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Top picks to block out noise tested

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Top picks to block out noise tested

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The market for noise-cancelling earbuds has exploded. There’s so much to choose from that even we find it hard to keep track of all the new ANC earbuds hitting the market.

But our job is to highlight which wireless earbuds are the best for noise-cancelling, and the following list is filled with the models that we believe will do the best job. Whether you’re looking a pair with premium sound, more affordable options or ones for sport and gym use, you can find the best options on the market right here.

We test ANC wireless earphones for several days, listening to a range of music with noise cancelling modes on and off to gauge if there’s any difference. We also consider how much noise they suppress in a variety of environments to determine their effectiveness, as well as listening to how well the transparency mode performs so wearers can hear their surroundings with clarity.

We are always reviewing new true wireless earbuds to see if they are up to snuff and worth purchasing. That doesn’t always mean that brand new true wireless models will make it in this list if they’re not better than what’s already available, but we strive to offer the best recommendations by evaluating both old and new models to give you the best idea of what to get.

If this is the beginning of your search then why not have a look out our list of the best wireless earbuds? And if you’re looking generally for in-ear options, then we have a list of our best in-ear headphones.

Best Noise-Cancelling Earbuds at a glance:

How we test

How we test headphones

Not just anybody can review a pair of headphones. You don’t need superhuman hearing to tell what’s good, but you do need to know what to listen out for.

Our headphone tests are done by some of the best and most prolific reviewers in the industry, with years of experience listening to everything from the plasticky freebie earbuds that come with your smartphone, to five-figure beasts of glass and marble. We love music and we want your tunes to sound good, too.

So we listen every pair of headphones we can get on or in our ears. We use a variety of sources, from basic MP3s playing on a laptop to high-quality tracks on dedicated hi-res audio players.

Our test tracks are wide-ranging to give headphones a thorough challenge. They’re also familiar, so we know every track backwards, and we know which bits might trouble the lesser performers.

We listen again and again, and we do that for weeks in case the sound changes – because it usually does. Then we’ll listen to similarly priced rivals and come up with a verdict that reflects the performance and features for the money.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

Best noise cancelling earbuds

Pros

  • Top-tier noise cancelling and ambient modes
  • Improved sound over the original
  • Slimline design
  • AptX support on the way
  • Improved battery capacity

Cons

  • More expensive than before
  • Average call quality
  • Still susceptible to wind noise

We’ve got a new top pick for those looking for a set of noise-cancelling earbuds, and it might seem a familiar choice for anyone aware of what topped this list before. Yes, taking the top spot from the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds is the sequel – Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds II.

Even though this list features a load of excellent buds that’ll do a great job at cancelling out pesky sound, none do it quite to the level of the QuietComfort Earbuds II. As our reviewer said, there aren’t many that can hold a candle to what Bose has done here.

We often found the noise cancellation was so good when we were using the buds around London we were shocked at loud the surroundings were when we took them off. The Aware modes are ace too, giving the feeling that you’re not actually wearing earbuds and letting the surrounding noises in clearly. Our real issue with the ANC was that blustery conditions could cause some wind distortion – but that’s fairly common and not a big deal.

Sound quality isn’t the very best on the market, with the Sony WF-1000XM5 the better-sounding better to our ears, but they do still sound very good. Battery life sits at around six hours – which is good but not class-leading.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II

Sony WF-1000XM5

Best noise cancelling earbuds for sound quality

Pros

  • Smaller, lighter design
  • Powerful noise-cancellation
  • More detailed, balanced audio performance
  • Plenty of smart, convenient features

Cons

  • Bose a smidge better for ANC
  • Slightly odd call performance

The Sony WF-1000XM5 have been revealed and in out opinion, they replace WF-1000XM4 as Sony’s best premium wireless earbuds so far. The biggest difference is in how they sound, the rich midrange performance of before has been replaced by a more balanced performance across the frequency range.

There’s not as much bass as its predecessor, they don’t sound quite as ‘fun’ as before, but there’s more clarity throughout the frequency range, with finer detail in the midrange and higher levels of clarity and sharpness at the top end that we found to be a worthy trade.

The noise-cancellation is an improvement over the WF-1000XM5, better at suppressing the environment around the listener and better at reducing the impact of people’s voices too. The performance of the Ambient mode is around the same as the XM4 model, though we would the older buds are a touch clearer. Compared to the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, we do feel that the Sony is slightly less impressive at muting everyday sounds, though we would say that the WF-1000XM5 cancels noise with a more natural tone.

Elsewhere battery life is the same as before with eight hours (24 hours in the case) with noise-cancelling on. They are packed with features with many carrying over from the WF-1000XM4 and some new ones added into the mix. The new ones include gesture controls with calls, simultaneously use of LDAC and Bluetooth multipoint, and a new ‘Find My Equalizer’ feature that allows the user to shape the sound by picking from a selection of presets.

We found them an improvement over the WF-1000XM4, and they maintain a similar price as before at £259 / $299. While we don’t rate them as the best buds for noise-cancellation, they are the best-sounding noise-cancelling earphones we’ve listen to.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Sony WF-1000XM5

Apple AirPods Pro 2

Best noise-cancelling earbuds for Apple users

Pros

  • Excellent ANC
  • Rich, warm sound
  • Charging case gets some neat features

Cons

  • Many of the best features are iPhone and Mac only

Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 are the best noise-cancelling earbuds for iOS users deep in the Apple ecosystem. They keep a rock-solid connection with iPhones and iPads, connect to all your Apple devices instantly and get frequent software updates. They also sound great – much better than the first-gen pair – and have some excellent ANC that tones down the outside world.

We found that compared to the Sony WF-1000XM4 the AirPods Pro 2 were able to clear away slightly more noise when used on the Underground, though with the even better WF-1000XM5 set to arrive on the scene in August 2023, the AirPods Pro aren’t as strong as either the Sony of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II. The transparency is improved over the original too, piping through a realistic sense of the outside world.

Disappointingly, Apple hasn’t included any means to manually adjust the noise cancelling or transparency mode, with both features automatically adapting the strength of the noise-cancellation and transparent to what’s around the listener.

Elsewhere battery life is good but not class leading with six hours in each bud and 30 hours with the charging case. MagSafe wireless charging is supported, and the earphones can even be charged by an Apple Watch charger if you can’t find a Lightning cable to hand. The wireless connection is fantastic with not even a hint of a dropout as our reviewer was passing through Waterloo station at rush hour times.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full Review: Apple AirPods Pro 2

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3

Best Sennheiser noise-cancelling earbuds

Pros

  • Rich, expressive sound
  • Improved design
  • Very good noise cancelling/transparency modes
  • Excellent wireless connection
  • Cheaper than previous model

Cons

  • Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are better for noise cancellation
  • Sony’s XM4s are better for sound
  • Some app features locked behind account registration

The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 are an excellent pair of wireless earbuds we found to be a great choice for those who want rich, engaging audio.

They sound more dynamic than their TW2 predecessor, with vocals brought further forward within the soundstage and closer to the ear. There’s good bass depth that doesn’t feel over-egged while at the other end of the frequency range, we found the earphones sounded sweet and bright.

The Sennheiser’s ANC performance is very good, not far off best in class. The earbuds slot in the ear easily, the smaller, lighter design makes the very comfortable to wear during use. The seal they create aids the noise cancelling performance, which is very good at blocking out persistent noises and voices. With their anti-wind ANC mode, they’re also excellent at taming the wind on blustery days. The Transparency Mode here is fantastic with great clarity and detail, though not quite as high-performing as the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II.

The aptX Adaptive Bluetooth connection is reliably solid, with no noticeable dropouts or latency when we walked through busy signal areas. Sennheiser’s Smart Control app has been redesigned with a layout that’s more logical and easier to navigate with the option to customise the headphones EQ and touch controls available. If you’re a Sennheiser fan, you’ll enjoy what the German brand has done with its latest noise cancelling earphones, and at a cheaper starting price than much of its competition.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3

JBL Live Pro 2

Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds under £150

Pros

  • Genuinely impressive ANC for the money
  • Good snug fit
  • Long battery life
  • Weighty and smooth audio

Cons

  • Weak call quality
  • Choppy connection at times

The JBL Live Pro 2 earbuds offer fantastic ANC for their price point. While they are not as effective as the Sony WF-1000XM4 in that department, our reviewer thought that they offered some of the best ANC for the price, outshining previous favourites like the Beats Studio Buds. Using them in busy environments like a tube station reduced ambient noise to little more than a rustle, and they were able to suppress conversational noise in crowds. 

In terms of sound quality, they boast a weighty bass, a midrange that is reproduced with clarity and a clear and distinctive treble that made for an enjoyable experience. We thought that this made them easy to listen to across a range of genres, although we did note that you need to up the volume to properly broaden the soundstage, and give the bass richness. 

These buds are very comfortable to wear over long periods of time, with our reviewer noting that there was never any discomfort or cramps during use. They come with three different ear-tips so you can find your perfect fit, and the IPX5 water make them more robust than most noise-cancelling earbuds, so they can be used during a workout or when it’s raining. 

The main downfall of the Live Pro 2 buds is their connection to smart devices. We experienced a choppy connection in busy areas like Victoria train station, but it also occurred in areas where fewer people were around. They are also not great for phone calls, especially in busier areas, as the person on the other end of the phone would be able to hear too much background noise. 

The JBL Live Pro 2 have fallen to less to £100 in places, going up against the likes of the EarFun Air Pro 3, and despite the EarFun also boasting a very noise-cancellation performance, the performance of the Live Pro 2 would get our vote. 

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: JBL Live Pro 2

JBL Reflect Flow Pro

Best cheap workout noise cancelling headphones

Pros

  • Dynamic sound performance
  • Good fit and comfort levels
  • Strong IP rating
  • Wide range of features

Cons

  • Unremarkable looks
  • Not the strongest noise cancellation

If you’re in need of a pair of fitness earbuds with a great feature set, then the JBL Reflect Flow Pro are an affordable option. These wireless earphones have a compact design we found comfortable to wear, producing a strong seal and secure fit during workouts to ensure they didn’t fall out. 

Their audio performance offers a good level of detail and dynamism, with a big soundstage that presents plenty of space for instruments to play in. The high frequency sounds particularly crisp with vocals sound nice and clear. The JBL don’t have the most extravagant audio performance, but they are a solid sounding pair of wireless earphones

The noise cancellation here is fine, with most of work being done by the design’s passive noise isolating qualities, making the ANC the sprinkling on top. As long as the seal is maintained the Reflect Flow Pro produce a reliable performance. The Reflect Pro also have a good feature set with 8 hours of battery life with ANC, which is better than the likes of the Beats Fit Pro, along with voice support and transparency mode (which is serviceable but can change the tone of audio) .

And as a pair of gym-focused noise cancelling earphones, they’re IP68 rated to guard against dust, sweat and dirt, and they can be submerged in 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes, which shows these ANC earbuds can tough it out no matter what condition they’re used in (just don’t swim wearing them).

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: JBL Reflect Flow Pro

Lypertek PurePlay Z5 ANC

Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds under £100

Pros

  • Great, comfortable fit
  • Balanced audio
  • Strong noise cancelling/ambient sound modes for the money
  • Easy to operate

Cons

  • Call performance susceptible to noise
  • Battery life weak with ANC
  • Choppy connection in busy areas

If the premium area of the ANC market is not for you, the a more affordable choice for earbuds with ANC are the Lypertek PurePlay Z5 ANC are one of the best in the $120 / £120 point.

They are a balanced pair of earphones, with a clear mid-range and punchy bass, though they sound better with the Loudness EQ setting with more depth, energy and definition to the music we heard through the default setting. Compared to the similarly priced Beats Studio Buds, they produced a wider and broader soundstage, though the Beats offer more clarity and sharpness. 

Adopting the AirPods Pro school of design, they slot comfortably into the ear forming a good seal and help the PurePlay Z5 ANC suppress a range of noises. The sound of cars are reduced to hums; they work great on transport and deal well with blustery conditions. The only issue being sudden sounds can cause some noticeable distortion with ANC on. The performance isn’t Bose QuietComfort levels of noise cancellation, but better than the similarly priced Sennheiser CX Plus.

We found the touch controls worked simply and well for playback and media, while the transparency mode is clear passing sound through naturally. The Auto-Ambient mode is useful for instantly bringing awareness to what’s around you when you pause playback.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Lypertek PurePlay Z5 ANC

Beats Fit Pro

Best premium workout noise cancelling headphones

Pros

  • Stable fit and good comfort levels
  • iOS and Android support
  • Useful noise cancelling
  • Physical controls

Cons

  • Can’t customise sound/noise cancelling
  • No wireless charging
  • Tough competition

The Beats Fit Pro are a very good premium set of earbuds if you’re wanting a useful all rounder that you can use casually as well as for workouts. 

The design differs from Apple’s AirPods range, with a wingtip that aids in the creation of a strong seal and ensures the earphones don’t fall out. With IPX4 water resistance they’ll be able to withstand sweaty gym sessions with no real qualm. 

The Beats Fit Pro’s audio take on a similar signature to the more affordable Studio Buds, with the bass performance presented with good weight and authority. The mids and highs are reproduced clearly and with solid detail, with no sibilance or harshness.

The adaptive noise cancelling varies its performance depending on how much noise it detects, and it deals well with blocking out most ambient noises, although we found that some louder noises from cars and larger vehicles did managed to penetrate through the ANC bubble.

There are some exclusive iOS features with the Fit Pro supporting the same dynamic head tracking as the AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro. For Android users the feature set is less complete with no spatial audio support, but there is an Android app to manage noise cancellation and updates. The battery life is a solid six hours per earbud, and another 21 in the case with ANC on, which is actually better than the original AirPods Pro managed. 

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Beats Fit Pro

Ugreen HiTune T3

Best Noise Cancelling Earbud under £50

Pros

  • Rich, warm sound
  • Effective noise cancellation
  • Good comfort levels
  • Stable wireless connection
  • Really good value

Cons

  • Bass performance is a little hard
  • Battery life not quite at quoted levels
  • Noise cancellation affected by wind noise

If you’re after a pair of earbuds that won’t break the bank then the Ugreen HiTune T3 may be the buds for you. These earbuds were comfortable to wear and come with four ear-tip sizes so you can find a fit and seal that works best for you. The IPX5 resistance rating also makes them strong enough to resist rain water or sweat from a workout. 

The HiTune T3 earbuds thrive when it comes to bass, producing an emphatic presence with its frequency range and a wide soundstage even at lower volumes. We found that ear fatigue can set in over time if you listen to too many bassy tracks, however, they can still provide a warm and inviting presentation with clear highs and likeable levels of detail alongside clear vocals. While we would not recommend these buds for any true audiophiles, those who prefers a bassy presence will definitely be happy with the Ugreen HiTune T3. 

When it comes to active noise cancellation, we found that they could tackle the bassy sound of the train and general ambient noise. While they can’t provide the same level of ANC as earbuds like the Sennheiser Momentum TW3 or Bose QuietComfort, for the price they offer a very efficient performance. 

The battery life here is a tad misleading, as we found that these buds could last up to 5 hours with a mix of ANC turned on and off, rather than the 7 hours quoted by Ugreen. They do offer fast charging, with 10 minutes providing an hour of playback. 

While the JBL Live Pro 2 are another great pick for ANC audio on a budget, these are even cheaper at just £35.99/$39.99. If you’re just stepping into the world of ANC and want to see what it has to offer, the Ugreen HiTune T3 are the perfect pick. 

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Ugreen HiTune T3

We also considered…

FAQs

What is active noise cancellation?

Active Noise Cancellation uses an array of microphones in a headphone to detect the frequency of the sound coming at the listener, with the ANC chip creating an inverse wave (i.e. opposing sound) to suppress any unwanted external noises.

What is feedfoward ANC?

With feedforward ANC the microphone is placed on the outer edge of the ear cup, which analyses the noise and creates the anti-noise signal before sending if off to the headphone’s speaker to block the noise.

What is feedback ANC?

Feedback noise cancellation is the opposite of feedforward ANC. The microphone is placed inside the earcup and in front of the drive unit, and can hear the same noises the listener does. It blocks noise across a broad range of frequencies (though it can’t deal with higher frequencies as well).

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Harmony Evans is an award-winning author of Harlequin Kimani Romance, African-American romance, and so on. Harmony Evans is an award-winning author for Harlequin Kimani Romance, the leading publisher of African-American romance. Her 2nd novel, STEALING KISSES, will be released in November 2013. Harmony is a single mom to a beautiful, too-smart-for-her-own-good daughter, who makes her grateful for life daily. Her hobbies include cooking, baking, knitting, reading, and of course, napping and also review some of the best-selling and popular brands and services in the market and also write comprehensive blogs.

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