As it turns out, writing about the best noise cancelling earbuds is a difficult task. Now, it’s not difficult like climbing Everest or going to the gym every day for a month. It’s more like, finding a needle in a haystack difficult. And my task has not been made any easier by the amount of garbage content and intentionally vague product descriptions on popular e-commerce sites.
Take this search on Alpha XR for example. Over 22,000 noise cancelling earbuds products listed with over 3,000 four star plus rated products. They use terms like best earbuds for noise isolation and best earbuds for noise cancelling. It’s all designed to confuse shoppers into thinking they found a great deal.
Okay, what the heck is going on here, Mr. Noise Cancelling Earbuds Review Guy?
It’s simple really. People want – or at least are searching for – earbuds that will make the outside world a little less noisy. While earbuds themselves are nothing new, the popularity of over ear noise cancelling headphones from manufacturers like Bose has fueled market awareness for many years. Product manufacturers pay super close attention to the number of searches on platforms like Amazon and Google, so when something starts to pop they pounce. And pounce they have.
It’s only in recent times that earbuds have become one of the most important everyday accessories thanks in large part to the smartphone. Earbuds started with simple corded versions that most associate with the iPod and have evolved into all shapes, sizes, and functions. Our review of the best Bluetooth earbuds covers the most recent innovations. That means an influx of products at every price point and every style. But buyer beware. True noise cancelling earbuds are two things: A) Not Cheap and B) Not Common.
The Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds: Understanding Active vs. Passive Noise Cancelling
Breaking down why many of the so-called best noise cancelling earbuds are actually junk requires a bit of nuance that many manufacturers intentionally leave out: Active noise cancellation. Anything plugging your ear canal can be called the best earbuds for noise isolation. After all, they are essentially blocking sound from getting to your eardrum. While that’s a wonderful side effect of wearing earbuds, it should not be marketed and sold as a feature. And that’s what most cheap noise cancelling earbuds do.
Active noise cancellation is a hallmark of the select few best noise cancelling earbuds that make this roundup. That means the earbuds are actually listening to your surroundings. Then they create opposite waves of sound that cancel out the unwanted noise. It’s like wearing a second pair of ears over your own. That requires complex hardware, software, and power to work correctly. The best noise cancelling earbuds are the best because they have figured out how to pack all that tech into a tiny package. It’s also a reason why you won’t find true active noise cancelling Bluetooth earbuds. Sorry cord cutters, maybe next time. That said, there are plenty of great Bluetooth earbuds with long battery life – check out our roundup!
So lesson learned. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Now open your minds (and your wallets) and get ready for the product reviews…
1. Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds: Bose QuietComfort 20
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Bose makes the best noise cancelling earbuds on the market today. Unfortunately, there’s no escaping the price either. Coming in at a whopping you’re paying for quality.
You’ll also need to choose between Apple and Android devices, as Bose has calibrated each product for the specific operating system and hardware. The good news? Once you put them on you’ll be getting as close as you can in decibel-blocking power to over ear noise cancelling headphones. Oh, and your music will sound rich, deep, and nearly perfect too.
2. Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds: Phiaton BT 220
Though Phiaton may also belong in our best Bluetooth earbuds category they also have unusual active noise cancelling features. That’s not typical because packing in Bluetooth and active noise cancelling is a tough engineering feat. Phiaton manages to pull it off and deliver a product that frees you from wires while giving you peace and quiet. Unfortunately, you’ll also have to carry around a small box, which acts as the hardware to control the active noise cancellation.
It’s a bit of an annoyance, but necessary to achieve the desired results – which are very close to Bose in terms of quality. Plus, at the BT 220’s are less than half the cost of their more capable relative at Bose. That earns them a solid number two position in our list of best noise cancelling earbuds.
3. Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds: Mighty Rock HE8G
At the risk of slathering on too much cheese, the Mighty Rock HE8Gs do, in fact, rock. Sound is loud with plenty of range and the included smartphone app helps fine tune settings. The active noise cancellation is also present and effective. In fact, once the Mighty Rocks were firmly in place, we were barely able to hear background noise with music set to a reasonable volume. While is a lot to pay for a newcomer brand, we found the HE8Gs look and feel like a premium product. Time will tell how they wear, but for now Mighty Rock should feel proud to be number three in a very prestigious lineup of best noise cancelling earbuds.
Chances are, if you purchase one of our best noise cancelling earbuds recommendations you’ll be pretty happy. Remember that just because you can find earbuds with the words noise and cancelling in their product description does not mean they feature active noise cancelling tech. While you’ll get some natural noise cancellation from basic earbuds, you won’t find anything that actively cancels out ambient or background sound waves. Happy listening!
Thinking about drowning out the noise without active cancelling? Try our list of the best earbuds for bass and get skull-shattering sounds in a tiny package.