordable price point. No, they won‘t outperform top-tier models from Sony and Bose, but for around $100 they do an admirable job of reducing low-frequency noises. The sound is fairly well-balanced and bass-heavy, plus they‘re very comfortable to wear for long periods. 7-hour battery life is solid for the price as well. If you want quality noise canceling on a budget, the Liberty Air 2 Pros are an excellent choice.

Most Comfortable: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Bose has long been a leader in noise canceling technology and their QuietComfort Earbuds are predictably impressive in this regard, nearly matching the Sony WF-1000XM4 in terms of pure ANC performance. But where they really shine is comfort – these are some of the most pleasant earbuds you‘ll ever wear, with soft silicone tips and a lightweight, pressure-reducing design. You can easily wear them for hours without any discomfort. They also sound fantastic and offer helpful touch controls. Battery life is a bit lacking at 6 hours, but otherwise these are hard to beat for all-day comfort.

Best Features: Jabra Elite 85t
If you‘re looking for earbuds that do it all, the Jabra Elite 85t should be at the top of your list. In addition to strong noise cancellation, they feature a transparency mode, fully customizable ANC and sound settings via the Jabra app, auto play/pause functionality, and on-bud volume controls. Audio quality is energetic and engaging, with powerful bass and crisp highs. The semi-open design makes them super comfortable to wear as well. While battery life is only average at 5.5 hours with ANC on, they excel in every other area as the best all-around option.

Best Sound Quality: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
Sennheiser is renowned for their audio prowess and it‘s on full display with the Momentum True Wireless 2. These earbuds deliver sublime sound quality, with deep, textured bass, lush mids, and extraordinary detail and clarity. The noise cancellation is quite effective as well, easily blocking out common distractions. They‘re also very stylish and sturdily built with premium materials. The downside is they only last around 4 hours per charge with ANC on, but if you‘re prioritizing sound above all else, they‘re tough to beat.

What Does the Future Hold?
Active noise cancellation has come a long way in the past 5 years and will only continue to improve as companies invest in research and development. Look for future wireless earbuds to block out even more ambient noise, especially in the difficult middle frequencies.

We‘ll also see improvements in other areas like battery life, with some high-end models already cracking the 10-hour mark. Quick charge technology will become more ubiquitous as well. And as processing chips grow more efficient, we can expect even smaller and lighter earbuds that maintain great ANC and sound quality.

Protecting Your Hearing
While noise canceling earbuds are a great way to enjoy your audio at lower volumes, it‘s still crucial to keep an eye on your listening habits. Experts recommend the 60/60 rule: listen at no more than 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes at a time before giving your ears a break.

And while ANC does a good job at blocking out ambient noise, it is not a replacement for proper hearing protection. If you‘re frequently exposed to noise over 85 decibels, whether at work or attending concerts, be sure to wear earplugs or earmuffs designed for this purpose.

Active noise canceling technology has revolutionized the earbud experience, offering distraction-free listening anywhere you go. If you‘re looking for the absolute best ANC, the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort are tough to top. For the best value, check out the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro. And for the ideal combination of features, the Jabra Elite 85t do it all.

Consider your priorities in terms of noise cancellation strength, sound quality, comfort, and battery life. No matter your budget or feature wish list, there is a pair of noise canceling earbuds out there that will greatly enhance your listening experience. Your ears will thank you!