Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds (In Ear Headphones) of 2020

The top five Active noise cancelling earbuds: True wireless earbuds, neckband Bluetooth or wired earbuds?

  • Wired Bose QC 20 is the top performer
  • Airpods Pro heat up the NC earubds market
  • Sony WF-1000XM3 True Wireless earbuds with ANC
  • Neckband Bluetooth is another great option
  • Other cheapies that work

You probably know the best ANC Bluetooth headphones such as Bose Quiet Comfort 35II, SONY 1000X M3 or Jabra Elite 85h.

They are over-the-ear and quite expensive (priced roughly $300) and come with a lot of handy features such as voice assistant, touch control and transparancy. These over cans sound great too!

In fact not many people want to have this heavy, sturdy stuff on their heads even though they are super comfortable and lightweight.

A pair of earbuds (in ear headphones/earphones) is far more convenient and portable.

Among plenty of them on the market, what turns out to be the best noise cancelling earbuds, I’ve rounded up some of them received positive reviews from users, experts as well as our experiences in 2019.

Finding a decent pair of noise cancelling earbuds is not a tough job. However, it depends on how much money do you want to invest and where do you use them. Understanding noise-cancelling feature is a bit more complicated since some online sellers mislabel their earbuds as Noise-cancelling earbuds, but actually they are passive noise cancelling not Active Noise Cancelling (ANC).

Summary of my post:

  • How noise cancelling works?
  • ANC earbuds and ANC over the ear headphones which one is better?
  • 5 best noise cancelling earbuds and reviews
  • Should I go for Bluetooth or true wireless
  •  Bose QuiteComfort 20: #1 Best noise cancelling earbuds on the market
  • Wired vs wireless
  • 1MORE E1004BA Dual Driver the lastest ANC earbuds with neckband

IV. Best bluetooth noise cancelling earbuds
Comparison of 5 Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds On The Market

 Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 Noise Cancelling EarbudsSony MDRNC13 Noise Cancelling Earbuds#1 Bose QuiteComfort 20 Noise Cancelling Earbuds #2 AKG K391 NC Noise Cancelling Earbuds
ANC performance90%87.4%Best ANC function, really impressiveAbove average
Sound quality notes7/10 7/108/108/10
ComfortComfortableComfortableMost comfortableFit comfortably
Background noise-white noise Average AveragePresent at lowest levelStill there
Additional features ear cannalMonitor Switch, ear cannalAware mode, intra-aural, StayHear+ tipsEartips
BatteryAAA-AAA-100hoursintegrated, rechargeable–16 hoursintegrated, rechargeable–40 hours

Note*: The actual performance is more important than the technical specification of ANC earbuds. Becasue 90% noise subtraction, for example, is measured at the specific noise intensity in dB at a range of frequencies.

How noise cancelling earbuds work
The picture illustrated how ambient sounds are neutralized: red is cancelled out by blue. The best noise cancelling earbuds : Bose QC 20i

I. How Noise Cancelling Works?

The ANC process is involved in microphones that are placed inside earbud housing (both on the right and left). These microphones will pick up and send ambient sound signal to ANC circuitry. The ANC circuitry functionally inverts sound waves in the wide range of frequencies and transfer that signals to earbud speakers, which in turn will cancel out the unwanted environmental sounds interfering to the pure music.

Find Out More How Noise-Cancelling Works

Ok, now we look at the sounds could be eliminated and their intensity measured in dB, apparently ANC earbuds can be used as Earmuff when you operate very noisy instruments like electric chainsaws or lawnmovers

Sounds dealed by ANC earbuds
Common sounds with intensity in dB, the ANC earbuds typically can cancel out

II. ANC earbuds and ANC over the ear headphones which one is better?

Generally, in term of sound quality and ANC feature, over the ear heaphones do a better job than earbuds. What folks look for from earbuds probably their light weigh and portability, I could say you know how easy and convenient you can take them on the go. The over the ear headphones, on the other hand, appears bulky and sturdy, you may feel ’em cumbersome on your head. Additional tasks required you may not like when folding up and putting them in the hard carrying case and then taking them back for use. They also gain some space of your bag, not adding weight a kilogram :). Actually, with under $100 you can get a decent pair of ANC over the headphones if it is fine for you to wear the big earcups and headband on you head, or put them rest on your neck.

You can choose ANC earbuds based upon the price range as many people limit how much to spend first when investing on something. Choosing the best noise cancelling earbuds is considered by comforts in ear cannal, ANC performance, sound quality, design and additional features. Thus, by seriously considering all concerning factors we round up the best noise cancelling earbuds.

III. 4 Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds (In Ear headphones)

Before going into details you may want to know types of noise cancelling earbuds. And note that due to the nature of design – in ear these earbuds won’t work in some situation such as for lawn mower.

  • Wired noise cancelling earbuds
  • Bluetooth NC earbuds with a collar
  • Bluetooth NC earbuds with a compartment
  • True wireless NC earbuds

Since this article was published in 2015, I never found a better pair of earbuds than Bose QC20 in terms of NC performance, but considering the price – you pay a hafl price of Bose QC20 you may get a good ANC performance and premium sound quality.

 BOSE QC20 – Expensive High-End Noise Cancelling Earbuds


Bose long stands for the iconic ANC headphones in audio industry. Take the full advantages from predecessor Bose QC 15 over the ear headphones, Bose QC 25 make things much better: Gain less space in your bags with typical folding method, a single cable instead of 2 as the previous model. I’ve just talked abit about the full size ANC headphones of Bose.

Ok now what we look at the earbud model Bose QC 20i ( the letter i means they are customized for iPhone), which take you to the silent world with lowest white noise that is waived if you are in a little background noise. If money is not an issue, and you want to try the best of the best I suggest you go for Bose QC 20 whatever you own Android or iOS devices.

Till date Bose QC 20 is anchored for the best high-end noise cancelling earbuds ( there are 2 model: Bose QC 20i for Apple Devices and Bose QC 20 for other than Apple products). Though the Bose is every expensive, disappointedly they still are wired earbuds and it would be perfect if it is a bluetooth version. Long battery life 16 hours makes the Bose QC 20 the longest available with integrated battery.

According to Jet Transports (Cabin) the intensity 60-88dB, typical frequency range on air plane is over 1000Hz. The correlation of loundness and intensity, Bose quiet comfort 20 works very effectively in this range, which brings about a good time on every flight if you own them.

The reason why Bose QuiteComfort 20i is bloody expensive, does it offer everything you needed?

– “Impressive” is the common word was rewarded to Bose QC 20 for its ANC

– Bose earbud tips with secure wing worn the least shallow insertion (intra-aural) in ANC catergory, they are more comfortable than other earbuds with deeper insertion.

– Design:the cable is long enough to stuff the battery compartment into your pocket. 

– ANC performance: The best noise cancelling earbuds will cancel out most ambient sounds, in fact Bose QC20 dont’ reduce 100% percent, but they perform the ANC most effectively.

“The Bose QuietComfort 20 top the list of the best in-ear noise-cancelling earbuds on the market.” there are many outstanding reviews about this Bose. I will not talk much about it. Here is the bottom line of Bose by CNET executive editor David Carnoy

The best bose noise cancelling earbuds reviews

Don’t Buy Bose QC 20:

  • If you value sound quality other than anything else
  • If you are worried that the lithium ion battery is not replaceable, and roughly after 3 years the battery is deteriorated it is going to be passive noise cancelling earbuds with awkward battery box.
  • If you hate spending too much on the small item
  • If you need the ANC automatically shut off and wireless connection.
  • If you have Iphone 7 I will need a lightning adapter

Best Cheap Noise Cancelling Earbuds

Taotronics ANC earbuds with neckband – best value for the price

Neckband headphones are not just good for calls and but earbuds can clip magnetically together when not in use.

  • Model: TT-BH042
  • Clear voice call with CVC 8.0 tech for mic to filter out the noise
  • Great battery life – up to 16 hours
  • Earbuds with earhooks for snug fit and IPX5 rating
  • Bluetooth 5.0 – stable and good Bluetooth audio

IV. Should I Go For Bluetooth Instead: Best Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Earbuds

Go wireless, there are just a few models of wireless ANC earbuds. Since the battery have to power 2 functions bluetooth connection and ANC at the same time so it is going to drain faster than wired ANC earbuds, thus the battery life is significantly shorter. 

Using a neckband could give more room for hardware and larger battery built-in that’s why we’ve seen this style gaining popularity. Sony’s latest headsets are following the trend, the WI-1000X has a strong battery and solid Bluetooth connection. It does sound good with strong bass and pronounced mid-range.  

The ANC function works impresive but isn’t great, but you can control how much you want to hear the world with a single switch. 

Sony also makes great over ear cans the MDR-1000X, which have better ANC performance. These two pairs sound great. If you don’t care much about the neckband, which is not really flexible and $300 price tag, the WI-1000X would be a nice pick.

Phiaton BT 220 noise cancelling wireless earbuds

Phiaton BT 220 NC Bluetooth 4.0 Active Noise Cancelling, The ANC function works just fine with the battery life up to 16 hours straight. It offers solid sound performance–indeed it makes sense for bass. Its unique design also makes earbud itself have a very good noise-reduction effect by eartips. The PT 220 is one of the best sounding wireless earbuds available, though the ANC function isn’t as effective as Bose QC20.

Sony Noise Canceling Bluetooth earbuds MDR-NWBT10N B

Sony bluetooth noise cancelling earbuds

The Sony MDR-NWBT10N earbuds offer a decent sound, though the battery life doesn’t last very long and is varied from 3-6 hours depending on the volume loudness. Furthermore, it is not possible to listen to them while charging, so it seems not for those who frequently travel on over 10 hours flights. However, if you need a light and portable wireless earbuds and tend to use in just several hours everyday, it’s a great option.

What to avoid: Any devices produces frequencies, they are going to board the “hissing sound”, white noise…update soon!, NC earbuds with short battery life – you have to frequently charge them up. Some true wireless earbuds are built with NC feature such as WF-1000X.

Head to head comparison

WI-1000X vs Bose QC30

Both can be used as an everyday headphone, but which one you should pick?

 Bose QC30Sony WI-1000X
Noise cancelling performance9, NC can be adjustable on appComparable to Bose, but WI-1000X is better at higher frequencies because the eartips sealed the sound in.
Comfort and fit   The Bose QC30 weighs 28.4g, lighter than Sony WI-1000X, the earbuds are unsealed in the ear with particualar Bose Stayhere tips. The design that lets the ambient sound come in.   61g – heavier than Bose QC 30 The design that block the ambient sound, no wing tips included.
Sound qualityPleasant, detailed sound, full bass response, forward mid-range that is natural and warm.Balance sounding profile, EQ app to fine tune the sound to your preferences. We prefer WI-1000 over Bose for the clarity, deep bass and crisp high.
Battery life10 hours10 hours with NC on
Control    The in-line control is on the right with 3 buttons – take calls and volume control   No inline control, the buttons are on the left of the neckband
CallsCall quality is just good, the big difference compared to Sony is the mic is on the inline.Better

Also consider

Bose QC30 neckband Bluetooth, NC headphones: Bose QC30 is a great set just for its functionality, in combination price, sound and NC you can have a better choice other than Bose QC30.

LINNER NC50: This is a neckband bluetooth headphone, the NC is just passed while we like its design, the battery is not what we are expected, just 6 hours with NC on.

Pioneer Rayz Smart Noise Cancellation Earbuds for Iphone users: No heavy battery compartment, it draws power directly from your phones, you can adjust the level of NC according the enviroment.

Everest Elite 100 ($200): This is a neckband Bluetooth headphones but they fall short after Bose and Sony for both audio performace and NC

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23Sony MDRNC13, once was best budget noise cancelling earbuds but I don’t like the AAA battery.

 AKG K391 NC–best mid-range noise cancelling earbuds with aluminum housing earbuds, the runner-up

Samsung Advanced ANC Active Noise Cancelling – Alternative to Bose QC20

Samung noise cancelling earbuds earphones in ear

Supported dual-mirophones on each earbuds, the latest Samsung sports NC earbuds work effectively to cancel out the noise. Its performance though is not on par with Bose QC20, but we found it is very close.

The earbuds are quite comfortable to wear and the wingtips keep the earbuds stay put. As runners I often hear loud footsteps, the earbuds reduces a fairly amount of these noises so if you run on the treadmill you probably only hear your music other than annoying footstep sound.

Samsung Advanced ANC sounded impressive. It is the first pair of NC earbuds that are built with triple-drivers. The sound is clear and detailed, mid-range is pronounced and the bass is powerful, yet I would prefer if the sound is richer and more dynamic.


This QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling in ear headphones certainly is for those of you who are struggling to find decent ANC earbuds with budget in mind. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 earbuds efficiently reduce noise up to 90%. And when the quietPoint is turned off it works just like other enhanced bass earbuds.

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23
The ANC23 offers the decent sound quality at an affordable price.

Though the sound details would be improved, the ANC23 tunes excellent sound at low and middle range.   

Pros: Clear sound and good bass, but in term of sound quality, you definitely find the better earbuds without ANC at a lower price

Cons: No built-in mic for conversation on the phone. The battery compartment is a little bulky since they host AAA, and because of the heavy weight of the box, it’s more likely to tug earbuds out your ear if you let them impend from the cable, not likely you can hang them freely. High microphonics on the cable is noticeable and they seemingly loose the details when music is mixed of various instruments.

Audio technica also introduced the upgrade of ANC23, the ATH-ANC33, which features mic and inline control for compatible devices. You may try it out. 

Read Full review of ANC23 Earbuds from CNET


Sony MDRNC13 Noise-Canceling earbuds, Compared to Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 based on the specs, these Sony earbuds is better, check out how they were compared?

Sony MDRNC13

Pros: The battery life (AAA) is up to 100 hours with ANC turning on, 87.4% Noise reduction. It is not usual for ANC earbuds that the sound remains the same no matter what NC is on or off. It pumps a resonable amount of bass, and treble is clear and keeps up with good detail.

The Monitor Switch is similar to Aware Mode of Bose QC 20, Imagine if your friends want to talk with you, in order to hear them clearly, you must take off the earbuds, however the Monitor Switch of Sony MDR allows you to talk with your friends but still keep the earbuds stay in the ear, it’s fun a little music background while chatting. You’re back in touch with the real world just by switching the button.

Cons: mid-range is not bright, and it doesn’t has balanced sound profile.

How noise-cancelling earbuds (earphones) were tested rated?

We consider the NC performance, comfort, fit, sound quality and price combined to evaluate they are worth it.

The noise-cancelling function: normally tested on a long flight more than 10 hours, train, buses, ability to eliminate wind blowing sound while cycling. It is evaluated by how much sound they can virtually reduce. On flight test, there are factors such as comfort, sound quality and jet engine noise reduction capacity, or even whether you can sleep while have them on. 

You’ll see the technical information that indicate the percentage of noise, earbuds can reduce. For example, 95% noise reduction, however, how they actually work in real life or do they work as advertised? The answers is still a long story since you don’t have a tool to measure this information, even your ear is sensitive enough to noticeably realize the difference from how loud the ambient sound is reduced to lower levels before passing through earbuds.

Let the ambient sound frequency range be from 20Hz-20kHz the NC earbuds can actually cut off 90% the loudness in the working range 500-18kHz since the microphones can only capture this range, so you still hear ambient sound with frequencies under 500Hz or above 18kHz which can only reduced by noise-isolation of earbud tips. It is up to you to define what’s the best suited for you. So now, you knew why they are not 100% effective to cancel out all sounds. 

Design and fit: There is a inline battery compartment. This part processes the ANC function you can turn on or off by sliding or clicking a button on this, it is normally located near the end L-Jack for convenience. Earbuds housing, cable to prevent tangle. How would you like your earbuds look like? slim, tiny size fro better noise-reduction. Other related to the shapes and materials, curved edge, ear cushions or earbud tips.

Light weight and size: The advantage of earbuds over the over the ear headphone is size. ANC earbuds is small, you can take them every where and simply put them into your pocket.

Where to use: If you tend to use a ANC earbuds in your quiet office, you are wasting money – a huge waste. Most people use on flight or in busy street, and it is common today that you work in the distracted office, where there are a lot of noise coming from phone calls, walking and chatting. The open office also exposes you to hear as much as possible from co-workers, so the ANC earbuds is very useful to make your work more productive.

Sound quality (audio performance) That’s being said, with the same money, you can get better sound from earbuds without ANC. However, Read reviews, you will find that sound quality is very difficult to judge one by one. 

Fit: The earbud tips itself provide a pretty good sound-isolation. In an occasion, my room can’t connect to internet, I went to coffee shop where people come there to sing karaoke, put my earbuds on like earplugs, the sound (most bass) significantly is lowered but I must push earbuds worn tightly. Perfect fitting should not be too tight or loosen easily but still feel comfortable. You can also see the various design of earbud tips from bose with wing, or Sony. If you are struggling with the optimum way to insert earbuds reach out my post: How to wear earbuds properly for better sound. Comfort is primary, and shallow insertion means more comfortable, wearing earbud tightly and listening music at high level can cause stress. For earbud style headphones, since they are small and inserted into ear canals we should consider the secure fit. Plus, secure fit and good fitting give users better music experience and get rid of dropping earbud phenomenon.

Some NC earbuds feature sports hooks, wingtips for sports but I personally never use NC earbds for working out, a simple reason I don’t want to break it because of my sweat or movement can sooner or later break the NC module.

Battery life: As you can see in smart devices today, the more feature they integrate, the less battery life is and ANC earbuds is not an exception, they need batteries to work and the longest batteries can live up to 40 hours for a single charge (AKG K391 NC), otherwise the replaceable AAA can live up to 100 hours. The charging time is varied, normally within 2 hours. Unluckily, the battery drains so fast, and the battery is “low” at the middle of your flight to Alaska, you will spend the rest of remaining time with sound mixed from jet engine.

In some ANC earbud such as Bose QC 15 or 20, the battery is not replaceable, in this case what happens if you they run out of charging capacity? You did invest a lot of money, then you can’t charge your earbuds any more and they will become normal earbuds with awkward battery compartment. Most likely you will buy the new one. Every ANC earbuds need the battery pack to power the ANC circuitry, how do you hang them.

Background noise caused by ANC circuitry: Check out my post Noise-Cancelling vs. Noise-Isolating earbuds for more details. Noise-canceling earbuds produce the wide range of frequencies, from the source, more or less you will notice a white noise, The best NC earbuds will down the hiss to the lowest level. So it’s rule of thumb that NC earbuds don’t sound as clean as noise-isolating earbuds which you rarely obtain a faint hiss.

Frequent flyers choose noise-cancelling earbuds for their time on board, feel plesant to sleep on.  Earbud-style design is good for sleeping because you can rest your head against a pillow or headrest without having your headphones getting in the way

If you work in noisy-environment such in the lab with instruments gas compressors, analytical GC/MS, ICP/MS and more, engines, construction sites,…and don’t want to wear earmuffs, the active noise-cancelling earbuds will be the best choice. 

Some customers expects the perfect job that NC earbuds can do until they get one. They may be disappointed because they still hear something such as voices or babies crying and snoring sound. As I said where else in, NC earbuds can’t cancel out 100% noise, since ambient sound travel in the air with different sound waves and intensity. 

The History of Noise Cancelling

Before the systems were invented to cancel the noise in helicopter and airplane cockpits, the Earmuff were mostly used. Since in ear headphones was produced, the ANC was integrated in very first model of Sony earbuds. 

Which brands own the best NC tech?

Bose is still the best brand for noise cancelling, but Sony is close up, recently they released the Sony WH-1000XM3, which bests the Bose latest NC headphone NC performance. Samsung, Huawei, Taotronics,

Why you should not buy the noise cancelling earbuds?

>> One limitation of ANC earbuds is that the weighty battery pack will make you feel not convenient, since they may drag the earbuds falling, as a result the more chance they will drop out while you play action sports. Unlike the regular earphones, I say, noise-isolating earbuds, ANC has to be charged frequently. 

>> One interesting fact that some function will not work when you switch from one device to another, for example from iOS to Android. However the sound in the most case remains the same.

>> Considering ony sound quality, investing on the ANC earbuds is expensive because you can get plenty of cheaper earbuds with better sound.

To sum up…

If you’ve searched for active noise cancelling earbuds, probably you deciced what your earbuds is for–flights, metro train, working in noisy invironment or jobs that require some pure music to boost the creativity, eleminating the wind blowing on the cycle pathways, the noise in subway or street, sidewalk, jet engine noise on flight, from home tools such as electric chainsaw,..For those who have experienced the ANC, especially in the noisy environments, can’t imagine how their life could be without wearing this little high tech accessory.

We all know the the advantage of earbuds due to their light weight, compact size and super portability, it’s great if earbuds has the additional feature: Active Noise Cancelling (ANC). The best noise cancelling earbuds usually come with 3 fundamental factors: ergonomicall designed, better ANC and substance sounds, and some other features have been discussed this post. They only show their value where they are supposed to be, I mean, when you need them, it’s useless when you are seating on sofa in a quiet room and turning on ANC function on.

Testing environments: even they test the possibility you can sleep while wearing these earbuds, while on bed, hearing the snoring sound is very annoying if you don’t like earplugs wearing ANC with a little music also make you feel sleepy more easily. What do you think is the best noise cancelling earbuds please comment blow!

New noise cancelling Earbuds/Earphones

IFA 2015-Sony announced new earbuds companion of their latest Walkman with noise cancelling feature, it was named h.ear in and they come with a wide array of colors. These earbuds are expected to do a great job of sorting out the airplane noise.

At CES21015, a Bluetooth headphone called FreeWavz was announced. It comes with ANC feature. Let’see how it will hit the ANC earbud market.

Another set, the JBL Reflect Aware Earbuds for sports, has been introduced. Along with ANC feature, the ambient Aware feature will let you control how much noise you want to cancel out via free companion app (only for iPhones). Unlike other ANC earbud that required battery box to run the function, the JBL offer free-battery and will eat the power from the devices it plugs in.

Photo: JBL

Sony recently launched the H.ear In headphones go in your ears, which is compatible with new Walkman.

$79 LG Tone Ultra (HBS-800) Bluetooth wireless earbuds

LG Electronics Tone Ultra (HBS-800)
Around-Neck Design

The HBS-800 Earbuds’ unique design with neckband works any where from the gym to on flight, its sound quality is slightly better than Sony and Techica models. These earbuds are kept in place when not in use by the magnets placed on the headband. The ANC feature of microphone is effectively functional, and wireless connection is available. One of great things is that the battery of HBS can last for up to 15 hours. Note that this type of headset doesn’t feature ANC – I list this for reference only not for recommendation since you may misunderstand this headset for its NC function from the mic.

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