Sometimes we all need a bit of peace and quiet. If you use your headphones every day for commuting, or while in the office, you may want something that will do an effective job at blocking out background noises. While in the past you needed large over-ears to get good active noise cancelling (ANC), you can now get impressive noise cancelling even in small and portable in-ears or earbuds. With some in-ear headphones, you can still achieve great isolation without an ANC feature, due to them physically blocking your ear canals.
We've tested over 180 earbuds and in-ears and below are our recommendations for the best noise cancelling earbuds to buy. See also our recommendations for the best earbuds and in-ears, the best Bluetooth earbuds, or the best noise cancelling headphones overall.
The best noise cancelling wireless earbuds with a truly wireless design that we've tested are the Apple AirPods Pro. They're quite comfortable as they don't enter the ear canal too deeply, and they're so lightweight that you barely even notice they're there. They look and feel premium and well-built and have easy-to-use touch-sensitive controls on each stem. Their case is very small and supports wireless charging, and the headphones pair seamlessly to all your Apple devices.
Their ANC is excellent, and they do a great job of blocking out the low rumble of bus and plane engines, as well as office sounds like background chatter and fan noise. They have a well-balanced and fairly neutral sound profile out-of-the-box, making them versatile enough for most genres and content. Unfortunately, they don't have any EQ options, and their lack of low-bass may be disappointing to fans of EDM and dubstep.
Like with a lot of Bluetooth headphones, their microphone isn't very good, and your voice sounds very thin and muffled. They also only last just under 5.5 hours off a single charge, which isn't nearly as long as most premium truly wireless options. On the bright side, Apple claims that a 20-minute charge will give you around three to four hours of playback, and their case holds around five additional charges, which is excellent. Overall, these are a good pair of in-ears that pack an impressive ANC feature and are among the best truly wireless headphones that we've tested.
If you want something a lot cheaper but still want an excellent ANC feature, get the Amazon Echo Buds. They don't look and feel as premium as the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, and they aren't quite as well-balanced, but they do an excellent job of blocking out background noise and are much cheaper. Their ANC doesn't work quite as well as the Apple, but it still does a great job of blocking out both the low rumble of bus or plane engines and office sounds like background chatter and fan noise. Their sound profile has quite a bit more low-end thump and rumble, which will likely please fans of EDM and hip-hop, and their app gives access to a graphic EQ. Unfortunately, they rely very heavily on their app, and you need it to connect them to your phone, which could bother people who don't want to install more things onto their device.
Overall, if you want a premium pair of headphones that do an excellent job at blocking out background noise, go with the Apple earbuds. However, if you want to save a bit of money and still want an impressive ANC feature, get the Amazon headphones.
The best noise cancelling earbuds with a neckband that we've tested are the Bose QuietControl 30. These earbuds are comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time and have an easy-to-use control scheme that places quite a bit of functionality at your fingertips. At a little over 11 hours of continuous playback, battery life should be more than enough to get you through the day.
Their noise cancelling feature is quite effective and does a good job of filtering out noise in the bass range, so you shouldn't hear too much of the rumble of bus engines or construction equipment if you take them on the go. Even without ANC turned on, the buds are impressively effective when it comes to passively blocking out the chatter of fellow commuters and higher-pitched sounds, like the hum of an AC unit. They also offer a very well-balanced sound profile that should suit most kinds of audio content, from EDM tracks to podcasts. They also support multi-device pairing, which is handy if you listen to content on your phone and computer.
Unfortunately, their companion app is a little limited in terms of overall functionality, with no EQ and no audio presets to customize your listening experience. Their integrated microphone also delivers middling recording quality and struggles to isolate speech from loud background noise. Still, if you're looking for a feature-packed pair of noise-canceling earbuds, these are a good option.
If you're looking for noise cancelling earbuds with a neckband design and lots of customization features, consider the Sony WI-1000X Wireless instead. While they aren't as comfortable as the Bose QuietControl 30/QC30 Wireless, these headphones have an amazing noise isolation performance thanks to their ANC feature. Their default sound profile is pretty well-balanced and suitable for lots of different music genres, but if you prefer a different sound, there's a graphic EQ and presets available in the companion app. They don't leak a lot of noise, either, so you can enjoy your music without bothering the people around you. They're better-built than the Sony, and they come with a more solid portable case, too.
If you want more comfortable headphones, check out the Bose, but if you want better-built headphones with more customization features, consider the Sony instead.
The best wired noise cancelling earbuds that we've tested are the Bose QuietComfort 20/QC20. These earbuds are solidly-built and very easy to carry around, despite the presence of their control module that houses a battery and associated electronics for their ANC system. They have a comfortable fit and come with stability fins that should allow the buds to stay in your ears, even during moderately intense workouts.
Their ANC system helps these earbuds do an outstanding job of filtering out background noise all across the spectrum, so everything from the low rumble of bus engines to the high-pitched hum of an AC unit is effectively blocked out. They also leak very little audio, meaning that you can listen to your music at high volumes without worrying about disrupting people nearby, even in a quiet environment. Their sound profile is quite well-balanced and should suit a wide variety of audio content.
While their integrated microphone makes your voice sound fairly clear and natural, it struggles somewhat to isolate speech from background noise, especially in loud or crowded environments like subway stations and sports stadiums. With that said, these are still well-rounded earbuds with remarkable noise isolation capability.
If you're looking for the best noise cancelling earbuds in the budget range, but don't care if they have ANC as long as they block out a good amount of background noise, get the AUKEY Latitude. These Bluetooth in-ears block an impressive amount of sound passively, provided you get a proper fit and seal with the three sizes of included tips. Their stability fins help them stay in place quite well, making them a good choice for wearing to the gym.
Their noise isolation performance is excellent, and, provided you achieve a proper fit, they do a better job of blocking out the low rumble of bus or plane engines than many budget ANC options we've tested. They also block more treble and mid-range frequencies than any other headphones we've tested, which is great for blocking out background chatter and AC or fan sounds in an office. Their sound profile is decently well-balanced, with a bit of extra bass that lends itself well to hip-hop or EDM, without being overpowering in genres like rock or country.
Unfortunately, their build quality is only decent, and the cable connecting the two earbuds is fairly thin. They also only last seven hours off a single charge, which is quite disappointing and is a lot less than similarly performing headphones, like the Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019, though those headphones don't block nearly as much sound. Overall, the AUKEY are a great choice if you want to get some peace without spending a ton of money.
10/02/2020: Slight changes to the text for accuracy and clarity; no change in product recommendations.
09/04/2020: Verification for accuracy and minor updates to the text, no changes in picks.
08/07/2020: Added the Nura NuraLoop Wireless to the 'Notable Mentions'.
03/03/2020: "Best Wired" added.
01/03/2020: Replaced Sony WF-1000XM3 with Apple AirPods Pro as 'Best Noise Cancelling True Wireless Earbuds', made the Sony 'More Customizable Alternative'. Moved Jabra Elite 65E, KZ AS10, and Jabra Elite Active 65T to 'Notable Mentions'.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best noise cancelling in-ear headphones and 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 headphones. 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.