Best noise-canceling earbuds

The sound of silence.

Image via Apple

Noise-canceling earbuds are perfect for people who listen to music or watch shows on the go. Earbuds offer excellent sound quality, and they’re also great for making and receiving calls in private. Turning on active noise cancellation (ANC) allows the user to relax by drowning out the background noise of their surroundings.

The best noise-canceling earbuds have long battery life and can be recharged on the move with a carry case. They also have touch controls to easily access functions like answering calls, skipping tracks, and activating the ANC.

These are the best noise-canceling earbuds currently available.

Best overall

Bose QuietComfort 

Image via Bose

Bose’s QuietComfort are the company’s top-of-the-range earbuds designed to take on the Apple Airpods Pro. Like all Bose products, these earbuds feature excellent sound quality, but where these stand out is their noise-canceling technology. Users can choose between ten different settings to adjust the noise cancellation up or down. At its lowest setting, the QuietComfort earbuds have transparent sound, and users can hear the world around them. When users choose the highest setting, most background noise is eliminated. If users remove one of the earbuds, both of them default to the lowest setting.

Like many earbuds, the QuietComfort set has touch controls for specific functions. Buyers can use the touch capability to answer calls, adjust the noise cancellation, and skip to the next track. 

Compared to many earbuds, the QuietComfort set is bulky. They weigh 8.5 grams each but stick out of the ear. Despite their larger size, these earbuds are still comfortable due to the silicone ear tips, which come in three different sizes. Bose calls them StayHear tips, and they have tiny winged-shaped pieces that provide a secure fit.

Since the earbuds are bulky, the case has to be large enough to fit them. It can fast-charge using a USB-C cable or wirelessly. When the case is fully charged, it provides up to two charges to the earbuds and extends their six-hour battery life.

Thanks to the IPX4 splash resistance rating, users can wear the QuietComfort earbuds when exercising, but it’s not advisable to use them in the rain.

Although the QuietComfort earbuds have a lot going for them, there are some drawbacks. Their large size might not be comfortable for some users, and like all Bose products, they command a premium price.

Best touch controls

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

Image via Sennheiser

Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds are smaller than the Bose QuietComfort, but they still pack a punch. Each earbud weighs six grams and contains a seven-millimeter driver. Compared to the QuietComfort set, these Sennheiser earbuds have a more cylindrical shape with silver accents and come in black or white. Four sets of silicone ear tips ranging from extra-small to large are included in the box so users can get a perfect fit. The Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds match the IPX4 splash resistance rating offered by the Quietcomfort set.

Another feature that emulates the QuietComfort earbuds is the customizable touch controls. The controls can be a bit complicated by default, but the app allows users to adjust them to their liking. Users choose how many taps are required for functions like answering calls, activating a personal assistant, activating the active noise cancellation, and changing the volume. Users can also configure each earbud separately for easier operation. 

One of the disappointing features of the Momentum True Wireless 2 is the case. Instead of a durable hard plastic case like the QuietComfort, it has a fabric-covered case that attracts dirt. The lack of wireless charging is easily forgiven on a cheaper set of earbuds, but not for a pair that costs top-dollar like the Momentum True Wireless 2. Despite its flaws, the case fulfills its function of keeping the earbuds safe.  It also adds another 21 hours of charge to the seven-hour battery life, which should be more than enough for most users.

The Momentum True Wireless 2 has outstanding noise cancellation and sound quality but is let down in certain areas. Its main weakness is its high price, which is in the same league as the QuietComfort set. Sennheiser could have gone the extra mile to give the case a more premium feel and wireless charging capability at such a high price.

Best for Apple users

Apple AirPods Pro

Image via Apple

AirPods Pro earbuds can work on PCs and Android, but they really shine when paired with Apple devices. Many features on the Airpods Pro, like Spatial Audio or fast-switching between devices, can only be accessed using an iOS device. Even the Airpods Pro firmware can only be updated through iOS. Instead of using a USB-C port to charge like the other options on this list, the AirPods Pro works with a Lightning connection or wirelessly. Apple includes a Lightning to USB cable in the box so the AirPods Pro earbuds can charge on other devices.

Apple users will find the AirPods Pro easy to connect to their devices. As long as users are on iOS 13.2 and above, the earbuds will be automatically detected and paired with all the other devices on their iCloud account. 

Thanks to the recognizable design language, there’s no mistaking the AirPods Pro earbuds as anything other than Apple products. Their shape has evolved since the previous model, but they retain the same all-white look and trademark stems. The case continues the all-white plastic theme and offers 24 hours of power to add to the earbud’s four hours of battery life.

One of the complaints about the older model was that it didn’t have a tight fit in the ear. The problem has been remedied with the latest AirPods Pro iteration, and users can choose between three different sizes of silicone ear tips. Despite having stems, they are still smaller and lighter than the QuietComfort and Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds and weigh in at just 3.96 grams. 

Users control the AirPods Pros by pressing on the stems. Touching the stems allows users to answer calls, skip tracks, and activate Siri. The stem controls also switch the ANC on and off. Like the Momentum True Wireless 2, users can change the configuration to suit their preferences.

Apple’s AirPods Pro earbuds are compact and do a fantastic job of drowning out background noise. However, they are just expensive like the other options mentioned so far and have limited appeal to PC and Android users.

Best mid-range

Sony WF-1000XM3

Image via Sony

Users looking for noise-canceling earbuds without spending a fortune can check out the Sony WF-1000XM3. They have similar high-end features to their previously mentioned rivals but come in at a more reasonable price. 

These earbuds come in a range of colors to suit users’ tastes. Buyers can choose between black, white, and silver. Instead of having stems like the AirPods Pro, they have an oval shape with touch-sensitive circles on the edges.

Comfort isn’t an issue because Sony includes a whopping seven sets of ear tips. Four of them are standard silicone ear tips in different sizes, and the other three pairs are extra thick and come in various sizes. Of all the earbuds on this list, the WF-1000XM3’s are the only option without an IP rating, so users should avoid getting them wet.

When it comes to battery life, the WF-1000XM3 matches the QuietComfort set. The WF-1000XM3 is capable of six hours of play with the noise cancellation turned on, and it can reach eight hours when ANC is off. If the battery is running low, users can get three full charges out of the case. The case is made from sturdy plastic and has an attractive two-tone design. Like the Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2’s case, it holds the earbud in place magnetically and lacks wireless charging functionality.

Sony’s WF-1000XM3 has some of the best noise cancellation of any earbuds and still manages to have a reasonable price. Features like wireless charging and splash resistance were sacrificed to keep the price down. Despite these minor drawbacks the Sony’s WF-1000XM3 still has a decent price-to-performance ratio to satisfy most buyers.

Best budget

Panasonic RZ-S500W

Image via Sony

Many users don’t want to spend a fortune on earbuds and need something more affordable. The Panasonic RZ-S500W earbuds have a budget-friendly price and a strong feature set. Instead of active noise canceling like the other earbuds on this list, the RZ-S500W has a hybrid noise-canceling system. This system uses an internal and external microphone to detect sounds, and it adjusts the noise cancellation accordingly. One of the benefits of this system is that the earbuds cancel out external sounds and not just the sounds picked up by the internal microphone in the user’s ear. On the RZ-S500W, there are 50 levels of noise-canceling, ranging from transparent to strong.

Panasonic’s RZ-S500W earbuds look different from the other options on this list. They come in either matte black or white and have a cylindrical shape with silver trim. At seven grams each, these earbuds are lighter than the QuietComfort set but a tad heavier than the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

Like the QuietComfort, Momentum True Wireless 2, and AirPods Pro, they have an IPX4 splash resistance rating for added durability. 

Panasonic includes five sets of silicone ear tips so users can get the perfect fit. Like the other earbuds mentioned on this list, Panasonic’s RZ-S500W has a touch-sensitive surface that’s programmable through an app.

Considering its low price, the RZ-S500W has a surprisingly long battery life that beats the WF-1000XM3, AirPods Pro, and QuietComfort. These earbuds last up to six hours and can get two more charges out of the case. The included case is a bit flimsy compared to the other earbuds on this list, and it lacks wireless charging capability.

At around half the price of the QuietComfort and Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds, the RZ-S500W set offers impressive value. These earbuds’ sound quality and noise cancellation are more than acceptable for the price, and they also have an IPX4 rating and a long battery life. With so many features, minor shortcomings like a flimsy case and lack of wireless charging are easily forgiven. 

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