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 are the best solution for users who want the most isolation in the smallest format.
We've tested 78 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 and the best noise cancelling over-ear headphones.
The best noise cancelling earbuds that we've tested so far are the Bose QuietControl 30. The QC30 have 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 like the great noise cancellation of the Bose lineup and don't mind a wired design, then go for the QuietComfort 20 instead. They won't be as convenient as the QuietControl 30 for most, especially if your phone does not have a headphone jack. They also have a slightly worse sound overall when compared to the QC30, since they sound considerably darker. However, they provide the same great level of isolation that's good enough for most noisy environments, commutes, and long-distance travel. They're sufficiently compact to fit into your pockets and they have the same earbud-like design of the QC30, which makes them a bit more comfortable than typical in-ears.
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 or completely passively, without the noise canceling feature, so you will never be without music. Their somewhat dark sound may be a deal breaker for some, especially compared to some of the other Bose headphones we've tested. They're also a bit pricey for their wired design, but 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 that isolates as well in noisy conditions, then consider the Sony WI-1000X. They won't be as comfortable as the QC 30 since they have a typical in-ear design. Their neckband is also rigid and slightly bulky, which won't be ideal for all listeners.
On the upside, they come with a couple of tip options to help you find the right fit. They also isolate very well in noisy environments with a competent ANC feature that cancels a lot of low-frequency noise. That, combined with the great passive isolation from the in-ear fit, makes them a great choice for commute and travel and a suitable option for most use cases since they also have a decent 10.3-hour battery life and 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 canceling). 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 canceling options.
If you prefer a truly wireless design with ANC, you can get the Sony WF-1000X instead. However, they have a much worse noise canceling and performance overall which may not be worth it for most.
If you like the around the neck earbud design of the Bose QuietControl 30 and the Sony WI-10000X but find them slightly too expensive, then consider the Jabra Elite 65e instead. They do not cancel noise as well as the Bose and they 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, and 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 uses.
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're the best noise cancelling in-ear headphones in the budget category. 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.