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.
Read the in-depth breakdown of the best ANC true wireless earbuds by SoundGuys
Best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds
Editor’s note: We will update this list of the best noise-cancelling true wireless earphones regularly as new devices launch.
1. 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.
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.
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.
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. Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus
The Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus put 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.
These earbuds aren’t the absolute best noise-cancelling true wireless performers seeing how ANC falls a bit short of the competition: 100-300Hz tones are hushed twice as much by the AirPods Pro as they are by the MW07 Plus. Generally speaking, these have some of the least consistent noise-cancelling as there are plenty of sporadic dips (e.g. 650Hz-1kHz and 4.5kHz-10kHz). They do, however, feature IPX5 water-resistance and the best battery life of any earphones listed, clocking in at 8 hours, 58 minutes of playback. They also happen to be the most expensive option with a $300 price tag.
4. Mobvoi TicPods Free
Mobvoi’s true wireless earbuds are a great bargain. While ANC isn’t nearly as effective with Mobvoi’s earphones compared to any of the others listed, chatter and general ambiance are quieted as depicted by the increase in attenuation from 1kHz and above. If you plan to fly with the TicPods Free, you won’t benefit much from noise cancellation as it hardly quiets low rumbles and sounds lower than 200Hz.
Sound quality is about as consumer-friendly as it gets with a generous bass boost and little treble emphasis. Your songs will sound “boomier” with the Mobvoi TicPods Free when compared to studio IEMs like the Noble Kaiser 10. This is great for working out as the bass response is easy to hone in on while exercising. You don’t have to worry about breaking a sweat in these because, just like the Master & Dynamic wireless earbuds, these have been awarded an IPX5 rating. The only thing to remain aware of when using these AirPods lookalikes is that the ear tips have a nasty tendency of coming loose in the ears.
The TicPods Free can usually be found for ~$80, and certainly for less than $100. As of November 2019, they’re the only viable noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds under $100.
The Sony WF-SP700N and Amazon Echo Buds almost made the cut
The Sony WF-SP700N battery life isn’t great, but these comfortable earbuds are a great pick for listeners who aren’t quite sure whether they value sound quality or noise-cancellation more and have a more flexible budget than those looking at Mobvoi’s earbuds.
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.
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.