Noise-cancelling earbuds deliver the benefits of noise-cancellation—so you can enjoy your commute or flight in peace—but in a tiny bundle that’s low profile and easy to pack. Hear’s our top picks to help you enjoy your tunes (and ignore the din of the subway).
We’ve already taken a look at the best over-the-ear noise cancelling headphones so this time round, we’re focusing on in-ear based earphones. If you’re not keen on having your ears fully covered, these are a great way of enjoying noise cancellation without the bulk and earmuff-like-feel of full size headphones. Now, because of the nature of in-ear phones, their level of protection isn’t as great as with some chunky headphone cans, but they’re still far better than the non-noise cancelling variety.
As with our previous treatment of the topic, we’ve only looked at ones that offer active noise cancellation, as they provide the most effective form of protection against noise pollution. There are earbuds on the market that combine ear-plug-like designs with the actual headphone component which helps seal out sound, but those designs don’t actually actively cancel out noise they simply help block it. With that in mind, here’s the best of the noise-cancelling bunch.
Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones ($250)
Available in two varieties, depending on if you’re using them for your iPhone or an Android phone (offering a Lightning and traditional phono jack, respectively), the Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones are the kind of classy experience you’d expect from Bose. They protect you from all the sounds you don’t want to suffer, with the option of hitting the “Aware” button on the cord to immediately hear what’s going on around you.
On top of good noise cancellation you can expect a comfy fit via StayHear+ tips, so they’ll always feel comfortable in your ear, with deep and clear sounds thanks to Active EQ technology. There’s an inline mic/remote too for the times you need to make a call.
Linner NC50 Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones ($80)
If you’re looking for some budget noise cancelling earphones that have the added bonus of Bluetooth connectivity, the Linner NC50 Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones are a great option. They promise to cut out up to 97% of background noise and, like the previous Bose model, feature a button you can tap to immediately hear the environment around you clearly.
They’ll run for 9 hours in noise cancellation mode (13 hours in regular mode) off a single charge. A full charge takes about 2 hours to complete. When you pull them out of your ears you can link the two earbuds together to form a necklace, a perfect way to keep them handy and avoid losing them. They’re splash and sweat proof too, so they’re good for when you’re exercising.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E4 Active Noise Cancelling Earphones ($249)
Another well respected name in the field, the B&O PLAY by Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E4 Advanced Active Noise Cancelling Earphones promise some suitably powerful beats and bass lines, while also keeping you away from pesky noise pollution. It’s an effective combination and you’ll be surprised at the sounds you missed before from your favorite music tracks when you can finally listen in peace. For those moments when you want to switch back to the outside world, a “transparency mode” button takes you right back for a brief time.
The battery life is significant with about 20 hours of active noise cancellation based listening (and the earbuds revert back to regular wired earphones when it’s switched off or out of juice). They’re comfortable too, thanks to Comply memory foam ear tips.
TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling Headphones ($46)
If you’re on a tight budget, you could do a lot worse than get the TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling Headphones. They’re inexpensive but still offer the basic features you’d expect in a pair of noise cancelling earbuds. Active noise cancellation lasts for about 15 hours per charge (when discharged they function as regular earbuds). There’s a monitoring button for you to tweak any time you need to listen to anything, plus the in-line microphone is also noise cancelling too so your calls are clearer.
The only real downside here is that, understandably, sound quality isn’t quite as sharp here as a pricier alternative. However, if your budget is slim or you’re prone to losing your earphones, these are worth picking up to tide you over in the meantime.
Samsung Advanced ANC Wired Headset ($88)
Specifically aimed at the Samsung smartphone market, the Samsung Advanced ANC Wired Headset get the job of noise cancellation done fairly well, and at an inexpensive price point. Each earbud features a triple-driver design that promises clear mid-and-high-range audio, along with powerful bass for the appropriate moments.
Besides looking stylish, they also have a talk-in monitoring mode button that mixes in your music with surrounding sounds for when you’re listening out for an announcement or two. Battery life weighs in at about 16 hours with noise-cancelling on, and charging only takes about 45 minutes. They’re not quite as strong with noise cancellation as something like the Bose earphones, but they’re an excellent middle ground.
Audio-Technica QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling Headphones ($129)
Using Audio-Technica’s proprietary active noise-cancelling technology, the QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling Bluetooth Wireless In-Ear Headphones are a solid middle range choice of earphones. They reduce background noise by up to 90% and offer 13.5mm drivers for excellent sound reproduction.
In addition, the earbuds are comfortable for most ears, with an in-line mic and controls that allow you to operate your phone hands-free whether you’re walking or on public transport. The controls affect music playback, volume, as well as answering or ending calls. They’re wireless if you want them to be, but they also come with a detachable 1.2m cable that can be used to create a standard wired connection. It’s the best of both worlds at a smart price.