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.
Buying the right noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds for your needs
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.
Because true wireless earbuds are so small, they can’t accommodate large batteries, and you’ll generally get 4-5 hours of playtime with ANC on. The standalone battery life isn’t the only thing to consider: true wireless earbuds aren’t really built for the long run because the earbuds are always charging and depleting as you place and remove them from the case. 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.
Best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds
- The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are the best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds for most listeners, though they’re best enjoyed with a Samsung Galaxy device.
- The Sony WF-1000XM4 have the best raw noise-cancelling performance of any true wireless earphones, sound as great as they look, and support plenty of Bluetooth codecs.
- The Apple AirPods Pro are the best option for anyone with an iPhone.
- The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) are a great pair of economical noise-cancelling earbuds with ANC that outperforms other top contenders.
- The Jabra Elite 85t is a great pair of earphones for athletes who want something they can use in or out of the gym.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro: The best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds for most people
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are high-tech ANC earbuds with an IPX7 rating and reasonable price. Samsung lets you choose between two levels of noise-cancelling, the greatest of which effectively combats low-frequency sounds like the whir of a fridge or roar of a plane’s engine. The Galaxy Buds Pro support automatic ear detection, and pause playback when you remove them. Samsung also packed in other sensors to facilitate its 360 Audio technology, limited to Samsung devices, which uses head tracking to keep you in the middle of your favorite movie scenes.
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 4 hours, 48 minutes. The case provides 13 hours of reserve playtime and supports both USB-C and wireless charging.
Check out full review to learn more about the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.
Sony WF-1000XM4: Best noise cancellation
The Sony WF-1000XM4 boast stellar active noise-cancelling that renders low-frequency sounds about one-quarter to one-sixteenth as loud as they’d sound if you weren’t wearing the earphones. If you’re on a plane, the roar of its engine isn’t a great threat to your aerial nap when you’re wearing the WF-1000XM4. High-pitched sounds are blocked out too, thanks to the great selection of memory foam ear tips. You can easily find the best fit for you and check it via the free mobile app. Like Apple and Amazon, Sony’s app provides an ear tip fit test that gives you immediate feedback on how the ear tips fit your ear canals.
Aside from the ANC, the Sony WF-1000XM4 are a durable pair of earphones with an IPX4 rating. This certification combined with the secure fit make the WF-1000XM4 a fine set of workout earbuds. The earbuds last 7 hours, 43 minutes before you need to place them back into the USB-C charging case, which also supports wireless charging. The case supplies an extra two charge cycles, getting you close to 24 hours of portable playtime.
The default frequency response is fine: bass and low-midrange notes are amplified to a normal degree but can cause some auditory masking which makes it hard to hear high-pitched notes. Fortunately, you can quickly adjust this in the mobile app’s EQ module. These earphones support Bluetooth 5.2, which leaves open the possibility for them to support LE audio in the future. Like the Sony WH-1000XM4 over-ear headphones, these earbuds support SBC, AAC, and LDAC Bluetooth codecs.
Check out our sister site SoundGuys’ full review to learn more about the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2.
Apple AirPods Pro: Best for iPhone owners
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.
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 half or one-quarter as loud as without noise-cancelling. The Sony WF-1000XM3, on the other hand, reduce high-pitched sounds to one-eight or one-sixteenth their original intensity.
Although the $250 price is significant, you get plenty of bang-for-your-buck with the new AirPods Pro.
Check out full review to learn more about the Apple AirPods Pro.
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen): The best value
The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) may not look like anything special but they have a few features that separate them from the other ANC earbuds listed here. These are the most affordable earphones highlighted and they have very good noise-cancelling. In fact, the ANC outperforms the Apple AirPods Pro and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2.
It wouldn’t be an Amazon product without Alexa, and the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) support direct voice access to Alexa. The Alexa app is available on iOS and Android and lets you create a custom EQ, reconfigure the touch controls, and take an ear tip fit test. The fit test is invaluable as it ensures a proper seal with the ear tips, which maximizes isolation and noise-cancelling.
Sound quality is pretty good, though there is some auditory masking because bass notes are significantly louder than mids. This can make it hard for you to hear vocal detail, but again, you can always adjust the sound profile to your liking from the Alexa app. The earbuds las 4 hours, 42 minutes on a single charge. By default, the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) include a non-wireless USB-C case, but you can pay an extra $20 for a wireless charging case bundle.
Check out our sister site SoundGuys’ full review to learn more about the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen).
Jabra Elite 85t: The best for athletes
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.
Check out full review to learn more about the Jabra Elite 85t.
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.
- Panasonic RZ-S500W: This is a great pair of mid-tier noise-cancelling earbuds, which use hybrid ANC to affect low-pitched sounds.
- 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.
- Sony WF-1000XM3: These earbuds have a handsome design, but fall short compared to the competition since they lack any IP rating and only have middling ANC.
- 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.
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.