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 200 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 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 Sony WI-1000X Wireless are the best noise cancelling earbuds with a neckband that we've tested. These well-built headphones have an ANC feature that does an amazing job blocking out background noises. Whether you're on a crowded bus or working in a noisy office, you shouldn't be distracted by ambient noise.
Overall, they have a fairly neutral sound profile, and the little extra kick in the bass range makes them suitable for bass-heavy music genres, too. There's also a graphic EQ and presets available in the Sony | Headphones Connect app so you can customize their sound. They don't leak a lot of noise, and escaping audio sounds very thin, so you shouldn't really bother those around you if you're listening to music at loud volumes.
Unfortunately, these in-ears don't come with stability fins, so they may not be stable enough to wear during more intense workouts. Also, their in-ear design can feel fatiguing in your ear after long listening sessions. However, if you like earbuds with a neckband design, they're excellent noise cancellation makes them a solid choice.
The best wired noise cancelling earbuds that we've tested are the Bose QuietComfort 20/QC20. These comfortable, well-built headphones have incredible noise isolation, so they're a solid choice for working in your office or commuting without a lot of distractions. They're also stable enough to wear during your workouts, which is nice.
Overall, these headphones have a bass-heavy sound profile that adds thump and punch to your mix, so they're well-suited for fans of bass-heavy genres like EDM. They don't leak a lot of noise, and even if you're listening to music at loud volumes, escaping audio shouldn't be noticeable to those around you. Their microphone has a good recording quality, too, so they're a decent choice for making phone calls.
Unfortunately, they come with a slightly bulky in-line control module, which may not be ideal for all listeners. Also, they don't offer any sound customization features or a companion app. However, these simple wired earbuds with outstanding noise isolation still offer a fairly versatile overall performance.
If you're on a budget, the best passively isolating earbuds that we've tested are the Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2. These well-built truly wireless in-ears don't have an ANC feature, but they still offer an impressive noise isolation performance. They can block out higher-frequency sounds typically found in an office setting, like chatter from nearby coworkers.
They have a balanced sound profile that's suitable for listening to lots of different audio content, and the overemphasis in the bass range adds an extra thump and punch to your audio. They don't leak a lot of sound, so you can crank up the volume on your favorite music without bothering people around you. They're stable enough to wear to the gym, and they come with different sizes of ear tips and stability sleeves to help you get the best possible fit.
Unfortunately, you may still be able to hear some bass-heavy background noises like bus and plane engines while wearing these headphones, so they may not be ideal for your commute. Also, their 7.3-hour continuous battery life is just okay. Fortunately, their portable charging case offers around 12.5 extra charges, so you can recharge them while you're on-the-go.
01/21/2020: Removed the Bose QuietControl 30/QC30 Wireless from Notable Mentions as they're no longer widely available. Added the TaoTronics SoundLiberty 94 and the JBL Endurance Peak II to Notable Mentions.
12/18/2020: Replaced the AUKEY Latitude Wireless with the Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless to reflect changing availability. Updated Notable Mentions.
11/27/2020: Slight changes to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in product recommendations.
10/30/2020: Removed the Bose QuietControl 30/QC30 Wireless as 'Best Neckband Noise-Cancelling Earbuds' as they aren't available.
08/07/2020: Added the Nura NuraLoop Wireless to the 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 noise cancelling earbuds and in-ears. 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.