Update, December 6, 2020: This list was updated to include the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 and Jabra Elite 85t.
True wireless earbuds have greatly improved from their original models, including the original Apple AirPods. Until recently, effective noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds were nearly non-existent. Although the category remains green, there are a handful of remarkable options for the commuters and frequent flyers among us. Let’s take a gander at the best active noise-cancelling (ANC) true wireless earphones you can get.
Best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds
- Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
- Apple AirPods Pro
- Sony WF-1000XM3
- Panasonic Technics RZ-S500W
- Jabra Elite 85t
Editor’s note: We will update this list of the best noise-cancelling true wireless earphones regularly as new devices launch.
1. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
Sennheiser’s Momentum line of headsets is reserved for sophisticated consumers who don’t mind splurging for the finer things. The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 boast very good noise-cancelling properties, and can certainly hush the rumble of a train car or your cubicle neighbors’ indistinct conversations. In typical Sennheiser fashion, sound quality is superb, and you can equalize it in the Smart Control mobile app.
Battery life is average for this kind of technology: SoundGuys’testing yielded nearly 4 hours of playtime with ANC enabled. This falls short of the Apple AirPods Pro, but the case can fast charge the earbuds, which is great if you’re in a pinch. The earphones feature an IPX4 rating, operate via Bluetooth 5.1, and support both AAC and aptX high-quality Bluetooth codecs. If you can get past the price, you’ll be very pleased with the Momentum True Wireless 2.
2. Apple AirPods Pro
If you’re an iPhone user, you should scrounge around for enough pennies to get the Apple AirPods Pro. Just like the Beats Powerbeats Pro and Apple AirPods (2019), the AirPods Pro use Apple’s H1 chip. This means users benefit from hands-free Siri access, greater power efficiency, and seamless device switching. Apple went through the trouble of ensuring that the AirPods Pro are IPX4 water-resistant, so you no longer have to fear light water damage.
Dive in: Apple AirPods Pro review
The company finally regaled the audiophile crowd by designing dedicated nozzles onto its wireless earpods. This improves passive isolation, thereby improving overall sound quality. Unlike the first and second-generation AirPods, the Apple AirPods Pro don’t rely on an exaggerated bass response to combat external noise. Ultimately, the AirPods Pro re-create a more accurate sound, which will sound great across all music genres.
The nozzles also enable the AirPods Pro’s keystone feature: noise-cancelling. This is a huge improvement over the AirPods (2019) and allows for more accurate audio reproduction. ANC performance is excellent, and outside noise is reduced to ½ or ¼ as loud as without noise-cancelling. The Sony WF-1000XM3, on the other hand, are able to reduce high-pitched sounds to ⅛ or 1/16 their original intensity.
Although the $250 price is significant, you get plenty of bang-for-your-buck with the new AirPods Pro.
3. Sony WF-1000XM3
The Sony WF-1000XM3 are the best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds you can get. These discreet, sophisticated earbuds outperform the Apple AirPods Pro when it comes to low-frequency attenuation and functionality isn’t limited to certain devices as it is with the AirPods Pro. The sound signature favors bass-heavy music, giving bass hits a greater presence and more oomph. This can be good for casual listening but isn’t the most accurate reproduction of sound.
Curiously, the noise-cancelling struggles to block out 1kHz tones, but this isn’t a huge deal as the most important part of the audible range comes from sounds between 100-900Hz. The 4.76-hour battery life is great, considering how much power ANC consumes from the earbuds’ scaled-down batteries. Plus, the WF-1000XM3 earbuds support quick-charging: 10 minutes in the case supplies 1.5 hours of playtime, which I found extremely helpful during cross-country flights.
Read also: The best Sony headphones you can buy
If you’re on the hunt for comfortable noise-cancelling true wireless earphones with excellent performance, look no further than Sony’s earbuds that retail for ~$230.
4. Panasonic RZ-S500W
The Panasonic RZ-S500W are among the most impressive noise-cancelling earphones when it comes to raw performance. Panasonic’s hybrid noise cancelling technology heavily attenuates low-frequency sounds and renders them up to six times quieter than they sound without ANC enabled. That isn’t the only trick up these earphones have, though: they’re also durable (IPX4-rated), support mono listening, and offer a host of touch controls.
You can choose to listen with mono mode enabled by simply removing a single earbud from the case. This is a great option for hearing impaired listeners, or for anyone who wants to keep an ear on their surroundings. Battery life is good and SoundGuys recorded a standalone playtime of 5 hours, 36 minutes. Two charge cycles are afforded by the portable case, and just 15 minutes in the case allows for 70 minutes of media playback.
5. Jabra Elite 85t
The Jabra Elite 85t feature hybrid active noise-cancelling, which is highly effective, so long as you get a proper fit. The ergonomic design bodes well for all ear types, and the oblong, rather than spherical, ear tips are comfortable for hours of wear. These feature an IPX4 water-resistant rating, so you can use them just as easily in the gym as you would in the office.
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If you’re stuck working from home, you’ll enjoy the convenient embedded microphone system for all your conference call-filled days. Jabra released a firmware update that upgraded the Bluetooth firmware from 5.0 to 5.1, which remedied connection stability issues. You can connect to two devices at once, and the Jabra mobile app is one of the best companion audio apps around.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live and Amazon Echo Buds almost made the cut
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live is a unique set of noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds, because it’s the first of its kind to use an open-type fit. Noise-cancelling as it’s generally understood, requires a sealed ear canal to work properly, but the Galaxy Buds Live’s ANC is effective despite its lack of seal. Sure, the noise-cancelling isn’t perfect — to categorize it as great would even be a stretch — but the fact that it works to any degree is a major technologically triumph. Samsung deserves a nod for stepping outside the box with these bean-shaped buds.
Aside from noise-cancelling, these earphones support all the same features as the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus including direct access to Spotify. Microphone quality is very good, and the best we’ve seen in Samsung’s true wireless line up. If you’re a fan of open-type earbuds, these fit well and are worth considering.
Listeners who have transformed their standard homes into smart homes may want to consider the Amazon Echo Buds with Alexa built-in. Bose noise reduction technology effectively reduces external noise, and the IPX4 rating makes these a fine gym companion. There are, however, some issues regarding uneven battery depletion and the short-sighted decision to charge via microUSB rather than USB-C. If, however, you’re invested in all things Amazon the Echo Buds are a solid pair of smart totally wireless earbuds.
These are our picks for the best ANC true wireless earbuds. This category is very green and experiencing a rapid influx of products. We’ll be sure to keep you updated as new picks become available.
Best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds: Honorable mentions
- Huawei FreeBuds 3: These AirPods lookalikes sound great, and are lightweight, making them comfortable for all-day listening. The earphones reproduce upper-bass and low-midrange frequencies with great accuracy.
- Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus: Master & Dynamic puts sound quality first and noise-cancelling second. That’s not to say the ANC isn’t good, it’s just that accurate sound quality is what takes precedence. Your songs will hardly deviate from how the audio engineer intended for them to sound, as the MW07 Plus earbuds lightly emphasize only a few small ranges of notes.
- Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pro: Razer partnered with THX for its sophomore totally wireless earphones, and sound quality is very good. The earphones have an IPX4 rating, but lack fast charging.
- Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2: These are just like the original Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless earbuds, but this time they have ANC. If you put sound quality above all else, get these buds.
- 1More True Wireless ANC: Mid-tier, noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds are hard to come by, but 1More’s take on it is very good for the price. The biggest issue with the True Wireless ANC is limited availability.
What you should know about ANC true wireless earbuds
Battery life isn’t great but is improving
True wireless earbuds have very limited real estate, and the miniature batteries can only hold so much charge. It’s no wonder true wireless earbuds include a compact charging case. First-generation true wireless earbuds were noteworthy if they afforded more than three hours of playtime on a single charge; now, though, we’re seeing an uptick in performance from the likes of Beats and Master & Dynamic.
True wireless earphones aren’t made to last a lifetime
Since you’re beholden to constantly charge the earbuds when stashing them back into their respective charging cases, battery capacity is reduced faster than a pair of over-ears. Original AirPods users have reported the earbuds to last just 15 minutes on a single charge before needing to be thrown back into the case. This is a huge bummer, and the nature of the technology. So long as you keep your expectations realistic, you’ll still be able to enjoy your portable ‘buds.
Noise-cancelling performance isn’t consistent
Performance of true wireless earbuds with noise-cancelling is spotty: ANC typically works best against loud, droning, predictable sounds and the technology in true wireless earbuds isn’t as powerful as it is with full-fledged headphones. Regardless of whether you use earbuds or headphones, active noise-cancelling is extremely important as it helps protect your hearing and improves perceived audio quality. Turning noise-cancelling off affords some extra battery life, which is great when in a pinch.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
Our sister site SoundGuys has been testing the best of what true wireless earbuds have to offer since the category’s inception and puts each product through a battery of objective tests. The ultimate goal is to lay the facts bare while grounding abstract concepts, such as frequency response, with concrete examples. The team understands that audio is as much about objective science as it is about subjective preference and takes a holistic approach when reviewing products.