Noise-cancelling earbuds are a relatively new technology, but they have quickly become one of the best ways to enjoy your music and block out the annoying sound of the outside world without the bulk of over-ear headphones.
Not too long ago, noise-cancelling earbuds were decidedly inferior to their over-ear counterparts; nowadays, they’re an excellent form factor in their own right, and the best noise-cancelling earbuds can give even the best noise-cancelling headphones a run for their money.
That’s thanks to popular true wireless earbuds like the Sony WF-1000XM4 and the Apple AirPods Pro, which have helped to popularize the technology and convince us that compact in-ear headphones can offer active noise cancellation to rival over-ear cans.
The market’s growing all the time, too. In fact, we’ve been hearing a steady stream of rumors about the follow-ups to the aforementioned buds; the so-called Apple AirPods Pro 2 are said to be launching this year, and are expected to come with active noise cancellation and impressive battery specs.
With all those different models to choose from, finding the best noise-cancelling earbuds for your needs can be tricky. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide, ranking the best noise-cancelling earbuds we’ve tested ourselves, examining everything from value for money to audio performance.
[Update: The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 have arrived – and they're a big improvement upon the originals, coming with active noise cancellation and an improved design.]
Our top picks
It’s Bose’s second attempt at a set of true wireless headphones, and the QuietComfort Earbuds are leaps and bounds better than the older SoundSport Free. Not only is the design a lot better, but the noise cancellation is also exemplary. Sound quality is also really very good – albeit a touch less bassy as compared to Sony – with superb clarity. They’re incredibly comfortable and well balanced too, despite their bulky form factor.
Read more: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review
Sony is largely responsible for the rude health of the active noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds market, and with the WF-1000XM4, the company has combined performance, ergonomics, and build quality more effectively than ever before.
Compared to their predecessors, the Sony WF-1000XM3, the new wireless earbuds offer enough quality-of-life features to make them worth upgrading to, even if they are more expensive.
While other true wireless earbuds surpass the Sony WF-1000XM4 in particular areas – noise cancellation, for example – no other model comes close to offering such excellent quality across the board. That’s why the Sony WF-1000XM4 are hands-down the best true wireless earbuds you can buy today.
Read more: Sony WF-1000XM4 review
On their own merits, the Earfun Air Pro buds are accomplished, but against the competition at this price point they shine. Amid a sea of similarly priced efforts on Amazon, they stand out thanks to their superior design and excellent audio chops, and show a high level of competence in almost all other areas. If it weren’t for slightly fiddly gesture controls and – in our experience at least – a slightly uncomfortable fit, these would immediately earn our wholehearted recommendation.
As it stands, these noise-cancelling wireless earbuds are an excellent choice for most, offering a blend of useful features and strong performance that should make them popular with commuters in particular.
Read more: Earfun Air Pro review
The NuraTrue are perhaps the most personalized wireless earbuds you can buy today – and they’re among the best-sounding, too.
They’re the first true wireless earbuds from Australian audio brand Nura, following in the footsteps of its NuraLoop earphones – which, incidentally, are our pick for the best wireless earbuds of 2021.
The NuraTrue are another success for the company, offering unbeaten levels of customization that allow the earbuds to be tuned to your ears exactly. The accompanying app even analyzes how well the buds fit into your ears.
The end result is outstanding audio performance that reveals superb levels of detail in your music, and a wide soundstage that enables every instrument to sing.
And in case you think these earbuds are made with only audio in mind, they in fact come with plenty of features that will appeal to anyone who wants a cheaper alternative to popular models such as the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM4. These features include decent noise cancellation, an IPX4 water-resistance rating, fast charging, and support for hi-res audio too.
Read more: NuraTrue review
For nearly two years, the Sony WF-1000XM3 were best true wireless earbuds you could buy – until they were usurped by the WF-1000XM4.
However, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are still worth considering, not least because you can usually find them discounted to around $170 / £150 / AU$200.
The Sony WF-1000XM3 still manage to offer a level of noise-cancellation that's exceedingly good for a pair of earbuds, fist-pumping musicality, a sleek design, and a decent battery life.
Read more: Sony WF-1000XM3 review
The sound quality, battery life, and design of the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 are truly brilliant – and they're a really good alternative to the Sony WF-1000XM3, particularly if you prefer a more flashy design when it comes to the best noise-cancelling earbuds for you.
We did find that those with smaller ears sometimes find them a little uncomfortable, however, and their high price just stops them from taking the top spot of this round up.
Otherwise? Sennheiser has pretty much knocked it out of the park with these earbuds, offering great noise cancellation alongside smart looks and stunning sound.
Read more: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review
Sony's latest true wireless earbuds, the Sony WF-SP800N, are a triple-threat. They’re IP55-rated to be sweatproof and dustproof, but they’re also pretty good for commuters because they have active noise cancellation built in – which is rare for a workout pair of earbuds – and work well for demanding music lovers thanks to their support for Sony’s new spatial audio format, 360 Reality Audio.
They can be a little uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, however, and the bass is bit muddy for our liking – still, these true wireless earbuds are well worth a look.
Read more: Sony WF-SP800N review
Apple's noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds, the AirPods Pro, deliver a much better fit and an improved design compared to the original AirPods.
However, at $249 / £249 / AU$399, they’re pretty pricey too, and as such can’t be called the very best true wireless earbuds in terms of value for money – but they may be the best true wireless earbuds for Apple fans.
These snug-fitting earbuds offer a great sound, and the additional microphones provide strong noise-cancelling (particularly when commuting), as well as a useful Transparency mode, which really does let the outside world in.
Read more: Apple AirPods Pro review
While they don’t quite cut it like their predecessors the Jabra Elite Active 75t buds do owing to a slightly bulkier design, the Elite 85t deliver impressive performance thanks to some great audio quality, effective noise cancellation and decent battery life.
Audio has been vastly improved thanks to a new pair of 12mm in-built speakers, which are twice the size of those on the 75t buds and offer a wider and more well-balanced soundstage. This, alongside even deeper bass, adds more depth to your favorite tunes.
Read more: Jabra Elite 85t review
These true wireless buds from Samsung are a big step up from the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, offering better sound and microphone quality with multipoint pairing and spatial audio support.
While there's a new model on the scene – the Galaxy Buds 2 – the Buds Pro are still well worth buying.
It's worth nothing that they don’t offer the same level of noise cancellation as over-ear headphones or the sound quality of some of the other high-end earbuds on this list, but for their price they offer just enough of both to be competitive and deserving of a place on our best wireless earbuds list.
Read more: Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review