Wearing a pair of the best noise cancelling earbuds can be just what you need to avoid distracting outside noises and to fully immerse yourself with your music or podcast it helps to.
Outside noise including people talking, traffic, engine noise, airplane noise, and the general everyday sounds of the world around us are sometimes too much, especially when we need to concentrate or just have a moment of peace. Fortunately, there is a solution.
Noise cancelling earbuds can help block outside noise giving you the peace and quiet you so desperately need. If you’ve ever wished for quiet at the office, on your commute, or while sitting in a busy area, noise cancelling earbuds may be just what you need.
11 Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds Reviewed
We will now review 11 of the best noise cancelling earbuds available today from a number of headphone brands. I’ve tried to include earbuds at all price ranges, from the most expensive to the best budget models available. No matter your budget, you will be able to find the perfect pair to meet your needs.
Shure SE846 Sound Isolating In-Ear Headphones (Best Passive Design if Money Isn’t an Object)
If you want the best sounding passive noise isolation earbuds you can buy, and money isn’t an object, you can’t go wrong with the Shure SE846 earbuds. Since they are passive, they get all of their noise reduction from their physical design and a tight, secure fit.
They come with an impressive array of tips, allowing you to choose the best possible fit. Once in your ears they do an amazing job of reducing outside noise. You still hear outside sound, but it is really attenuated. I noticed that some frequencies are attenuated better than active designs such as the Bose models, while other frequencies were more subdued by the Bose earbuds. Both do a good job but this set is the ultimate winner in terms of sound quality.
The SE846 features a neutral sound, with no accentuated frequencies. There is plenty of bass but it’s true bass, not hyped or boosted—clear, deep, and closer to having a balanced subwoofer in my ears than anything else I’ve ever tried. The mids and highs are clear and vivid as well, and the stereo image is second to none. Since there is no active circuitry there is no change in the natural sound, allowing the true stereo image to shine through.
If you’ve never tried in ear headphones, or in ear monitor designed earbuds, they may feel a little different at first. They are not uncomfortable at all, but they feel different than most designs. Some people also may not like the over ear cable design.
I personally like it as it helps to keep the earbuds in place. It’s not uncomfortable, but I notice it’s there. Still, the sound quality and effective noise reduction override any and all issues I have with this pair. They are, of course, expensive. But they’re made to be the best.
If you’re not familiar with Shure, they have been making pro audio microphones and headphones for recording studios, concert halls, and sound stages worldwide for many years. They make many of the wireless in ear monitors musicians use in world class concerts.
If you want the best sound and don’t mind the price, this is the set for you.
Shure SE535-V Sound Isolating Earphones (Another excellent passive design)
The Shure SE535-V earbuds has a dedicated tweeter and dual woofers per earbud. This allows them to have a full and rich sound with plenty of tight, powerful bass, vivid mids, and crystal clear highs.
Don’t ask me how all of that can be built into a tiny earbud, but somehow Shure delivers.
Like its big brother, this model has exceptional sound quality and a passive sound isolating design which reducing outside noise up to 37dB. You don’t become deaf to the world, but the outside world is definitely turned down.
I love that this model offers an assortment of ear tips, allowing you to choose the perfect fit. They have an over ear wire design that helps to hold the earbuds in place. I really like this design but could see some finding it uncomfortable, at least at first.
The SE535-V is based on in ear monitor designs used by professional singers and musicians when performing. These earbuds have to withstand the rigors of touring and provide dependable sound and effective isolation night after night. If you think a crying baby is bad, try singing next to a blasting guitar amplifier. Singers trust Shure earbuds to block outside sounds like guitar amps so they can hear the mix perfectly in their ears.
In addition, you get a durable, compact carrying case, and a volume control. The wires are also detachable making replacement easy. While the price may be a little much for some, this is a phenomenally good set of earbuds for anyone willing to make the investment.
Bose QuietControl 30 Wireless Headphones (Best Wireless Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Earbud)
The Bose QuietControl 30 Earbuds is the top choice for users wanting a wireless Bluetooth earbud set with active noise cancelling. I love that you can choose whether or not to let outside sound in.
For example, if you’re on a noisy flight you can keep the noise cancelling on. But if you’re at the gate waiting to hear a boarding call you can turn off the noise cancelling, allowing you to hear outside sounds without taking the earbuds out. This is a great idea.
This model also offers the best active noise cancelling available. It does a great job of attenuating outside sounds but especially shines on plane noise, commute noise, and other lower pitched, constant ambient sound. Pairing via Bluetooth and NFC is easy with the free app which makes pairing simpler than ever before.
An inline remote allows you to adjust volume, change tracks, and pause. Another feature is the built in microphone which allows you to take calls and give voice commands. Bluetooth range is 10 meters and battery life is 10 hours with 3 hours of charging time.
Also included is a carrying case and three sizes of ear tips which let you find the perfect fit for your ears. Charging is easy and a USB charging cable is included.
In terms of sound, this is an excellent sounding active noise cancelling earbud. Bluetooth and noise cancellation both affect the sound, but this doesn’t mean they don’t sound great. You just have to decide if wireless mobility and the ability to reduce outside noise are worth a small change in audio tonality. Most will agree it is.
If you’re looking for the best wireless noise cancelling earbud available, this is the one. No one does active noise cancelling circuitry like Bose. Check them out and see for yourself.
Sony WI-1000X Bluetooth Wireless Earbuds (Another excellent wireless earbud)
There is a lot to like about Sony WI-1000x headphones. Users will love their powerful bass, distinct midrange, shimmering highs, and overall well balanced sound. They also have a unique feature which allows the user to choose different types of noise cancelling.
Ambient mode lets in some of the outside sound. This makes it great for situations where you need to hear some outside noise, for example if you need to hear traffic while walking or jogging. Noise Cancelling mode excels at reducing lower pitched constant sounds such as plane noise, heating and air conditioning systems, office noise, and commute noise.
There’s also another excellent feature called Atomospheric Pressure Optimizer which optimizes noise cancelling for changes in pressure caused by high altitudes when flying. Very cool.
You also have the option to customize your settings via the free app for both Android and iOS. Adaptive Sound Control mode automatically adjusts the noise reduction to your surroundings. I personally didn’t like this feature that much. The degree of noise cancellation changes as you move and I found this distracting, as each change made the overall sound a little different.
Pairing is easy and the Bluetooth connection is stable. Battery life is 10 hours with noise cancellation on and 17 with it off. If you run out of battery power or would rather use a cable, a cable is included and is easy to attach. Another useful feature is a built in microphone which allows you to take calls and give voice commands. This model has a great sounding mic which is clear and easy to understand for both the headphone wearer and the person you are talking to.
I found the Sonys to be comfortable to wear and enjoyed the freedom wireless Bluetooth offered. Neck band earbud designs are polarizing, however. Some love them while others don’t. This is really a matter of personal preference.
All in all the Sony’s are a great wireless noise cancelling headphone with lots of features and options.
Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Canceling Headphones (The Best Wired Active Noise Cancelling Earbuds)
Another offering from Bose, QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones are available in specific models for Android and iOS devices, so make sure to choose the correct model for your device.
QuietComforts allow you to turn the noise reduction on or off. This is a great feature since it allows you to hear outside sounds when you want and shut them out when you don’t, all without taking your earbuds out of your ears.
This is a comfortable pair to wear, with proprietary StayHear tips which true to their name, help your earbuds to stay in place while providing you with a soft, comfortable feel. An assortment of ear tips are also included allowing you to find the perfect fit.
Another feature is the microphone which is built into the control module. With it you can take calls and give voice commands to Siri or Google depending on your phone. The noise cancelling is excellent, with the quality attenuation Bose is known for. Like other Bose models, it excels in reducing noise from planes, engine noise, and train noise. All noise is well attenuated, although you still hear some outside sounds.
The sound is good as well, with Active EQ and Triport technology. This technology gives the music depth and a wide stereo image. A slider switch on the control module lets you turn the noise cancellation on and off. Plus there are buttons for answering and ending calls, as well as controls for volume and switching tracks.
Since this model features active noise circuitry, it requires battery power. Fortunately the lithium ion battery has a long life with 16 hours of listening time per charge. Recharging is easy and takes about two hours. A USB charging cable is included. If battery power runs out you can still play music; you just won’t be able to use the noise cancelling feature.
Sennheiser CXC 700 Ear-Canal Travel Headphones
The Sennheiser CXC 700 Earbuds are designed with business travelers and frequent flyers in mind, and in this they excel. The noise cancelling technology is adapted to and perfect for reducing noise from planes, vehicles, and trains.
They feature a proprietary tri-mode design which offers three different types of noise cancellation. Mode 1 is optimized for travel noise such trains, subways, busses, and cars. The second mode focuses on long flights and air conditioned rooms. The third mode is optimized for on the go situations and is ideal for use in crowds, on busy streets, and in crowded restaurants or coffee shops.
Sennheiser’s TalkThough feature allows you to hear outside noise while also stopping the music in case you need to talk to someone or listen to an announcement. This is a great feature as it keeps you from having to constantly take the earbuds out of your ears. Noise cancellation is the only feature requiring battery power, so in the event that the battery runs out, you can still listen to music.
The earbuds fit well and are comfortable to wear. Additional ear tips are also included allowing you to choose the perfect size and fit. The control box houses one AAA battery which lasts for 16 hours. The battery is not rechargeable, although you could use rechargeable AAAs. Controls for noise cancellation and music are also located on the control box.
These earbuds have a great sound that is ideal for both music and spoken content. While the noise cancelling and sound quality are its greatest assets, the control box is my least favorite part of this design. It’s clunky, gets in the way, and isn’t as streamlined as other models. I definitely wouldn’t like it if I were running, jogging, or working out. In fairness, these earbuds are designed with travel in mind. However, most people will use their earbuds for multiple purposes.
With excellent noise cancellation and a sound that surpasses its price tag, the CXC 700s are a winner. If not for the bulky control box, they would be a top pick.
Phiaton BT 220 NC Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 and Active Noise Cancelling Earphones
There aren’t many mid-priced wireless Bluetooth active noise cancelling earbuds out there, but this one fits the bill.
With 16 of hours calling time, 17 hours of music listening time, and 300 hours of standby, you’ll have plenty of battery life for any occasion. If the battery does run out you can use the supplied audio cable to continue listening.
The earbuds are comfortable to wear and there are additional tip sizes which allow you to choose the perfect fit. The noise reduction is good for the price, but not nearly as effective as the higher priced models I reviewed.
The Bluetooth transmitter is a little clunky, but a clip is included so you can attach it to your shirt. Bluetooth range is 30 feet and pairing is easy and stable. You can easily pair to two devices and switch seamlessly between them. Like the noise cancellation technology, the sound is also good for the price with full bass and clear, present highs.
Additional features include a built in microphone which allows you to take calls and give voice commands. There are also easy to reach controls on the Bluetooth transmitter which allow you to turn Bluetooth on and off, take calls, and control volume and music settings.
For the price, these earbuds are feature packed and have a lot to offer. The Bluetooth transmitter is a bit clunky and could get in the way of some users and the noise cancellation isn’t on par with the more expensive models. However, at half the price of the Sony and Bose Bluetooth noise cancelling earbuds, these are great overall deal.
Shure SE215-K Sound Isolating Earphones (Best Passive Model Under $100)
The SE215-K is a single driver earphone but outperforms more expensive dual driver designs. The proprietary MicroDriver is an advanced miniature driver design with an incredibly flat frequency response from 22Hz to 17.5kHz.
The sound is excellent with a quality far beyond the price tag. The passive noise reduction is also amazing and blocks out 37dB of outside sound. A tight fitting, comfortable ear bud fits snuggly in your ear and keeps outside sounds from entering. Additional ear tips are also included so you can get the perfect fit.
People who have never worn this time of in-ear design may find they take some getting used to. That is not to say that they are uncomfortable; they’re not at all. They just feel different than most ear buds, especially at first.
While these have a flat frequency response, they also offer powerful bass. The bass isn’t hyped but is deep, rich and powerful. The mids are clear and vivid and the highs are crisp and shimmering. I love the shape of the buds which fit comfortably in your ear and stay put. The over the ear wire is Kevlar reinforced and durable, but also detachable and easy to replace if something goes wrong.
Like the more expensive Shure models, the SE215-K is the result of years of research and testing on the road with pro musicians and singers. Pros trust Shure for their in ear monitoring needs and with this level of quality, it’s easy to understand why.
If you’re looking for a great sounding, dependable, and rugged set of passive noise reducing earbuds, look no further. I especially love the simplicity of the design. There are just earbuds and a cable, nothing else to get in the way.
Samsung Level U Pro Active Noise Cancelling Earbuds (Best Active Noise Cancelling Earbuds for Under $100)
The Samsung Level U earbuds feature a two way speaker design which allows for superior audio with both high highs and low lows. The construction is also good, with flexible joints and a lightweight, comfortable to wear design.
Their splash proof and sweat resistant construction make them great for exercise as well. The active noise cancelling is useful and good for the price, just don’t expect it to be at the level of higher priced units such as Bose. The earbud design is ergonomic, with soft ear gels which are incredibly comfortable to wear. I also found that the earbuds stayed in place and didn’t pop out or get loose.
Battery life is six hours with active noise cancellation on and 8.5 hours when off. These earbuds also include a microphone which allows you to take calls and give voice commands. I like that the controls are on the neckband instead of on a bulky control box.
With onboard controls you can start or pause music and answer and end calls. Another great feature is if a friend has a Level U Pro ANC, Level U Pro, Level On Wireless Pro, or Level On Wireless Headset, you can share your music with them. What a cool feature.
With great sound, active noise cancellation, built in microphone, and lightweight comfortable design, these earbuds are a bargain, especially at the low of under $100 price.
If you’re looking for a great pair of active noise cancelling earbuds for less than one hundred dollars, this is the set for you.
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling Earbuds (Best Budget Model)
At such a low price you might not expect much. You would, however, be wrong. This is a great set of earphones, one which is able to compete with much more expensive models.
The sound quality is excellent, with a bass sound that is true and accurate, while not at all hyped. The bass is just where it should be. Not boosted, but not weak either. It’s just right. The highs are clear and detailed, and the mids are vivid and punchy. All in all a great sound, especially considering the price.
Honestly, I was blown away by the noise reduction. Most lower priced models do not offer incredible noise cancellation, but this one does a great job. How much of it is due to the passive reduction based on the in ear canal design, as opposed to the active circuitry is difficult to tell. The noise cancellation is effective, however, so I guess it doesn’t really matter.
The in ear design may take some getting used to, especially if you’ve never worn this type of design before. They are somewhat similar to the Shure designs, although not exactly. Once you get used to them, however, you will likely find the outside noise attenuation is well worth the feel. Plus, after wearing them for a while, you don’t even notice they are there. Multiple ear tips in different sizes allow you to choose the perfect fit for your needs. I found the stock tips to be extremely comfortable.
Like some of the other reviewed models, this design has a control box, which although small and lightweight, will likely get in the way of some users. The control box houses the AAA battery which gives 60 hours of listening time, as well as volume and playback controls. If battery power runs out, the earbuds still play music, although without noise cancellation.
If you’re on a tight budget you really can’t go wrong with these noise cancelling earbuds. They sound great and do a wonderful job of attenuating outside noise. This makes them by best on a budget pick.
TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling Earbuds (Another Great Budget Offering)
The TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling Earbuds are packed with features. Their active noise cancelling technology reduces background noise by up to 30dB. They also feature a long battery life, with 15 hours of continuous audio playback.
Ear tips and ear hooks are included, allowing you to choose your perfect fit. I especially like the ear tips and wish more manufacturers included them. They do a great job of helping the earbuds stay put, especially when exercising. Designed with metal construction, these earbuds are durable and designed for a long life. Inline controls allow for volume adjustment, track selection, and pause/play.
The noise cancelling on this model is good for the money but not as effective as the Audio Technica earbuds.
Like the Audio Technicas, these have a control box which will get in the way of some users. Some people like inline controls and prefer them over neckband designs. I personally prefer the neckband designs as they seem to get in the way less. But this is a matter of opinion.
The sound quality is good for the price but again, not as impressive as the Audio Technicas. The TaoTronics earbuds feature a built in microphone which allows you to take calls and give voice commands.
What are Passive Noise Isolation and Active Noise Cancelling Earbuds?
There are two types of noise reduction in earbuds.
The first is passive noise reduction, also called noise isolation. These earbuds reduce outside noise by their physical design and fit. A tight fit and seal block sound from entering your ears in much the same way as ear plugs. While not has high tech as active noise cancelling technology, many passive designs offer excellent noise reduction, some of which are even superior to active designs.
Active noise cancelling earbuds work by using microphones and other technologies to create an inverse soundwave which is then sent through your headphone driver in order to eliminate or reduce outside noise.
Think of how in math a positive number is cancelled out by its negative number. For example, 2 is cancelled out by a negative 2. Sound waves work in much the same way. If you take a sound wave, pick it up through a microphone and then create its inverse or phase reversed copy, it will cancel out. That may be an overly simplistic, but good metaphor for how active noise cancelling works.
The Sound of Noise Cancelling
Active noise reduction technology does affect the sound of headphones.
This doesn’t mean they sound bad, in fact, many sets sound really good. While they don’t sound as wonderful as a pristine high end audiophile set, they still sound good, just a bit different.
You have to consider your needs and weigh the tradeoffs. If audiophile quality and accuracy of sound are of utmost importance, I would recommend an over-ear wired set of audiophile headphones without noise cancelling. However, if you want good sounding headphones which reduce outside noise and give you quiet in crowded, noisy areas, a set of noise cancelling earbuds are the better choice.
Are Noise Cancelling Earbuds Effective?
How well do noise cancelling headphones work?
This is a commonly asked question and it’s a fair one. After all, manufacturer claims often sound too good to be true. Some say 95% noise reduction, for example. I won’t bore you with the math, but decibels work on a logarithmic scale, so technically this could be a true claim. This does not mean, however, that you will hear 95% less outside sound with your noise cancelling earbuds in.
Noise cancelling earbuds will not make you deaf to the world.
If sound waves were simple, say a basic sine wave, for example, inversing and cancelling would be easy. But real life doesn’t work this way. There is a myriad of sound coming at you at different levels and frequencies. There is no way the technology can eliminate all of them. I don’t say this to discourage you from buying noise cancelling headphones. In fact, I love them because what they do, they do extremely well. Just don’t have unrealistic expectations or believe that once they are on there will be complete and total silence from the outside world.
Active noise cancelling earbuds excel at reducing ambient noise. Constant noise, especially lower frequency noise, is where they really shine. They do an excellent job reducing plane noise, noise on your commute, and train noise. They also do an overall good job of reducing general noise. But sound will still get through to a certain extent. In short, noise cancelling headphones are awesome; they just don’t perform miracles.
Right Set of Noise Cancelling Earbuds for You
Regardless of your budget, there is a pair of best noise cancelling earbuds that is just right for your needs. I hope this article has given you valuable information and the knowledge needed to make an informed decision when purchasing your next pair of earbuds.