Sometimes, we all need a bit of peace. If you use your headphones daily for commuting or while in the office, you may want something that will do a good job of blocking background noise. In the past, you needed large over-ears to get good active noise cancelling (ANC), but now even small and portable in-ears or earbuds have impressive noise cancelling features. You can also passively achieve great isolation with some in-ear headphones that don't feature ANC due to them physically blocking your ear canals.
We've tested over 290 earbuds and in-ears; below are our recommendations for the best in-ear noise cancelling headphones to buy. Check out our recommendations for the best earbuds and in-ears, the best Bluetooth earbuds, or the best noise cancelling headphones overall.
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds Truly Wireless are the best noise cancelling earbuds we've tested. They're the next generation of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless and have CustomTune technology, which allows the ANC to dynamically adapt to your environment and to your ear shape. As a result, they can block out a significant amount of ambient noise from the low rumbles of bus and plane engines to ambient chatter and the high-pitched hum of AC units. With their ANC on, they last roughly seven hours continuously, and their carrying case holds an extra three charges if you need it.
These well-built buds have a very comfortable fit, so you can wear them for long listening sessions and experience little fatigue. They're also certified IPX4 for resistance against water splashes and have a stable in-ear fit, which is good if you want to use them during a run or workout. Their out-of-the-box sound is bassy, so they deliver extra thump, rumble, and boom to your audio. Their companion app supplies a graphic EQ and presets if you prefer a different sound.
Unfortunately, even though they're premium buds, they lack multi-device pairing. If this feature matters to you, try the Sony WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless, which allow you to connect them to your PC and smartphone simultaneously. They also have a slight edge regarding general noise attenuation, largely due to their memory foam ear tips. Since they form a solid seal in your ear, they reduce a lot of high-pitched noise, but you may not notice a significant difference in isolation between ANC on and off at other frequencies. The Bose's ANC blocks out more sound across the range than when off, and they're more comfortable.
If you're looking for a premium product with a lower price tag, consider the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) Truly Wireless. These earbuds are usually less expensive than the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds Truly Wireless and have been on sale lately. Although their ANC system isn't quite as powerful as the Bose's in reducing ambient noise like bus engines or office chatter, they still deliver an excellent overall performance worth considering.
Since they're an Apple product, they offer a couple of ecosystem-unique features worth checking out if you already own a MacBook or an iPhone, like Spatial Audio for a more immersive audio experience and an H2 chip for seamless pairing with other Apple devices. With their ANC on, they last nearly six hours continuously, and their carrying case supplies an extra four charges. They have a comfortable fit, but the buds can wiggle out over time, which can be frustrating.
Thanks to their adaptive EQ, they have a warm sound profile well-suited for genres like folk and jazz. They lack any sound customization features, so if that's important to you, you'll want to check out the Sennheiser MOMENTUM True Wireless 3, which have a companion app with an EQ and presets at a similar price point. Their ANC performance is comparable, but they're bulkier and less comfortable.
The Google Pixel Buds Pro Truly Wireless are the best mid-range noise cancelling buds we've tested. They don't have the same premium build quality as the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) Truly Wireless, and they aren't as stable or comfortable for most. They have a similar noise isolation performance and can easily cut down sounds like the rumbles from plane engines and chatty coworkers. They also last over seven hours with the ANC on, and you can top them up, thanks to the nearly two charges in their case.
They support multi-device pairing, meaning you can connect them to your PC and smartphone simultaneously. They also have a decently comfortable fit but are bulky and can pop out of your ear over time, causing a drop in bass. Once you ensure a good fit, they deliver a touch of extra thump, rumble, and boom, while vocals and instruments are bright and sparkly. You can even fine-tune their sound using their companion app's graphic EQ and presets.
However, if comfort is a top priority, you'll want to consider the Sony LinkBuds S Truly Wireless instead. Their smaller, more lightweight design ensures you can wear them for long periods without experiencing fatigue. Their ANC also offers excellent overall performance, but it doesn't block out as much of the low rumble of car engines as the Google headphones.
The best wireless noise cancelling earbuds we've tested in the budget category are the Anker Soundcore Space A40 Truly Wireless. Despite their affordable price tag, they offer as many features as the Google Pixel Buds Pro Truly Wireless and even better overall noise isolation performance. Their adaptive ANC easily reduces bass range noise like plane engine rumbles, making them a solid choice for travel. They also do an excellent job cutting out mid to high-pitched sounds, like office chatter and the hum of an AC unit. These versatile buds come with features like multi-device pairing and LDAC codec support, which is good for streaming Hi-Res content.
These well-built buds have a warm sound profile that you can customize via the graphic EQ and presets in their companion app. They also last over eight hours continuously, which will get you through long days on the go, and their carrying case holds an extra four charges. Unfortunately, if you need to make calls, the integrated mic does a poor job of capturing speech clearly, so your voice sounds distant and sharp, which isn't very pleasant for the caller on the line.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro True Wireless are the best in-ear noise cancelling headphones for sound quality we've tested. Out of the box, they have quite a neutral sound. They deliver adequate punch and warmth to basslines while vocals and instruments sound natural and clear. As a result, they're versatile enough for a variety of audio content. And, if you don't like this sound, their companion app offers EQ presets for customization.
Their ANC does an excellent job of blocking background noise across the range. It easily tackles rumbly bus engines to chatty coworkers so you can focus on your audio. That said, with their ANC on, they last under five hours continuously, which is less than the similarly priced Google Pixel Buds Pro Truly Wireless. Their carrying case holds an extra 2.6 charges, though. They also have a comfortable fit suitable for long listening sessions.
Nov 24, 2023: We've replaced the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless with their successor, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds Truly Wireless. We've also removed the Skullcandy Sesh ANC Truly Wireless, as they've been discontinued and can't be found at a cheap price point anymore. We've also added the Devialet Gemini II True Wireless to Notable Mentions.
Sep 27, 2023: We've replaced the Anker SoundCore Life P3 Truly Wireless with the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC Truly Wireless in Notable Mentions, as the Liberty 4 NC offer a better noise isolation performance. We've also removed the 'Best Passive Isolating Earbuds' category to improve the quality of this article.
Aug 28, 2023: We've added the Sony WF-1000XM5 Truly Wireless as an alternative to the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II Truly Wireless. We've also added the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro True Wireless as the 'Best Sounding Noise Cancelling Earbuds', thanks to their flat default sound profile.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best noise cancelling earbuds for most people to buy. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for noise cancelling earbuds and in-ears. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference, and listening habits will matter more in your selection.