Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


The best noise-canceling earbuds you can buy: Expert tested

Dim down the outside world. We tested the best noise-canceling earbuds on the market from Bose, Sony, Apple, and more.
Written by Nina Raemont, Associate Editor
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds | Best noise-canceling earbuds overall
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds
Best noise-canceling earbuds overall
View now View at Bose
Sony WF-1000XM5 | Best noise-canceling earbuds for sound quality
Sony WF-1000XM5 resting on a MacBook
Sony WF-1000XM5
Best noise-canceling earbuds for sound quality
View now View at Amazon
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) | Best noise-canceling earbuds with Apple compatibility
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen)
Best noise-canceling earbuds with Apple compatibility
View now View at Amazon
JBL Tour Pro 2 | Best mid-priced earbuds
JBL Tour Pro 2 earbuds in case with ZDNET logo against window
JBL Tour Pro 2
Best mid-priced earbuds
View now View at Amazon
JLab Jbuds ANC 3 | Best budget noise-canceling earbuds
JLab Jbuds ANC 3 against pink backdrop
JLab Jbuds ANC 3
Best budget noise-canceling earbuds
View now View at Amazon

It sometimes feels impossible to tune out all the noise around us, but noise-canceling earbuds can help. I've tested the best noise-canceling earbuds on the market, and use them when my office gets too loud at work, when the subway commute is too overstimulating, and when my upstairs neighbor's music is too loud. I also use them when I'm reading and want no environmental or sound distractions, because the best noise-canceling earbuds don't just deliver tunes that sound good -- they also offer up sweet, sweet silence sans music. 

Active noise cancellation (ANC) is a highly coveted feature in the earbud market right now. With the help of tiny microphones on the earbuds' exterior, ANC earbuds actively listen to cancel out incoming sound waves, preserving quiet and amplifying in-ear sound. But, no matter how strong a pair's noise-canceling powers are, it's important they don't have connectivity problems or major sound leakage issues. 

Also: The top noise-canceling headphones

What are the best noise-canceling earbuds right now? 

If you're looking for earbuds that prioritize both connectivity and noise cancellation, I've tested the most popular options on the market, and rounded up a list of my favorites below. My pick for the best noise-canceling earbuds overall goes to the Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds, for their unmatched noise cancellation, amazing sound, and sealed earbud fit. Read on for more of my favorite picks.

The best noise-canceling earbuds of 2024

Pros & Cons
  • The best noise cancellation I've tried
  • Amazing sound
  • Earbuds stay in your ear
  • Uncomfortable to wear for long periods
  • Large case
  • Bose earbuds tend to lose connection
More Details

My upstairs neighbor is a Brooklyn DJ who has been mixing and editing the same song for months on end. How do I know? Because his speakers are so loud that I can hear his every edit from the floor below. I put in the Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds when I'm trying to read and focus on my book, and not on the noise from that talented mixmaster, the honks and beeps of car horns outside my window, nor the roommate conversations happening in the kitchen. I don't put on any music -- the noise cancellation on these earbuds is so good that every sound dissolves once these are in my ears, so I can read and think in peace. I also strictly rely on these earbuds when I fly, because I haven't found another earbud that dims the harsh engine noises of air travel the way these do. 

More: Forget AirPods Pro: These Bose noise-canceling earbuds sound better and feel premium 

As far as music goes, the QuietComfort Ultra deliver impressive wide-ranging sound. On runs, these earbuds stick in my ears, which I can credit to the oval shape of the ear tip as well as the extra grip from the stability band. 

Another notable feature is Bose's Immersive Audio mode, which brings music to the forefront of your ears and allows music to move with you. It's a great feature, but it does significantly reduce battery life. Speaking of which, the battery life on these isn't the most competitive at only six hours, but the case provides extra juice for on-the-go charging when you need it. 

One issue that is common on Reddit threads and in reviews is Bose's connectivity problems. The earbuds have a tendency to lose connection. I've found that adequately charging the buds prevents these connection losses. Other people recommend deleting the app, which can be buggy. 

Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds specs: Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 | Battery life: 6 hours | Frequency range: NA | Noise cancellation: Yes | Waterproof rating: Water resistant

Pros & Cons
  • Comfortable, secure fit
  • Rich sound
  • Impressive noise-canceling
  • Steep-but-worth-it price
  • Reviewers don't like the ear tips
More Details

The Sony WF-1000XM5 earbuds are the best in the game for sound quality, and according to ZDNET reviews writer Jada Jones, cancel out noise like a pair of over-ear headphones. Jones calls them "as good as true wireless noise-canceling earbuds come," and you should take her word for it. And reviewers on Reddit agree, complimenting the competitive noise cancellation that beats Apple's AirPods Pro 2. 

"With them on, gone are the extraneous noises at the gym, including sounds of overused machines, dropped weights, background music, and people talking," Jones writes in her review. 

Review: These are the best premium earbuds on the market right now

This model is lighter and smaller than the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds, according to reviews. The battery life is up to 12 hours long, and the upgraded ear tips create a suction that seals noise into the ears and blocks out any background noise. Even with that strong suction, the earbuds are still comfortable enough to wear all day long, according to Jones (although some Amazon reviews say that the Bose QuietComfort earbuds are far more comfortable). 

Sony WF 1000XM5 tech specs: Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 | Battery life: Up to 12 hours | Frequency range: 2.4 GHz - 2.48 GHz | Noise cancellation: Yes | Waterproof rating: IPX4 (resistant to water splashes)

Pros & Cons
  • Adaptive transparency mode
  • Personalized spatial audio settings
  • Four sizes
  • Long battery life
  • Not ideal for non-iPhone users
  • Expensive
More Details

AirPods, now iconic, have come a long way from skeptics just thinking of them as a cordless version of Apple's classic wired headphones. But Apple's design of the AirPods Pro ushered in an impressive combination of excellent sound quality, comfort, and noise-canceling capabilities -- especially with the 2nd generation.

Thanks to Apple's new H2 chip, these AirPods significantly upgrade performance via high-band connectivity and a low-distortion audio driver with a custom amplifier. These combined technologies ensure clearer audio across a wider range of sound frequencies.

And for those that find constant noise cancellation a tad disorienting, these 2nd-generation AirPods Pro have a transparency mode that ZDNET contributor Jason Cipriani says he is "legitimately in love with," based on high-quality audio and surrounding sound listening. 

These new AirPods feature two times more noise cancellation with a 33% longer battery life. Plus, a new feature allows you to personalize spatial audio settings to create your ideal sound experience (using iOS 16). To top it all off (literally), you can quickly charge the 2nd-generation AirPods Pro case wirelessly via an Apple Watch charger.

Reviewers on Reddit loved using the AirPods Pro 2 on their flights to cancel out engine noise, and said they can't hear most of the noises around them with these earbuds in. 

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) features: Battery life: Six hours | Waterproof rating: IPX4 | Earbud weight: 5.3 g each | Wireless charging: Yes

Pros & Cons
  • Great battery life
  • Impressive noise-canceling
  • Convenient touchscreen case
  • Heavy case
  • Earbuds tend to insecurely fit during intense, sweaty exercise sessions
  • Gimmicky touchscreen case
More Details

I was waiting at the subway platform the first morning I tried these earbuds out. While looking down at my phone with my JBL Tour Pro 2 earbuds in and the noise cancellation on, I barely registered the subway's arrival. These earbuds offer impressive noise cancellation, long battery life, and dual connectivity. 

The Tour Pro 2 is less expensive than some of the higher end noise canceling earbuds on this list, like Sony's WF-1000XM4 and Bose's QuietComfort Ultra, and they offer a longer battery life than Apple's AirPods Pro but go for the same price. So if you're looking to spend a little money on a good pair but don't want to dive into the above-$300 range, these could be for you. 

They're very comfortable to wear in the office or while exercising, though they don't have the strongest grip in your ears. I've found myself running in the park with them in and constantly having to re-secure them. The ambient aware mode is pretty useless -- and Reddit users agree with one saying it left "much to be desired," but that's alright, because the active noise cancellation is the real winner.

Some Reddit users say the touchscreen case is more gimmicky than utilitarian, but most users agree on the earbuds' high quality noise cancellation and decent sound for the price. 

JBL Tour Pro 2 tech specs: Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 | Battery life: 8 hours with ANC on and 10 hours with ANC off | Frequency range: 20 Hz - 20 kHz | Noise cancellation: Yes | Waterproof rating: IPX5

Pros & Cons
  • Long battery life
  • Bluetooth Multipoint
  • Great sound
  • Amazing ANC
  • No in-ear detection
  • Touch controls aren't great
More Details

The JLab JBuds ANC 3 prove that you don't have to spend loads of money on a pair of earbuds to get competitive active noise cancellation. As I write in the Bose QuietComfort section above, I have an upstairs neighbor who is constantly mixing music at such high volume my apartment walls begin to shake. Working in my apartment can become a hassle with such distracting sounds. But when I wear these earbuds, the loud music from upstairs melts away, similar to the Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds, but a fraction of the price. 

The JLab Jbuds ANC 3 offer three listening modes: ANC, ANC Off, and Be Aware. The ANC mode dims down and distances external sound as I listen to audio, and is competitive with some of the more premium earbuds I've tried, for a fraction of the price. Plus, the battery life lasted me weeks before I had to recharge, so if you're someone who can't devote to daily or even weekly charging, try these out. 

Given how lightweight the buds are, they also fit snugly and comfortably in my ears, and, most importantly, stay in them while I exercise. With a long battery life, multipoint Bluetooth for easy audio switching between devices, and great sound, these are an excellent choice for $60 earbuds. 

Verified reviewers on Amazon say that the noise cancellation and sound on these earbuds is legit, but the earbuds lack in special features, like easy touch controls on the earbuds. 

JLab JBuds ANC 3 tech specs: Connectivity: Bluetooth Multipoint | Battery life: 9 hours in the earbuds and 33+ hours in the case | Noise cancellation: Yes | Waterproof? IP55

What are the best noise-canceling earbuds?

The best noise-canceling earbuds are the Bose QuietComfort Ultra wireless earbuds. Although the battery life and weight are nothing to gawk at, their incredible sound quality and active noise cancellation make them the best pair of wireless earbuds on the market. 

Noise-canceling earbudsPriceBattery life
Bose QuietComfort Ultra$299Six hours
Sony WF-1000XM5$25512 hours
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)$250Six hours
JBL Tour Pro 2$250Up to ten hours
JLab JBuds ANC 3 $6033 hours

*MSRP at the time of writing. Please note that actual prices may vary depending on available sales, deals, discounts, and coupons.

Which are the right noise-canceling earbuds for you?

With workplaces and schools becoming so embedded with technology, the use of wireless earbuds has evolved as well. What used to be the primary way to listen to music has become a tool for taking phone calls and canceling out external noise.

There's been an evolution of wireless earbuds, with noise cancellation becoming a key feature. If you're looking for the best noise-canceling earbuds, look at this table to figure out which pair is right for your lifestyle and budget needs. 

Choose these noise-canceling earbuds...If you want...
Bose QuietComfort UltraThe best pair of noise-canceling earbuds overall. Put these in your ears and experience true silence. While they don't have the best battery life on this list, the earbuds offer amazing sound and true ANC that's worth the $280 price tag.
Sony WF-1000XM5The best noise-canceling earbuds with the best sound quality. Sony carries out its best-in-class surround sound even in a compact pair of earbuds. Plus, these pebble-like buds are comfortable and convenient for hands-free phone calls.
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)The best noise-canceling earbuds for Apple devices. A pioneer in the wireless earbud market, the 2nd-generation AirPods Pro are a fantastic encore of the original with even more powerful ANC and a transparency mode that's actually... transparent.
JBL Tour Pro 2A less expensive option for Android users with a higher battery life than the Apple AirPods Pro and the Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds.
JLab JBuds ANC 3 The least expensive option on this list with the largest battery life. What you lack in responsive touch controls you make up for in a pair of earbuds with great ANC for their value.

Factors to consider when choosing a pair of noise-canceling earbuds

As a commerce editor who specializes in earbuds and wearables, I test out a lot of headphones and earbuds in my day-to-day to see which products live up to their promises. So, while deciding which noise-canceling earbuds are worth your money, I considered these factors. 

  • Noise cancellation: In essence, every earbud could be a noise-canceling earbud, because the job of a headphone or an earbud is to cancel noise by replacing it with music or another sound. We see that term attached to every headphone and earbud on the market today, but many earbuds lack the technology and the needed microphones to drown out external sound and deliver true ANC. The best noise-canceling earbuds that we have tested cancel out noise even when music isn't playing. The proof is in the pudding: when you are wearing a pair of true ANC earbuds, you will hear nothing. 
  • Battery life: Earbuds have shorter battery lives compared to headphones, and range between six to 12 hours of juice before a recharge. The earbuds on this list also offer charging cases that charge the earbud while it's not in your ears to lengthen the battery life. 
  • Price: From what I've seen, if you want noise-canceling earbuds that actually work, you normally have to pay a bit of a higher price for them. The earbuds on this list range in price from $60 to $300. $300, you may think, is a lot for a piece of audio tech, but we wouldn't put an expensive earbud on this list if it didn't truly fit the bill. 
  • Special features: In-ear detection, seamless pause and play controls, and multi-point connection are all special features that come with higher-end noise-canceling earbuds. If you're paying over $200 for a pair of earbuds, you'll find more convenient features like those in your earbuds. 

How did we choose these noise-canceling earbuds?

On this list you will find earbuds that I have either tested out for myself or earbuds that have been vetted by one of our experts. We spend days, weeks, and even sometimes months on end testing our products to learn about their performance, features, usability, and whether they live up to the hype. For the noise-canceling earbuds on this best list, I ran with them in on busy city streets, took meetings and worked with them in the office, read with them to silence external noise at home, and jammed with them on the loud subway. I made my best list elections by considering sound, of course, but also battery life, comfort, connectivity, special features, and user reviews.

When we think a product is worthy of a shoutout, we'll write up a spotlight. When we think a product is the best of the best, we'll give it a spot on a best list like this. 

What are noise-canceling earbuds and how do they work?

Noise-canceling earbuds use active noise cancellation to reduce background noise and improve the overall sound quality of audio. ANC works by using mics to pick up external sounds, and then it generates sound waves that are the exact opposite wavelengths (or "negative" of the external sounds) to create a "cancellation" effect that reduces background noise. 

Some noise-canceling earbuds also use passive noise-cancellation, which is achieved through earbud design, such as using noise-isolating materials. These are particularly useful in environments with high levels of ambient noise, like airplanes or busy streets. They can also provide a better listening experience in general, reducing the need to use max volume to overcome background noise.

For more on how noise-canceling earbuds work, check out Christina Darby's ZDNET explainer

Do noise canceling earbuds protect your hearing?

No, ANC earbuds should not be confused with a hearing protection device, and experts agree.

"Nobody should ever think of them as, in my opinion, pure hearing protection. They're not," says ENT Dr. Joe Donzelli. And while noise-canceling earbuds can offer some passive protection like any sound wave boundary, Dr. Donzelli assures that they don't deter the culprit of hearing loss: Inner ear trauma.

"Everything is all about the sound you're delivering through the headphones, so you can get the greatest noise cancellation ever, but if you just turn up the volume and expose yourself to high decibels for long periods of time, you'll then create inner ear trauma," Donzelli explains.

However, since listening to music at high volume for long periods of time can damage hearing, a good pair of ANC headphones may have some secondary hearing protection benefits.

"If someone is using ANC earbuds to get rid of ambient noise, they may not have to turn the volume up as loud to hear the in-ear sound," Donzelli says.

Essentially, here's how ANC earbuds may help: You find your ANC earbuds effectively cancel out distracting noises. Before, you had to blast the volume just to hear accurately, but thanks to the magic of ANC, the sound is clear at half the volume. Now, you're listening at a lower volume for longer, and therefore likely have less exposure to damaging decibel levels, which means less inner ear trauma. 

But Donzelli reiterates that the "tighter you put something in your ear and the louder you make it, the more damage. So if somebody runs around with their [earbuds] turned up all the way with or without noise cancellation, it doesn't make a difference." 

Do noise-canceling earbuds cancel all noise?

Think of your finest pair of noise-canceling earbuds as high end noise reducers -- not complete noise cancellers. It's confusing, but let me explain. 

You've probably tested out a pair of noise-canceling earbuds like Apple's AirPods Pro 2 or Bose's QuietComfort Ultra earbuds, and still heard a little bit of noise and conversation with them in. Noise-canceling earbuds usually cancel low frequency noise, like the hum of an airplane engine, the AC unit in your apartment, or the sounds of the train. You might still hear people talking around you with your earbuds in, but the sounds of conversation will be reduced. 

Can noise-canceling earbuds damage your hearing?

According to ENT Dr. Joe Donzelli, noise-canceling earbuds alone don't damage your hearing. Long exposure to unhealthy decibel levels is what causes trauma to the tympanic membrane, and therefore can damage hearing. 

For reference, the hearing health foundation says that sounds at or below 70dB are considered safe for our hearing and sounds at or above 80-85 dB will damage hearing over time. If you're worried your listening levels are higher than this, you can easily monitor your earbuds' projected decibel levels via your smartphone settings

Are noise-canceling earbuds good for sleeping?

Noise-canceling headphones can be great for sleeping or falling asleep, especially for stomach and back sleepers. However, I'll warn that while the Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds are sure to cancel any sleep-inhibiting sound, they're a bit chunky -- especially for side sleepers. Also, keep in mind that they're not the best option in the case of an emergency, since you're essentially tuned out to the world. 

For earbuds especially tailored for sleeping, check out our list of the top headphones for sleeping.  

Is noise-canceling bad for your ears?

In short, no. Noise cancellation is not bad for your ears. However, some people have experienced dizziness while using noise-canceling modes.

What can I use my noise-canceling earbuds for?

There are many ways I use my noise-canceling earbuds. Yes, they're great for hearing more out of your music. But you can also use them if you're feeling overstimulated by your environment and need some peace and quiet. I used them during the holidays whenever my family got in a fight I didn't want to listen to. I listen to them in the office when other people are taking conference calls around me and I need to focus. They are an anxious and overstimulated person's best friend. 

One guy on Reddit even used noise-canceling earbuds to tune out his wife in the morning (and an entire morality discussion ensued in the Reddit thread). This is all to say that silence can be valuable, and if it's something you can't get enough of, get a pair of noise-canceling earbuds and see for yourself how much calmer and more productive you can be with them in. 

Are there alternative noise-canceling earbuds worth considering?

There are over 4,000 search results when you type in, "noise-canceling earbuds" into your Amazon search bar. However, Amazon isn't the only place to secure a new pair of earbuds. You can find them at Walmart, Best Buy, Target, and so many other places! 

Here are a few that didn't make the cut, including some true wireless earbuds, that are great alternatives if the options above don't sound like the best fit for you.

View at AmazonView at Amazon
Editorial standards