Best Noise-Cancelling Earbuds 2020: Apple, Sony, 1More, TaoTronics - Rolling Stone
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The Best Noise-Cancelling Earbuds

Block out a lot of noise with headphones that come in a little package

Sony-WF-1000XM3

Amazon

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Because of size and power constraints, active noise cancellation has traditionally been available on over and on-ear headphones. The feature, which uses microphones to filter out unwanted sound from the outside world before it hits your ears, is now available on earbuds.

Earbuds also offer passive noise cancellation by creating an airtight seal around the inside of your ear. Taken together, the passive and active noise cancellation features of Bluetooth earbuds stack up well against over-ear noise-cancelling headphones.

If you want to tune out the sound of a bus or train on your commute, or enjoy your music while a roommate is playing something through a Bluetooth speaker, active noise cancelling earbuds are the smallest, lightest solution.

What Are the Best Noise-Cancelling Earbuds?

There are many factors to consider when choosing the best noise-cancelling earbuds for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.

Style: Earbuds come in a few different styles, but the one in this guide are either totally wireless (no cable at all) or neckband (a cord connects the two buds, and hangs around the back of your neck).

Bluetooth: All of the active noise cancellation earbuds we’re recommending support Bluetooth 5.0, one of the latest versions of the wireless standard that’s a lot more power efficient.

Battery Life: Active noise cancellation is an energy hungry feature, but our minimum requirement was eight hours of battery life for neckband style earbuds, and four hours of battery life for our totally wireless earbud recommendations.

1. TaoTronics Active Noise-Cancelling Neckband Earbuds

TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling Earbuds

Amazon

TaoTronics’ Active Noise-Cancelling Neckband Earbuds are a great entry-level choice cover all of the basics very well.

The neckband style earbuds support Bluetooth 5.0, and last eight hours with active noise cancellation turned on. The earbuds last 16 hours with the feature disabled, so you can extend your playtime per charge by using ANC only when it’s necessary.

TaoTronics designed these earbuds for people with active lifestyles, so they have a couple of extras that make them better for everybody. First, the earbuds have earned an IPX5 durability rating, which means they’re splash proof. These earbuds shouldn’t be dropped in the ocean or pool, but they should be able to survive a rainstorm.

Second, the earbuds have magnets built inside, so they snap together like a necklace when worn around your neck. This feature makes the earbuds more difficult to lose, and easier to organize. If you’d like a pair of active noise-cancelling Bluetooth earbuds, and size isn’t your main priority, this is the pair you should get.

2. 1MORE’s Dual Driver ANC Pro Headphones

1MORE Active Noise Cancelling Earbuds

Amazon

1MORE’s Dual Driver ANC Pro Headphones are the most rigid option in our guide, which makes them a little annoying to store, but their other features more than make up for it.

These earbuds support Bluetooth 5.0, and get 15 hours of playtime per charge when active noise-cancelling is turned off. You can get up to 20 hours of playtime with ANC turned off. 1MORE built four noise-cancelling microphones into these earbuds, and included a Wind Noise Resistance Mode to block that particular sound.

You can switch between two levels of noise cancellation: 1MORE says the first level is better for commuting and flying, while the second level is suited for home use. You can switch between each mode whenever you want by pressing a button, so find the one that suits your needs best.

They don’t have many extras, but these earbuds have earned an IPX5 durability rating, which means they’re water resistant enough to survive exposure to rain or sweat.

If you want neckband style headphones with active noise cancellation settings you can fine-tune, 1MORE’s earbuds are our pick.

3. Apple AirPods Pro

Apple AirPods Pro

Amazon

Apple’s AirPods Pro are among the most popular active noise-cancelling earbuds thanks to a mix of audio quality, ANC performance, and battery life.

The totally wireless earbuds support Bluetooth 5.0, and get about 4.5 hours of playtime per charge. You can recharge the AirPods Pro by returning them to their charging case. You can get up to 24 hours of music playback between the initial charge and a fully charged case. I’ve used the AirPods Pro as my active noise-cancelling earbuds for several months, and they’ve performed really well.

The active noise cancellation is good enough to block out all of the sound on a New York City subway commute when my music is at a reasonable volume. With music off, the earbuds’ ANC greatly reduces the sound of people speaking around me. Similarly, I’ve found Apple’s battery claims to be accurate; I’ve never had the AirPods Pro run out of power suddenly or unexpectedly.

I’ve tried a lot of earbuds, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how good the AirPods Pro sound. They’re not able to replicate the audio quality of my favorite over-ear pair, but the balance of bass, midrange, and treble is very good. I’ve never noticed any unwanted distortion or other audio glitches while listening.

If you want a pair of totally wireless Bluetooth earbuds with great sound and excellent active noise cancellation, Apple’s AirPods Pro are hard to beat.

4. Sony WF-1000XM3

Sony-WF-1000XM3

Amazon

Sony got very serious about active noise cancellation headphones a few year ago, and its WF-1000XM3 are the latest in their line of ANC earbuds.

They’re totally wireless earbuds that support Bluetooth 5.0, and get up to six hours of playtime on a single charge. They recharge when returned to their case for a total of 24 hours worth of music playback. The WF-1000XM3 and AirPods Pro are tied in terms of total battery life, but getting more music listening time on a single charge is important to consider.

These earbuds feature Sony’s custom QN1e Noise-Cancelling Processor, which works with the WF-1000XM3’s microphones to intelligently filter out noise. Sony’s over-ear headphones have phenomenal noise-cancelling features, so I trust their noise cancellation technology a lot.

Sony partnered with Amazon to build its smart assistant, Alexa, into the earbuds. Once you’ve set this feature up, you can ask Alexa for answers to questions, or to change the settings on your smart-home accessories. If you have a pretty smart home, or prefer Alexa to the AI assistant preloaded onto your phone, this is a pretty great feature.

If you want a pair of totally wireless active noise-cancelling buds, and prioritize battery life and smart features over everything else, Sony’s WF-3000XM3 is our recommendation.

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