Many people struggle to focus on their music in their earbuds or have a hard time falling asleep at night due to outside annoyances. Ambient noises and loud sounds can truly ruin your listening experience, whatever the time of the day. Luckily, with the right noise cancelling earbuds, you can focus on your music, podcasts, audiobooks, videos, or relaxing sounds with ease.
Why buy noise cancelling earbuds?
If you’ve ever tried to read a book or get work done in a bustling airport, you already know how distracting a noisy environment can be. Thankfully, noise cancellation technology has progressed rapidly over the years, allowing earbuds to adopt the noise cancellation technology that was once reserved for large luxury headphones. Whether you’re trying to get some sleep in a noisy house or do your taxes as your kids cause chaos in the next room, noise cancelling earbuds are a cost-effective product up to the task. Thankfully, they are also more affordable than ever before.
What should you look for in noise cancelling earbuds?
- Effectiveness: Regardless of the noise cancellation technology your earbuds utilize (more on that later), their ability to eliminate ambient noise is imperative. Ideally, when you’re wearing noise cancelling earbuds, you should only be able to hear the music or media you are listening to, none of the background noise. Noise cancellation technology isn’t perfect, but modern earbuds that utilize active noise cancellation (ANC) can be extremely effective, especially for environments with a constant droning noise level, such as airports and industrial settings.
- Sound Quality: Your noise cancelling earbuds won’t be worth much if their sound quality is awful, even if they can manage to block all ambient sound. Thus, finding a product that pairs excellent noise cancellation with amazing sound quality is a no-brainer. In regards to sound quality, it’s also important to ensure your new earbuds cater to your unique taste. For instance, if you love listening to music with deep bass, you are unlikely to be satisfied with earbuds that feature excellent high and mid tones and underwhelming lows.
- Comfort: Comfort is another important yet often overlooked factor when shopping for earbuds. You are likely shopping for noise cancelling earbuds to aid in relaxation and concentration, so settling on an uncomfortable product will be unproductive at best. Seek out models that come with ear attachments in various sizes to increase the chances of receiving an option that will fit your ear perfectly.
What type of noise cancellation technology is right for me?
There are three kinds of noise cancellation technology: passive, active, and adaptive. While they all strive to achieve the same goal, they go about it using very different means.
Passive noise cancellation works by physically blocking sound from reaching your ears, like wearing earplugs during a loud concert.
Active noise cancellation is much more complex. It requires microphones to “hear” sound that is entering the ear so that it can be canceled out via an anti-phase sound wave that essentially inverts the noise before it can be registered by your brain. Active noise cancellation is great for steady, predictable noise, such as an office building where all of the ambient sounds blend together.
Adaptive noise cancellation technology is relatively new and works in a similar fashion to active noise cancellation. This technology uses negative noise to cancel out ambient sound but is somewhat more effective in noisy environments that generate more dynamic and unpredictable noises.
In order to determine what type of technology is best for you, consider what types of environments you will likely want to use your noise cancellation earbuds in. For the majority of people, a combination of active and passive noise cancellation does wonders, ensuring the only sound you are hearing is the sweet melody of the music in your earbuds.
Bose QuietComfort Noise Cancelling Earbuds
These earbuds feature the best active noise cancellation on the market, as well as great sound quality.
Pros: In terms of active noise cancellation, the Bose QuietComfort Noise Cancelling Earbuds are the best of the best. Thus, they can be worn in a multitude of environments and will outperform other premium noise cancelling earbuds in blocking out the sounds of the outside world. Their sound quality also impresses with rich and clear high and mid tones and just enough bass to satisfy the average listener. Also, despite their larger size, these earbuds are suitable to wear for extended sessions, thanks to their lightweight, comfortable design.
Cons: There are definitely more budget-friendly noise cancelling earbuds on the market, although none of them will compare to these in terms of active noise cancellation. However, many people will be turned away by this product’s elevated price point. Also, these earbuds are pretty large, so those seeking a more discreet pair of earbuds will have to look elsewhere.
Bottom Line: Seeing as how these earbuds sport the best active noise cancellation technology on the market, one can forgive the premium price tag. That being said, if you are more concerned with sound quality than noise cancellation, there are other products out there at this price range that might be a better fit for you.
Sony WF-1000XM4 Noise Canceling Earbuds
Featuring incredible sound quality and advanced noise cancellation, these earbuds are tailor-made for audiophiles.
Pros: The Sony WF-1000XM4 trails just behind our Best Overall pick in regards to their active noise cancellation, which is still well above the industry standard. Thus, if you choose these, be prepared for a nearly unapparelled noise cancellation experience. However, these earbuds actually surpass Bose’s offering in terms of sound quality, with a dynamic range that truly impresses. This model also gets up to eight hours of use off a single charge, making it a great choice for those who live hectic lifestyles.
Cons: While these earbuds are undoubtedly one of the most impressive noise cancelling earbud options on the market, they are also one of the most expensive. This will likely dissuade some, especially since their noise cancellation abilities are slightly behind the standard set by Bose. However, this product brings enough to the table to justify the investment, in our opinion.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a product that’s a little less bulky than the Bose QuietComfort and even better in terms of sound quality, these earbuds will be well worth the price. While their active noise cancellation might not be the best in class, second place is certainly nothing to balk at, given such intense competition. If you are an audiophile in need of noise cancelling earbuds, you can’t go wrong with the Sony WF-1000XM4.
TOZO NC2 Hybrid Wireless Earbuds
Featuring respectable ANC for their budget-friendly price tag, these earbuds are a great choice for bass lovers.
Pros: Despite these earbuds’ budget price tag, they have a lot to offer. Bass-lovers are sure to appreciate these for their bass-heavy sound, which really brings out the best in hip hop and EDM music. They are also incredibly comfortable to wear and sport a design that’s very similar to Apple AirPods. They can also be worn during a workout session and do well to stay immobilized so that you aren’t constantly adjusting their positioning.
Cons: At their price range, perhaps it’s to be expected that the TOZO NC2 Hybrid Wireless Earbuds offer active noise cancellation that cannot compare to premium product offerings. Regardless, the ANC employed by this model does do well to mitigate most ambient noise you will hear, which will definitely aid you in maintaining concentration. Additionally, the microphone is a little weak, so taking calls can be a challenge when wearing these earbuds.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for an alternative to AirPods that won’t break the bank, these are your best option. While not a top-of-the-line product, they surpass other options in their price range in terms of sound quality and active noise cancellation. However, those who are seeking earbuds that are tailor-made for taking calls may find the weak microphone to be a deal-breaker.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
These earbuds stand out, thanks to their sleek, low-profile design and unique color options.
Pros: Finding earbuds with active noise cancellation that are as compact and comfortable as the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 is nearly impossible. Yet, these earbuds impress not only in terms of design, but also in their crisp, balanced sound and above-average noise cancellation. Unlike many comparable options at this price range, they also come in some truly unique color options that make this a great deal for those who eschew black and white accessories.
Cons: While Samsung mostly nailed the design process when making these earbuds, they are far from perfect. The main reason is that they are much less resistant to water than most premium noise cancelling earbuds, and even a fair amount of budget-friendly options. If you’re looking for a product that you can wear in the rain, these earbuds are not an ideal fit for you.
Bottom Line: While these earbuds definitely lose points for a subpar IPX2 water-resistance rating, they are still an ideal option for those seeking exceedingly compact and elegant noise cancelling earbuds. While the ANC on display here doesn’t match premium offerings from Sony and Bose, it is effective enough to justify the investment for those who can stay dry when wearing these out and about.
UGREEN HiTune Bluetooth Earbuds
These are a budget-friendly pair of earbuds with impressive sound that do well to passively limit ambient distractions.
Pros: The UGREEN HiTune Bluetooth Earbuds combine impressive sound quality with respectable passive noise cancellation in a product that’s hard to pass up at its budget price point. These earbuds also sport an impressive battery life that outdoes most competitors, including premium earbuds that are close to 10 times the price. If you’re looking for rich audio quality and impressive bass tones, this product is destined to please.
Cons: These earbuds don’t utilize active noise cancellation, so those seeking earbuds with advanced ANC capabilities will need to look elsewhere. However, they do well to passively limit the amount of ambient noise that enters your ears when you’re using them. However, if you are in a noisy environment, background noise will definitely leak through if listening at a quiet volume.
Bottom Line: Although these are not the most advanced earbuds on the market, they have plenty to offer those who don’t require active noise cancellation. If you take calls while wearing your earbuds, love bass-heavy tones, and plan to work up a sweat while listening to music, these are earbuds that won’t disappoint.
Noise cancelling earbuds have come a long way over the last few years. While you’ll need to pay a premium price in order to experience the most advanced active noise cancellation, there are still a few budget-friendly models that outperform their modest cost of investment. Before you buy, be sure to decide which purchasing factors are the most important to you between sound, comfort, and noise cancellation technology.