Big over-ear headphones, like the kind companies like Bose and Beats made their names in, are often what we think of first when we think of noise cancellation. Encircling your ear to create a seal, it’s no wonder that in addition to feedback mics to cancel out incoming noise, the cup itself creates a great barrier. But increasingly, as smartphones and tablets swap headphone jacks for some sort of wireless audio output, a lighter weight, more compact, noise cancelling solution has taken hold in the form of earbus. While smaller, it doesn’t mean they don’t do an excellent noise of keeping unwanted sound out, and you locked in to your audio.
Noise cancelling earbuds are small, wire and headband free, and can easily pop in your ear. They’re also increasingly offering sound quality and active noise cancellation that’s as good or better than some popular headphones. And that’s not even taking into account the smart software features companies like Google, Apple, and Sony are building into their true wireless earbuds options. If you’re looking for a way to listen to music or podcasts from your phone that can fit in your pocket, you’re going to want a pair of noise cancelling earbuds and the list we put together below is a great place to start, starting with the ANC king – the Bose QuietComfort Buds II.
Best noice cancelling earbuds: Our top picks
Bose / Pocket-lint
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
1. Best noise cancelling earbuds overall
ANC so good it’s like Bose invented it
$279 $300 Save $21
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II have personalised active noise cancellation, six hours of battery life, and come with three different size ear tips so you can find the right size for your ear.
- Personalised ANC
- Swappable ear tips
- Dynamic and bassy audio
- No Bluetooth multipoint
Bose invented the first noise cancelling headphones, so it makes sense that the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II have “best-in-class” active noise cancellation and be our best overall pick. The QuietComfort earbuds have a touch interface on the outside of controlling playback, and in our experience produce dynamic, bass-y audio that should make any track you throw at it sound good – especially for songs where vocals are front and centre, like the iconic Rihanna’s Lift Me Up.
Interestingly, Bose doesn’t let the QuietComfort Earbuds II completely turn ANC off. The best you can get is the built-in transparency mode. That could be an issue for anyone trying to maximise battery life (turning ANC is usually a simple way to slow the drain) and is a bit unusual in general for wireless earbuds at this price point. But if blocking out the world around you is what you’re looking for, it’s hard to top Bose.
Sony / Pocket-lint
2. Best premium noise cancelling earbuds
Packed with software features
The Sony WF-1000XM5 covers all the basics with active noise cancellation, transparency modes, the ability to connect to multiple devices over Bluetooth at once, and Sony’s superior sound profile thanks to the earbuds’ Dynamic Driver X.
- Adaptive Sound Control
- Up to 24 hours of battery
- Dynamic Driver X for better sound
- Lots of setup in the companion app
If you’ve enjoyed Sony’s over-ear headphones like the WH-1000XM5, the Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds are close to the same thing in a smaller package. The earbuds sound great, they block out noise well, offer eight hours of battery life (24 hours with the charging case), and they’re packed to the gills with smart and EQ features you can control in Sony’s companion app.
That includes Adaptive Sound Control, which lets the WF-1000XM5s track your motion and location to intelligently adjust noise cancellation and volume levels depending on what you’re doing and where you are. The earbuds can also automatically pause your audio if they detect you talking.
Soundcore / Pocket-lint
Soundcore Space A40 Earbuds
3. Best value noise cancelling earbuds
Impressive battery life at a discount
$79 $100 Save $21
The Soundcore Space A40 are an extremely affordable pair of noise cancelling earbuds with up to a 50-hour battery life when using the earbuds’ charging case, and support for High Res Audio in LDAC Mode.
- Up to 50 hours of battery life
- LDAC Mode and High Res Audio
- Few additional smart features
Soundcore is Anker’s audio sub-brand, and it similarly butters its bread with affordable products, in this case speakers, headphones, and wireless earbuds. The Soundcore Space A40 are some of the most affordable Soundcore offers, while still hitting on all the most important features for a good pair of wireless earbuds.
That means active noise cancellation that adjusts depending on your setting, a ridiculously long battery life of 10 hours without a case or 50 hours with, and generally respectable audio performance for earbuds that cost less than $100.
Apple / Pocket-lint
Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation (USB-C)
4. Best noise cancelling earbuds from Apple
Apple’s ultra-popular AirPods Pro 2nd Generation come with a new Adaptive Audio feature that intelligently changes the volume depending on what’s going on around you, excellent active noise cancellation, and support for Find My’s Precision Finding feature.
- Dust resistance
- Adaptive Audio
- Up to 30 hours of battery life
If you’re an iPhone owner, the only reason the new AirPods Pro 2nd Generation with a USB-C charging case shouldn’t be your first pick is price. Apple designed the AirPods Pro to work frictionlessly with their other products, which is true a majority of the time. They sound clear, support spatial audio, and get six hours of battery life. They’re popular for a reason.
With the updated version of the AirPods Pro Apple introduced alongside the iPhone 15 and 15 Pro, they also now include support for lossless audio on the upcoming Apple Vision Pro, charging over USB-C, and dust resistance.
Google / Pocket-lint
Google Pixel Buds Pro
5. Best noise cancelling earbuds for Android
AirPods for Android
$198 $200 Save $2
The Google Pixel Buds Pro give you easy access to Google Assistant, are water resistant, and should make it through a full day and then some if you use their charging case.
- Google Fast Pair makes connecting easy
- Up to 31 hours of battery life
- Water resistance
Google’s answer to the AirPods Pro, the Pixel Buds Pro are a high-end pair of wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation and a transparency mode. Google Assistant and a relatively long battery life of 31 hours (while using the charging case) are the stars, because for the most part, Google’s matching the feature set of others similarly priced wireless earbuds.
Still, the Pixel Buds Pro has some things working in their favour. Google Fast Pair means connecting them to your Android device should be as simple as opening the charging case and tapping an onscreen button.
That’s the kind of convenience you don’t always get with Android devices that Google has long pushed with the Pixel phone and accessories.
Sony / Pocket-lint
Sony LinkBuds S Truly Wireless Noise Canceling Earbud Headphones
6. Sony quality noise cancelling earbuds on a budget
Adaptive Sound Control is still here
$198 $200 Save $2
The Sony LinkBuds S are affordable without losing out on Sony’s smart software features for controlling playback or active noise cancellation.
- Smart audio features
- IPX4 sweat and water resistance
- Up to 20 hours of battery life
Sony’s Linkbuds S are a step down from the WF-1000XM5 but still offer a satisfying ANC experience, and still sound better than a lot of other options out there. The LinkBuds S don’t have the open-ring design of the original LinkBuds, but they do have touch controls and IPX4 sweat and water resistance.
These earbuds get around six hours of battery life, which grows up to 20 hours with the charging case. Linkbuds S provide Sony quality sound at a more approachable price than some of the premium option like Sony’s WF-1000XM5 or the Apple AirPod Pro 2nd generation models.
Beats / Pocket-lint
Beats Studio Buds+
7. Noise cancelling earbuds equally good with Android or iOS
The see-through case is awesome
The Beats Studio Buds+ come in a slick, see-through plastic variant, work just as well with Android devices as they do iOS ones, support high-end audio features like spatial audio, and have great active noise cancellation.
- Some AirPods Pro features, some Pixel Buds features
- Cool design
- Up to 36 hours of battery life with charging case
Beats earned its spot on this list by looking great and being flexible, two important traits of accessories that stand the test of time. The Beats Studio Buds+ don’t look all that different from the previous Beats Studio Buds, or their cousins the AirPods Pro 2nd Generation. Rather than a stem on each bud there’s a raised touch surface for controlling playback, but if you’ve worn one Apple-produced wireless earbud, you’ve used them all.
Where the Studio Buds+ stand out is their design – Beats is selling a “transparent” version that looks like those old see-through iMacs – and their ability to play nice with Android and iOS. Our review set was their traditional black colour, but now we’re itching to get our hands on a transparent set.
Connected to an iPhone, you’ll get several of the important quality of life features from the AirPods like instantaneous pairing and switching between devices, Find My support, and always-on access to Siri. On Android, Google Fast Pair, Find My Device, and Google Assistant fill in more or less the same spots. Sure, you’ll miss out on Apple’s new Adaptive Audio feature, but for the more wallet-friendly price, it shouldn’t matter.
The bottom line: What are the best noise cancelling earbuds?
Noise cancelling earbuds are for the size conscious, the easily sweaty, and anyone who doesn’t have to deal with the bulk or cost of over-ear headphones but wants a good audio experience. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II are our overall pick because they offer all encompassing active noise cancellation. Bose’s swap out ear tips and stability bands make sure the earbuds fit correctly and stay in your ear, so you stay immersed in whatever you’re listening too.
Bose / Pocket-lint
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
$279 $300 Save $21
Stepping up to the premium pick is all about doing just that much more. Sony’s WF-1000XM5 have good noise cancellation, and sound better than most of our other picks, with a whole host of software features you can enable in Sony’s companion app that make the experience of wearing the earbuds more pleasant. If you never want to touch your volume again, you can let Sony handle that for you.
And in terms of getting a lot for a little, it’s hard to beat the Soundcore Space A40. Their basic duty as noise cancelling earbuds is easily completed, but Soundcore went a step further and crammed up to 50 hours of battery life into the earbuds and charging case. That’s nothing if not impressive.
How we picked the best noise cancelling earbuds
We’ve reviewed multiple generations of the wireless noise-cancelling earbuds on this list here at Pocket-lint, and have a good sense of what makes them all worth buying. We know the features to look for, and what’s a reasonable price to pay for them.
All the choices on this list have noise cancellation features, but I further narrowed down our selections based on price, other smart features, comfort and overall design, and sound quality. This list reflects options that meet some or all of those criteria in one way or another.
How important is getting noise cancelling earbuds that fit well?
Very important. Being able to create a good seal between your ears and the earbuds is critical to active noise cancelling working at all. Creating opposing sound waves to cancel out the hum of the world around you works best if you’re controlling how much noise you’re hearing in the first place. That’s why most, if not all noise cancelling earbuds ship with multiple sizes of ear tips and often some software guidance for selecting the right size and creating the best seal.
Will noise cancelling create absolute silence?
No, not entirely. You can refer to our explainer on active noise cancellation for all the technical details, but in general, noise cancelling earbuds do not block everything out. Certain extremely high or low frequency sounds can slip through. Short and sharp sounds can also make it through the cracks. It’ll all depend on the seal of your earbuds (headphones that wrap entirely around your ears create an even better seal) and the earbuds’ ability to detect and process the surrounding noises.