Best Noise-Cancelling Earbuds

best noise cancelling earbuds 2017

Many listeners like it when they can have their music enlivened by a quiet listening experience. This is far more important when you’re actively at work or play, listening on the move.

The regular in-ear headphones included with your phone or that you can buy off the shelf often disappoint when used in noisier environments, like that found on trains and buses. Even music off a pair of high-end headphones can be degraded in such situations.

What are noise isolating earbuds? These are compact headphones placed in the ear that can reduce background noise levels using physical seals in the ear as well as sound processing. You’ll certainly want ones that will faithfully reproduce the musical qualities of your favorite titles. For this, you’ll have to investigate the best noise cancelling earbuds that feature passive noise isolation or better yet, active noise-cancelling designs that further improve the isolating experience with advanced signals shaping using “erasing” inverse waves.

We’re always serious about getting the best sound quality in our headgear. We tested a dozen that offer the kind of performance and comfort we can appreciate and wrote up our experiences in these noise cancelling earbuds reviews.

Best Noise-Cancelling Earbuds For Quiet Listening – Comparison Table

We’ve done the hard work and done all the research for you. Here are the absolute best noise-cancelling earbuds 2017.

Noise-Cancelling EarbudsTypeControlsFeaturesTipsAmazon URL
G-Cord Wireless BluetoothWirelessVolume/playSweat-resistant3
Sunvito RQ8WirelessVolume/playCVC2
Infinilla V4.1 Wireless Sweatproof SportWirelessVolume/playCVC3
GJT®BTH-600 Wireless BluetoothWirelessVolume/playCVC1
TaoTronics TT-BH06 BL BluetoothWirelessVolume/playCVC3
iLepo Active Noise cancelling In-earWiredVolume/playActive Noise cancelling3
Apie H100 Active Noise cancelling In-EarWiredPlayActive Noise cancelling6
Firebird Premium TALON WirelessWirelessVolume/playCVC3
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23WiredPlayActive Noise cancelling3
Phiaton BT 220 NC WirelessWireless N/AActive Noise cancelling5
Bose QuietComfort 20WiredVolume/playActive Noise cancelling3
Bose Quietcontrol 30 Wireless HeadphonesWirelessVolume/playControllable Active Noise cancelling3

We hope the list of the best noise-cancelling earbuds above has helped you pick the best earbuds for you. It’s our aim to share what we know about the best noise cancelling in-ear headphones we’ve discovered. And here they are:

1

G-Cord Wireless Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Headphones

best noise cancelling earbuds 2017

These G-Cord earbuds are an economical choice and offer comparatively high-quality sound in the gym or field. Tonality is relatively balanced for such an inexpensive pair, which works for most kinds of genres.

The performance was generally smooth, with enough detail in the highs and presence in the mids to satisfy casual listeners. You cannot expect the kind of transparency or solid bass at high volumes than designs that are more expensive can deliver, though. The quality of the plastic earpieces’ construction is average at best, but they do feature smooth shapes and rounded edges for better in-ear comfort.

This Bluetooth 4.1 model is also designed to be moisture-resistant and can endure light sweating during vigorous sports and outdoor activities. Although the connecting cable stays in place, the cord material can get sticky on bare skin whenever it’s humid or sweaty, dragging on the earpieces as you twist your head around.

Three pairs of tips and one ear hook are included in the box along with the micro-USB charging cable. The earpieces were slightly bulky as is usual with such wireless designs. They can be comfortable to wear for long periods once you’ve adjusted them securely with the supplied ear hooks.

Battery life is much better than average, with about eight hours of playback or talk time at moderate listening levels, but a full charge can take almost two hours. The button controls on the right earpiece’s edge were easy enough to manipulate for playback and calls, volume controls were fine with iPhones and newer Android devices.

G-Cord’s Wireless Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Headphone model performs well above its pricing category, with superior noise isolation for decent sound.

PROS
  • Good audio quality
  • Lightweight and stable fit
  • Full controls for iOS
  • Extended battery life
CONS
  • Cable can be sticky at times
  • Slightly bulky earpieces
2

Sunvito RQ8 Wireless 4.0 Bluetooth Noise cancelling Headphones

best noise cancelling earbuds 2017

Sunvito’s wireless is one of the least expensive Bluetooth in-ear headphones you can buy.

Its drivers are capable of a high-quality performance, with clear highs and a solid mid-range that nicely blends with rich bass. Musical quality is as good as that of most budget models, although the sound is not as smooth as the G-Cord’s profile.

Acoustic tracks were mostly free of the hiss and other slight distortions that are usually found with cheap earbuds. The latest CVC 6.0 noise reducing operation works with the ear tip seal to reduce surrounding sounds. With no obvious balance problems like hollow lows or sibilant high notes, it can deliver pleasant listening across bass-rich genres with little interruption.

Both the noise cancelling mic and controls are built into the right earpiece, which makes it easy to handle calls and playback. The connecting cable can be unruly at times and the somewhat bulky earpieces tend to slide out during very vigorous runs. But it’s fine for a convenient listening while at the gym or walking around.

A pair ear tips plus one wing-like hook are included as well the micro-USB charging cable. The design of the earpieces is solid enough, although these are constructed of plastics and it won’t take much stress to weaken them. It offers decent battery life of at least five hours at moderate listening and charges in less than two hours.

Sunvito’s RQ8 wireless Bluetooth earbuds are suitable for bass-rich recordings and offer wireless convenience for users with active lifestyles. With its excellent noise isolation, it’s a decent choice among the many cheap wireless models.

PROS
  • Clear and solid sound
  • Convenient for busy users
  • Good battery life of around 5-7 hours
CONS
  • Connecting cable twists sometimes
  • Somewhat bulky earpieces
3

Infinilla V4.1 Wireless Sweatproof Sport Earbuds

best noise cancelling earbuds 2017

Infinilla’s wireless earbuds offer audio quality that can be pretty nice. The latest Bluetooth 4.1 connection and AptX streaming compression technologies enable wireless stereo performance and bass experience almost equal to that of wired headsets.

Advanced CVC 6.0 noise-reduction processing smartly reduces ambient noises along with the noise isolating ear tips, resulting in clearer calls and more involving musical sessions. The music and voice functions are great, but due to the bulkier wireless earpiece design, these tend to fall off more readily than lighter and more compact corded earpieces, especially as they mount sideways.

These wireless earbuds have anti-moisture earpieces that can tolerate some sweat and are one of the few pairs that are good enough for use in active situations. Due to their rubber-like coatings, the earpieces can be readily gripped with slimy or wet fingers.

The drivers produce a smooth sound that’s pleasing for pop and highly vocal stuff, with enough warmth and detail to satisfy the average user. Audio quality may not be the best for every musical enthusiast, particularly with very dynamic classical tracks. But the drivers do keep the beat coming during runs and workouts.

Battery life is good for up to seven hours as claimed and the units fully charged in just under two hours. Bluetooth connectivity uses efficient AptX compressed audio streaming, resulting in performance that can rival that of wired models.

Aside from the charging cable, three sets of ear tips are provided to tailor the fit for a tighter seal against environmental noise. Ergonomic ear hooks help to keep the earpieces from dropping off when you’re running or working out at the gym. Both the controls and mic are integrated into the right-side earpiece, which makes it easy to manage both music and voice tasks during activities.

The headset functions along with wireless operation were great for managing calls during vigorous activities. This model readily pairs with up two Bluetooth devices at the same time and works well with iOS, Android, and Kindle phones and tablets. Battery life can reach 7 hours on full charge and the battery-charge indication is supported on Apple devices.

Infinilla’s V4.1 Wireless Sweatproof Sport Earbuds offer convenience to go with high-quality sound and low noise levels. Users with active lifestyles who are on a budget but want to have engaging music will find it worth trying.

PROS
  • Clear sound
  • Convenient for listening on the go
  • Decent battery life
CONS
  • Somewhat bulky earpieces
4

GJT® BTH-600 Wireless Bluetooth Headsets Noise Cancelling Earphones

best noise cancelling earbuds 2017

GJT’s BTH-600 wireless model is a sports model designed to satisfy music lovers with active lifestyles. Its advanced wireless module uses Bluetooth 4.1 streaming and CVC 6.0 noise cancelling, reducing ambient sounds for better audio clarity.

The conventional design of the drivers’ shells means that it emphasizes performance over style. Music is clean and smooth, with solid mids and clear highs in a dynamic soundstage. Mid-range notes can be a bit depressed, but the strong bass is punchy enough to get workouts going.

Each earpiece is magnetized so that both can be conveniently attached to each other in a loose loop around the neck, keeping them from jumbling about. The earpieces are not so heavy as to get in the way of intensive activities in the outdoors or at the gym, but it’s best to pocket or tuck in the bulky in-line controls to keep it from pulling them down.

Battery life of around four hours of music listening is average among its rivals, but the unit does charge fully in a little over an hour. Included in the package is just a single pair of tips that provides a comfortable enough fit for ears of average size, plus the requisite charging cable.

Full playback and call management functions are handled via in-line headset controls, with easy switching between music and voice sessions and quick pairing with up to two mobile devices. The microphone’s HD audio function delivers clearer recordings and voice calls.

GJT’s BTH-600 Wireless Bluetooth Headsets offer good sound and clear calls and is one of the best noise-cancelling wireless earbuds for those who need carefree wireless convenience at work or play.

PROS
  • Solid sound
  • Compact and comfortable fit
  • Inexpensive
CONS
  • Bass not as strong as others
  • Somewhat bulky control module
5

TaoTronics TT-BH06 BL Bluetooth Wireless Earphones

best noise cancelling earbuds 2017

TaoTronics Bluetooth earbuds are among the better inexpensive wireless models. The lightweight and comfortable design offer a lot for those looking for a dependable yet inexpensive set for use during brisk activities.

The drivers are capable of clear highs and solid mids that combine smoothly with decent bass, which is unexpected in such an inexpensive wireless pair. Audio is streamed using high-rate AptX compression, with a performance that’s not too far from that of wired headphones.

Music performance and volume levels were more than enough for the outdoors or the gym, where the utmost audio quality is not the only priority. Our modern acoustic favorites presented none of the minute distortions that plague too many budget headphones. CVC 6.0 noise reducing circuits assisted the ear tips in sealing in a quieter music experience that was free of much of the rumbling noise that’s found in urban surroundings.

The earpieces have a comfortable fit. As they are light and nicely shaped, there’s not much need for ear hooks for everyday listening, but three pairs of these along with tips are included just the same. With hooks mounted, the earpieces were steadier when walking, which is great for owners who move around a lot while listening.

The Bluetooth range also seemed to be longer than normal, as the music rarely dropped even with the phone in the rear pocket. Like many wireless designs, one of the earpieces has a full set of playback and voice controls that were fine for handling music and calls, but the housings can be a bit bulky and weighted.

Battery life at about five hours is only slightly above average. Although the plastic earpieces look well designed, they probably won’t stand much abuse. The design works well to amplify music, but also tends to transmit some microphonic noise whenever the user moves about.

TaoTronics’s TT-BH06 BL Bluetooth Wireless Earphones are fine for taking calls and make it easy to enjoy your favorite tracks at the gym or track. These are among the best-designed cheap wireless earbuds available today.

PROS
  • Clear audio performance
  • Convenient for listeners on the go
  • Long Bluetooth range
CONS
  • Housing tends to transmit noises
6

iLepo Active Noise cancelling In-ear Headphones

best noise cancelling earbuds 2017

Like more advanced models, iLepo’s earbuds use an active system that reduces noise using recreated inversed wave feedback that’s efficient at cancelling frequencies containing annoying ambient sounds.  Flights, buses, and other public transit that are plagued with constant background noises become more bearable, and you’ll experience clearer sound at lower volumes as well.

The earpieces are packaged well and have that engineered industrial look, with nicely shaped and highly comfortable and lightweight shells. Other than the usual button that you press to receive and end hands-free calls, there’s a separate one for toggling the noise cancelling system.

There is a reference in the user guide to burning in the drivers for better performance in the long run. But the iffy translation doesn’t impart much useful information about the process nor does it explain how critical it can be. Still, after an initial “burn-in” of our own that we devised with white noise over a few nights, audio quality did improve slightly.

Performance is decent in the mid to high ranges, with better than the average bass response in its class. The overall musical portion of the output is smooth and strong. However, the operation of noise cancelling process is not as satisfying as that of the most technologically evolved models from Bose.

Although the system considerably reduces the low-frequency noise of the constant or droning sort that you might hear from household heaters or during flights, the output does retain the high notes. It also does not reduce the volume of nearby voices that much, but that can be a safety plus in many settings outside the home.

We appreciated that the sound output does not worsen too much with the power off and the noise cancelling inactive. There were no separate volume buttons. Like with most active noise cancelling units, the module that houses the system’s circuitry and the controls are slightly heavier and lumpier than that of regular in-ear models.

The excellent battery life can approach ten hours at moderate listening levels. The extended braided cable made it easier to find some pocket or place to tuck in or attach the controls without tangling overmuch. Included in the package are three pairs of small, medium, and large ear tips, the control module has a built-in clothes clip to secure its relatively heavy form.

It may not provide the very best noise cancelling effect, but iLepo’s Active Noise-cancelling In-ear Headphones offers unbeatable value for an electronically active system. As a decent pair of in-ear earbuds with decent active noise cancelling, it’s our budget pick for the best noise cancelling earbuds.

PROS
  • Clear sound with decent bass
  • Good active noise cancelling
  • Extended battery life
  • Long anti-twist cable with clip
CONS
  • Slightly heavy control module
  • No volume controls
7

Apie H100 Active Noise cancelling In-Ear Headphones Earbuds

best noise cancelling earbuds 2017

APIE in-ear noise cancelling earbuds employ an active noise cancelling process system that lessens low-frequency noise by recreating inverted sound waves that cancel frequencies full of irritating background sounds. Listening to your tracks aboard planes, buses, and other noisy public settings become more viable and as a result, you’ll be able to enjoy clearer audio at lesser volume levels.

The sound is generally rich and tonally balanced, with smooth and clear mids and clear highs plus deep bass present while the system is running. The active noise cancelling system is not as effective as that of the more technologically advanced designs from Bose, though.

The single button on the control module toggles noise cancelling operation as needed and the system starts up once you press the button and the LED lights up. Operation automatically stops once the battery becomes depleted without disrupting ongoing tasks. The noise cancelling does appreciably lessen the noise background, such as the continually humming sounds of household appliances. However, it does not really suppress voices and high-pitched notes from ambient sources.

The system is most efficient in cancelling constant low-frequency noises of the type found on planes and trains. This restrained effect is useful for maintaining personal awareness in a variety of exposed settings. That’s because it doesn’t reduce the ambient as radically as the most advanced noise cancelling headphones. The effect isn’t drastic enough to cancel out almost everything you hear, dangerously isolating you from your public surroundings.

As with the majority of active noise cancelling earbuds, the wired module that contains the circuitry and system controls is a bit heavier than that of typical in-ear designs. The lightweight earpieces have a sleek metallic look that we kind of liked. They are comfortable to wear once you’ve got the right-sized tip fitted.

Build quality appears to be solid for a plastic design. The integrated mic and the one-button remote is fine for play/pause task and for taking hands-free calls, but it is somewhat bulky and there are no volume controls. Be aware that if you don’t properly secure the module on your clothes, it can weigh down the earpieces.

Extended battery life is excellent, delivering up to ten hours of listening at moderate volume. The long cable makes it easy to tuck the control module in your pocket and out of the way. Half a dozen ear tips are supplied along with a micro-USB charging cable. This is a plus for fitting, as most packages normally included only two or three tips.

APIE’s H100 Active Noise-cancelling In-Ear Headphones Earbuds may not feature the most advanced noise cancelling system like Bose’s offerings. But it is invitingly inexpensive and still sounds better than the majority of passive noise isolating designs in its price range.

PROS
  • Crisp and balanced sound
  • Fairly effective noise reduction
  • Well-shaped and comfortable earpieces
  • Affordable
CONS
  • Somewhat bulky control module
  • User guide is not clear in parts
8

Firebird Premium TALON Wireless

best noise cancelling earbuds 2017

Firebird’s wireless model provides an isolating music experience that’s rather pleasing. Advanced Bluetooth 4.1 multi-device connections and high-bit-rate AptX compressed streams enable a musical performance that’s nearly as good as that of wired headphones.

The CVC 6.0 noise reducing circuitry intelligently reduces environmental sounds, with a physical assist from the physically isolating ear tips. This leads to clearer calls and more engaging sound overall. This model features the kind of bulky earpieces that are common among wireless designs. They tend to slide off more readily than the typically smaller and lighter housings of wired earpieces.

The anti-moisture design of the earpieces resists a little sweating, which makes this among the few wireless in-ear headphones that can please more active users. With their rubber coatings, the shells are easily gripped with wet and slippery hands.

These earbuds output a smoothened sound that’s fine for most pop tracks. There are detail and richness to please the typical user and enough bass to move you to action in gyms. It might not satisfy the most musically demanding listeners though, especially with highly dynamic classical genres that benefit from even sound staging.

Three comfortable sets of ear tips are included to help you find a more customized fit against surrounding noises. The integrated ear hook works to keep each earpiece stable and in place during runs or workouts. We noted that the physical isolating properties of the earpieces do more to recreate a quieter listening experience than anything else. This is perhaps this model’s main strength against most other active systems.

The battery can power at least five hours of operation and the unit charges fully in a little less than two. Both the high-definition microphone and controls are integrated into the earpiece on the right, from where both music playback and call handling can be readily controlled. It pairs with up to two different mobiles simultaneously and all headset functions supported on Android and Apple devices. Callers’ voices were noticeably clearer than on the other models, which makes this a superb general-purpose headset.

Firebird’s Premium TALON Wireless offer a lot of conveniences to go along with great sound quality and excellent calling performance. These in-ear headphones are a reasonable choice for users who want to enjoy music while moving around and are among the best noise cancelling earbuds with microphone.

PROS
  • Detailed and rich sound
  • Good for listening on the move
  • Clear call quality
  • Superior passive noise isolation
CONS
  • Relatively bulky earpieces
  • Slightly pricey
9

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint Active Noise cancelling In-Ear Headphones

best noise cancelling earbuds 2017

Audio-Technica’s noise cancelling models have become rather popular, owing to their excellent sound and noise cancelling features as well as affordable pricing. Like similar active schemes, each earpiece features a small mic that picks up surrounding noise, which is then processed by the signals-shaping system to generate noise cancelling waves that are off-phase.

All active noise cancelling headphones depend on some degree of the quality of the seal that their noise isolating earbud tips form in the inner ears. Noise by-pass is always a problem with the compact earpieces of in-ear designs and only the largest around-the-ear headphones can realistically provide the fullest noise isolation.

But when properly fitted, this model offers very good physical noise isolation, which makes a big difference when combined with the active system. The scheme works best at reducing continuously droning sounds of the type you’d hear in airliner and train cabins as well as from running appliances. It does not respond readily to every sudden incoming sound from the outside, but the excellent physical noise isolation compensates a lot.  

Performance is simply excellent; its driver profile is tonally balanced for the most part. These earbuds may not offer the strongest bass and detailed highs of pricier designs, but they convey the pleasingly smooth sound and rich level of musicality that the specialist audio brand is known for delivering. Classical instruments and vocals have a dynamic presence and bass remains solid even at higher volumes.

Each earpiece is nicely angled to fit the ears of the average user are quite comfortable to wear for extended sessions. The construction quality of the plastic earpieces is known to be solid and should last a while. For an earbud-style noise cancelling model, this offers a lot of performance with value, especially as it comes with an airplane audio adapter, a carry pouch, as well as three sizes of comfortable ear tips.

The control module has a button to auto-calibrate the system according to the audible surroundings, which works well in most situations. The built-in clip is handy to secure things and keep it and the connected earpieces from sliding off, but the thin cables so have a tendency to twist.

There’s also a universal set of controls for handling music playback and calls, which works fine with both iPhone and Android models. The microphone works for clear everyday calls, but the lack of volume controls is a bit inconvenient, The excellent basic noise cancelling operation compensates for this a little by letting you listen to your favorite tracks at lower volumes anyway.

The system uses an AAA battery, a scheme that has both pros and cons. You’d need to bring a battery charger on long trips, but you can also just buy a spare if necessary. The operating life can be amazing at its best though, sometimes lasting days on end at moderate listening levels.

The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint Active Noise-cancelling In-Ear Headphones do not offer the very latest standard for controllable noise cancelling, as championed by Bose. But for what it offers in terms of quietly enjoyable listening, it performs appreciably better than any other model in its price class. It’s our pick among the best noise cancelling earbuds for those on a tight budget.

PROS
  • Pleasingly balanced, smooth sound
  • Effective basic noise cancelling
  • Self-calibrating functions works mostly
  • Rechargeable AAA battery operation
  • Affordable
CONS
  • Bulky control module
  • Cable can tangle at times
10

Phiaton BT 220 NC Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 and Active Noise Cancelling Earphones

best noise cancelling earbuds 2017

Cancelling out surrounding sounds while enjoying music and relaxing in transit is a capability that many travelers could use. Phiaton’s model is optimized to reduce the mechanical noise of the type found in airliners, buses, and subways.

Its earpieces are designed to be worn with an in-line module that hosts the sound processing circuitry. It’s a great setup for serious listeners who want to enjoy quieter experiences while they’re busy in public places. The system is designed to cancel most audible frequencies below 1 KHz by as much as 90% so that you can better enjoy your music at lower volumes or in noisier settings.

Despite their hefty industrial look, the sleek earpieces are light and are easy enough to fit comfortably. The overall arrangement can work well if you have a regular place to pocket or clip the slightly heavy module.

Audio is streamed wirelessly with high-bit-rate AptX compression for better efficiency, resulting in signal quality close to that of wired in-ear models. CVC 6.0 noise reduction helps to bring in clearer voices for quieter calls, with less of the intrusive input noise that microphones tend to pick up in train and plane cabins and airport hubs.

The large 14mm drivers output a mostly accurate and smooth sound, with crisp highs and a solid mid-range that all mix well with a great low end. Acoustic instrumental tracks showed none of the tiny distorting artifacts that are present in many inexpensive designs. Output sound was even loud enough for gym or outdoor activities.

The sound profile is mostly even but for slightly less emphasis in the middle, although vocals still come in clearly with warmth and body. Rival designs may offer a bit more slam with heavily processed hip-hop tracks, but the nearly balanced presentation allows this model to perform as excellent all-around headphones in most genres.

The effective range of the wireless connection seems to be wider than is usual among Bluetooth headsets. Multipoint and NFC connections let you to readily pair up to two devices simultaneously and switch among them as needed. Four pairs of silicon ear tips plus a single foam type are all included for a better fit, as well as a storage case and the requisite USB charging cable.

Battery life can reach between twelve and sixteen hours of constant use on a full charge, which is excellent. But you pay for this capacity with a slightly bulky and heavy battery and processing module, although this is common enough among active noise cancelling gear.

At least the module featured a full set of edge controls for taking calls and navigating music selections. We had little need to look at the intuitively designed control cluster to manage things. There’s also a switch similar to that of Bose’s QuietComforts that allows you to switch the system in and out of operation so that you can monitor your surroundings for more safety without having to remove the earpieces.

It’s still best to initiate or take calls in quiet places, as the mic will readily pick up anything nearby. On the other hand, it’s convenient to leave the noise cancelling system on while not connected to anything, just for the pleasing noise-cancellation effect alone. We did experience some weird auto shut-off issues, but these were too infrequent to detract from the overall pleasurable experience we’ve had with this model.

The Phiaton BT 220 NC Bluetooth headphones are some of the best noise cancelling earbuds with a superior active system and passive isolation. We think it can be an economical alternative for those who don’t need the full-on discriminating technology of Bose’s most advanced models.

PROS
  • Balanced, rich sound
  • Comfortable lightweight fit
  • Subtle noise cancelling effect
  • Alternate wired operation
  • Incredible battery life
CONS
  • Confusedly shuts off on occasion
  • A bit pricey
11

Bose QuietComfort 20

best noise cancelling earbuds today

The best noise cancelling headphones from Bose are meant for listeners who seek an undisturbed listening experience above all else, especially when traveling. The technology exemplifies the state of the art in noise cancelling headphones. Musical enthusiasts desiring superb audio performance in most situations will value its singular performance that rises above that of any other consumer audio headgear.

These are simply the best noise cancelling earbuds with microphone available to consumers and represent the current state-of-the-art. In operation, the system can discriminate among a broad variety of neighboring voices and ambient noise, muting the more undesirable sources as it simultaneously renders your favorite tracks with its sound processing circuitry. It virtually isolates you from your surroundings once the system is switched on and running.

As a result of the continuous operation, the output can sound a bit overly processed most times. The dynamic drivers are actually great at generating detailed and crisp highs with well-bodied mids and lows that remain engaging. You can switch on noise cancelling at any time, thereby lessening distractions around you.

As with typical noise cancelling systems, a barely appreciable hiss is always present in the background. In quieter musical passages or without any tracks playing, this processing artifact becomes slightly more obvious. The effects can be a bit more annoying in certain classical genres where alternating heavy and quiet sections are the norm.

Some travelers like to leave the system running in the background while aboard a flight or on the rails or road. This way, they can find some quiet down time in order to relax or even nap a bit. It seems that the constant murmur works to mask the far more irritating low drone that the cabins of modern planes and subway trains are known for generating.

There’s also a monitor function called Aware mode that you can switch into at the press of a dedicated button. This mode reduces the discriminating effects so that you can readily monitor the surrounding area without the need to remove any earpiece, for better situational awareness and safety in public areas.

The slim in-line control module and integrated mic at the middle of the cables’ junction are convenient for switching readily between music and voice. There’s a fully featured set of controls for handling calls as well as music selection and playback. The buttons are intuitively operated without you needing to take off any earpiece or check the interface. In any case, it’s still best to receive or place calls in quieter locations as the integrated microphone will pick up most any sound in the vocal range.

Battery life is rated to last 16 hours at moderate listening levels and with the noise cancelling system continually on. This represents almost a whole day on a full charge, which can be very convenient for travelers on longer trip segments. Do be aware that this model uses a battery pack that isn’t user-replaceable, so you’ll have to factor sending in the unit for replacements further down the road.

Standard 20i versions like the unit we reviewed are designed for use with iOS phones and other mobiles. The call, volume, and playback controls work well with iPhones. The quality of voice calls was some of the most satisfying we have experienced, likely a result of the further discrimination and enhancement of voices by advanced signals shaping. This capability does not come without a cost, though. The somewhat bulky signals processing and battery module that is built into the extended cable needs to be secured on your clothes and is awkward to heft in everyday use.

Three pairs of ear tips are supplied in various sizes to help you find a better fit, as well as Bose’s proprietary StayHear ear hooks. The latter are used to keep the earpieces pressed in your inner ears as you walk about or engage in more strenuous activities. A clothing clip, a USB charging cable, and a convenient carrying pouch are also provided.

Bose’s QuietComfort 20 is one of the very few options for users who need its ability to produce a highly controlled musical soundstage with the most controllable active noise cancelling scheme in the market. These expensive in-ear headphones can be worth it for the right situations and continue to be our pick for overall best noise cancelling in-ear headphones.

PROS
  • Most advanced active noise cancelling scheme
  • Clear and detailed, rich sound
  • Comfortable and lightweight earpieces
  • Day-long battery life
CONS
  • Somewhat bulky processing module
  • Unreplaceable battery
  • Expensive
12

Bose Quietcontrol 30 Wireless Headphones, Noise Cancelling

best noise cancelling earbuds

Bose has been achieving huge advances in noise cancelling technologies with their recent in-ear designs. The wireless Quietcontrol 30 is one of the best noise cancelling earbuds that we have tested so far.

This collar-type Bluetooth model combines the lightness and convenience of a Bluetooth in-ear design with the noise cancelling system of large headphones. With the addition of new advances in controllable EQ that optimize output by volume, it can be adjusted on the fly to render clear and mostly balanced sound at various levels of isolation.

The dynamic drivers render a mostly balanced sound with solid but not too pushy low-end bass. The highs are detailed and sharp and the mids solidly expressed within the firm’s usual crowd-pleasing frequency profile. Owing to its advanced signals-shaping capability, the resulting sound can seem over-processed. But music is still conveyed with crisp and detailed highs, solid mid-lows, and deep bass delivered within a mostly even frequency profile. Bose’s signature smooth sound is tweaked to offer the average listener with a pleasant experience in most musical genres.

Unlike rival designs, the system can discriminate between nearby persons talking and general surrounding noises, continually muting the more offending sources on the fly. It essentially adapts listeners’ experiences to ambient traffic, talk, and other audible disruptions by constantly identifying intrusive patterns then selectively cancelling or emphasizing certain types with recreated inverse waveforms.

The amount of noise cancellation is variably controlled in contrast to the fixed level of operation of Bose’s earlier noise-cancelling designs. The latter also relies on some physical stoppage of ambient noise, whereas this newest design depends on far more on the signals-shaping process. It is not only capable of reducing external noise at low levels; it can also amplify ambient sounds if required. You can adjust things so that you listen to your tracks as you converse clearly with others, or else monitor audibly your surroundings.

This is where the Quietcontrol differs from other Bose noise cancelling models that physically seal against the background even with the noise cancelling operation turned off. Noise cancelling efficiency still rivals that of the other models at the highest settings, while Bose’s convenient Connect app can be used to control noise cancelling levels as well as manage paired devices.

The earpieces may look like typical noise isolating housings, but these have a  floating fit that positions the tips to angle away from the ear canals. There is no need to push them further inward to seal more tightly. The wing-like hooks work by pressing in your inside ear to keep the shells in place, which is for physically active users.

Although this approach provides for a more comfortable design, the lack of an additional physical seal doesn’t provide for the fullest noise reduction if no sound source is playing. The lows still get muted nicely, but mid-high notes including vocals do not mute as well. If you will be playing tracks galore, this shouldn’t be much of an issue. Otherwise, you may not attain the highest level of quieting isolation that the previous Bose designs are capable of generating.

Convenient Bluetooth plus NFC connection enables multiple devices to be readily paired. A tiny module is located on the right cable, with standard 3-button controls for music volume, playback, and selection as well as call functions. Another set of controls lets you adjust the level of noise cancellation generated, or you can use the iOS app instead, which is more interesting to use. Included in the package are three pairs of proprietary StayHear tips/hooks, USB charging cable, and a rounded carrying case.

One minor issue some users have experienced is with the slightly inconsistent performance of the dual-microphone section, which normally enables clearer calls. It’s usually best to take or make calls in quieter settings as the noise reducing mics will sometimes pick up voices a bit more weakly than expected. Some users take issue with the collar’s design as it must be worn around the neck and can be a chore to adjust when wearing jackets.

Like with typical noise-cancelling designs, a trivial level of hiss continues to be barely discernible with the noise cancelling on. This can be more easily heard during the quietest passages of very dynamic recordings, such as classical pieces, which can be bothersome to some listeners.

Bose’s Quietcontrol 30 Wireless Headphones, Noise Cancelling model is the only real choice for listeners who want to enjoy music in varying levels of isolation according to their interactions with others and their surroundings. For these particularly challenging conditions, this model stands alone as the best noise cancelling earbuds with the variable isolation that’s available to consumers.

PROS
  • Amazing variable noise cancelling
  • Detailed and smoothly balanced sound
  • Very comfortable earpieces
  • Very long battery life
CONS
  • Inflexible neck collar
  • Mic picks up weakly at times

Best Noise-Cancelling Earbuds For Quiet Listening - Buyer's Guide

In-ear Designs

There are a number of things to consider when selecting a suitable pair of noise isolating or cancelling in-ear headphones.

The majority of ear tips are formed from silicone rubber or foam materials, and many integrate rigid but flexible stems that are meant to keep the cable loop properly shaped and in place around your ear lobes. Additional specialized ear hooks with a fin-like design are often supplied. These are designed to press upon the inside of each ear for better stability as you move around. All these features can be especially helpful during strenuous exercises.

Wireless Audio

If you like to enjoy your music while you’re out and about, you will probably appreciate the benefits that wire-free operation can bring to your everyday activities. With modern designs that stream digital audio, you can connect to Bluetooth sources other than your phone, including laptop and car audio system connections.

Here’s a helpful video review of Bose’s Quietcontrol 30, one of the very best in-ear models:

Earpieces

Different models are designed to suit various listeners and needs. Wireless designs that stream audio from calls and music sources typically feature bulkier earpieces as well as in-line modules that contain the controls and battery.

Earpiece housings or shells are normally constructed of plastics or lightweight metals, with slanted earpieces that point downwards or loop their stems up, to enable the connected wires to either fall or else loop over the ears. Most sport drop-down designs, but the extra stability and sometimes more comfortable fit of loop-around designs can be beneficial if you intend to get physical while listening.

Active Noise-Cancelling Schemes

Noise-cancelling systems, as a rule, are designed to use recreated inversed wave feedback to cancel those selected frequencies that typically contain the most irritating ambient noise. Basic active systems will offset the repetitive drone of a jet engine or the mechanical thrumming of room air conditioner. Except for Bose’s latest models, most schemes cannot reduce the sound level of say, the erratic squealing of toddlers or the noisy conversations of the passerby.

Bose’s most evolved in-ear design denotes a major advance in noise cancelling technology. It’s the most successful scheme we’ve used so far and unlike previous models, it can even recognize and discriminate against loud conversations as well as a much broader range of the usual types of droning noises.

Their engineers have also tweaked their in-ear noise reduction system to reproduce music well enough while unpowered. So in a pinch, there’s little need to turn on the active mode in order to enjoy your favorite audio selections. But for a trivial increase in sound level, the active-mode experience differs little inaudible effect from that of passive mode.

Noise-Cancelling Quality

Most silicone or foam earpieces are fine for passively isolating listeners from most ambient noise, but these do not perform active noise reduction. Almost all such processing is performed by microphonic and signals processing circuitry.

Bose delivers the most advanced active noise cancelling available in the market. It works by discriminating and impeding certain undesirable constant noise, such as that of air conditioning systems and airline cabins. But they also offer an uncanny feature that their competitors have yet to match, the ability to recognize then selectively mask or emphasize nearby voices against a noisy background.

Other designs are only capable of reducing noise that is mostly consistent and repetitive. Ambient sources that each change in rhythm and/or intensity and that also vary in pitch such as speech, or tonally such as alarms, are not muted as effectively by earlier and more basic noise cancelling techniques.

Audio Issues

As mentioned, a nearly silent hiss is typically introduced into the sound stage when active noise cancelling is in operation. This is usually more noticeable during the quiet passages of music types that feature a highly dynamic range, as with classical genres. These artifacts are normally more pronounced with cheaper noise-cancelling designs. However, for users frequently caught in noisy settings, this issue can be secondary to the experience that the blissful reduction of disruptive noise can bring.

In-line Call and Music Controls

Noise cancelling in-ear designs have been subject to requirements for integrating ungainly batteries as well as IC modules into their cables. No one care for having lumpy wires hanging off their sides as they try to enjoy their favorites. The usual solution is to design ever-smaller and more pocketable control modules that are located near the end of connecting wires. The newest designs mount these components on a ring-like band that rests lightly around the listener’s neck.

Earbuds that feature active noise cancelling normally offer more convenient call handling. Their sound profiles may be aggressively optimized on the fly to respond to disruptive noise from the environment, which can result in quieter listening experiences on the go.

Conclusion


One of these noise reducing models should offer you the great sound and extended comfort you’ve been looking for your music.

This picked group includes certain in-ear headphone models that are viewed as noise cancelling champions by several online review sites. Among those reviewed here, Bose’s advanced noise cancelling in-ear headphones stand above the rest with its revelatory listening experience.

If you’re looking for the most effective noise cancelling system around that can handily outperform most mid-range designs, you won’t have to look further than Bose’s QuietComfort 20. Delivering an isolating plus cancelling performance that is currently unmatched by rivals, you may be amazed by the system’s effectiveness when you first try these on. It’s the obvious pick for the best noise cancelling earbuds available to consumers.

For controlled variable active noise cancelling, there’s nothing else out there like Bose’s Quietcontrol 30 earbuds. If you can live with a few quirks and are fine with its relatively lesser physical isolation, it’s the best noise cancelling earbuds for monitoring your surroundings, as well as the only one to offer useful variable control of your listening environment.

Bose’s designs are obviously the best in the business, but they’re also priced to match their sterling reputation. A more affordable but also high-performing wireless alternative is Phiaton’s BT 220 NC Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 and Active Noise Cancelling Earphones, which can provide a quiet listening performance in a narrower range of situations.  

Buyers on a small budget can’t go wrong with Audio-Technica’s ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint Active Noise-cancelling In-Ear Headphones, which offers a more basic but still pleasing form of active noise isolation. iLepo’s similar Active Noise Cancelling In-ear headphones can be a comfortably useful alternative if for some reason you don’t find the Audio-Technica comfortable enough to wear for long periods of time.

As always, we advise you to enjoy yourself when trying out things on display by listening to your favorite tracks on various models. Put on any model that appeals to your fancy and shortlist any pair that feels comfortable and quiet, for further “testing” in longer sessions.

You never know, you may well wind up with a pair of noise cancelling headphones that you would not have considered earlier.

If you enjoyed reading these reviews, feel free to leave a comment about our reviews of the best noise isolating earbuds.

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