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Best Noise-Cancelling Earbuds

Noise cancelling headphones are excellent for frequent flyers, students, runners, and anyone who wants generic outside noise to be blocked out. Earbuds are particularly great because they are so compact that they can be taken anywhere. Here are some of the best ones.

If you work in an office where noise is a factor, you should highly consider investing in noise cancelling earbuds. They are becoming very popular due to how lightweight and comfortable they feel, and  also how portable they are. You can focus a lot easier on your favorite music, news, or podcasts without having to worry about the noise happening everywhere else around you. 

Students, having a great pair of these headphones means you can focus more on videos about your area of study, and keep out noisy classmates for better concentration. And if you are flying for travel or work, these will keep you sane on an otherwise busy airplane. In this article, we are going to look at some of the best noise cancelling earbuds and what to look for as you shop around.

What can I expect when buying noise cancelling earbuds?

If you want some noise cancellation, you can find a great pair of these headphones for under $50. These will keep some noise out. However, if you really want maximum noise cancelling power, expect to pay a premium price for high quality earbuds. The Bose QuietControl, for example, come in at $299, whereas Audio-Techinica QuietPoints come in at just $37. Each do their job, one just offers more than the other.

The noise cancelling technology works when you place the earbud in your ear cup. Then, a fingerprint of the noise is generated and the earbuds note the frequency and amplitude of that sound wave. After this, it generates new waves of sound that is 180 degrees out of phase with sound waves associated with the ambient noise around you.

The people that benefit most from noise-cancelling earbuds are students, people who love the gym, and people who simply cannot be bothered while they are at work. These are the people who need ultimate concentration and focus, and these earbuds will do that for you. Also, if you just want to relax and rock out-that’s another valid reason to pick up a pair!

The noise cancelling technology works when you place the earbud in your ear cup. Then, a fingerprint of the noise is generated and the earbuds note the frequency and amplitude of that sound wave.

What considerations should be taken into account about noise cancelling?

Wired or Bluetooth: Will you fare better with a corded headphone, or do you prefer the freedom of Bluetooth? Bluetooth does need to be relatively close to work, and the earbuds must always be charged.

Battery Life: Be sure to look at the battery life for each and every earbud you are interested in. While they are all great picks, those of you that need uninterrupted music or radio talk to focus or work out effectively will want an earbud that doesn’t quit. Opt for a long-life battery if you are a heavy user.

Active Noise Cancelling or Not: Some cheap models act as glorified earplugs instead of actually cancelling the noise. Active noise cancelling is when those ambient waves of sound we talked about earlier are reduced. Other headphones are just passive headphones and mostly use soundproofing techniques.

Adaptive Noise Cancelling: This technique makes use of on board microphones to listen to ambient sound and then create a sound that cancels it right away. The second sound created cancels out the first.

Controls: You can choose headphones that feature controls such as volume, and the ability to change the song you are listening to, among other options.

1) Bose QuietControl 30 available for $295 on Amazon

Key features
  • NFC/Bluetooth Pairing feature
  • Microphone for easy call-taking
  • Battery life of 10 hours
  • Great for daily use in the city

Bose is world-renowned for providing the best in sound, and this product is no exception. The technology on board these headphones leaves you in control of the noise level in terms of cancellation. 

This way, you are always free to take calls or listen to music. There is even a handy Bose Connect app you can download that will connect you to your earbuds and other Bose devices, controlling them right there on your device. They are wireless and comfortable, a true diamond among others of its kind-the price reflecting it as it is on the high scale.

Image Source: Amazon

What about the noise-cancelling?

These headphones are pretty good at cancelling noise. The canceling is variable, meaning you get to control the level at which it happens. The amount of noise you want to hear around you is something that you can fine tune-so if you are at work and need to hear what’s happening, you won’t have any trouble with that. The noise-rejecting dual mic system reduces the sounds that surround you. You can knock out even the biggest sounds with these headphones-like an airplane engine, for example. You can also use the Bose App to control the noise instead of fumbling around with your earbuds. 

What's not so good about these headphones?

One thing we did not like about these headphones were the lack of wires you could use to plug into an airline’s on board entertainment system. 

The price was another big deal-most listeners do not have hundreds to spend on headphones. The neckband also required a lot of positioning during testing to get it right, and even after that required a lot of readjusting as they were worn for testing.

Pros:
  • Variable noise-cancelling ability
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Sweat resistant
  • Great sound quality
Cons:
  • Rather pricey
  • Noise canceling not effective as other Bose models
  • No wired option

2) Jabra Elite 65e available for $199 on Amazon

Key features
  • Different-shaped earphones provide a snug fit
  • IP54 rating means protection against light splashes/dust
  • Free companion app
  • Battery life is 8 hours w/noise cancel

Coming in just one color, black, the collar-band styling of the Elite 65e earbuds are designed very well, provide much ease of use, and fit in snugly and comfortably in the ears. The left end of the collar band is where you will find the ANC/HearThrough button, and the MIC button which provides you voice assistance or the ability to mute. 

Three buttons on the right feature one central button that controls playback, pairing, and power, along with two +/- buttons that control the volume. If you tap the central button, you can dial up the last person you talked to on your cell phone. This is an earbud in the high price range.

Image Source: Amazon

What about the noise-cancelling?

This is an earbud that does indeed offer superior noise cancelling capabilities. It is an ANC (active noise cancelling) earbud. Jabra really gives Bose some competition when it comes to these earbuds, offering them for less and giving users strong cancellation of outside noise. 

They do not necessarily outperform the Bose QuietControl 30s. However, they do offer a better price and good performance. A 15 mm dynamic driver is included inside each ear and a three-mic system reacts to, and cancels out, ambient noises. 

What's not so good about these headphones?

The seat isn’t the lightest one on the market at 15.2 lbs. Also, there is no adjuster for the recline of the seat so if you can’t get it level, you have to resort to a rolled-up towel or some other option. The LATCH system makes it easy to install the seat, but sometimes the latches can be hard to disengage when you want to remove the seat.

Pros:
  • Great quality
  • Fits well
  • Bass-forward sound
  • Compact
Cons:
  • Human voices still heard
  • Carry case is large 
  • Accidental Calling can happen

3) Sony WI-SP600N available for $148 on Amazon

Key features
  • Four tip options for your ear
  • Looks stylish to wear
  • USB Cable for charging
  • Super breathable earbuds

The Sony SP600N headphones are pretty good wireless earbuds that will serve you well when you are working out or playing sports. They sit on the middle range of the price spectrum for earbuds like it. 

They have a great quality, solid construction, and are easy to carry around in a pocket or purse. They are rather good at isolating noise in moderate conditions, like while commuting. They do not leak much but do have a rather low battery life compared to some other options. The sound quality on these headphones was also found to be heavy on the bass-great for some tracks.

Image Source: Amazon

What about the noise-cancelling?

Decent noise cancelling comes as a result of these earbuds. It will block out the sounds you hear on your commute, but that’s about it. The noise cancelling feature here is not very strong. 

It will cancel the bus engine, but not as well as you get with some other brands (Bose, for example). Passively, however, these earbuds do a pretty good job and should be good for moderately noisy places.

What's not so good about these headphones?

These headphones were fine and provided a nice listening experience but were very bass-forward. The mid-range was balanced, but the treble was really lacking. 

To elaborate, we found the treble to be uneven and low on the detail. The mid-range actually seemed rather recessed. As a result, the vocals and lead instruments in various songs got pushed to the back of the mix. 

Pros:
  • Low sound leak
  • Stable for gym/sport
  • Compact design
  • Choose your color
Cons:
  • Not ideal for vocal music
  • Mic quality is poor
  • Over-heavy on bass

4) Jaybird Freedom 2 available for $99 on Amazon

Key features
  • All-in-one car seat rated for 5 lbs. to 120 lbs.
  • Easy install SuperLATCH system
  • Folds flat for easy travel
  • Ear tips included

Although these headphones are great in their own right and sit at the median range of the prices for noise-cancelling earbuds, they are only good for a select group of people. 

These really cannot be used for heavy exercising, either-rather, if you are the sort who just gets your workout by walking or leisurely riding a bicycle, you will fare well-, but runners beware! They are hard to keep inside your ear when you are really moving around. 

Image Source: Amazon

What about the noise-cancelling?

The noise cancelling features on these headphones are rather minimal to say the least. For the price, the sound-cancelling features were not worth it. Granted, if you have a short daily commute that isn’t too loud, you will fare just fine with this. 

Now if you take a bicycle to work, you are in even more luck, as these were designed to fit inside the ear comfortably while sporting a helmet. They do feature a sweatproof coating, but it was hard to keep these inside the ears even while we were breaking a sweat. 

What's not so good about these headphones?

Aside from the noise cancelling, the earbuds were rather hard to keep inside the ear. Different tips were tried with differing results, but they kept on slowly wiggling their way out and falling to the wayside. 

The build design is great quality and easy to wear, but still ends up being rather bulky above all else. Furthermore, having only 3 hours of battery life without having the carrying case and charging clip can be rather off-putting for those who really need to have their headphones for a full day of use. 

Pros:
  • 30-foot Bluetooth range 
  • Solid Bluetooth connections
  • Easy to use controls
  • Good call quality
Cons:
  • Somewhat pricey
  • 3 hours battery life
  • Hard to keep in

5) Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E4 available for $238 on Amazon

Key features
  • Above average noise cancellation
  • Battery life is about 20 hours
  • Compact size and lightweight
  • Remote control located at chin-height 
  • Tips included in varying sizes

Finding great noise-cancelling in ear headphones is hard in and of itself, and there’s really been only one truly strong contender in the game-that’s Bose with their QuietControl 30 earbuds. 

However, Bose will want to think twice, because a new contender has stepped forward. Bang & Olufsen is a sound system found in some luxury cars, and they’ve taken their great sound to the next level with these high-price-range earbuds. Audio performance and fit is solid and so is the noise cancellation. 

Image Source: Amazon

What about the noise-cancelling?

If you can get beyond the dated design of these headphones, you are on your way to solid noise cancellation and a great sound delivered to you. The way that the sound differs in terms of bass from active noise cancelling to passive does not change, which is atypical of most earbuds like these. 

The helpful control component on the cord helps you switch easily between transparency mode (you can hear the sounds around you) or even just listen in passive mode if you must. It does a great job reducing the noises from AC units and loud fans.

What's not so good about these headphones?

The fit of the Beoplay E4 is rather secure, but it can feel weighted down by the inclusion of the inline remote and the inline component, which is even larger. The lack of clip on the inline component increases the feeling of cable tug. The sound on some songs came out as sculpted instead of accurate.

Pros:
  • Transparency mode
  • Bass is deep
  • Solid noise cancelling
  • Vibrant highs
Cons:
  • Dated design
  • Sound signature not accurate
  • Control lacks clip

6) Linner NC50 available for $62 on Amazon

Key features
  • Big button for easy ANC use
  • Ear tips included for comfort
  • 13 H battery life
  • Very lightweight

If you are the sort of person that travels by plane a lot, these mid-price ranged headphones will certainly be a fixture of your carry-on bag. If you are planning on going on a long flight, you must consider taking these along. 

They work rather well for the price, offering above average noise cancelling for what they are. The earbuds are good and durable, you will enjoy flat, rubber cables that can handle stress and are pleasing to the touch. The earbuds themselves are sturdy plastic and sweatproof, so all the gym rats will like them too. 

Image Source: Amazon

What about the noise-cancelling?

The noise cancelling works very well on this set of earbuds, for the price you pay. Although not as great as some of the high-price range earbuds, this certainly does a great job of muting up to 28dB of noise, so you can sit back and enjoy your sounds. The button that turns on the Active Noise Cancelling is easy to find and press, great for night usage. You can remove up to 97% of background noise!

What's not so good about these headphones?

If one was planning on purchasing these headphones for the audiophile in their life, do not do that. These earbuds place too much of an emphasis on bass and seem to crackle and distort a bit the more the volume is increased. 

Furthermore, we noticed there is no APTX support, and that there was a volume change that occurred when noise cancelling was activated. While charging the headphones, you cannot listen to them. 

Pros:
  • 9-hour battery life
  • Bluetooth connection is stable
  • Great bass sound
Cons:
  • Straps too short
  • Sound is distorted at high volumes
  • Buzzing noise when ANC on
  • Can't charge and listen at the same time

7) Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint available for $135 on Amazon

Key features
  • Convertible car seat rated for 5 lbs. to 65 lbs.
  • 5 harness heights and 3 buckle locations
  • Compact size and lightweight
  • Adjustable head support
  • Side-impact protection

The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoints are great for those of you on a budget that still want a decent pair of noise cancelling headphones. They sit at the low end of the price scale. 

They feature balanced audio reproduction that goes great with most musical genres but have a very ordinary in-ear design that comes off as “one size fits all.” This may be uncomfortable to some. It is also worth noting that although the sound quality is fine on these earbuds, the noise cancelling is not so great. 

Image Source: Amazon

What about the noise-cancelling?

These headphones feature, unfortunately, weak noise cancellation that is unreliable. The in-ear design gives users decent enough passive isolation and the seal around it does not let out too much sound. Unfortunately, the awful active cancellation doesn’t successfully isolate the listener and just barely cancels the sound of a regular office environment. Therefore, we dare not try this on an aircraft or a city bus/train-it is better suited for those who have quiet or short commutes. 

What's not so good about these headphones?

Really, it is all about the noise cancellation when it comes to these headphones. Everything else is pretty decent for the most part, but there are some improvements that could be made. 

For example, the plastic construction of the earbuds felt cheap. The carrying pouch is nice to hold your buds while not in use but will not protect against the most serious stuff like water damage or physical stress. 

Pros:
  • Inexpensive
  • Superior audio reproduction
  • Lightweight control module
  • Easy to carry around
Cons:
  • Poor noise isolation
  • Only 2 control buttons
  • Plastic felt cheap

8) Cowin HE8D available for $69 on Amazon

Key features
  • Can charge the earbud using your cell phone
  • Charging port located on wire itself, in the form of a small rectangle.
  • Moisture and sweat-proof
  • Great sound quality
  • 33 feet Bluetooth connectivity

This earbud is perfect for all the active people out there reading these reviews. Specifically designed to cater to active people, these are great for the gym. They feature a simple design and come in colors of black and silver. They weigh only a half-ounce, so they are just perfect for carrying in a pocket or all-day wear. 

Their lightweight nature should not be mistaken for poor quality. There also exists a module along the wire that has buttons for the volume as well as your Bluetooth connection. You will get a pack of different tips, so you can choose the one that best suits your ear. Noise cancelling is decent for this low-price range earbud.

Image Source: Amazon

What about the noise-cancelling?

One thing we noticed right away is that you cannot turn off the noise cancelling part of these earbuds. It is actively built into the earbuds themselves and is always working to measure and block out ambient noise regardless of where your chosen volume is set. 

They cancel noise up to 28 DB at 20Hz-2000Hz by way of an AMS AS3421 chip. You will still hear some ambient noise but enjoy an immersive listening experience. You will block out voices and low background music, but don’t expect much in the way of aircraft blocking or loud city buses.

What's not so good about these headphones?

The design of the headphones was the biggest drawback. The wire that was attached to it made the headphones a bit of a drag to use, especially when moving around or being active. The module would move around a lot while running, for example. Although they fit well in the ear, there was a lot of pull on them as we moved with them. 

Pros:
  • IPX4 means you can splash them from any direction
  • Bass is heavy and powerful
  • Great overall sound
  • Great price
Cons:
  • ANC is always on
  • Charging off phone drains battery from your phone
  • Great for active people, but hard to wear when running

9) TaoTronics ANC available for $45 on Amazon

Key features
  • Professional looking design
  • Machined aluminum alloy and gold-plated 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Durable in their build
  • 3 Button inline remote control for complete audio playback
  • Noise cancellation lasts 15 hours

These budget-range headphones are great if you do not have a lot of money to spend on your headphones. They are one of a few affordable noise-cancelling headphones on the market today. 

While many of us cannot afford the likes of Bose and some other high-end brands, TaoTronics is here to deliver a solid sound quality that is great for the price you pay. They took note of the untapped market of people who desired good quality earbuds at a price they could afford. 

Image Source: Amazon

What about the noise-cancelling?

Now the noise cancelling is nothing like you will get with Bose or any of the other high-priced brands of headphones. But you will still get great performance for the price. You control this using a switch on a separate, inline panel. It is still quite effective in dealing with general background noise, and in some cases, manages to blank out all of the background noise. Do not expect this to do well when it comes to general office use, but when it is time to ride the train or bus to work.

What's not so good about these headphones?

Audio quality on these headphones lacks any sort of range and seems rather distant at times. TaoTronics does a pretty good job of making the background noise disappear but has not yet mastered the art of keeping your audio high-quality while still stamping out any unwanted background noise. We did find that the cord was rather long and could easily get caught on things if you weren’t careful. 

Pros:
  • Great for the price 
  • Durable in their construction
  • Looks very stylish
  • Ear tips included
Cons:
  • Long cord
  • Audio sounds distant and lacks range
  • Buzzing when ANC is turned on

10) Bose QuietComfort 20 available for $249 on Amazon

Key features
  • Stylish and modern design
  • Comfortable ergonomic eartips
  • QC20 produces sound even after battery dies
  • Superior noise cancellation

This high price range earbud will do an exceptional job of keeping sound out and your music in. They are compact, in-ear buds that sound great and are super comfortable to wear. 

They are powered by a rechargeable lithium battery that delivers 16 hours of battery life to you-great for long workdays or extended flights where you just need a quiet place to relax with your music. They weigh only 1.5 ounces and even come with a nice carry pouch for easy travel.

Image Source: Amazon

What about the noise-cancelling?

The noise cancellation is nothing short of awesome. You do not imagine that a more loosely fitting earbud such as this one would work well as an ANC earbud. But prepare to be surprised! In testing it on the busy streets during lunch, we found that it muffled the bulk of that ambient noise, although we don’t see it muffling the noise of the morning/evening trains or city buses. All things considered, these do what they are supposed to.

What's not so good about these headphones?

The battery pack dangling from the headphones is a rather awkward situation, and it is also worth mentioning that you cannot replace the battery. 

Once that thing goes, it is gone after only 500 charging cycles, according to Bose. If you forget to turn off the noise cancellation feature, you will get a dead battery overnight. Not cool for those of us that wake up on the train with music and coffee. 

Pros:
  • Comfortable
  • Easy to carry around 
  • Sound muffling is superior
Cons:
  • Can only charge battery 500 times
  • Price may be too much for some
  • Small size may mean you lose them easier

In conclusion...

Noise cancelling earbuds come in all types of styles, colors, and construction. The best thing to do is sit down and decide what it is you seek in an earbud. Do you need superior noise cancellation? Can you do without a Bose level of ear-cancelling in favor of saving a few dollars? If so, consider a mid- or low-price brand. 

If you plan on using your headphones to get through those grueling gym sessions, consider an earbud that is sweatproof and does not bounce around while you run, or at least clips onto your shirt or armband while you are running. Lastly, consider how you treat your headphones. Do you need a durable pair, or can you go without? Consider all factors, then buy. Happy listening!