Once a feature found only on full-size over-ear headphones,or ANC technology is now widely available in true-wireless earbuds — and not just premium models like the , or . ANC muffles external noise around you and these days you can find noise-canceling earbuds that cost less than $50. Just don’t expect that noise-canceling to be as effective as what you get with more premium buds.
Noise-canceling technology continues to improve with each passing year, with the best noise-canceling able to muffle a wider range of frequencies and do it on the fly (“adaptive” noise canceling) with sophisticated software algorithms and more powerful but energy-efficient processors embedded in the buds. Apple, Sony and Bose remain among the leaders in the category, but they have plenty of competition.
If you’re in the market for noise-canceling headphones in all styles, including on-ear headphones
or over-ear headphones, check out the . We update both of these lists regularly as new models hit the market.
Watch this: Sony’s WF-1000XM4 Earbuds are a Big-Time Upgrade
No earbuds are perfect, of course, and not everybody will love the fit of the Sony WF-1000XM4 buds or be able to afford their high price ($280). But if you’re looking for great-sounding, great noise-canceling earbuds with solid voice-calling capabilities and good battery life, these buds check all the boxes. This true wireless earbud has noise-sensing microphones and noise isolation earbud tips with a more stable fit.
Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds also have top-notch noise canceling and sound quality, but the Sony is right there with the Bose for noise canceling (and some might say it’s a touch better in that department), but the Sony offers slightly better sound quality and also has a more compact design, particularly for the case (though the Sony buds certainly aren’t small).
Featuring excellent sound, improved noise canceling and voice-calling performance as well a smaller, more refined design that includes stabilizing fins (so the earbuds stay in your ears more securely), the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 are among the best new true-wireless earbuds for 2002. They’re also one of the best true-wireless earbuds overall, giving the Sony WF-1000XM4 a run for the money.
While the Beats Fit Pro ($200) technically aren’t AirPods, they’re built on the same tech platform as the AirPods Pro (yes, Apple owns Beats). Unlike Beats’ earlier and less expensive Studio Buds, the Beats Fit Pro include Apple’s H1 chip and have most of the AirPods Pro’s features, including active noise canceling, spatial audio and Adaptive EQ. I’d venture to call them the sports AirPods you’ve always wanted. And for some people, they might just be better than the AirPods Pro.
Even if they don’t sound quite as magical as you’d hope, the Apple AirPods Pro manage to be a great pair of true wireless earphones with active noise-canceling ability. That’s largely due to their winning design and fit, improved bass performance and effective noise canceling. The isolating earbuds provide superior noise cancellation too. In 2020 they were updated with spatial audio, a new virtual-sound mode for watching movies and TV shows, though it only works with iPhones and iPads running iOS 14 or later.
These light noise-canceling headphones are an excellent choice when you want to make a call or listen to music during your workout.
In many ways, Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds are excellent true wireless earbuds, particularly when it comes to their sound and noise canceling, which was the best out there right now in a set of earbuds until the Sony WF-1000XM4 came along (some have declared the Sony the winner but it’s very close). Performance-wise, they clearly have a leg up on Apple’s best-selling AirPods Pro true wireless noise-canceling earbuds and a lot of people like how Bose’s StayHear tips lock the buds in their ears.
The AirPods Pro’s smaller design, somewhat more comfortable fit and superior voice-calling capabilities make it hard to declare the Bose the straight-up champ in that battle. Ultimately, it depends on what your priorities are.
Available in four color options, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 noise-canceling headphones hew more closely to the newer Galaxy Buds Pro and Galaxy Buds Live, both of which have eye-catching glossy curved designs and the same compact charging case as this new model. In fact, it’s the Buds 2’s design and fit — they’re 15% smaller and 20% lighter than the Buds Plus — that make them a potentially more likable alternative to the slightly better-sounding Buds Pro.
Like the Buds Pro, the Buds 2 are equipped with active noise-isolating earbuds. That means all the latest Galaxy Buds models now feature some form of active noise canceling, though it’s slight with the Buds Live, which have an open design sans ear tips. While the Buds 2 look more like shrunken versions of the Buds Pro, I found them more akin to the Buds Live in that they barely stick out of your ears and are fairly discreet. Because they sit more flush with your ears — and have that curved design — they also pick up less wind noise. They’re IPX2 sweat-resistant.
Bang & Olufsen’s earlier Beoplay E8 earbuds were good but underwhelming for their high price. The new Beoplay EQ are also rather expensive, but at least they’re among the very best true wireless earbuds available right now, with top-notch sound and adaptive noise canceling, along with a natural sounding transparency mode. Multipoint Bluetooth pairing means you can connect them to a smartphone and computer simultaneously. They have three microphones on each bud and are good for voice calling though not exceptionally good.
Needless to say, the premium design elements are here — the aluminum-shelled case opens and closes with precise smoothness and the buds themselves have their own aluminum accent on the outer surface where the touch controls live.
The buds are fairly large and do stick out of your ears like premium buds from Sony and Sennheiser. They fit me comfortably and securely and are suitable for sporting activities, with an IP54 splash-proof rating. Battery life is rated at around 6.5 hours at moderate volume levels and you get an extra two charges from the case, which has USB-C and wireless charging.
The sound is big and dynamic with deep, well-defined bass and a wide soundstage. The mids sound natural and the treble has nice sparkle to it. They’re a pleasure to listen to and among the best-sounding true wireless earbuds. I didn’t experience any listening fatigue over longer listening sessions. aptX is available for devices that support the audio codec; these have aptX Adaptive and use Bluetooth 5.2.
Are they better than the Sony WF-1000XM4, which cost $120 less? The answer to that will depend partially on just how well they fit your ears and just how good a seal you get from the included ear tips. I personally ended up getting the best fit using Sennheiser’s large tips, which work best for my ears. They’re a great set of earbuds if you can afford them. Just buy them from a retailer that has a good return policy in case you’re not completely satisfied.
A lot of people love Nura’s original over-ear Nuraphones that are uniquely designed with an in-ear component and personalized sound. I’m personally more fond of the company’s new NuraTrue earbuds, which also have a fairly unusual design and give you the option to create a personalized hearing profile.
The buds look big but are lightweight. They fit a bit more like sport earbuds — they include a couple of sizes of stabilizing fins — and stick out of your ears a bit (they’re not exactly discreet). I got a good seal and comfortable fit with one of the larger tips and if you’re able to get a good fit, these deliver excellent sound and decent noise-canceling performance. Nura has some of the best hearing personalization and a quick 5-minute process, with no test tones involved, yielded good results for me with improved sound.
You can adjust the bass level with a slider in the “immersive” mode in the app and I found these delivered big sound with a wide soundstage. aptX audio codec support is available for compatible devices.
The NuraTrue also have a “social” transparency mode — it’s good, but not quite up to the level of the AirPods Pro’s transparency mode in terms of how natural it sounds. Battery life is rated at around six hours with noise canceling on at moderate volume levels. I thought the touch controls worked well and these are splash-proof with an IPX4 rating. Call quality wasn’t quite what I hoped it would be — it’s fine but some callers said my voice sounded unnatural and canned when noise reduction was engaged in the noisy streets of New York. There is a sidetone feature that allows you to hear your voice in the buds, which is good.
Initially there were some complaints about the earbuds not playing loud enough, but a firmware update fixed that issue. I had no problem with the volume levels; they play plenty loud now, perhaps too loud for some people. Though fairly pricey, If these fit your ears well, they’re among the better premium buds, particularly for sound quality. Hopefully some firmware upgrades will make them even better over time.
After a long wait, Bowers & Wilkins has finally released a couple of sets of true wireless earbuds — the PI7 ($399) and PI5 ($249) — both of which are excellent and feature active noise canceling along with a transparency mode. The flagship PI7 has a different driver design and sounds slightly more detailed and refined with a little more bass energy. They both sound excellent, but if you’re looking for the absolute best sounding earbuds, the PI7 buds are arguably that, besting the Sony WF-1000XM4 by a small margin. They also sound slightly better than the excellent Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless II and Master & Dynamic MW08.
While the PI7’s noise canceling is quite decent, the Sony’s noise canceling is superior. I also thought the Sony did better with voice calling (it has better noise reduction so people can hear you better in a noisier environments) and it has better battery life.
The PI7’s case does transform into a Bluetooth transceiver, so you can plug it into your laptop for aptX streaming or an in-flight entertainment system. That’s a nice bonus feature the PI5 doesn’t have, but the Sony is the overall better value. However, if sound quality is your priority, the PI7 are worth considering if you can afford them. Hopefully they come down in price over time.
The PI5 buds also sound excellent and are a touch lighter than the PI7. At $249, the PI5 competes directly with the $280 Sony 1000XM4. As with all in-ear headphones, you have to try them to see how they fit your ears. Bowers & Wilkins’ buds may fit better than Sony’s or vice versa.
Note that despite their high price there’s limited stock on the PI5 at Amazon right now.
The Momentum True Wireless II remain Sennheiser’s flagship true-wireless earbuds. But shortly after the release of the CX, Sennheiser’s second-generation midrange buds, the company has followed up with the CX Plus, which add noise canceling a slightly higher price. They look nearly identical to the standard CX buds but have a glossy black finish on the bud’s exterior touch-sensitive surface. Cosmetically, they’re more akin to the older and slightly larger CX400BT.
I like the CX for the money and the CX Plus deliver the same excellent sound while rounding out the feature set with active noise canceling and a transparency mode. Battery life is rated at up to eight hours at moderate volume levels and these are splash-proof, with an IPX4 rating. They do stick out of your ears a fair bit.
The noise canceling isn’t quite as good as the Sony WF-1000XM4’s noise canceling, but I thought it was quite effective and headset performance was also decent, though not necessarily stellar. These are all-around solid noise-canceling earbuds that can count sound quality as their biggest strength.
The Earfun Air Pro 2 not only features solid active noise cancellation but their sound is also impressive for their relatively modest price, with overall well-balanced sound, decent clarity and solid bass performance. Some of Earfun’s buds have had a bit too much treble push — sometimes referred to as “presence boost” — but these mostly manage to avoid that. They do sound better than the original Air Pro.
The earbuds have some extra features, like an ear-detection sensor (your music pauses when you take the buds out of your ears) and a case that has USB-C and wireless charging, that you don’t often find at this price. Equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, they’re splash-proof with an IPX5 rating and offer up to seven hours of battery life on a single charge at moderate volume levels, though you’ll probably get closer to six hours with noise canceling on.
There’s also a transparency mode that lets ambient sound in. It actually sounds pretty natural and is closer than I thought it would to the AirPods Pro’s excellent transparency mode. Alas, there’s no companion app that allows you to tweak the sound or upgrade the firmware.
Earfun talks up the Air Pro 2’s voice calling capabilities — the buds have three microphones in each earbud — and I thought call performance was good but these didn’t reduce background noise as much the new Soundpeats T3, which are also good for the money ($40). However, while the Soundpeats T3 are better for calls, the Earfun Air Pro 2’s noise-canceling and transparency modes are superior and the Soundpeats don’t have the ear-detection sensor. Active noise cancellation is the name of the game with these earbuds. Also, the Earfun Air Pro 2 buds sound better, with richer, more dynamic sound.
The OnePlus Buds Pro ($126) may have some chrome on their stems, but they’re pretty much AirPods Pro clones, right down to the same pinch controls. But their charging case is different, at least, and they deliver good sound quality and noise canceling, as well as top-notch ambient noise reduction for voice calling. In short, they’re a good set of true wireless earbuds that cost less than the AirPods Pro and have a companion app for Android and iOS devices.
Panasonic’s Technics EAH-AZ60 buds don’t have quite as premium a feel as the earlier EAH-AZ70W, but they sound sweet with clean, well-balanced sound, well-defined bass and good detail. They feature active noise canceling (it’s good), a transparency mode, multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can connect to your computer and phone at the same time and it has very solid voice-calling performance with good noise reduction. The buds are IPX4 splash-proof and are rated for up to 7 hours of battery life on a single charge at moderate volume levels.
They’re missing a couple of features usually found at this price point: Namely, an ear-detection sensor that automatically pauses your music when you pull the earbuds out of your ears, and wireless charging (the former feature is more important). The step-down EAH-AZ40 also sound good but the EAH-AZ60 not only have larger drivers (8mm compared to 6mm), but they support Sony’s LDAC audio codec and have two additional microphones for voice calling and noise canceling (the EAH-AZ40 doesn’t have noise canceling).
The Beats Studio Buds look a lot like the rumored stemless AirPods we’ve been waiting for. Geared toward both iOS and Android users, they are missing a few key features on the Apple side of things (there’s no H1 or W1 chip), but they’re small, lightweight buds that are comfortable to wear and offer very good sound. While their noise canceling isn’t as good as the AirPods Pro’s they do have a transparency mode and they’re decent for making calls. Ultimately, their fit and sound quality are their strongest selling points — and they are cheaper than the AirPods Pro.
Master & Dynamic’s earlier MW07 and MW07 Plus delivered top-notch sound for true wireless, but they were a little lacking in the features department and weren’t so great for making calls. The updated MW08 offer some significant improvements, including the addition of solid noise cancellation and call quality, that makes them one of the top models for 2022. Alas, they’re expensive at $299.
Battery life has improved a bit, up to around 12 hours of battery life at 50% volume versus 10 hours for the MW07 Plus. The earbuds are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, active noise cancellation with three microphones on each earbud. Noise reduction during calls isn’t up to the level of the AirPods Pro but overall call quality has improved. The noise-canceling on the MW07 Plus was pretty weak; the MW08’s is much more effective.
You can opt for two levels of noise cancellation in the new M&D Connect app for iOS and Android, as well as two levels of transparency that lets you hear the outside world. The app currently has no way to tweak the sound profile — I’m OK with that, because the sound profile is just fine for my tastes — and the earbuds have a physical button on each bud to control playback, not touch controls.
The buds may not fit everyone’s ear equally well, but they certainly have a distinct look, as well as excellent sound and a great listening experience if you can get a tight seal (I was able to get a secure fit with the largest tip). They deliver more of an audiophile sound profile, with smooth, well-balanced sound and well-defined bass. This model has new 11mm drivers, which add a bit of punch to the bass and a touch better clarity. The MW08 works well with all genres of music.
Available in a variety of color options, like their predecessors, the MW08 include a swanky stainless-steel charging case (it charges via USB-C) that’s compact but carries more weight than your typical buds cases. I prefer the matte finishes of the cases that come with the black and blue versions, and you also get a secondary pouch for safekeeping. Yes, the charging case can get scratched up if you leave it in a bag.
These truly wireless earbuds now support both the aptX and AAC audio codecs and have an extended range of more than 20 meters, according to Master & Dynamic.
LG’s Tone Free FP9 are a nice improvement over earlier Tone Free true-wireless earbuds I tested a few years ago, offering better sound with fuller bass and decent noise canceling. They’re lightweight and comfortable to wear (yes, they look quite a bit like AirPods Pro but come in black) and their touch controls are responsive. Their most distinguishing feature is the built-in self-cleaning feature. It’s a bit of a gimmick, but for all you germaphobes, the case has a UV light — LG calls it UVnano — that kills bacteria on the speaker mesh.
Note that the big bonus feature over the earlier FP8 is that you can plug the case into an in-flight entertainment system on a plane or treadmill (and other devices with a headphone port) and use it as a Bluetooth transmitter for the buds. That’s a relatively rare feature — the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 has it — although we expect it to come to more earbuds’ cases in the future.
TCL is best known for its high-quality, high-value Roku-powered TVs, but it’s moved into the headphones arena in the last few years. I wasn’t too impressed with its earlier models, but its latest Moveaudio S600 delivers excellent sound and good active noise canceling along with decent battery life (up to 6.2 hours with noise canceling on and eight hours with it off, with three extra charges from the charging case). I found that headset performance for voice calls is decent, but not quite up to the level of the AirPods Pro. The charging case does offer wireless charging.
These are slightly more geared toward Android users — TCL makes budget Android phones, after all — and feature Google Fast Pair. That said, they work fine with iPhones and TCL’s companion app is available for iOS and Android (you can customize the sound and touch controls in the app). The earbuds support the AAC audio codec, but not aptX.
These automatically pause your music when you pull the earbuds out of your ears and they’re IP54 splash- and dust-proof. The stems are a little long, but the earbuds fit me comfortably and I got a tight seal using the largest ear tips. The S600 is available in three color options.
Anker’s Soundcore Life P2 buds have been popular budget earphones. The updated Life P3 has been upgraded with active noise canceling and is essentially a more affordable version of the Liberty Air 2 Pro ($130 list). The Life P3 is missing wireless charging and a wear-detection sensor that automatically pauses your music when you take the earbuds out of your ears. That said, these earbuds sound quite decent (they have a bass-boost mode) and are also good for making calls. A companion app allows you to tweak the sound a bit, but I mainly stuck with the default sound profile.
Battery life is rated at up to seven hours at moderate volume levels. These offer IPX5 water-resistance, which means they can withstand a sustained spray of water and are splash-proof.
Like with the Liberty Air 2 Pro, I had a little trouble getting a tight seal with the included tips (it should only affect a small percentage of users), so I used my own. To get optimal sound and noise-canceling performance, it’s crucial to get a good seal. There’s also a transparency mode that lets ambient sound in, which works fine but isn’t on par with the AirPods Pro’s excellent transparency mode.
Available in multiple color options, the Life P3 carries a list price of $80, but I do expect to see some discounts that bring them closer to $60, which would put it in bargain territory. The Liberty Air 2 Pro sporadically sells for $100, or $30 off its list price, by comparison.