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, so you can enjoy your music or focus on that call.
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, but 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 noise-cancelling earbuds tend to cost a bit more than wireless earbuds without the feature, so you'll have to budget accordingly. The good news is there are some exceptionally talented and affordable options out there.
Our list of the best noise-cancelling earbuds spans a range of prices, so take a look and see which pair is right for you.
Sony already boasts a pair of the best noise-cancelling earbuds you can buy – just look at the WF-1000XM3 below. But the Japanese giant has managed to go one better with the WF-1000XM4, taking both noise-cancelling and sound quality up a notch.
They're powered by Sony's brand new Integrated Processor V1 which takes care of noise-cancelling, DAC and amplifier duties. They also feature a new driver design which is made from a new material and uses a bigger magnet to give the headphones greater control when cancelling low frequencies. And the results are superb. The Sonys effortlessly keep outside distractions to a minimum which allows you to immerse yourself in the music.
And the WF-1000XM4 produce one of the most dynamic, detailed, balanced and musical performances we've heard from a pair of noise-cancelling earbuds. Bass notes sound tight and textured, while vocals ooze refinement and sophistication. Their rhythmic delivery keeps you coming back for more, and also makes you thankful for the eight hours of battery life, which is class-leading in this field.
The Sonys are also comfortable to wear, water-resistant and include clever features such as Quick Attention and Speak-To-Chat which both allow you to have a conversation without removing the earbuds. You'll struggle to find better.
Read the full review: Sony WF-1000XM4
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
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
Look higher up this list and you'd be forgiven for thinking that you need to spend quite a bit of cash to get a decent pair of noise-cancelling earbuds. But, the Earfun Air Pro prove that isn't the case. Despite coming in at an ultra-low price point, they manage to pack in plenty of useful features and produce an entertaining sound that demands you take them seriously.
The Earfun Air Pro fit securely, connect easily, have reliable controls and feature 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, plus the sound is good for the money – well-balanced, relatively transparent, taut and full through the bass, and musically pleasing. We haven't come across any noise-cancelling earbuds at this level that does everything these Earfuns do, as well as they do it.
Read the full review: Earfun Air Pro
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.
Read the full review: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 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.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
The AirPods Pro 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
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, noise-cancelling earbuds, 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
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
For a brand normally associated with flashy colourful plastics and overt branding, the Beats Studio Buds are quite sedate-looking. These noise-cancelling earbuds offer a comfortable, secure fit, and IPX4 splashproof rating plus one-touch pairing for iOS and, for the first time, Android devices.
Battery life is five hours with noise-cancelling activated and can be bumped to around eight if you switch ANC off. The supplied carry case can deliver two additional charges. Multi-function 'b'-branded buttons on each earpiece allow you to carry out basic controls, take calls, and switch between noise-cancelling and Transparency modes. The only thing missing is the ability to control volume.
Their ANC algorithm supposedly monitors and makes corrections at up to 48,000 times per second and they do an effective job at cutting out low-level noise, while the built-in mics do a good job of handling call quality.
Sonically, the Beats put in a very solid shift. Low frequencies are weighty yet controlled and articulate, and you're presented with an open and expansive soundfield. Class-leaders boast better detail and refinement, but the Beats Studio have enough in their locker to make them worth auditioning.
Read the full review: Beats Studio Buds
Straight from the Apple AirPods school of ‘dangly stem’ design, the Oppo Enco X look attractive enough in their 'glossy white' or 'glossy black' finishes. They come with a wireless charging case, touch controls, and a wide selection of eartips that help deliver a comfy fit. The only downside is the paltry four-hour battery life (the case includes four extra charges).
Oppo has enlisted the help of Danish loudspeaker company Dynaudio to help with the sound quality of the Enco X and the result is a pair of confident-sounding noise-cancelling earbuds. They become more engaging the more you listen with plenty of detail and texture spread throughout the frequency range.
There's a good sense of integration between all the various elements too, although could sound more open and deliver a greater sense of scale, though.
Noise-cancelling is ok for the money, but the Sony WF-1000XM3 further up this list are the more astute buy. However, if you're a fan of Oppo products then the Enco X are still worth investigating.
Read the full review: Oppo Enco X
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