Active noise canceling is one of those things that you don’t know you need in life until you try it.
First of all, we can’t overstate the benefits of the ability to drown out your surroundings without having to rely on eardrum-shattering volume. So regardless of whether you want to boost your productivity or just tune out to your favorite tunes without any disturbances, you’ll immensely enjoy having ANC in your life.
That said, many manufacturers are still having a hard time wrapping their head around this feature.
So to prevent any buyer’s remorse or other feelings of regret, we’ve scoured the market to identify the best ANC earbuds for you.
- Fun and user-friendly app
- 9 pairs of ear tips
- Customizable sound
- Basic codec support
The AirPods Pro have pretty much set the standard for what to expect from good ANC earbuds. The Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro seems to be trying to meet these standards while costing roughly half as much as the AirPods Pro and doing a great job of it.
Even the stem-shaped design of the Liberty Air 2 Pro is reminiscent of the AirPods, only here the stem is even larger. All we can say is that they look stylish, regardless of whether you’re a fan of this or not.
Now to make sure you get a proper fit, which is important for not only the bass response but ANC as well, the folks at Anker have packed these earbuds with no fewer than nine pairs of different-sized ear tips. With such a wealth of options, the chances that you won’t found a pair of tips that fits you are slim. And to help matters along, Anker has even designed a Tip Fit test, accessible through their app, which will let you know if everything fits correctly.
Each earbud packs 7 hours of battery life (6 hours with the ANC turned on), and the large but pocketable charging case can hold an extra three charges. The case uses a USB-C connection, but it does also support wireless charging. Although you’ll have to use USB-C if you want to make use of the incredible quick-charging that can net you 3 hours of playback for just 15 minutes of charging!
Most importantly, the ANC is good. It’s not as good as what you get with the AirPods Pro, and the Transparency Mode doesn’t sound as natural, but it’s all still highly competent. And highly customizable too, as you can choose between several presets for both ANC and the Transparency Mode, and even customize them fully to your liking.
The only aspect that may turn some shoppers away from the Liberty Air 2 Pro is how treble-heavy the sound is, but even this can be tweaked thanks to the fully customizable EQ.
- Great ANC
- Audio enhancing processor
- No IP rating
- No volume control
The WH-1000XM3 was a pair of true wireless headphones with ANC so good it cemented Sony as the only company that could dethrone Bose in terms of active noise canceling. So when Sony announced that they would be implementing that same ANC technology in a pair of earbuds, expectations were certainly high.
And the WF-1000XM3 delivered, with ANC that’s a bit worse compared to its over-ear cousin but still better than almost everything else offered in earbud form. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much to eliminate the sound of human speech, but it has no issue completely getting rid of the low hums of traffic or air-conditioners. It also features a natural-sounding Ambient Sound Mode that lets you hear your surroundings. And you can even further customize the levels of ANC through the app.
The device is a bit bulky, but it’s comfortable to wear and it has no issues staying inside your ears even whilst headbanging to various subgenres of metal with reckless abandon. This is, of course, predicated upon you using the right ear tips, but finding the right ear tips shouldn’t be a problem as the device comes bundled with six extra pairs of different sizes and materials. We wouldn’t recommend this device for working out or running, however, as the WF-1000XM3 doesn’t feature an IP rating.
These earbuds sound great, with a balanced sound signature that can be tuned to your liking through the app. The app also lets you customize the touch controls, although there’s no way to enable volume control. Overall, the WF-1000XM3 sounds great, although at this price point we’re disappointed to see no LDAC or aptX support. You do get DSEE HX – an audio processor that enhances low fidelity audio – and it does make a difference. With the ANC turned on, these earbuds can offer 6 hours of use, while the USB-C charging case can hold three additional charges. Without the ANC, you’re looking at 8 hours of playback per charge. And thanks to fast-charging, you can get 90 minutes of playback after just 10 minutes of charging.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Battery life with ANC: 6 hours
Charging case battery: 2 additional charges
- Punchy bass
- Industry-leading ANC
- No multipoint
- No volume control
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds got a lot of flak for their uninspired design, all of it warranted. The earbuds themselves are rather bulky (although very light), but the part that got the critics most riled up was the enormous, plastic-made, plain-looking charging case.
And despite its immensity, this charging case can only hold two additional charges. With 6 hours of use per charge, these aren’t impressive numbers, especially given the price. Quick charging is neat, though, giving you 2 hours of juice for just 15 minutes of charging.
The QuietComfort Earbuds also lack a lot of features one would assume such an expensive product would have, like multipoint connectivity, volume control, or the ability to skip-back tracks.
Overall, you’re not getting the best bang for your buck with the QuietComfort Earbuds. We want to be very upfront about that.
Why, then, did these earbuds make the list?
Well, this list focuses on the best noise-canceling earbuds. And in terms of noise-canceling, there are no earbuds out there that can outdo the QuietComfort Earbuds. Seriously, the active noise canceling capabilities of the QuietComfort Earbuds come close to rivaling the best that noise-canceling headphones (link to guide) have to offer. It’s also customizable, with the lowest ANC setting acting as the Transparency Mode.
So, if you’re just looking for the best ANC and you don’t mind it coming with some caveats, it doesn’t get any better than this.
And it’s not like ANC is the only thing the QuietComfort Earbuds handle exceptionally well. They also offer excellent sound quality with a punchy and powerful bass that never undermines the mids and vocals. It’s a shame you can’t tweak the sound in any way, as there’s no EQ support, but out of the box, these are some of the best-sounding earbuds out there.
The earbuds also live up to the Comfort part of their moniker, with three different-sized ear sleeves that feature hooks for extra stability. Couple this with an IPX4 rating, and you’ve got yourself a pair of earbuds that are as suitable for everyday use as they are for running or working out.
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
Battery life with ANC: 7 hours
Charging case battery: 3 additional charges
- Fully customizable
- Signal strength
The original Momentum True Wireless had its issues, but Sennheiser didn’t just fix those issues when designing their follow-up, they also added a bunch of new features to the mix for a truly premium package.
The Momentum True Wireless 2 still has that signature Sennheiser design that, while sticking out of your ears more so than the competition, manages to fit snugly and pass all shake tests. What’s more, the earbuds are IP4 rated, so you don’t have to worry about sweat or splashes of water damaging them while you’re working out. These aren’t among our first recommendations running/working out earbuds, but they do the job just fine.
Needless to say, the ANC featured here is exceptional – on par with the Sony WF-1000XM3 and the AirPods Pro. Of course, you can go the opposite route and enable the very natural sounding Transparent Hearing mode which will feed the ambient noise into the earbuds.
As far as battery life goes, you’re getting 7 hours of use with the buds and an extra 21 hours in the gorgeous cloth-covered charging case. The charging case does use USB-C, although it doesn’t feature the option for Qi wireless charging.
As for the sound, this is where the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 really gets to shine. On top of a bass-heavy sound profile that can go very deep without compromising the other frequencies, you’re getting aptX support.
Should this bass-heavy sound not be to your liking, you can use the app to customize the EQ. EQ customization used to be incredibly unintuitive, but this is no longer the case. You can also customize the controls, and no other device offers customization this good and this extensive. Unfortunately, this is where the pros end and the cons begin. In one sentence, the Momentum True Wireless 2 simply lacks a lot of features you’d expect would be there given the high price. We’ve already mentioned the lack of wireless charging, but the device also lacks multipoint connectivity.
How to Choose the Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds For You?
Now while all of the devices showcased in this guide are exceptional, we’re aware that they won’t be to everyone’s liking. So that’s why we’ll use this segment to teach you the most important things you need to know in order to pick out the best noise-canceling earbuds for you.
A quick disclaimer: If noise canceling is what you are most interested in, you may want to reconsider choosing earbuds in favor of headphones!
It’s not that earbuds can’t have good ANC but over-ear headphones still do it better. If this is the case, please refer to our guide for the best noise-canceling headphones.
Will ANC Solve All Your Problems?
Next, let’s look at what ANC technology offers and what its drawbacks are.
The idea of completely muting out the world around you sounds tantalizing, but that’s not how it works. Without going in-depth on the intricacies of ANC, let’s just say that it fares well when it comes to canceling out low-frequency noises (traffic, airplanes, air-conditioners, etc.). Other frequencies, though, don’t get that same treatment.
So if you’re working in a noisy office and you want to escape the chatter, ANC may not be the thing for you. In this case, you’ll get a lot more mileage out of passive noise isolation (achieved via the ear-plug effect all earbuds have). Of course, having both ANC and passive noise isolation at your disposal is great, but ANC is expensive and we don’t want to see you waste your money on a feature you don’t need.
Part of an Ecosystem
If all your devices are already part of a particular ecosystem, then ANC earbuds made by that company will likely serve you better than the ones featured in this guide.
For example, you might’ve been wondering why the Apple AirPods Pro didn’t make the list. These truly are exceptional ANC earbuds – so much so that most people use them as a benchmark when discussing other true wireless earbuds.
So if you’re an Apple user, go for them. The only reason they didn’t make the cut is because non-Apple users won’t get as much mileage out of them. And the same goes for Samsung users and the Galaxy Buds Pro.
Not All ANC Is Made Equal
Lastly, we want to highlight just how complicated a feature ANC is. Consequently, many manufacturers still don’t have as good a handle on this technology. This is why it’s imperative that you only purchase ANC earbuds from companies that have a proven track record.
Bose is the inventor of this technology, so it’s no wonder that they’re still in the driver’s seat here. Although some might argue that Sony has completely caught up to Bose by now. We wouldn’t be surprised if the WF-1000XM4 were to replace the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds as the option for best ANC the moment it is released.
But this is not a feature we would expect a no-name brand to implement well. It might happen. Anker is a relatively new company that makes affordable products with good ANC. But check what the reviews say first and don’t hold up hope. Doing so will only set you up for disappointment.
Prioritize Your Requirements
Finally, you need to take a good look at what other features or requirements you have and prioritize them. Not accounting for the Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro, all the devices showcased in this guide carry a hefty price tag. But while their core features are the same (ANC-enabled true wireless design), they all remain distinguishable through their secondary features.
We all have different wants and needs when it comes to our earbuds. And while the desire for ANC is the thing that unites all those reading this guide, some may be more interested in IP ratings, others in battery life, etc.
Identifying which features and requirements you need to most will go a long way in ensuring you get your money’s worth.
These have been four of the best noise-canceling earbuds currently on the market.
We hope we’ve demonstrated that you don’t need to part ways with an arm and a leg just to get quality ANC on your earbuds. The Anker Liberty Air 2 Pro is proof of that, offering highly competent active noise canceling capabilities at a very reasonable price. However, if you want to experience just what the technology can achieve in such a small form factor, you’ll want to check out the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, as they currently remain the champions of earbud ANC. Nevertheless, for most users, we feel that the Sony WF-1000XM3 offers the best value.
And should none of the devices showcased in this guide strike your fancy at this time, just remember the things we’ve mention in the last segment and you’ll be fine going off on your own search for perfection.