The 10 Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds
This wiki has been updated 16 times since it was first published in May of 2019. If you're looking for active noise reduction but aren't interested in wearing a bulky and heavy pair of closed-back headphones, consider a pair of noise cancelling earbuds. These days, there are a ton of great models on the market in both wired and wireless options that don't sacrifice sound quality for the sake of portability. They are also available to suit every budget. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 24, 2020:
One of the things that immediately became apparent when analyzing the various models available on the market now versus when we last visited this list was that active noise cancellation technology in wireless earbuds has a come a long way. Whereas last time, the list was comprised almost entirely of wired models, it is now the opposite, and wireless options make up the majority of our recommendations. Of course, we still have included a few wired models, specifically the Bose QuietComfort 20 and Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E4, for those who worry of losing tiny wireless earbuds. Most of our choices also include a sound-pass through mode, though they generally all call it something different. This allows you to let ambient noises though when you want to be aware of your surroundings while listening to your music.
May 05, 2019:
Active noise cancelling in earbuds is a somewhat niche product, and it's important to have realistic expectations when you're looking for the right ones. Earbuds, by their very nature, can be hit-or-miss from person to person, because everyone's ears are shaped differently. Furthermore, ANC isn't meant to completely silence all external sound, so you can't ask the world of these things. But with the combination of active circuitry and a good seal, they can do a very good job.
Bang & Olufsen is known for audiophile-level audio products, and these are no exception, though their control implementation isn't quite up to par with their high cost. Similarly, Sony makes a true wireless pair with ANC -- which is not a common product to find -- and while they don't block as much noise as most of the rest, they do sound great. Sony also makes a more traditional neckband-style model that functions about as well as any, though that neckband doesn't have the sleekest design. Of course, if you're willing to shell out a bunch of money, Bose makes what many people consider the benchmark for noise cancelling earbuds.
If you don't want to spend a lot, though, you have plenty of options. In the mid range you can check out the Phiatons, which really don't have any downsides except for their ANC not quite being as good as that of the Bose pair. The SGNL and Audio-Technica offerings are just about as good. You can get by with spending even less if you so desire, as TaoTronics, the makers of a number of surprisingly good headphones these days, offers both a wired and wireless pair. If you're a stickler about sound quality, we'd advise getting the wired pair, as the Bluetooth model isn't even compatible with the CD-quality AptX codec. And we included the Shures because although they don't actually use ANC, they physically block sound better than most do electronically, so they're very much worthy of consideration. Plus, they don't ever need to be recharged.
Finally, take note that earbuds carry a little bit more risk than normal headphones as far as ear health goes. Unlike a comfy pair of over-ear cans, it's advised that you not use earbuds for extremely long periods, and avoid extremely loud music on these even more than you would using traditional headphones. Also don't stick them in too far. If you ever experience pain or discomfort, take them out and take a break, or re-position them so they're more comfortable.