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, either 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.
We've tested 98 earbuds and in-ears, and below are our recommendations for the best noise cancelling earbuds to buy in 2019. 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 Bluetooth earbuds, the best wireless noise cancelling earbuds, and the best noise cancelling over-ear headphones.
The best 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.
The Bose QuietControl 30 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 in the bus or subway. They have a decent battery life of 11.4 hours and an auto-off timer that can be adjusted in the Bose Connect app to help save power.
Although the Bose QC 30 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 the Bose QuietControl 30 provide, making them an easy recommendation overall.
If you want even stronger noise cancelling and don't mind a wired design, then go for the QuietComfort 20 instead. They don’t sound as good as the Bose QuietControl 30, but they have remarkable noise isolation. They have the same comfortable earbud design as the QC 30, but they’re more compact and easier to fit in your pockets. They have a great 19-hour battery life that should last you long enough for most trips and you can use them while they are charging too.
Unfortunately, they sound considerably dark, especially compared to the Bose QuietControl 30. They're also a bit pricey for their wired design. However, if you care most about noise cancellation and comfort, then they're a solid choice.
If you want a better-built alternative to the Bose QuietControl 30, then consider the Sony WI-1000X. They’re not as comfortable as the QC 30 since they have a more typical in-ear fit and a more rigid, bulky, neckband, but their build quality is better. They also support passive playback, which is very rare for a wireless in-ear design. This means that if they run out of battery you can always use them with the provided audio cable to continue listening to your music (without noise cancelling). This makes them a bit more versatile than most of the recommendations on this list. They also come with a pretty good companion app that gives you access to great EQ, room effects, and noise cancelling options.
However, their isolation performance isn’t as good as that of the Bose QuietControl 30. They don’t isolate noise as well and they also leak more sound at higher volumes. They’re still a good choice for commuters, but they’re not quite on par with the Bose QC 30.
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 and they have a slightly looser earbud fit, but their neckband is more flexible and its rubber coating feels more durable than that of the QC30.
With the right fit, the Jabra Elite 65e isolate well enough for noisy environments, and since they barely leak, you can play your music at much higher volumes than noise cancelling over-ear without distracting the people around you. They also have a decent dedicated in-line microphone which makes them an even better option for the office.
The Jabra Elite 65e have a fairly bass-heavy sound that will please fans of deep rumbling bass but won’t be ideal for everyone. On the upside, they’re compatible with the Jabra Sound+ app so you can EQ their sound to better suit your preferences. All things considered, they’re comfortable earbuds with that provide a fair amount of value for the price.
If you need more sports-oriented noise cancelling in-ears, then get the Sony WI-SP600N. Their active noise cancelling 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's fairly comfortable and achieves good stability, thanks to the multiple tip sizes provided in the box. They also have an easy-to-use control scheme and a portable design that’s easy to stash in a pocket or a bag when you’re on-the-go.
Unfortunately, the Sony WI-SP600N sound mediocre. Although you can EQ their sound with the Sony | Headphones Connect 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, they may not provide the best value, but the WI-SP600N are still well-built and stylish wireless in-ears that are decent for most use cases.
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 during your busy commutes, then get the KZ AS-10. They’re simple wired headphones that are surprisingly well-built with with a detachable cable that you can replace and even upgrade with a microphone.
The KZ AS-10 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, the KZ AS-10 have bulkier earbuds than most in-ear headphones. Although they aren’t the most comfortable, their angled design helps block even more noise passively and makes them stable enough to wear while running. You could get the wireless Jaybird Freedom for the same price; they have equally good passive isolation, but they’re limited by battery life and wireless reliability. If you prefer a wired design, the KZ AS-10 are the way to go.
If you want to spend as little as possible while still effectively blocking out your surroundings, get the AUKEY Latitude. They’re wireless headphones that are fairly well-built despite their budget price. They isolate remarkable well and are a good option for commuters looking for entry-level headphones to help bring some peace and quiet to their daily routine.
Unfortunately, the AUKEY Latitude aren’t the most comfortable headphones, even for in-ears. On the upside, they support multi-device pairing, which is a nice touch at this price point. They sound decent and provide a satisfactory listening experience overall.
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.