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 160 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 in-ear noise cancelling headphones with a truly wireless design we've tested so far 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 quite 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, though 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 3-4 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 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, as well as 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. However, if you want to save a bit of money and still want an impressive ANC feature, get the Amazon.
The best wireless noise cancelling earbuds we've tested so far with a neckband design are the Bose QuietControl 30. These Bluetooth headphones are comfortable to wear for long periods. Their adjustable ANC feature allows you to customize your noise isolation experience based on your preferences.
Overall, these headphones have very good noise isolation performance. Whether you're commuting or working in an office setting, they do a good job of reducing the ambient noise around you. They also have a decently neutral sound profile that makes them versatile enough for most music genres.
Unfortunately, they also have quite a bit of latency, which may cause sync issues between the audio you hear and the video you see. This may be disappointing if you want to use your headphones to watch a lot of movies and other video content. Some users have also reported issues with the rubber coating on the headband peeling off over time. However, with three different sizes of earbuds tips to choose from, it is easy to ensure a stable fit.
If you're looking for wireless noise cancelling earbuds with a more premium-looking neckband design, consider the Sony WI-1000X instead. While they aren't quite as comfortable as the Bose QuietControl 30/QC30 Wireless, these headphones are solid, well-built, and include a cable management slot that lets you adjust to the cable length you need. They also have a good ANC feature that can reduce ambient noise in almost any setting. Their default sound profile is decent and relatively flat, but you can use the EQ on the app to customize the sound to your liking.
If you prefer a more comfortable fit, go with the Bose. However, if you want earbuds with a sturdier build and better sound customization options, get the Sony.
The best wired noise cancelling earbuds that we've tested to date are the Bose QuietComfort 20. These comfortable, durable earbuds have a straightforward and easy-to-use control scheme. Their compact design makes it easy to keep these portable headphones in your pocket or your bag while on the go.
The noise isolation performance of these earbuds is great. The ANC feature does an excellent job reducing ambient noise whether you're commuting or working in the office. They have a decently neutral sound profile, although some listeners may find it a bit bass-heavy.
On the downside, these headphones have a control module on the cable, which makes them a little larger than basic in-ear headphones. Some users may find it bulky, but the module is flat and the headphones are still very portable. Overall, these excellent noise cancelling headphones are versatile enough for most uses.
If you're looking for the best noise cancelling earbuds in the budget range, but don't care if they have ANC or not, as long as they block out a good amount of background noise, get the AUKEY Latitude Wireless. These Bluetooth in-ears block an impressive amount of sound passively, provided you get a proper fit and seal with the three sizes of tips that are included. 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 so far, 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.
08/07/2020: Added the Nura NuraLoop Wireless to the 'Notable Mentions', minor changes to the text for clarification.
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 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.