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Best noise-cancelling earbuds 2020: 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 2020.

Noise-cancelling earbuds make a lot of sense for a lot of people. In many cases, they're wireless designs, 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 smooth and uninterrupted 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 let you hear the music better, noise-cancelling can also mean you're able to listen at lower volumes too.

Noise-cancelling earbuds aren't as common as plain old wireless earbuds, so including the feature does tend to increase costs. You'll have to budget accordingly, but there are some exceptionally talented options out there from the likes of Apple, Sony and Sennheiser.

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

What about Black Friday?
Black Friday is a good time to think about buying new kit; shopping online is easy and there are always tempting deals. And noise-cancelling earbuds are sure to feature in all the big retailers' sales. Keep an eye on our headphone deals page for all the latest and greatest savings.

Best noise-cancelling earbuds: the true wireless way to cut out background noise

(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 wireless earbuds 2020: Budget and premium

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

2. 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: the true wireless way to cut out background noise

(Image credit: Future)

3. 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: the true wireless way to cut out background noise

(Image credit: Libratone)

4. 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: the true wireless way to cut out background noise

(Image credit: Technics)

5. 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: wireless in-ears that cut out background noise

(Image credit: Sony)

6. 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

Best noise-cancelling earbuds: the true wireless way to cut out background noise

(Image credit: Bose)

7. Bose QuietControl 30

Impressive noise-cancelling and excellent sound quality from these Bose buds.

SPECIFICATIONS

Bluetooth version: 4.2 | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 10 hours

Reasons to Buy

Bags of insight
Good sense of space
Impressive noise cancelling

Reasons to Avoid

Divisive neckband

Like some others in this list, these let you adjust the level of noise cancellation, so you can block everything out, or, if you're out running, say, let in some ambient noise so you're more aware of traffic and other hazards. The neckband won't be to everyone's taste, but there's no arguing with the sound quality - it's impressively spacious, with every element of the audio given room to breathe. There's plenty of detail in the bass and midrange too, and a surefooted sense of rhythm. In short, they don't disappoint and offer ten hours of playtime from just a single charge.

Read the full review: Bose QuietControl 30

MORE:

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

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  • 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