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A handsome man wearing a pair of true wireless earbuds amongst the majesty of nature Credit: Reviewed / Ryan Waniata

The Best Noise-Canceling Earbuds of 2022

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A handsome man wearing a pair of true wireless earbuds amongst the majesty of nature Credit: Reviewed / Ryan Waniata

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Editor's Choice Product image of Sony WF-1000XM4
Best Overall

Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony's flagship wireless earbuds aren't cheap, but they offer gorgeous sound, incredible battery life, and top-tier noise canceling. Read More

Pros

  • Fantastic noise canceling
  • Superb sound
  • Next-gen battery life

Cons

  • No good solution for volume control
  • Missing some features
Editor's Choice Product image of Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro
Best Value

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro

The Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro stand out in the true wireless space as an affordable collection of stellar features and sought-after sound. Read More

Pros

  • Great sound for the price
  • Thick with features
  • Good noise canceling for the price

Cons

  • Not ideal for active usage
  • Limited controls
Editor's Choice Product image of Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Bose's pricey new true wireless earbuds aren't perfect, but a good fit, clear sound, and class-leading noise cancellation make them contenders. Read More

Pros

  • Class leading noise canceling
  • Comfy, secure fit
  • Tight, present audio

Cons

  • Chunky design
  • Case has mediocre battery
  • Middling features for the price
Editor's Choice Product image of Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3

The Momentum True Wireless 3 deliver Sennheiser’s signature sound in a smaller, more comfortable package with greatly improved noise cancellation. Read More

Pros

  • Fantastic sound quality
  • Much improved ANC
  • Smaller footprint

Cons

  • Bulky, heavy case
  • No multipoint pairing
Editor's Choice Product image of Jabra Elite 85t True Wireless

Jabra Elite 85t True Wireless

The Jabra Elite 85t offer outstanding features, impressive sound, and serious noise canceling to put the AirPods Pro and plenty of others on notice. Read More

Pros

  • Outstanding features and design
  • Rich, balanced sound
  • Impressive noise canceling

Cons

  • Not as sport-friendly as other Jabra buds

For years, awesome noise canceling resided almost exclusively in over-ear headphones. But now, you can find a healthy number of true wireless earbuds that tamp down ambient noise nearly as well as their bulkier, over-ear counterparts. We test noise-canceling earbuds year-round to find the cream of the crop.

If you just want the best all-around noise-canceling earbuds, the excellent Sony WF-1000XM4 (available at Amazon for $278.00) are true ANC masters, which also tote great features and incredible sound. If those are too pricy, the impressive Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro (available at Amazon) offer surprisingly good noise cancelation at a great value. But there are plenty of other top performers listed below, so you can find the perfect pair to grant you the lovely sounds of silence.

These are the best noise-canceling earbuds we tested, ranked in order:

  1. Sony WF-1000XM4
  2. Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro
  3. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
  4. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3
  5. Jabra Elite 85t
  6. Beats Fit Pro
  7. Apple AirPods Pro
  8. Jabra Elite 7 Active
  9. Panasonic RZ-S500
  10. Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
The black and copper Sony WF-1000XM4 sit inside their case with the lid open atop a mossy boulder with pink roses in the background.
Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

The Sony WF-1000XM4 offer brilliant sound, incredible noise canceling, and other premium features to make them amongst the best buds you can buy.

Best Overall
Sony WF-1000XM4

With incredible sound quality, innovative design, and noise-canceling that puts nearly all other choices to shame, the WF-1000XM4 are an easy choice as the best noise-canceling buds you can buy.

There’s only one pair of earbuds you’ll find that compares to the XM4's noise-canceling: Bose’s well-regarded QuietComfort Buds. Both pairs have their pros and cons, but the XM4 outrank their rivals thanks to traits like a smaller profile, next-gen battery life of up to 8 hours with active noise canceling (ANC) and a whopping 12 hours without it, great features, and gorgeous sound.

It’s worth saying a bit more about that sound, as it’s among the best you’ll find in the genre. It’s sweet, smooth, accessible, and yet riddled with detail. And thanks to the XM4's powerful noise-canceling, it’s all the more accessible. You’ll find tranquility with these earbuds on a level that’s hard to find with any headphones.

The WF-1000XM4 also have plenty of features in concert with Sony’s Headphones Connect app, which lets you tweak the EQ to your heart's content (something Bose's buds don't offer), tinker with their many settings, and even set the earbuds to swap between noise canceling and ambient audio based on your routines and locations. They also offer standard IPX4 water resistance.

Their design includes comfy foam tips for a stable seal. They also offer accurate touch controls, though that's where we’ll raise our primary complaint: unlike Bose's buds, the XM4 don’t allow you to use volume controls without giving up other integral functionality. In addition, they miss a few extras like Find My Earbuds and multipoint pairing, both features we’d like to see in this price range.

Still, with all their spoils and top performance, the XM4 are not only the best all-around noise-canceling earbuds, but also some of the best wireless earbuds you can buy. If you’re after a more affordable pair of Sony noise cancelers (and you don’t need water resistance), Sony’s WF-1000XM3 are still a solid buy as well.

Pros

  • Fantastic noise canceling

  • Superb sound

  • Next-gen battery life

Cons

  • No good solution for volume control

  • Missing some features

Credit: Reviewed/Nick Woodard

The Liberty Air 2 Pro offer spoils of features and excellent performance at a great price.

Best Value
Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro

The Liberty Air 2 Pro’s offer surprisingly good active noise cancellation, the first of their kind from Anker's Soundcore line to do so. The noise reduction is not quite as impactful as some of the pricier options on our list, but for such a low price point, effective ANC with equally adequate transparency mode is a serious feat—especially considering their AirPods Pro-like, semi-open fit.

Soundcore makes both ANC and equalization fully customizable, but we found sticking to the earbuds’ Soundcore Signature setting delivered the kind of balanced sound that suits most musical genres.

Other features include IPX4 water resistance and solid battery life of around six hours with ANC and seven without. Those numbers are about middle-pack for this space, but that’s nice to see considering their cost. We do wish Soundcore had made these earbuds more secure for workouts and found a way to offer more comprehensive controls. That being said, those are small transgressions for an otherwise value-packed pair of true wireless earbuds.

If you're looking for a budget pair of noise cancelers with impressive performance and AirPods styling, the Liberty Air 2 Pro are very tough to beat.

Pros

  • Great sound for the price

  • Thick with features

  • Good noise canceling for the price

Cons

  • Not ideal for active usage

  • Limited controls

Other Top Noise-Canceling Earbuds We Tested

Product image of Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds were designed from the ground up for one thing: brilliant active noise cancellation. On that front they succeed immensely, offering world-class ANC that matches brilliantly with Sony's WF-10000XM4 as the best in the genre. The QuietComfort also offer elegant design, clear sound, and a comfy and secure fit that keeps them in place under duress.

In order to get those features, however, you’ll have to deal with a hefty price tag and some compromises elsewhere in the design, which keeps them from the top of our list. The extra-large earbuds weigh a gram more per bud than Sony's pair, and they come with a chunky charging case that offers only two recharges for a relatively low 18 hours of total battery. The stylized sound is good, but also doesn't quite match our favorite earbuds at this price point, sometimes becoming a bit sharp in the upper register.

On the other hand, we applaud Bose for adding onboard volume control to the earbuds about a month after release via swipes up and down on the right bud. The Bose Music app allows you to adjust noise cancellation levels in multiple ways, the loudness of your own voice during phone calls, and other parameters, though there are some features excluded we'd expect for buds like these, including some form of EQ to switch up the sound signature and (even odder) the ability to skip songs backward from the controls.

While we wish Bose would have thrown in a bit more for your money, what you're really paying for is a comfortable and stable fit and killer noise cancellation, and that's exactly what you get.

Pros

  • Class leading noise canceling

  • Comfy, secure fit

  • Tight, present audio

Cons

  • Chunky design

  • Case has mediocre battery

  • Middling features for the price

Product image of Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3
Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3

Sennheiser’s latest true wireless buds offer everything we like about the previous iteration, while improving on the active noise canceling in a big way. While it was passable in the Momentum TW 2, the TW 3 go back to the drawing board for responsive and powerful adaptive noise cancellation that stands tall with the best in the business.

Of course, the earbuds also keep our favorite aspect about the previous pair, namely their fantastic sound quality. The new pair offers a more stylized soundstage that’s a bit brighter than before, but also a smidge clearer with more attention to detail. If you don’t love the sound as is, the three-band EQ allows for basic adjustment (though we wouldn’t have minded more control there). Battery life is competitive at 7 hours per charge and 28 total with the charging case.

Other notable features include adjustable controls (including volume controls on by default), a new wireless charging case (finally), and standards like auto-pause and the ability to use one earbud at a time. They also offer advanced audio codecs like aptX Adaptive and AAC for improved sound for Android or iPhone respectively.

The buds keep the same IPX4 water resistance, but their new design makes them sportier and comfier thanks to multiple ear tips and fins to keep them tight in your ear. They may not be your go-to running buds, but they’ll work in a pinch for most any activity. Perhaps the best news is that all the improvements come with a lower MSRP than Sennheiser’s previous pair—you can thank a competitive market there.

As for downsides, we still don’t find these buds quite as comfortable as semi-open pairs like the Jabra Elite 85t and Apple AirPods Pro, and their charging case is both heftier and bulkier than most competitors. Like Sony’s WF-1000XM4, there’s also no earbuds finder available and the buds don’t yet have multipoint connection (though it’s something Sennheiser plans to add in a firmware update).

Sennheiser’s latest cook up a winning combination, mixing lots of features, a slimmer and sportier design, and powerful noise cancellation to go along with excellent sound.

Pros

  • Fantastic sound quality

  • Much improved ANC

  • Smaller footprint

Cons

  • Bulky, heavy case

  • No multipoint pairing

Product image of Jabra Elite 85t True Wireless
Jabra Elite 85t True Wireless

Jabra’s Elite 85t really have it all: smooth and balanced sound, comprehensive controls, a compact form factor, great features and, of course, impressive active noise cancellation (ANC). While it's not on par with Bose or Sony's top models, it's just a tier below them, and more than strong enough to make them a great choice as your go-to noise cancelers.

The 85t's robust ANC is all the more impressive given their semi-open design, which keeps your ears feeling comfortable for long periods. While a more bulbous design means the fit isn’t quite as secure as other Jabra buds, their oval tips assure you won’t hear yourself chewing, walking, or jogging in the same way as more sealed ear tips. And yet, music and noise canceling are intimate and effective respectively.

That makes the Elite 85t direct competitors to Apple’s open-style AirPods Pro, but with more features for either side of the mobile aisle, and a more active-ready design to boot. Since they’re device agnostic, you can choose any of the major voice assistants (or none), and they offer all the controls you need (including volume control by default) for whichever mobile device you prefer.

Speaking of controls, they’re customizable through Jabra’s excellent Sound+ app, allowing you to configure the buds’ two easy-push buttons as you see fit. Also customizable are noise cancellation and transparency mode, the latter of which is among the most natural-sounding you’ll hear on the market to keep you aware of your environment in style—again, a direct shot across the AirPods Pro bow.

The word "natural" keeps coming up when using the Elite 85t, and it's a big key to their success. You can wear them for hours, even when you’re not listening to audio, and never miss a beat thanks to how seamlessly they transition between noise canceling and transparency mode; a few taps of the keys (even while wearing gloves) lets you slide between jamming out in solitude and striking up a conversation. Multipoint pairing also makes it easy to switch between your computer and your mobile device.

As for downsides, the battery isn't as good as what you'll get from Sony's WF-1000XM4 and, as referenced above, the fit isn't as stable as purpose-built workout buds. Finally, while you can use one bud at a time, only the right one will pull off the trick, which makes them less versatile in this use case than some competitors.

Otherwise, they've got just about any feature you can dream up. If you're looking for killer noise canceling and a brilliant range of features for less cash than our top pick, the Elite 85t deliver good sound, great features, and the best usability on the market.

Pros

  • Outstanding features and design

  • Rich, balanced sound

  • Impressive noise canceling

Cons

  • Not as sport-friendly as other Jabra buds

Product image of Beats Fit Pro
Beats Fit Pro

It’s been a long time since Apple AirPods Pro hit the scene, but they’ve long maintained their status as the most popular true wireless earbuds for pairing with iPhones. But for savvy buyers, the Beats Fit Pro have finally usurped them as the best choice for most iOS users. And, like the AirPods Pro, they're also surprisingly solid noise cancelers.

Along with similar noise canceling and transparency mode to their AirPods cousins, they also offer some clear advantages. They provide longer battery life (6 hours with noise canceling, 7 without), a more secure fit thanks to their rubbery fins, and comparable if not better sound quality. They're also a much better choice for Android users, thanks to the dedicated Beats app.

The Fit Pro also offer the full library of iOS features. There’s iCloud/Music Sharing, Hands-Free Siri, Spatial Audio with Dynamic Head Tracking, and Find My tracking so you won’t lose them. Right down to Apple’s H1 chip, the Fit Pro are essentially the AirPods Pro in a sportier, updated package.

That’s not to say the Fit Pro are perfect. During testing, they weren’t quite as clear as the AirPods Pro when it came to voice calling in a windy environment. You also can’t wirelessly charge their case, and they can occasionally be finicky on Android phones.

But that's mostly nitpicking. While the AirPods Pro are still a great choice, the Beats Fit Pro are our favorite iPhone companions right now—and they do a great job of holding back the noisy world around you, too.

Pros

  • Clear, balanced sound

  • Good noise canceling

  • Ample feature set

Cons

  • Can be finicky on Android

  • No EQ modes

  • Case lacks wireless charging

Product image of Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple's AirPods Pro take everything we love about the traditional AirPods and ramp things up a notch (or three). That includes impressive noise canceling in a light and comfortable form factor. If you're all Apple, these should be (and no-doubt already are) high on your list.

Alongside their solid noise reduction, the AirPods Pro sound better than all Apple earbuds before them, and also add proper water resistance (finally). What’s more, these are the first Apple earbuds with swappable silicone ear tips, making it simple for just about anyone to get a comfortable fit. Their semi-open design and ultra-light weight makes it easy to wear them for hours.

The AirPods Pro's Transparency Mode is among the most effective and natural-sounding we’ve experienced, allowing you to pipe in the outside world for those times you want to be aware of your surroundings. The call quality—which uses dual microphones plus digital distortion reduction—is also excellent. The design also makes them incredibly easy to pair, particularly with Apple devices, allowing you to swap between anything linked to your iCloud.

If there's a downside to their feature set it's that most extra features like their Spatial Audio, auto-pairing, and Siri on-demand only work with Apple gear, as there's no dedicated app for Android users to tap into. They also don't offer onboard volume control, requiring you to ask Siri for help instead. At two years old, battery life is also getting less competitive at only 4.5 to 5 hours, though the pocket-friendly charging case holds multiple recharges for 24 hours total listening time, and 5 minutes of charge gets you an hour of listening.

The AirPods Pro's noise canceling isn't the best you'll find and does introduce some white noise, especially in extra-loud situations. But they're still a great pick for iPhone users, acting as your go-to headphones for everyday use, long trips by train or plane, working from home, and even light workouts. It's for all these reasons that they're some of the most popular earbuds on the planet.

Pros

  • Active noise cancellation

  • Silicon tips ensure a more comfortable fit

  • Easy setup and syncing

Cons

  • Sub-par audio quality for the price

  • No onboard volume controls

Product image of Jabra Elite 7 Active
Jabra Elite 7 Active

The Jabra Elite 7 Active, which step in to replace the Elite Active 75t, are the best workout headphones we've tried thanks to their nimble design, stable fit, and hearty IP57-rated dust and water resistance that lets you safely rinse them off after a sweaty session. But this is no one-trick pony—these buds also offer plenty of excellent usability features, including solid active noise canceling.

On top of that, the Elite 7 Active will net you nearly every bell and whistle you might need. A finder function makes sure you won't lose track of them. Transparency mode lets you hear the world around you, so you can stay aware in nearly any situation. Their mid-tier noise canceling is customizable for your environment, and Jabra even released a firmware update that adds multipoint pairing so you can pair them to your phone and work computer at the same time.

The Elite 7 Active offer solid audio performance, though their brighter sound signature may need some EQ to smooth things out. Still, their sound will satisfy most casual listeners and power users alike, especially once you take Jabra's personalization sound test.

The Elite 7 Active's signature Jabra playback controls are intuitive and customizable (thanks to the loaded Jabra Sound+ app) to make for one of the best user experiences in the true wireless game. The updated design, while more intrusive, proved more stable and comfortable than the 75t in our testing. They also offer around 7-8 hours of battery life per charge with ANC (and 35 hours with the case) which is a good step up from their predecessors.

The Jabra Elite 7 Active are a great pick for your workout and more, offering superb overall performance, durability, and a well-rounded user experience. In addition, if you need improved calling the Elite 7 Pro are nearly identical to their cousins, but trade additional calling software for a less grippy exterior.

Either way, you'll be getting a great pair of durable earbuds that don't just cancel the noise, but also take on virtually any scenario you can throw at them.

Pros

  • Snug and stable fit

  • Great battery and waterproofing

  • Loaded with features

Cons

  • So-so default sound

  • Some mild performance quirks

Product image of Panasonic RZ-S500W
Panasonic RZ-S500W

Panasonic's RZ-S500W won our favor with a brilliant combination of great sound and top-notch noise canceling at a price that easily undercut major competitors upon release. Since then, the buds have gotten plenty of competition, but they're still a very solid option in their own right.

The RZ-S500W serve up powerful noise cancellation across frequencies for a comforting realm of sanctity from barking dogs, yelling kids, and much more. From vacuuming to lawn mowing, they're up to the task.

While their treble region can occasionally be slightly tinny, the sound overall is clear and balanced, offering high-quality listening across musical genres, podcasts, and more. Panasonic’s app adds to the package, letting you adjust everything from EQ to noise cancellation and transparency mode (AKA ambient sound mode, hearthrough mode) so you can choose exactly how much environmental sound you let in or keep out. With around 6 hours of playback per charge, the RZ-S500W aren't the tops for battery life, but it's still better than you'll get from Apple's AirPods Pro.

As for drawbacks, their charging case only holds two charges, meaning you’ll have to top it off more frequently than most rivals. On top of that, while we found the RZ-S500W quite comfortable, their fit can be tricky for some due to their somewhat bulky design. Even when they're properly sealed, they tend to jostle during rigorous activities, making them a much better fit for your office (home or otherwise) than your daily jog.

That said, the RZ-S500W offer generous features and good build quality, including IPX4 water resistance, positioning them as a fantastic value even at their original MSRP.

Pros

  • Excellent noise cancellation

  • Clean, balanced sound

  • Impressive feature set

Cons

  • Battery life is so-so

  • Fit may be tricky for some

Product image of Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro represent Samsung's obvious attempt to create a pair of earbuds just as special and impressive for Samsung phones as Apple’s AirPods Pro are for iPhones. And the gambit worked pretty dang well. Samsung has loaded up a feature-packed pair of earbuds bespoke for the Samsung faithful that offer plenty for those outside the Samsung family, too, including solid active noise canceling.

While their ANC isn't top of the charts, it's good enough to make these versatile buds a worthy choice. It does a great job with low-end drone noises, though it does have a bit more trouble with higher register sounds.

But that’s just the tip of their feature set. They also offer adjustable ambient audio, which is boostable for super hearing, alongside stalwarts like the ability to use one bud at a time, a wireless charging case, and a Find My Earbuds function. One particularly interesting feature is Voice detect, designed to pause ANC and engage ambient mode when you speak so you can keep in touch with those around you hands-free, though we found it can be overzealous at times.

Most of the Galaxy Buds Pro’s top features will work for any phone with Samsung’s Wear app, but Samsung also saved some extras for the Samsung faithful, including auto-pairing, Bixby wakeup, and even a 3D audio feature for the Galaxy S21 and up. In other words, it pays to be heavily invested in Samsung’s ecosystem here.

Samsung does well to straddle both sides of that line, though, adding design traits everyone can enjoy such as class-leading water resistance (IPX7) and impressive, well-balanced sound that’s as good at bumping beats as it is carving out ultra-clear detail or serving up phone calls.

There are some downsides, including a fit that can wear on the ears over time (and can jostle during some activities), and battery life that’s just so-so (less than 5 hours per charge with ANC). In addition, so far we’ve found the case doesn’t charge the earbuds as quickly as advertised, meaning you’ll have to wait longer once you lose juice.

That said, Samsung has created a winner here thanks to a well-rounded feature list, impressive audio performance, and a great price that make its Galaxy Buds Pro ANC contenders—especially if you’re toting around a new Samsung phone.

We'd also be remiss if we didn't give honorable mention to Samsung's more affordable Galaxy Buds 2. While they don't offer as many features as their pricier siblings, they offer solid ANC for their low price point, as well as a gorgeous design and impressive, snappy sound.

Pros

  • Powerful, nuanced sound

  • Plenty of features

  • Stylish, micro-sized design

Cons

  • Battery life just OK

  • Sluggish charging

  • Touchy controls


How We Tested Noise-Canceling Earbuds

The Testers

Hi, I’m Ryan Waniata, Managing Editor of Electronics at Reviewed. For over a decade now headphones have been a passion for me, from my time in recording studios with audiophile cans to my first pair of true wireless earbuds, the Bragi Dash. I’ve listened to hundreds of headphone models in my career, and I still get excited every time I unbox a fresh pair.

Other contributors to this list include Reviewed's former Home Theater editor, Lee Neikirk, and Nick Woodard, a tech journalist specializing in all things related to home theater and A/V.

The Tests

True wireless earbuds all come with two individual buds—no wires between them—and a charging case.
Credit: Reviewed.com / TJ Donegan

True wireless earbuds all come with two individual buds—no wires between them—and a charging case.

For this list, we focused on several key pain points that consumers typically run into when buying both wireless and “true wireless” earbuds (those completely free of any wires): battery life, ease of use, controls, wireless range, sound quality, sound isolation, and comfort. And, of course, we put a special, laser-sharp focus on active noise canceling (ANC).

For sound quality tests, we put the earbuds through a battery of basic audio tests to judge features like noise canceling across low and high frequencies, as well as passive and active noise attenuation to see how well each earbud blocks outside noise. From there, we use all the earbuds extensively, playing a wide variety of test tracks ranging from classical to hip-hop, rock, jazz, and more.

We further test the noise canceling in a variety of environments, including using speakers blasting airplane engine droning, a pink noise generator, and a crowd noise emulator in a confined environment with high-quality speakers. We also test them in real-world environments, including (when possible) traveling on airplanes, walking around busy streets, and multiple other scenarios.

Other features are all tested in real-life situations, including sweat proofing, short- and long-term comfort, battery life, microphone quality, and connectivity over distances and through obstacles like doors and walls. All of this data is compiled in our master rubric to determine rankings as scientifically as possible.

Perhaps the biggest missing link in all headphone reviews is durability. It's simply impossible for us to test a single pair and come to a meaningful conclusion about how well they'll hold up over time and with regular use (and abuse). To account for this, we noted any major issues that popped up in user reviews (where available), though this didn't impact the final scoring. We also use these earbuds over a prolonged period and update their firmware when available to test out the latest features and update relevant articles and reviews with our findings.

The truth is that wireless earbuds across the board have struggled with durability, so this is a major cause of concern for us. Since some of these models are quite new, we are reserving the right to re-evaluate our conclusions as we become aware of any major issues or pain points as time goes on.

What You Should Know About Buying Noise-Canceling Earbuds

Knowing the basic terminology of headphones, including noise-canceling earbuds, is the best way to estimate what you need. This will guide you toward deciding on which features you truly need, and where you may want to compromise to fit your budget. Below are a few important terms to know before you shop.

  • Active Noise Cancellation: Noise-canceling headphones, i.e those with active noise cancellation (ANC) aren't just for frequent flyers. Originally developed for pilots, this headphone technology reduces the impact of ambient noise around you using phase cancellation of unwanted frequencies. ANC headphones have become a mainstay for travelers, public transit commuters, gym-goers, and those working in distracting environments in the office or at home. All of our picks here feature solid ANC, though obviously not all of them employ it in exactly the same way or with exactly the same effectiveness.

  • Bluetooth/wireless: Do you want wireless headphones? A pair of Bluetooth headphones will let you unplug from your source device, while a set of "true wireless" earbuds are even more minimalist, offering totally wire-free listening with no cable between the earbuds. If you're looking for an experience that won't tether you to your phone, tablet, or laptop, Bluetooth headphones are what you need—and fortunately, they're ubiquitous enough these days that you can find them in every style and price range.

  • Transparency mode: This feature goes by many names, including hear through mode, ambient sound mode, etc. All of these phrases refer to the same technology, which uses tiny microphones on the exterior of your headphones or earbuds to filter in sound from your environment. The purpose is to keep you aware of your surroundings, letting you play tunes while you jog or hike, while still being aware of dangers or alerts. Not all transparency mode is created equal, though, and how a headphone’s hardware and software handle things like wind gusts can make a serious difference in the feature’s utility.

  • IP: You'll encounter an "IP" rating across a wide array of electronics but the term is perhaps most important (in the headphone world anyway) when it comes to products designed to take on the elements. You'll often see the code "IPX" with a number at the end, or you may see codes like IP67, etc. The first number is dust resistance—essentially how well the product stands up to ingress, and the higher the number the better. The second number is water resistance. The highest you'll likely see for headphones is "7" which means the product is certified to withstand being fully submerged in one meter of water (freshwater only) for 30 minutes. For headphones, anything from IPX4 (meaning the headphones can withstand splashes from any direction) and above should do the trick. You can find more info in our IP guide.


Meet the testers

Lee Neikirk

Lee Neikirk

Editor, Home Theater

@Koanshark

Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.

See all of Lee Neikirk's reviews
Ryan Waniata

Ryan Waniata

Managing Editor - Electronics

@ryanwaniata

Hailing originally from Montana, Ryan parlayed his time working as a musician and audio engineer into a career in digital media in 2012. Since then he's had extensive experience as a writer and editor, including everything from op-eds and features to reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more.

See all of Ryan Waniata's reviews
Nick Woodard

Nick Woodard

Contributor

@@nwoodard25

Nick Woodard is a tech journalist specializing in all things related to home theater and A/V. His background includes a solid foundation as a sports writer for multiple daily newspapers, and he enjoys hiking and mountain biking in his spare time.

See all of Nick Woodard's reviews

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