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Best noise-cancelling earbuds 2021: budget and premium

Best noise-cancelling earbuds Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best noise-cancelling earbuds you can buy in 2021.

Noise-cancelling earbuds make a lot of sense for a lot of people. In many cases, they're wireless, so cutting the cable can give you a new sense of freedom which is handy for commuting or exercising.

And the fact they've got noise-cancelling tech built-in means they're best positioned to make your listening experience as quiet and peaceful as possible.

With noise-cancelling activated, earbuds use a combination of built-in mics and inverted sound waves to cancel out certain frequencies. This means you hear less traffic, chat and sirens, and more of the music playing through your headphones. Not only does it give your music room to breathe, noise-cancelling also means it's possible to listen at lower volumes and still hear all the detail in your music.

You'll find the best noise-cancelling earbuds have a lot in common with the best wireless earbuds, and best true wireless earbuds but including this extra feature does tend to increase the cost when compared to models without the feature. You'll have to budget accordingly, but there are some exceptionally talented and affordable options out there.

Below, we've rounded up the best noise-cancelling earbuds we've tested, spanning a range of prices. Take a look and see which is right for you.

Best noise-cancelling earbuds 2021

(Image credit: Sony)

1. Sony WF-1000XM3

The best noise-cancelling earbuds you can buy.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth version: 5.0 | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 6 hours (+ 18 hours from charging case)

Reasons to Buy

Musical performers
Ace noise cancelling
Excellent battery life

Reasons to Avoid

No aptX HD support

The wireless Sony WF-1000XM3s are awesome all-rounders and offer arguably the best in-ear noise-cancelling we've experienced to date.

Fit is excellent, as is battery life and the all-important sound quality. They come with more tip sizes than most rivals, feature intuitive touch controls and sound wonderfully musical. Despite their tiny proportions, there's a good sense of scale. Instruments sound natural and authentic, with plenty of detail and composure to the performance. 

Battery life is six hours, while the carry case has enough power for an extra three charges, giving a total of 24 hours. Plus there's a fast-charge function: 10 minutes of charging breathes 90 minutes of life into these buds.

If you're in the market for a pair of noise-cancelling earbuds, we suggest you start here.

Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM3

Best noise-cancelling earbuds

(Image credit: Panasonic)

2. Panasonic RZ-S500W

A hugely talented and affordable pair of noise-cancelling earbuds.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth version: 5.0 | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 6.5 hours (+ 13 hours from charging case) | Charging: USB-C | Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Expansive detailed presentation
Excellent noise cancelling
Superb touch controls

Reasons to Avoid

Fit could be an issue for some

Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of noise-cancelling wireless earbuds. But perhaps it should be. The RZ-S500W are the company's first foray into the category and they're sensational performers for the money.

Specs are thorough, with noise-cancelling tech, an Ambient Mode, twin mics for voice calls, and battery life that totals 19.5 hours (6.5hrs from the buds and 13hrs from the charging case). A 15-minute USB-C quick-charge can deliver 70 minutes of playback. The touch controls on each bud are responsive and intuitive, allowing you to control your music and switch between noise-cancelling modes with zero fuss. 

You also get five sizes of ear tips to help with fit. We found this a little hit and miss, so we'd definitely experiment and consider mixing the sizes if it means getting a more secure fit.

Both noise-cancelling and sound quality are excellent. There's plenty of agility through the low end and loads of texture across the frequencies. Music sounds clear and there's a great deal of refinement on show, which is to be welcomed at this price level. To sum up, these Panasonic earbuds are superb for the money.

Read the full review: Panasonic RZ-S500W

Best noise-cancelling earbuds

(Image credit: Bose)

3. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

These fantastic noise-cancelling earbuds boast brilliant sound and tech.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 6hrs (18hrs with charging case) | Charging: USB-C | Built-in mic and controls: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Exciting, entertaining sound
Superb balance
Impressive noise-cancelling

Reasons to Avoid

No volume controls
Average battery life

Bose's first-ever pair of noise-cancelling earbuds are a huge success. The Bose feel lightweight enough for the average commute or exercise session (the QuietComfort are both sweat and weather-resistant) and they're great to live with. Battery life is a claimed six hours from a single charge, with the charging case supplying an extra two charges, making 18 hours in total – a decent reserve, but by no means class-leading. You can customise some features and controls, and adjust the excellent noise-cancellation, in Bose's handy companion app.

The sense of enthusiasm and excitement conveyed by the Bose buds is highly infectious. There’s power, poise and a fantastic sense of dynamism. Bass notes sound full-bodied, go deep and the QuietComfort Earbuds squeeze out lots of detail.

All in all, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are sensational all-rounders, capable of impressive musicality and topped off with some of the best noise cancelling we've heard in a pair of earbuds. The Bose are more than a match for any rival at this level, including the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, mentioned above.

Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Best noise-cancelling earbuds 2021

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

4. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

Pricey, but these noise-cancelling earbuds boast a seriously refined sound.

SPECIFICATIONS

Connector: N/A | Cable length: N/A | In-line remote and mic: N/A | OS support: Android/iOS | Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 7 hours (28 hours with charging case)

Reasons to Buy

Refined, mature sound
Lightweight and comfortable
Nice to use

Reasons to Avoid

Price
Timing can be bettered
aptX support but not HD

The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2s tick a lot of boxes. They're comfortable to have in place for long listening sessions. Battery life is competitive too, with a single charge giving seven hours of playback and the charging case providing an additional three charges, bringing the total battery life at your disposal to 28 hours.

They're nice to use too, with touch-sensitive pads on each earpiece which can be customised to control music playback and features.

We're pleased to report that the noise-cancelling works extremely well and gives the Sonys in top spot a run for their money. Background noises are dumbed down leaving you free to enjoy their excellent sound quality.

They're extremely refined and sophisticated for the money. Highs and lows are smooth and controlled but dynamics aren't sacrificed. The Sennheisers present a wide, detailed soundstage with impressive scale and authority. Granted, they're a little pricier than other noise-cancelling earbuds, but if your budget can stretch, we think you'll be seriously impressed. Up there with the Sonys as the best noise-cancelling earbuds we've tested.

Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

Best noise-cancelling earbuds 2021

(Image credit: Future)

5. Apple AirPods Pro

Apple's first noise-cancelling earbuds put up a solid display.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth version: 5.0 | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 5 hours (+19 hours from charging case)

Reasons to Buy

Comfy
Very good noise cancelling
Even audio

Reasons to Avoid

Rivals sound better
No volume control
No aptX HD support

You could be forgiven for thinking that Apple invented the true wireless earbud category. It didn't, but like so many other device types, it made it its own thanks to the ubiquity of its white AirPods.

The Pros are the best yet, and the first model from Apple to offer noise cancelling, which is predictable and constant. Fit is good, while the controls have been built into the stems, which can be squeezed to carry out certain tasks. It's a bit of a fiddly process, though, and you still have to control volume via Siri voice control or on your device, which isn't ideal. Battery life is five hours for the buds with another 19 hours from the charging case.

 Similarly priced rivals might sound better, but if you're an iPhone user, the sheer convenience of how well these noise-cancelling earbuds work with your device could be enough of a trade-off.

Read the full review: Apple AirPods Pro

Best noise-cancelling earbuds 2021

(Image credit: Sony)

6. Sony WF-SP800N

A fine pair of noise-cancelling earbuds, with a lively, detailed and dynamic sound.

SPECIFICATIONS

Connector: N/A | Cable length: N/A | In-line remote and mic: N/A | OS support: Android/iOS | Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 9 hours (+ 9 hours from charging case)

Reasons to Buy

Vibrant, buoyant sound
Good noise-cancelling
Comfortable fit

Reasons to Avoid

Slightly coarse sound
Average battery life

The Sony WF-SP800N earbuds certainly try to please everyone. They want to please those who need accompaniment to their workout and also those who have a commute to endure. They aim to please those who don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on some well-specified, true wireless in-ear headphones with active noise-cancellation, but also those who have spent enough on a Deezer or Tidal subscription to have access to 360 Reality Audio, Sony’s spatial audio format. And in a nutshell, they succeed.

These Sonys may have average battery life (18 hours total) and an arguably daft look (they aren't exactly discreet and do fill your lugholes), but their dynamic sound, good noise-cancelling and indisputable build combine to ensure they're front-runners in their field.

Read the full review: Sony WF-SP800N

Best noise-cancelling earbuds 2021

(Image credit: Libratone)

7. Libratone Track Air+

Likeable and lightweight earbuds with excellent noise-cancelling.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth version: 5.0 | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 6 hours (+18 hours from charging case)

Reasons to Buy

Good level of detail
Impressive noise cancelling
Comfy

Reasons to Avoid

Harsh upper midrange
Convoluted app
Lack volume controls

These Libratones don't deliver the most refined or thrilling sound for the money, but it's still clear and detailed with a welcome lack of outside noise. Battery life is good and they're a comfortable fit, too, which means after a few hours in their company you'll get along perfectly fine. A very good choice for the money.

Read the full review: Libratone Track Air+

Best noise-cancelling earbuds 2021

(Image credit: Technics)

8. Technics EAH-AZ70W review

Technics' breaks new ground with this fine pair of noise-cancelling earbuds.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth version: 5.1 | aptX HD: No | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 6 hours (+12 hours from charging case)

Reasons to Buy

Solid, punchy and spacious sound
Excellent bass response
Comfortable and easy to use

Reasons to Avoid

Not the most subtle sound

Technics attempt to crack the noise-cancelling earbuds market has started with this premium pair of in-ears. The buds include Alexa voice control, touch controls, and 18 hr battery live (six from the earbuds with a further 12 provided by the case).

The noise-cancelling tech used is Technics' own, and features three mics in each earbud which help reduce background chatter. You can alter the strength of the noise-cancelling in the Technics Audio Connect companion app, where you can also select from a range of different sound modes and even track down the whereabouts of your earbuds.

The connection is solid and stable, and the earbuds favour a lively, entertaining sound with plenty of punch. Bass goes particularly deep and sounds defined with it. These aren't the cheapest pair of noise-cancelling earbuds in this list, but they are a pleasant and talented proposition worth considering.

Read the full review: Technics EAH-AZ70W

Best noise-cancelling earbuds 2021

(Image credit: Sony)

9. Sony WI-1000X

Decent sound and great noise-cancelling make these neckbuds a smart choice.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth version: 4.1 | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 13 hours

Reasons to Buy

Lively bass
Insightful midrange
Levels of noise cancelling

Reasons to Avoid

Stiff neckband

Not all noise-cancelling earbuds are truly wireless, of course. These ones have a neckband, with the earbuds attached via a short cord. They're still wireless, though, so you can run/cook/gesticulate without getting tangled up. The neckband itself could be a bit more flexible, but there's a ton of features, including different grades of noise cancellation. And they sound superb, serving up plenty of detail and precision. A great step up for those who want in-ear portability with on-ear battery life and power.

Read the full review: Sony WI-1000X

MORE:

Apple AirPods Pro vs Sony WF-1000XM3: which is better?

The best wireless headphones you can buy right now

Save big with our pick of the best headphone deals

  • Willhiro
    The Sony's "Reasons to Avoid" are "Lack volume controls", and "No aptX HD support".
    How come that is not "Reasons to Avoid" for the Apple Airpods. Should they have the same listed? Unless they do have them
    Reply
  • Ruisilva450
    How are any of these budget options?
    Reply
  • Mikeyz
    I am surprised it states there is no touch volume control on the Bose QuietComfort buds. According to the official Bose website it clearly states this is supported. You slide you finger up/down the right bud. I am about to buy them so can confirm this later. I did also check some Q&A on amazon from people who have purchased this product. At least one buyer stated it does have volume control.
    Reply