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 canceling in-ears or earbuds is the best solution for users who want the most isolation in the smallest format.
We've tested 74 earbuds and in-ears and below are our recommendations for the best noise cancelling earbuds to buy in 2018. Some in-ears isolate well enough passively that you may not even need the noise cancellation; see our recommendations for the best earbuds and in-ears.
The best noise canceling earbuds that we've tested so far are the Bose QuietControl 30. The QC30 have the benefits of a comfortable earbud design and excellent noise canceling that make them one of the best options for commute and travel.
They isolate as well as the over-ear Bose headsets, but since they are much smaller with an earbud fit, they leak a lot less. This means you can play your music at higher volumes to mask even more noise without distracting the people around you, which is great for office use. Unfortunately, their around-the-neck design won't be for everyone, and the neckband is not the most durable, peeling off on some units after a couple of months of use.
On the upside, there are very few earbuds or in-ears that offer the level of noise canceling, sound quality and comfort that the QC30 provide, making them an easy choice for the best noise canceling earbuds we've tested so far.
If you want the excellent noise isolation and comfortable fit of the Bose QuietControl 30 in a wired design, then get the Bose QuietComfort 20. They do not have the convenience of a wireless design so they may not be the ideal headphones for everyone, especially if your phone does not have a headphone jack. They also sound a bit darker compared to the QC30s.
On the upside, they provide the same great isolation performance that the QC30 have to offer, which makes them one of the better earbuds for commute and travel. They are compact enough to fit in most pockets and you can wear their earbud fit for hours and not feel any fatigue or soreness that you would get from regular in-ears.
If you want a noise-canceling in-ear that will easily connect to your iPhone via the lightning port instead of using a dongle, then consider the Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Headset. The Ambeo aren't as good for noisy commutes. They also have an in-ear fit with bulky ear-hooks that most will not find as comfortable as the Bose earbud design but on the upside, they have a unique binaural mic set up that allows you to record audio with a 3D-like effect.
It's a cool feature that's not only fun to experience but also makes recording videos, and potentially amateur movies, on your iPhone a little better. They also come with a control module that's easy-to-use and provides a lot of control over the ANC. Unfortunately, they are restricted to iOS devices since they only come with a lightning connector. On the upside, this does make them one of the few active headphones without a battery life. It also gives you access to a customizable EQ via the companion app, which is very rare for a wired in-ear design.
If you like the around the neck earbud design of the Bose QuietControl 30 but find them slightly too expensive, then consider the Jabra Elite 65e instead. They do not cancel noise as well as the Bose, they also have a slightly looser earbud fit that you have to get just right to really benefit from the noise canceling.
However, 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 than noise canceling over-ear without distracting the people around you. They also have a good dedicated in-line microphone which makes them an even better option for the office.
The Elite 65e have an around the neck design which may not be the ideal format for all listeners but on the upside, the neckband is flexible enough to fit into some pockets and its rubber coating feels more durable than that of the QC30.
If you need a more sports-oriented noise canceling in-ear, then get the Sony WI-SP600N. They are not the most isolating headphones on this list, and even some passively isolating in-ears, like the Jabra Elite Active 65t, do better for isolation and sports use.
On the upside, the SP600N have a good, sweat proof build quality, a simple in-ear design that's decently comfortable and stable thanks to the multiple tip sizes provided in the box. They also have an easy to use control scheme, a portable design that easily fits in your pocket and a decent enough sound that you can EQ thanks to the Sony Headphones Connect app. They may not be the best value but they're well built and stylish wireless in-ears that do well enough for most use cases.
If you want noise canceling in a truly wireless design, then one of your only options, for now, are the Sony WF-1000X. They do not have the best noise canceling, and their performance is about average at best for a truly wireless design. On the upside, they are one of the only noise canceling truly wireless headphones that we've tested so far, the second being the Sony WF-SP700N. They have an elegant and premium looking design and come with a well made and sturdy charging case that supports NFC, which makes them a bit easier to pair with your phone. They also come with many tip options to help you find the right fit, and they have a decently customizable sound.
They do not benefit from a full EQ like most of the other Sony headphones that support the app and their wireless connection is a bit spotty at times and has a lot of latency but if you have the budget, the WF-1000X may be a better and slightly cheaper choice for you than the SP7000N.
If you do not care whether your headphones actively or passively isolate against ambient noise as long as they block out enough of your surroundings for your busy commutes, then get the KZ AS-10. They are a simple wired headset so they won't be as convenient for everyone as the wireless options on this list. They are also completely passive headphones with no noise canceling feature.
However, their passive isolation is good enough for most commutes and since they barely leak, you can play your music at much higher volumes without distracting the people around you. They have an above-average sound and a surprisingly great build quality with a detachable cable that you can replace and even upgrade. They're bulkier than average and the angled earbuds won't be the best fit for all listeners but it helps block even more noise passively and makes them stable enough for sports.
You can also get the Jaybird Freedom for the same price; they have equally good passive isolation and wireless design but they are also limited by battery life, wireless reliability, and their awkward charging clip.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best noise cancelling in-ear headphones and earbuds to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one 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.