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Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds 2023: Top picks to block out noise

The market for noise-cancelling earbuds is one that grows bigger every month as each month brings new contenders to the market.

Even we, the people who review headphones, find the number of true wireless ANC buds to be overwhelming; so how will a customer be able to sort through all the options available? That’s where we come into the picture.

Our team review lots of noise cancelling earbuds each year, and from those tests we’ve compiled this list of the best noise cancelling earbuds. Of course, not every set of buds is going to be right for everyone, so we’ve included a wide selection whether you’re after premium options, gym ready efforts and or budget earphones.

We use 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.

We’ll be updating this page with new entries if they’re up the standard. If this is the beginning of your buying 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

Best noise cancelling earbud
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Pros

  • Class-leading noise cancellation for an earbud
  • Neutral sound quality
  • Comfortable fit
  • Excellent transparency mode

Cons

  • Average battery life
  • No higher quality Bluetooth codecs
  • Design affected by wing noise

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are one of favourites as they offer some truly fantastic noise cancellation. We would not say that the sound quality is the best on this list as the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Sennheiser Momentum TW3 are better in that department. What the QuietComfort Earbuds do is offer a neutral profile to its sound quality, taking a sharp, clean and detailed approach. Bass is powerful but doesn’t become overbearing, while the top end bears Bose’s distinctively bright approach. 

They’re comfortable to wear with their StayHear tips that we found produced a secure fit that didn’t cause any discomfort. The fit produced a good seal as a starting point for blocking out sounds, and along with their IPX4 rating they could be used them for workouts or more energetic fitness activities, though the StayHear does create some wind noise when running.

The ANC they offer here is best in class, with busy road junctions brought to an almost imperceptible hush. Even without music playing, voices, traffic, trains and big crowds were all satisfactorily blocked, at times the QuietComfort Earbuds presented an almost eerie silence.

The only significant disappointment here is the low battery life. The QuietComfort only have enough endurance to last 18 hours with the charging case included, which is less the WF-1000XM4 and every other wireless earphone on this list. The QuietComfort Earbuds are soon to be replaced by the QuietComfort Earbuds II, and judging by our preview, they offer even better design and noise cancellation than before. If you looking for the best noise cancelling earbud, you may want to wait and see how the sequel fares when it launches.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Sony WF-1000XM4

Best noise cancelling earbuds for sound quality
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Pros

  • Impressively rich sound
  • Excellent noise cancellation
  • Compact design
  • IPX4 rating
  • Comprehensive feature set

Cons

  • Beaten by Bose for noise cancellation
  • More expensive than before
  • Call quality suffers in noisy areas

The Sony WF-1000XM4 are Sony’s best premium wireless earbuds so far, which we feel offer one of the best all round experiences money can buy today. The sound here is excellent with a rich midrange and bass along with good high-frequency performance. They prove to be a versatile sounding pair of earphone with whatever music genre we play through them, their description of instruments is naturalistic in tone and their feel for vocals brings out more emotion than you’d find from the QuietComfort Earbuds.

They’re compact than the WF-1000XM3, and their smaller size presents a tighter fit and along with their custom ear-tips, forms an excellent foundation for the noise cancellation. The active noise cancelling betters the previous models we’ve tested clearing out plenty of noise although we would not put them above the QuietComfort Earbuds for the best overall noise cancellation. The transparency mode is one of the best: open, detailed and clear in a way that makes it feel as if you’re not wearing any earbuds at all.

Battery life here is a marked improvement over the older model in 12 hours with ANC off and eight hours with ANC on. Plenty of smarts have been carried over from the over-ear WH-1000XM4 such as the convenient Speak-to-Chat that pauses music when a conversation is taking place. The IPX4 rating, the first time Sony’s premium earbuds have received such as certification, means they could be used in wet weather or for exercise without suffering damage.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Sony WF-1000XM4

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3

Best Sennheiser noise cancelling earbuds
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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, a performance that’s up there with the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds and Sony WF-1000XM4.

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 Earbud under £150
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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 refined 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. 

Overall however, the JBL Live Pro 2 earbuds are perfect if you’re after ANC on a budget, coming in as the best active noise-cancelling buds under £150. 

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: JBL Live Pro 2

JBL Reflect Flow Pro

Best cheap workout noise cancelling headphones
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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
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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

Ugreen HiTune T3

Best Noise Cancelling Earbud under £50
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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

Beats Fit Pro

Best premium workout noise cancelling headphones
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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

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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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