Sometimes you need a bit more isolation for the noisy conditions involved in your daily routine. However, if you're going to be carrying your headphones often to isolate you while commuting or working out, then you may want something a bit more portable. In this case, noise cancelling in-ears or earbuds are the best solution for users who want the most isolation in the smallest format. Some in-ears isolate well enough passively that you may not even need the noise cancellation.
We've tested over 115 earbuds and in-ears and below are our recommendations for the best noise cancelling earbuds to buy in 2019. See also our recommendations for the best earbuds and in-ears and the best Bluetooth earbuds.
The best wireless noise cancelling earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Bose QuietControl 30. They have a fairly lightweight neckband design with a comfortable earbud fit. They have very good noise isolation and are suitable for commuters, frequent flyers, or anyone who needs some peace and quiet from time to time.
These headphones have a well-balanced, versatile sound. They isolate noise very well and effectively block out the deep rumbles of bus and engines, which makes them a good choice to wear on the bus or subway. They have a decent battery life of 11.4 hours and an auto-off timer that you can adjust in the Bose Connect app to help save power.
Although they have efficient in-line controls, the power button is set in the rubber sleeve of the neckband, which makes it stiff and difficult to use. The rubber sleeve is also not the most durable and has been known to peel off the neckbands of some units after only a few months of use. However, there are very few earbuds that offer the level of noise cancelling, sound quality, and comfort that these headphones provide, making them an easy recommendation overall.
If you want a better-built alternative to the Bose QuietControl 30, then consider the Sony WI-1000X Wireless. They’re not as comfortable as the Bose since they have a more typical in-ear fit and a rigid neckband, but they feel better-built. They come with a pretty complete companion app that gives you access to several customizable features and they also support passive playback, which makes them a bit more versatile than most of the recommendations on this list. On the downside, they leak more sound at higher volumes than the QC 30, but they’re still a good choice for commuters.
Get the Bose if you want something more comfortable with superior isolation performance, but if you care most about build quality and durability, you'll want to go for the Sonys.
If you like the neckband design of the Bose QuietControl 30 but find them slightly too expensive, then consider the Jabra Elite 65e instead. They don’t cancel noise quite as well as the Bose, but their neckband is more flexible and they have the best microphone performance we’ve measured on Bluetooth earbuds. With the right fit, they isolate well enough for noisy environments, and since they barely leak, you can play your music at much higher volumes without distracting the people around you. While their default sound will please fans of deep rumbling bass, it won’t be ideal for everyone. Thankfully, you can customize the way they sound with the Jabra Sound+ app and even activate specific soundscapes dedicated to masking out ambient noise, which is neat.
You'll want to go for the QC 30 if you want something with a more balanced sound and stronger noise cancelling, but if you don't want to spend so much or prefer earbuds with a better Bluetooth microphone, then get the Elite 65e.
The best wired noise cancelling earbuds that we’ve tested so far are the Bose QuietComfort 20. They isolate remarkably well and have a comfortable earbud design which makes them easy to wear for long periods. They’re fairly portable, even with their ANC control module, and come with a soft fabric case that will help protect them in your pockets.
These headphones have excellent noise cancelling and can effectively reduce the intensity of noises of almost all frequencies. They cancel out sounds in the bass range, like the low rumble of bus or plane engines, to a great degree and are also very good at blocking speech as well as the higher-pitched noises produced by fans or A/C units. Their 19-hour battery life is great, and they can even be used while charging.
On the downside, they sound considerably boomy, especially compared to the wireless Bose QuietControl 30 which have a more balanced sound. Their controls also only work on either Apple or Android devices, so you’ll have to choose which variant you prefer when buying them, which can be annoying if you often use both types of devices. That said, if you’re looking for wired noise cancelling earbuds, they’re still the best we’ve tested so far.
If you need more sports-oriented noise cancelling in-ears, the best noise cancelling earbuds for working out are the Sony WI-SP600N Wireless. Their active noise cancelling (ANC) feature isn’t as strong as that of the Jabra Elite 65e, but they’re well-built and are rated IPX4 for light water resistance. They have a simple in-ear design that fits securely yet fairly comfortably, and they are very breathable.
These wireless in-ears have a very good control scheme that feels complete and provides good feedback. Their portable design is easy to stash in a pocket or a bag when you’re on-the-go, and their 5.6-hour battery life is long enough for a full workout. They’re compatible with the Sony | Headphones Connect app which provides a decent amount of customization options, and they have a standby mode to help save power when not in use.
Unfortunately, they sound rather mediocre. Although you can EQ their sound in the app, there are non-ANC in-ears that sound better out-of-the-box and achieve better passive isolation performance, like the Jabra Elite Active 65t or the JBL Reflect Mini 2. That said, these are still well-built and stylish wireless in-ears that are worth considering for athletes who prefer ANC headphones.
If you don't care whether your headphones actively or passively isolate against ambient noise as long as they block out enough of your surroundings during your busy commutes, the best noise cancelling in-ear headphones in the budget category are the KZ AS10. They’re simple wired headphones that are surprisingly well-built, with a detachable cable that you can replace and even upgrade with a microphone.
These headphones have good enough passive isolation for commutes, and since they barely leak you can play your music at much higher volumes without distracting the people around you. They have good audio reproduction and sound decent overall.
On the downside, they have bulkier earbuds than most in-ear headphones. Some may also find their wired design also a bit limiting. The wireless Jaybird Freedom have equally good passive isolation, but their short battery life is disappointing. The wired Beats urBeats3 also isolate noise very well and have a surprisingly decent in-line mic too, but their controls don't fully work on Android. If you're looking for a simple wired design that works with all devices, the KZ are the way to go.
If you want to bring a touch of peace and quiet to your daily commute but don’t want to spend a bunch of money on noise cancelling earbuds, then get the AUKEY Latitude. They don’t provide the same wired reliability as the KZ AS10 since they’re Bluetooth earbuds, but they’re less expensive and their wireless design makes them easier to deal with when you’re on-the-go. Unfortunately, their great passive isolation comes at the expense of comfort – their in-ear fit can be fatiguing to wear over time since their earbuds go quite deeply into the ear canal. They also don’t have any power-saving features, so you’ll want to remember to turn them off when not in use. On the upside, they can pair to 2 devices simultaneously and even support aptX(LL), which are great active features to have, especially at this price point.
If you'd rather have wired earbuds, you’ll want to go for the KZ AS10, but if you prefer going wireless, then the AUKEY are a better option.
The best noise cancelling truly wireless earbuds we've tested so far are the Sony WF-1000XM3. They're well-built wireless in-ear headphones that have a premium look and feel. They don't cancel noise as well as some of neckband-style earphones we've tested, like the Sony WI-1000X or the Bose QuietControl 30, but still do a lot better than Sony's other attempts at noise cancelling truly wireless earbuds.
These truly wireless earbuds sound balanced enough to be suitable for most music genres right out-of-the-box, and you easily adjust the way they sound with the fully-featured Sony | Headphones Connect app. They also have an auto-off timer that you can toggle in the app, which is useful since their battery only provides about 7 hours of playback. Their charging case is supposed to provide up to 3 extra charges, though, so they can last you all day if you keep them in their case when you're not using them.
Unfortunately, it can be a bit challenging to find a good fit with these earbuds. They come with lots of tip options, but they're all much larger than average, which is frustrating for those with smaller ears. The difficulty in finding a good fit negatively impacts both their bass performance and how well they isolate noise, so if they fit you well, you may find they deliver more bass and isolate more noise than what we measured.
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 earbuds/in-ear 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.