You can find a lot of top-notch Over-Ear Bluetooth active noise cancelling headphones on the market these days. Some sets like the Bose Quiet Comfort 35, Sony MDR-1000X or Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 are excellent for noisy spaces, but they are large and bulky, making it difficult to use in every day life for people on the go or that just don’t want to wear over-ear headphones
Earbuds with active noise cancellation, on the other hand, are more portable due to their light weight and small size. In general in-ear earbuds perform less effectively in terms of active noise cancelling functions, but they offer many convenient design features for active users. We’ve included different styles of earbuds depending on your personal taste, including options that are: around the neck, totally wireless and wired with lightning cable (for apple users with iphone 7 or newer). Here are our top earbud picks for 2018.
- Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds
- Bose QC 20
- Sound Quality
- Sony WI-1000X
- 1MORE E1004 Dual Driver:
- Pioneer Rayz Plus
- Bluedio TN Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones
- Phiaton BT 220 NC Bluetooth Headphones
- Sony WF-1000X: Totally Wireless Earbuds
- Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23: ANC On A Budget
- Sennheiser CXC 700 Noise Cancelling Earbuds
- Sony MDR-NC31EM
- AKG K391NC
- Bose QC30: Around The Neck Style
- How do active noise cancelling headphones work?
- Why are noise cancelling earbuds great?
- You don’t have to crank up the volume.
- No hard edge and a calm listening music experience.
- Ideal for traveling, yard work, noisy offices, exercising outdoors or libraries.
- Disadvantages of Active Noise Cancelling In-ear Headphones:
- Types of Active Noise Cancelling In-ear Headphones Wire vs Wireless
- How To Pick The Best Noise Cancelling Headphones For You
- The Effectiveness Of Noise Cancelling
- How Is The Effectiveness of A Noise Canceler Is Measured?
- Epic Executive Wireless Active Noise Canceling Earbuds
- JBL Reflect Aware C
Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds
Bose QC 20
The Bose QuiteComfort 20 are the best noise cancelling earbuds on the market today. They are rated so highly due to solid sound performance and great noise-cancellation capacity. In term of passive noise-cancellation they do let some ambient sound in.
This means they don’t provide a tight seal like other in-ear headphones, so when you turn the noise cancellation setting off some sound leaks in. The plus side is that they are very comfortable to wear and less intrusive in your ears.
Most noise cancelling earbuds are valued for their functionality rather than perfect sound. Bose, on the other hand, always stands out from the crowd with amazing sound in their headphones and this set is no exception. Some $150 earbuds might sound better, but for the price the Bose QC 20 have amazing sound, design and active noise cancelling technology. One of the main drawbacks is the inline-battery pack that can feel heavy and bulky.
Eartips of Bose QC 20 earbuds with wings (conform to outer ear canals) is not as good as regular eartips in terms of noise isolation. They are rugged and provide a secure fit.
The Bose QC20 earbuds offer solid sound performance for noise cancelling headphones. The bass of QC20 is reasonably crisp and extended. The amount of bass present isn’t powerful enough to qualify these as “basshead” earbuds, but that’s because they were designed to have well rounded sound.
This bass along with a warm, balanced mid-range has earned these earbuds praise and great reviews across the board. The treble is pleasant but it fails to compete with other earbuds in the same price range that offer smooth, airy high-ends. Overall these earbuds provide great sound but are not capable of providing a high-level of detail for more complex music.
If you forget to recharge the QC20 and they run out of battery you can listen to music with the noise cancellation mode turned off and still get all the benefits of the passive noise cancellation that the earbuds provide from a snug fit.
Active Noise Cancellation Performance
When tested on long-haul flights, the Bose QC20 were found to be slightly less effective than the Bose QC25. This comes as no surprise, though, as the Bose QC25 are perhaps the best full size active noise cancellation headphones on the market. The QC20 outshine the QC25 in the areas of comfort and portability, especially when you want to listen to music for for extended periods of time.
The QC20 earbuds capture a wide range of external sounds and block them from your listening experience by playing the same, inverted frequencies thus cancelling them out.
These earbuds also feature an “aware mode” which will reduce the active noise cancellation effectiveness and allow some external noise in to keep you safe and aware of your surroundings while exercising outdoors.
One downside is that if you forget to turn the active noise cancellation feature off it continues to function and drains the battery. Also, the integrated battery is not replaceable, so after it deteriorates from several years of use you won’t be able to recharge it.
The WI-1000X headphones are a combination of great sound and effective noise cancelling performance.
Sony also makes great over ear headphones like the MDR-1000X, which have even better active noise cancellation performance.
The around the neck WI-1000X have a solid build quality that beats out the competition, including the Bose QuietComfort 30.
Unfortunately the band on the WI-1000X is not very flexible so it is not very comfortable when it rests on your neck. There is a convenient button on the ride side of the neckband that lets you adjust how much external noise you allow in, keeping you safe when exercising outside.
Active Noise Cancelling Headphones for iPhone 7
1More is not well known for active noise cancellation, but the 1MORE ANC headphones bring functionality and sound quality to a new level. Aside from their impressive audio performance, these also actively block out external noise. However, the control buttons are somewhat tiny and the long, rubber cable gets tangled easily.
The Apple iPhone 7 has officially replaced the headphone jack with a lightning cable. Now if you want to use wired headphones you have two options: use a lightning converter or use headphones with a lightning connection. The Pioneer Rayz Plus earbuds are an excellent pair of noise cancelling earbuds with quality sound and a lightning connection.
The active noise cancellation of the Rayz Plus is processed in an unconventional way. The internal components scan your ear for customized tuning and noise subtraction.
They also have a transparency feature which, once turned on, will let you hear the world around so you can be aware of your surroundings while exercising outside. Pioneer also designed a companion app that allows you to control the equalizer and fine tune sound levels.
While the noise cancellation of Bose QC20 is great, they are quite pricey. If you are looking for more affordable options, the AKG K391 noise cancellation headphones are one of the most promising options. If you are an iPhone owner, noise cancelling lightning earbuds are your best option. Because the lightning connection can use your iPhone’s power for features like active noise cancellation, you are won’t have to settle for headphones with bulky inline battery compartments.
These inexpensive Bluetooth headphones are great for active users as well as commuters. They sound great, have great active noise cancelling capabilities, and the battery can last the entire day.
With most wired noise cancelling earbuds you have a battery box, phone and earbuds all connected by a line. Bluetooth cuts out the line between your phone and the battery box making the headset more hassle free. The Phiaton BT 220 earbuds are a combination of Bluetooth 4.0 with a noise silencer. They are solidly built and well designed Bluetooth headphones supported by near field communication technology. The multiple point technology also allows you switch back and forth between two connected devices instantly.
Though the BT 220 don’t work as efficiently as Bose QC 20 for actively blocking noises, they offer better noise isolation. The eartips fit deeply in the ear canal and do a great job of isolating sound, as well as keeping the earbuds secure while exercising or moving around. If you would like to have more comfortable eartips, Comply Tx-400 eartips are available to order and compatible with this model.
The Phiaton BT220 has a well-balanced sound with decent bass that doesn’t overpower the mids and highs. If you are a fan of dance, hip-hop, or R&B, the bass probably won’t be satisfactory.
These earbuds also work great as a headset. If you frequently make calls this set will enrich your calling experience by capturing your voice clearly and letting you more easily hear the caller even in loud situations.
As far as design, the battery compartment appears to be bulkier and heavier and the headphones are not totally cordless as there is a cable attached to the base. The metal clip on the base is not ergonomically designed so the controls can feel clunky and awkward.
If you want a truly wireless experience, check out some of these totally wireless earbuds with active noise cancelling.
Considering the affordable price, you do get moderate noise cancelling performance. The ANC23 earbuds do a decent job of active noise cancellation. The also come with soft, comfortable Comply foam and silicon ear tips which are great for noise isolation.
As advertised, the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 earbuds effectively eliminate ambient noises up to 90%. That said, this feature only works out for noises with consistent frequencies. For sounds that change often like a crying baby or wind blowing they might not do a great job of noise cancellation.
When you turn the active noise cancellation function off, they work just like regular earbuds with noticeable bass and a nice, sweet mid-range. You will feel that is similar to some typical budget earbuds like the Sennheiser CX300 or Panasonic Ergofit.
The ANC23’s inline battery box uses replaceable AAA batteries, so it is bulkier and heavier than headphones with an integrated battery like the Bose QC 20. Unfortunately, they don’t feature a mic or inline remote for playback control.
The Sennheiser CXC-700 offers decent sound for travellers with a slight push in bass. For noise cancelling capacity, their performance isn’t really impressive and the earbuds may not be comfortable for some people.
Sony is always finding innovative ways to improve their products. These headphones are no exception. Unfortunately, these noise cancelling earbuds are ONLY compatible with Sony Xperia Z2 and Z3.
The sound quality lessens a bit when the active noise cancellation is turned off, but with noise cancellation turned on, the sound becomes clearer and more balanced. There is a control which allows you to choose between 3 active noise cancellation modes, so no matter where you are you can listen to your audio in peace.
Aside from high performance noise-cancelling capacity, the AKG K391 is well loved for its bass boost, decent treble and clear sound. The AKG K391’s bass is deep and has more impact than Bose. The treble is just slightly extended, and wouldn’t qualify as bright.
While Bose QC20’s mid-range tends to be flat, the K391 represent the mid-range fully without extending into the highs. Considering the sound, the K391 seems to be a more promising choice than Bose, but Bose is the best choice for functionality and comfort.
Though this is a decent sounding set of headphones, when active noise cancellation is on you still hear an audible hissing sound caused by noise cancelling circuitry.
The AKG K391 is well built and has a rugged design with aluminum earbud housings. The bulky battery box may be a nuisance, but it is conveniently recharged through USB and the cable with a straight-plug is detachable. Visit the AKG website to learn more.
The Bose QC30 are sporty, sweat-proof and fit securely around your neck. These are a rare set of active noise cancelling earbuds that are perfect for the gym, but they don’t come cheap.
Unlike other Bose models that are somewhat customized for commuting on trains or airplanes, the QC30 headphones are made for daily use and making calls. They provide 12 levels of noise cancellation for you to choose from. This allows you to find the perfect match for your environment play music without cranking up the volume and still be aware of the surroundings while exercising outside.
Bose used the same eartip design for the QC30 as it did with the Bose QC20, but these eartips don’t completely seal in the ear when used with the wingtips. For most people this design is more comfortable than the ones that fit deeply in the ear.
Early reviews suggest that Bose QC30 sound good with solid bass and natural, balanced sound. Unfortunately, the active noise cancellation performance is not as affective as the wired Bose QC20, but it is much better than the LG Tone Ultra HBS800.
How do active noise cancelling headphones work?
Passive noise cancelling (noise isolating performance) means that the ear tips of earbuds offer a tight seal, which blocks outside noise. So how is active noise cancelling different? It is a process where a microphone located on the ear pieces works in conjunction with circuits in a dongle to generate sound waves from noise cancelling speakers.
These sound waves have the same amplitude with ambient sound that microphones have picked up, but the frequency is inverted. The interference between sound waves from the environment around you and the speakers in your earbuds cancel each other out which gives you an uninterrupted listening experience.
The effectiveness of this process is based on how well the microphone picks up ambient sounds and how good the noise cancelling speakers work to reproduce the inverted waves.
In order to do this successfully, the noise cancelling feature has to be powered by a battery that is integrated into the headphones. This battery power can come from AAA batteries, smaller rechargeable batteries packs, or from your device itself, as is the case with lightning earbuds. The average battery life for active noise cancellation is forty hours. One of the best noise cancelling in-ear headphones is the Bose Quiet Comfort 30.
Why are noise cancelling earbuds great?
Are noise cancelling earbuds worth it? Like regular earbuds, most active noise cancelling in ear headphones are very comfortable to wear because their housings are lightweight and they are designed to fit sit snugly in your ears. They can sound better than regular earbuds, but you will have to find a pair matched your taste of sound. Since the active noise cancellation is powered by electric circuitry, they do produce a little white noise in the form of a hissing sound.
Interestingly, when you pause your music, you will hear this white noise so you can use this sound to help you fall asleep while external noises are cancelled out. For the most part, the noise cancellation circuitry reduces outside noises that might interfere with your enjoyment of music while you are in noisy places.
They are able to cancel external sounds with consistent frequency ranges such as telephones ringing, people talking, and cars honking. Unfortunately, sounds with an inconsistent frequency like babies crying can’t be blocked as easily.
You don’t have to crank up the volume.
A lot people have to turn their music loud either for detail in sound or preference, which potentially may cause hearing damage. A study published by ncbi.nlm.nih.gov shows that if you noise cancelling earbuds give you the benefit of reducing the risk of hearing damage since people tend to crank up volume if the background noise is present. With noise cancelling earbuds, they don’t have to do so, because blocking external noises allows you to create a silence in the ear canal for music to enter.
No hard edge and a calm listening music experience.
While pop, rock or dance requires users to play music at high volume levels, most music genres don’t. If you play music at an average volume it will allow you to hear more details and save you from hearing loss.
Ideal for traveling, yard work, noisy offices, exercising outdoors or libraries.
Does the noise on flights or trains annoy you? A lot of people are not comfortable with those noises. Noise cancelling earbuds also help you focus on your work, study, or even sleep in any environment.
Disadvantages of Active Noise Cancelling In-ear Headphones:
Since ambient noises fall within the range of 1 Hz to 20 kHz and active noise cancelling earbuds can only nullify certain frequencies, some ambient sounds cannot be effectively cancelled out. Sound isolation earbuds, on the other hand, work for full range of sounds. Noise cancelling earbuds are expensive because of this added technology.
The battery pack can also be awkward and bulky or require you to recharge often. Audio makers like JBL and Sony have been developing noise cancelling earbuds without a battery, powered instead by the phone or device they plug into.
Noise cancelling headphones are not just engineered for their functionality, but for sound quality as well. If you only need noise cancellation in environments like an office or your apartment, save your money and don’t splurge on a high-end pair like Bose QC20. Many less expensive pairs can do the same job.
Types of Active Noise Cancelling In-ear Headphones Wire vs Wireless
- Wired noise cancelling in-ear headphones – These earbuds have a long cable to connect your devices through a 3.5 mm jack. The jack can be a straight-jack or L-shaped, with three or four poles. They also need an inline battery pack to power the active noise cancelling circuitry.
- Wireless/Bluetooth noise cancelling in-ear headphones – Instead of plugging into your device, wireless earbuds are able to connect to your devices wirelessly via Bluetooth. Since their battery is used to power both Bluetooth and active noise cancellation, the connection distance should be short.
How To Pick The Best Noise Cancelling Headphones For You
Some things you should consider before buying are whether you want an around the neck design or not, Bluetooth connectivity, and more. Here are some more deciding factors to help you as you survey the market.
The Effectiveness Of Noise Cancelling
Rated on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the highest capacity to cancel out noises. The 3 most popular places that these earbuds are tested are on flights, trains and noisy offices. That said, a noise canceler don’t work well with natural noises like dogs barking, babies crying or wind blowing, but for sounds reproduced by sources like air conditioners, engines, or lawnmowers they do work well.
How Is The Effectiveness of A Noise Canceler Is Measured?
It can be measured by the probe microphone method in which a microphone is placed deep in the ear canal and the source noise is generated and measured in a reverberation room. A number of noise sources combine to make up the sound source. Noise reduction of active noise cancelling earbuds is rated by the noise that mic captures inside the ear canal and the noise level just outside the earbuds.
Style: Most noise cancelling earbuds follow the same design of two earbuds connected by a wire. Some are wireless and insert into the ear canal, and some have a behind the neck design like the LG-Tone HBS-800.
Connectivity: Wired or wireless. Compressed vs uncompressed audio, the latter is always better, but wireless noise cancelling earbuds are more convenient.
Battery: Inline battery box with internal battery (not removable) is lighter than those with AAA battery. A pair of noise cancelling headphones with the longest battery life is the AKG K391.
|Battery||Noise Cancelling Performance||Sound Quality|
|Bose QC20||Integrated Lithium, 16 hours||9/10||8/10||Aware Mode|
|AKG K391 NC||Integrated Lithium ion, 35 hours||7/10||7/10|
|Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23||Removable Battery, AAA||6/10||7/10|
|MDR-NC31EM||AAA||6.6/10||6/10||Only work with Sony Xperia Z2 and Z3|
|Phiaton BT 220 NC||Integrated, 16 hours||8/10||7/10||Bluetooth AptX|
Play time: 7 hours with noise cancellation on, 11 hours of listening with noise cancellation off
These headphones have a sporty design that can that can transform to an everyday headset for calls and commuting. They cancel out up to 90% of ambient noise.
In 2015 JBL announced their latest noise cancelling sports earbuds: the JBL Reflect Aware C. These headphones feature a USB type-C connection rather than a 3.5 mm plug. They don’t have a bulky battery box like all models recommended here, since the active noise silencer is directly powered by the phone via micro USB port, or the lightning connector on Apple devices. This will likely be the trend for noise cancelling headphones in the future.
One more great thing is that you can control how much noise you want to nullify. This adjustment is done using a free companion app, which is only available for Apple devices. You can customize the sound with an equalizer on the app. Unfortunately, Android users will have to wait for a compatible model. We will update the price and availability when they are available for order.
Active noise cancelling lightning earubds have several advantages over 3.5mm jack headphones. They require no battery, and because they are built without a bulky battery box, they can be used more in active conditions like working out. You can easily to turn the active noise cancellation on or off by pressing a button on the inline remote. Connecting through the lightning port may improve sound and noise cancelling performance. The Refect Aware C earbuds include silicone tips with wings for sports as well as tips for regular use in an office or commuting.
They have a solid sound with focus on the low-end and clear treble. This noise cancelling headset feature an inline remote control for taking calls and playback control. They are also sweat-proof and have a tangle-free cable.