Best noise-cancelling earbuds 2024: tried and tested by our reviewers

Best noise-cancelling earbuds: quick menu

Over the years, noise-cancelling tech has trickled down from traditional headphones to true wireless earbuds. But it isn't just the premium pairs that boast the feature. Earbuds spanning a range of prices can remove the drone of daily life with varying degrees of success.

To a large extent, we treat noise-cancelling earbuds like normal wireless earbuds. So we still prioritise sound quality, and value for money and also take into account comfort, battery life and the features on offer. However, with these particular earbuds, we need to be sure they do a good job of blocking out external noise too.

With so many brands adopting ANC, it can be hard to know where to start your search. Thankfully, we've been keeping an eye on the market from the beginning and our team of experts has tested a huge number of models, making our collective experience in the field second to none.

This page covers all the best options we’ve tried and tested in recent months and years. And, every set on this list has been through our stringent testing process which you can read about in our dedicated 'how we test' section. You can buy any of the pairs on this page with confidence.

Recent updates

13th May: Replaced JBL Live Pro 2 TWS with Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 as 'best battery life'

The quick list

Andy Madden bio pic
Andy Madden

I have been testing audio products for What Hi-Fi? for nearly two decades. Over the last few years, the noise-canceling earbuds category has exploded and I've reviewed some great (and some not-so-great) pairs including multiple generations from some of the biggest brands in the business such as Apple, Bose, JBL and Sony. I've heard all the pairs on this list and can vouch for the quality and value of every single one so you can buy with confidence.

The best noise-cancelling earbuds overall

Bose sets the current benchmark for noise-cancelling earbuds.

Specifications

Bluetooth: AAC, SBC
Battery life: 6hrs (+18hrs from charging case)
Wireless charging: No
Waterproof: Yes
Finishes: Black, White Smoke

Reasons to buy

+
Punchy, musical sound
+
Solid, weighty bass
+
Customisable, class-leading ANC

Reasons to avoid

-
Immersive Audio slashes battery life
-
No Bluetooth multipoint, LDAC or aptX HD
-
No wireless charging

We all know Bose how to make a great pair of wireless headphones and the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds have to be considered its finest wireless earbuds to date. We didn't expect to see a new pair of successors to the QC Earbuds II, but it was one heck of a nice surprise when the Ultra Earbuds landed late last year.

The new wireless earbuds provide a comfortable fit and lots of features, with ANC performing superbly as the buds' crowning glory. Bluetooth 5.3 is a big bonus, while they are also Bose's first in-ears to offer its very own spatial audio tech, Immersive Audio, something we're not quite convinced by.

What we are convinced by, though, is the buds' noise-cancelling capabilities. The excellent Bose app allows you to alter the amount of noise-canceling on offer via several customisable presets, with this iteration of Bose buds seeing the brand at the top of their game. The Ultra Earbuds can automatically adjust the amount of ANC on offer so your music isn’t drowned out by particularly loud noises, with an effect that feels deeply impressive and immensely comprehensive. 

As for sound, it's balanced and neutral and overflowing with fine detail, with only the Sony WF-1000XM5 really offering a viable rival at this price point. The Bose Ultra Earbuds offer a little less nuance but a bit more punch, so if you like excitement and dynamic interest, they'll be the buds for you. 

It's a bit of a shame there's no support for high-quality wireless audio codecs such as LDAC or aptX HD, nor is there wireless charging or Bluetooth Multipoint (both of which the Sony WF-1000XM5 cater for). At the end of the day, though, that didn't matter a huge deal to us, especially as these buds nail ANC and sound quality with such breathtaking confidence.

Read the full Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review

TOP TIP
Kashfia Kabir
TOP TIP
Kashfia Kabir

Bose has always delivered excellent noise cancelling in its wireless earbuds and the Ultra are no exception. Not only is the ANC on point, but I'm also a big fan of the comfort levels offered by their silicone tips and also the flexibility that comes with the Bose Music control app. You can alter the level of noise cancelling and save several presets which you can switch between should you want to vary the amount of noise let through.

Best cheap noise-cancelling earbuds

Earfun Air Pro on a white background with the case open

Noise-cancelling is bettered by more expensive earbuds, but at this price we can't grumble. (Image credit: Earfun)
Those looking for a cheap and effective pair of noise-cancelling earbuds need look no further.

Specifications

Noise-cancelling: Yes
Bluetooth: AAC, SBC
Battery life: 7hrs (+18hrs from charging case)
Wireless charging: No
Waterproof: Water resistant
Finishes: Black, White

Reasons to buy

+
Solid, accurate bass weight
+
Effective noise cancelling at this price
+
Classy build and finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Harsh upper midrange
-
Sony WF-C700N (above) sound much better for little extra outlay

Despite coming in at an ultra-low price point, the EarFun Air Pro prove that you don't have to spend ridiculous amounts of cash to get noise cancelling that performs properly alongside fairly decent sound. With a heaving feature set and hugely capable levels of performance, these buds are our go-to recommendation if you're being careful about how much you spend.

The EarFun Air Pro fit securely and connect up easily, but they also feature reliable controls and basic but effective noise-cancelling profiles. Battery life comes in at seven hours per charge, with the charging case providing a further 18 hours. There’s also USB-C charging and wearer detection, the latter of which we didn't think we'd get at this level.

Sonically, our testing revealed very good sound quality for the money. The EarFuns deliver well-balanced and relatively transparent audio, with tight, fulsome bass and decent musicality, leading to an overall presentation that rarely feels incohesive or out of joint. It's not quite at the level of the C700N but we wouldn't expect it to be.

We haven't come across any noise-cancelling earbuds at this level that does everything these EarFuns do, as well as they do it. We've even reviewed the newer EarFun Air Pro 3, but felt they weren't good enough to remove the originals from this list.

Read the full EarFun Air Pro review

Best mid-price noise-cancelling earbuds

A potent combination of good noise cancelling, excellent sound quality and value.

Specifications

Bluetooth: AAC, SBC
Battery life: 7.5hrs (+7.5hrs from charging case)
Wireless charging: No
Waterproof: Water resistant
Finishes: White, Black, Sage Green, Lavender

Reasons to buy

+
Very comfortable, all-day fit
+
Solid ANC for the money
+
Detailed, dynamic and musical sound

Reasons to avoid

-
Charging case doesn't add a lot to battery life
-
No aptX or LDAC Bluetooth support

The WF-C700N are fantastic-sounding five-star earbuds, offering impressive performance and good ANC for a fraction of the price of some rivals. That 2023 What Hi-Fi? Product of the Year Award wasn't handed out for nothing, you know.  

During our time with the C700N, we've noted how the buds are conveniently small and compact, with a lightweight design that actually makes them feel more comfortable in our ears than the more premium Sony WF-1000XM5 (below). In fact, they might just be a nicer pair of buds to hold, look at and wear than the XM5, and that's noteworthy considering the gulf in price.

Battery life is competitive at seven and a half hours, and while they lack aptX HD and even LDAC, this isn't the end of the world, as Sony's DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) upscales low-res digital audio files to higher quality. Adaptive Sound Control automatically switches listening modes depending on your location, leaving a noise-cancelling experience that is just as comprehensive and clever as we'd expect from Sony.

What really counts, though, is how the C700N sound, and it's another box ticked on that front. The affordable Sony buds are superbly balanced and poised, with deep, detailed bass, expressive mids and genuinely engaging highs, all knitted together with a musicality and refinement that you just don't expect for this kind of money. 

Downsides? The charging case only provides one extra charge, which seems a little mean, but the superb sound, extensive feature set and great noise-cancelling make these Sonys extremely easy to recommend, especially now that recent software updates have filled in a few of the buds' potential blind spots, such as multipoint Bluetooth.

Read the full Sony WF-C700N review

Best noise-cancelling earbuds for audiophiles

The most detailed and insightful pair of noise-cancelling earbuds we've recently tested.

Specifications

Bluetooth: AAC, LDAC, SBC
Battery life: 8hrs (+16hrs from charging case)
Wireless charging: Yes
Waterproof: IPX4 water resistant
Finishes: Black, Silver

Reasons to buy

+
Class-leading levels of detail and clarity
+
Top-notch musicality and timing
+
Strong ANC and feature set

Reasons to avoid

-
Some rivals produce more bass
-
Bose QC Ultra (above) edge it for ANC

If it’s pure noise-cancelling performance that’s top of your wishlist then Bose’s QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are still your best bet. If you’re willing to sacrifice a little bit of silence in return for what we consider to be even more insightful sound quality (and plenty of high-performing features), our money would go towards Sony’s Award-winning WF-1000XM5. 

There’s a level of detail and openness to the sound created by the XM5 that we haven't heard at this level before. They’re also hugely musical and wonderfully dynamic – the sound gets better the more you run them in.

Bose might still be setting the gold standard, but we think the noise-cancelling performance is still highly effective with the XM5. They’re also packed full of features, such as Adaptive Sound Control, Speak-to-Chat, Multipoint Bluetooth and support for 360 Reality Audio, all of which help make Sony’s latest premium buds yet another Award-winning smash hit.

Some users might not find them quite as stable in their ears as the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, so ensure you experiment with the provided eartips to get the best seal.

Read the full Sony WF-1000XM5 review

Best noise-cancelling earbuds for battery life

Easy-going earbuds with a fine array of features and brilliant battery life.

Specifications

Bluetooth: AAC, SBC, aptX
Battery life: 10hrs (+52hrs from charging case)
Wireless charging: No
Waterproof: Water resistant
Finishes: Black

Reasons to buy

+
Class-leading battery life
+
Clean, detailed, spacious sound
+
Balanced and composed presentation
+
Ample features and effective ANC

Reasons to avoid

-
Could have more energy and drive
-
Rivals offer better dynamic contrast
-
Transparency mode is poor

If you suffer from battery life anxiety, the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 are here to save you. With ANC turned on they’ll last a whopping ten hours, (which goes up to 16 if you switch ANC off). Add the charging case into the equation and the total battery life is 33 hours with ANC on and 52 hours without. At this level, there aren't many rivals that come close, even in this list.

But these noise-cancelling earbuds aren't all about battery life. For a start, we found them lightweight and comfortable to wear which was aided by the fact you get five pairs of tips in the box to help with fit and seal. The M100 are also IPX4-rated which means they're sweat-resistant and good to go when it comes to exercise.

Touch controls on the side of each bud handle a wide range of controls and it's the usual combination of single and double taps, plus long presses to get the buds to do your bidding.

Cambridge has also given its earbuds an element of future-proofing via Bluetooth 5.3 support and the inclusion of LE Audio, aptX Lossless, Auracast and the LC3 codec for when they become available further down the line.

Noise cancelling is very good for the money and almost up to the standard of the Apple AirPods Pro 2. You can take your pick from High, Medium and Low options depending on how much outside noise you want to be audible. Their Transparency mode could be clearer, though, and it should be easier to hear announcements over your music.

Sonically, the Memomania M100 deliver a clean, spacious and inviting sound which isn't fatiguing over time. Bass is shapely, substantial and well-defined, while highs are crisp and nicely controlled and lack any harshness that you might get from lesser models.

They aren't quite as dynamically strong as other five-star pairs at the money, though. This means they have to work a bit harder to maintain your interest. but we still think they're a smart pair of earbuds well worth considering at this price.

Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 review

Best noise-cancelling earbuds for Apple users

Own an iPhone or MacBook? You need these noise-cancelling earbuds.

Specifications

Bluetooth: AAC, SBC
Battery life: 6hrs (+24hrs from charging case)
Wireless charging: Yes
Wateproof: Water resistant
Finishes: White

Reasons to buy

+
Clear, detailed and powerful sound
+
Very decent adaptive ANC
+
Smooth, intuitive use with iOS devices

Reasons to avoid

-
Many features restricted to iOS devices only
-
Sony XM5 and Bose (above) sound better

It will come as no surprise to you that we're recommending the AirPods Pro 2 as the best noise-cancelling buds for keen iPhone and Apple users. The original AirPods Pro were pretty good, but we think the Pro 2 have taken things to new heights, not just regarding sound quality, but with their noise-cancelling abilities, too.

Not only is noise-cancelling far better than before, but battery life is considerably longer, and you'll enjoy new features like Adaptive Audio which reacts to the noise levels in your surroundings and adjusts the level of ANC dynamically, as well as more in-depth customisation and app support.

Best of all, they cost the same as the original AirPods Pro, which we think makes them a really attractive option considering that Apple isn't always keen to keep its prices stable.

During testing we found the fit to be very good, and the tweaked design feels a lot less intrusive than some in-ears. Apple has finally added on-bud volume controls, which also help elevate that user experience and keep you in control on the fly.

Even though the Bose Ultra Earbuds are still the ones to beat, Apple's noise-cancelling works a treat, while Adaptive Transparency reduces the impact of loud noises when letting in ambient sounds.

As far as sound quality goes, this is as good as Apple has managed from a pair of wireless buds, offering up weight, detail and a good dose of dynamic subtlety to produce a pair of accomplished performers that make a huge step up from their predecessors.

Add to this the fact they just work so seamlessly with Apple devices and they become a no-brainer if you're immersed in the brand's ever-popular ecosystem. Rumour has it that AirPods Pro 3 might be on the horizon for 2025, but for now, these are the Apple buds to beat.

Read the full Apple AirPods Pro 2 review

Also consider

The best noise-cancelling earbuds alternatives we've tested:

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4: hot from the What Hi-F? test rooms, the latest generation of premium noise-cancelling earbuds from Sennheiser is arguably its finest yet. These capable all-rounders sound rich, refined and are easy to get along with, whatever your musical taste. They don't cancel noise as well as the Bose QC Ultra, but they're a very talented pair with a comfy fit, 7.5hr battery life and a very flexible control app.

Panasonic RZ-S500W: Panasonic's five-star noise-cancelling earbuds have been around for a while now, but are still worth a look thanks to the fact their price has dropped substantially. New rivals such as the Sony WF-C700N are better all-round performers at the money, but the RZ-S500W shouldn't be written off due to their sparkling sonic performance, solid noise-cancelling and good touch controls.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II: The QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds might be the current kings of noise cancelling but I know their predecessors now offer great value. You can find them discounted during all the big sales events and the level of sound quality and noise-cancelling on offer isn't a million miles away from the newer pair. They're also just as comfortable to wear for long periods so if you can get them at a discounted price you'll have secured a bit of a bargain.

JBL Live Pro 2 TWS: They might have been bumped out of our main list by the Cambridge Audio Melomania M100 and their monster battery life, but these JBL buds are still no slouch. And their eight and a half hours per charge should be enough for most people. They're also solid all-round performers and promote a lively, entertaining sound,.

How to choose the best noise-cancelling earbuds for you

Obviously, the quality of noise-cancelling is key when it comes to choosing the right pair of ANC earbuds. Thankfully, you can be confident that we've tested the noise cancelling in all of the pairs on our list and that the five-star models do the best job cutting out noise. Yes, there can even be differences between the noise-cancelling of five-star products, but they are usually very subtle.

Active noise cancelling puts extra demands on battery life, so you'll want to make sure the buds you want will have enough juice for your travels. Charging cases can help here so you just need to think about how, where and when the wireless earbuds are going to be used. All can be charged via USB while some pairs offer wireless charging too.

As is the case with any pair of wireless earbuds, fit and comfort are vital. We can give you our experience of testing a pair, but it's no substitute for trying them out for yourself. Try the different sizes of silicone tips and maybe even combinations of different sizes to find the best fit for you. If you can't hear any bass, chances are you don't have a good enough seal.

You'll find that noise-cancelling earbuds tend to cost a bit more than the best wireless earbuds without the feature, so you'll have to budget accordingly. The good news is we've tested some exceptionally talented and affordable options which you'll find in this list and thanks to the way the market works, even previously pricey pairs have now been discounted so there are bargains out there.

Our list of the best noise-cancelling earbuds spans a range of prices, so there's sure to be a pair here that's right for you and your budget.

How we test noise-cancelling earbuds

Testing ANC earbuds requires using them in many different environments to see how the buds handle certain frequencies. We'll use our office, the city streets and public transport to get a feel for just how effective the noise-cancelling is. We'll also compare them to one or two of our favourite pairs at the money to see how they stand up to the competition in terms of ANC.

We also use rivals to help us peg the audio quality on offer. We have dedicated test rooms in London, Reading and Bath and we use these while making the final judgement with a selection of our favourite test tracks.

During the testing process, we'll also go over areas like fit and comfort, see whether the battery life claims ring true, and check if there are any lip-sync issues when watching video content, although this isn't an issue with today's best pairs.

Many noise-cancelling earbuds come with a control app that allows you to tweak their performance and their controls so we'll see how it impacts the user experience too.

The team agrees upon all our review verdicts rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and ensure we're being as thorough as possible.

There's no input from PR companies or our sales team over the outcome of reviews and our verdicts, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.

F.A.Q

Which are better, noise-cancelling earbuds or headphones?

I've tested many great pairs of noise-cancelling earbuds that do a brilliant job of blocking out external rumbles. However, in my experience, the best noise-cancelling headphones will outperform similarly-priced earbuds. The size and design of normal headphones allow for more powerful ANC tech to be used, including more mics to "listen" to the noise around you. As a result, the ANC effect can be more pronounced. However, I tend to reach for a pair of noise-cancelling earbuds mainly because they're more portable.

Is it worth getting noise-cancelling earbuds?

If you don't want to wear traditional over-ear noise-cancelling headphones, then earbuds are an option. They won't cancel out as much noise as traditional over-ears but they are arguably more portable and discreet, which makes them easier to carry around. I tend to use earbuds when I'm out and about for this very reason, and the very best models do a great job of isolating you from outside interference.

Which earbuds cancel the most noise?

In my opinion, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds cancel the most noise out of all the models we've tested. I found them great at blocking out a range of low-frequency rumbles and softening the effects of intrusive higher frequencies too. They also offer excellent flexibility so you can customise the ANC better than a number of rivals.

Can you still hear with noise-cancelling earbuds?

It depends on the volume you are listening at. If you have noise cancelling turned on and are listening at high volumes, you will struggle to hear outside noise, such as announcements at a train station and even sirens.

However, the vast majority of noise-cancelling earbuds also offer a transparency mode which allows varying levels of outside noise into your ears so you can hear what's happening around you. Different earbuds also offer varying levels of ANC customisation, so you can dial down the intensity depending on where they are used.

Recent updates

  • 24th April: added mention of recent EarFun Air 2 review and Google Pixel Buds A-Series
  • 11th March 2024: added F.A.Q section, also considers, top tip, photo galleries
  • 5th January 2024: updated how to choose and how we test sections
  • 4th October 2024: added Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds, removed Bose QuietComfort II Earbuds

Today's best noise-cancelling earbuds deals

Andy Madden

Andy is Deputy Editor of What Hi-Fi? and a consumer electronics journalist with nearly 20 years of experience writing news, reviews and features. Over the years he's also contributed to a number of other outlets, including The Sunday Times, the BBC, Stuff, and BA High Life Magazine. Premium wireless earbuds are his passion but he's also keen on car tech and in-car audio systems and can often be found cruising the countryside testing the latest set-ups. In his spare time Andy is a keen golfer and gamer.

With contributions from
  • 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
  • YiG
    Ok then.. the Technics appear to have gained a star, the review it links to shows they were only given 4 stars. Something changed that warrants the extra star??
    Reply
  • Mjp
    Willhiro said:
    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
    Reasons to avoid Apple Airpods: Apple.
    Reply
  • Mjp
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    From budget to premium, we've got a pair of noise-cancelling true wireless earphones for you.

    Best noise-cancelling earbuds: the true wireless way to cut out background noise : Read more
    As an owner of a pair of Sony WF-1000XM3, I must say the noise cancelling is underwhelming at best. The main problem, and it may apply to all of these, is the seal between buds and ear. If this is poor, noise leaks past, there is zero cancelling, and total loss of bass.

    The only noise cancelling headphones I know of that work, are on or over ear types, which also isolate noise and have superb sound quality that no buds can come close to matching.

    I reckon anyone buying any of these buds will be disappointed.
    Reply
  • DaviddeB
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    From budget to premium, we've got a pair of noise-cancelling true wireless earphones for you.

    Best noise-cancelling earbuds: the true wireless way to cut out background noise : Read more
    Where do the Bowers & Wilkins PI7s rank? They should definitely be in the top 3, if not first, from what I read about them. And what about the Devialet Geminis?
    Reply
  • DCarmi
    So Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 gets in at #7 and #10. You could do with a new proof -reader.
    Reply
  • ElJefeFan
    Ruisilva450 said:
    How are any of these budget options?

    Agreed.

    The 3 "budget options included range from $140-$180. I would consider under $100 to be a definite requirement for budget.

    Check out the Tozo NC7 and NC9, Soundpeats T3 and the Earfun models that are cheaper than the one mentioned here.
    Reply
  • 12th Monkey
    As this is two and a half years old, it's probably an ex-parrot by now.
    Reply