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The best noise-cancelling earbuds to buy in 2024

Best noise-cancelling earbuds - Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2

Enjoy your music, movies and podcasts in peace with the best noise-cancelling earbuds for all budgets

The best noise-cancelling earbuds are capable of cutting out a significant proportion of external sound without compromising on audio quality.

No longer just the purview of premium offerings, active noise cancellation has slowly trickled down into more affordable models. The technology itself has come along leaps and bounds, resulting in a market where you don’t need to pay the world in order to get decent sound attenuation from your earbuds.

READ NEXT: Best wireless earbuds

Of course, the other side of this coin is that more options make it increasingly difficult to pick the right pair for you. Fortunately, we’ve rigorously tested a huge number of noise-cancelling earbuds and you’ll find a selection of our favourites below. We’ve got options suited to all budgets, from impressive sub-£100 models to wallet-emptying alternatives, so whatever your fancy, there will be something to suit you.

If you’re not sure what to look out for in a pair of noise-cancelling earbuds, or, indeed, what exactly noise cancellation entails, our buying guide below covers the key points. Armed with that knowledge, read on to discover the best noise-cancelling earbuds on the market today.

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Sony's WF-C700N are now £79 in Amazon's Spring Sale

The Sony WF-C700N were already our best-value noise-cancelling earbuds but now priced at £79 via Amazon, down from an average cost of £92, they’re even more attractive.

Best noise-cancelling earbuds: At a glance

  • Best noise cancellation: Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds | Buy now
  • Best under £50: Anker SoundCore Life P3 | Buy now
  • Best all-rounders: Sony WF-1000XM5 | Buy now
  • Best sounding: Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 | Buy now
  • Best for Apple users: Apple AirPods Pro 2 | Buy now
  • Best for battery life: Creative Outlier Pro | Buy now

How we test noise-cancelling earbuds

As with all earbuds, we test the noise-cancelling earbuds considered for this list with a wide range of musical genres from a variety of sources, including streaming services and on-device audio, making sure to switch between each of the codec options that are supported by the buds. If the earbuds have a companion app, we trial each of the features offered within, seeing how effective and consistent control changes are and listening to the same song with different EQ options enabled, for instance.

Comfort can often be more of a personal preference, but we wear each pair of earbuds for hours on end at a time – including while travelling and working out, to assess how solid the fit is – so we get a good idea of how comfortable they are to wear during extended listening sessions. If a pair of earbuds is rated for splash resistance, we try them out in the rain or on a run, to confirm that they remain functional when faced with a bit of moisture.

Most pertinent for this list, of course, is the noise cancellation. As with audio quality, the name of the game here is variety, so we try out the ANC in as many real-world scenarios as possible, including train and tube travel, at the gym and in a busy office. If there are different levels of noise-cancelling on offer, we try each in an appropriate setting – testing a mild setting in a less noisy environment than we tested the maximum strength, for example.

The best noise-cancelling earbuds to buy in 2024

1. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Ultra: Most effective noise cancellation

Price when reviewed: £270 | Buy now from Amazon

Best noise-cancelling earbuds - Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds on a table The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds offer the best ANC money can buy, their transparency mode is exceptional, and you can create your own modes with varying levels of attenuation, meaning the buds can be customised to suit any situation.

In addition to class-leading ANC, the QC Earbuds Ultra offer aptx Adaptive support for devices with the Snapdragon Sound platform and Bose Immersive Audio – a spatial sound mode that works regardless of content type or platform. A comfortable fit, responsive touch controls and in-app EQ options round out a highly impressive offering, though the absence of Bluetooth multipoint and wireless charging rankles a little at this price point.

If you can live without high-resolution and spatial audio, buy the QuietComfort Earbuds II instead. Their ANC is almost as good and they cost just £200.

Read our Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review for more details

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 24hrs; Connections: Bluetooth 5.3; Weight: 6.2g per earbud, 59.8g charging case; IP rating: IPX4

2. Sony WF-C700N: Best-value noise-cancelling earbuds

Price when reviewed: £89 | Check price at Amazon sony wf-c700n beside case The Sony WF-C700N offer a compelling value proposition, delivering a robust set of features similar to that found on the manufacturer’s flagship WF-1000XM5 at a much lower price. They’re equipped with effective noise cancellation and offer a detailed and fatigue-free sound profile, and both the ANC and audio can be customised in the Sony Headphones app. Here you’ll find a ten-band graphic equaliser, clever ANC functionality (including location and action-based settings) and extras like 360 Reality Audio support.

Control customisation options are a little limited but the depressable controls themselves are responsive and straightforward to use. Battery life is a little undercooked too, with only 15hrs available from the buds and the case. But those are minor blots on the WF-C700N’s copybook and don’t prevent the buds from being an affordable, visually appealing option that budget-conscious consumers should look at with serious intent.

Read our Sony WF-C700N review for more details

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 15hrs; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 4.6g per earbud, 31g charging case; IP rating: IPX4

3. Anker Soundcore Life P3: The best noise cancellation under £50

Price when reviewed: £47 | Check price at Amazon

ANC used to be a luxury inclusion, but we’ve started to see the feature make its way into more affordable models. No wireless earbuds highlight this shift better than the Anker Soundcore Life P3, whose ANC performance is so impressive that it competes with many more expensive alternatives.

In addition to effective noise cancellation, the Life P3 also impress in the sound department. The Soundcore Signature audio profile boosts bass, but the weighty low end doesn’t disturb the overall balance, with the mid and upper registers maintaining a decent level of clarity. The EQ is also extremely customisable via the Soundcore app, with 20 presets to choose from and the ability to create three bespoke tunings via an eight-band graphic equaliser.

The narrow touch control receptors are slightly hit-and-miss when registering commands, and the in-ear fit could stand to be more snug, but the Life P3 are excellent value for money and a terrific choice for ANC on a budget.

Read our Anker Soundcore Life P3 review for more details

Key specs– Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 35hrs; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 5.5g per earbud, 50g charging case; IP rating: IPX5

4. Sony WF-1000XM5: Best all-rounders 

Price when reviewed: £229 | Check price at Amazonsony wf-1000xm5 earbudsThe Sony WF-1000XM5 fall slightly short of Bose’s sensational noise cancellation but still offer highly effective ANC and are the best all-rounders in their price bracket.

Sporting a smaller and lighter design than the Sony WF-1000XM4, the WF-1000XM5 have plenty of features worthy of your attention. There’s Sony’s Adaptive Sound Control, which can be used to adjust audio and ANC settings manually or automatically, high-res support courtesy of LDAC, DSEE upscaling and support for the Japanese manufacturer’s 360 Reality Audio format.

The XM5 sound great too, with a beefy bass performance that’s boosted by the use of new, larger Dynamic Driver X drivers. Sonically spot on, able to keep external distractions to a minimum and crammed full of useful features, the WF-1000XM5 tick just about every box.

Read our Sony WF-1000XM5 review for more details

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 24hrs; Connections: Bluetooth 5.3; Weight: 5.9g per earbud, 39g charging case; IP rating: IPX4

5. Anker Soundcore Liberty 4: Best mid-range ANC earbuds

Price when reviewed: £80 | Check price at Amazon

The Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 strike a superb balance between price, performance and features. Their adaptive noise cancellation is adept at neutralising background noise without affecting audio quality, which is just as well, as the buds sound terrific.

On the standard setting, audio is powerful and full of detail, while Soundcore’s take on spatial audio helps increase immersion by expanding the Liberty 4’s soundstage and giving each section of a composition more room to breathe. It doesn’t position sounds quite as accurately as pricier models like as the AirPods Pro 2 but is a welcome inclusion nonetheless.

There are a couple of things to be aware of – engaging spatial audio drains the battery life pretty fast, and the touch controls aren’t as customisable as some rivals – but considering what you’re getting for the money, they’re easy enough to ignore. For great noise cancellation and audio at a mid-range price, the Liberty 4 are the earbuds to pick.

Read our Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 review for more details

Key specs– Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 28hrs; Connections: Bluetooth 5.3; Weight: 10g per earbud, 44g charging case; IP rating: IPX4

6. Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2: The best-sounding ANC earbuds

Price when reviewed: £349 | Check price at Amazon

If you want the best-sounding ANC earbuds money can buy, the Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 are top of the class. Their sound signature is beautifully balanced, with powerful bass and sub-bass reproduction complemented by silky smooth and delightfully detailed vocals.

This fidelity is aided by a generous selection of supported codecs, and the Pi7 can connect to three Bluetooth sources simultaneously, which is a big plus. They also offer audio retransmission via their case, which allows you to connect to any non-Bluetooth output via a cable and redirect audio to the earbuds wirelessly.

The active noise cancellation employed may not compete with the best on this list, but it’s a solid effort nonetheless. Adaptive and automatic, the Pi7 S2’s ANC will adjust depending on how much sound the buds detect in your environment. The results don’t always hit the mark perfectly, but it’s a handy inclusion for times when you’re transitioning between places with varying ambient noise levels.

Read our Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 review for more details

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 21hrs; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 7g per earbud, 47g charging case; IP rating: IP54

7. Apple AirPods Pro 2: The best ANC earbuds for Apple users

Price when reviewed: £229 | Check price at Amazon

Best noise-cancelling earbuds - Apple AirPods Pro 2 outside of their charging case on a purple fabric backgroundApple aficionados after true wireless earbuds with ANC will be well aware of the AirPods line, but the best of the bunch are the latest and greatest AirPods Pro. While in appearance the second iteration Pro buds look relatively unchanged, internally Apple has made some serious upgrades.

Chiefly, a new H2 chipset and “high-excursion” driver bring even crisper sound at extreme frequencies. The AirPods Pro also run for a further six hours with ANC enabled, while the noise-cancelling technology itself has been improved by the introduction of Adaptive Transparency, which instantly muffles nearby loud noises. The results are impressive – especially when paired with Apple’s Spatial Audio, as part of Apple’s most immersive audio experience to date.

Throw in handy features like the ability to swipe up and down the earbud stem to alter volume, or track and locate your charging case as with Apple AirTags, and the AirPods Pro 2 are extremely well-rounded earbuds that are perfect for those already inside the Apple ecosystem.

Read our Apple AirPods Pro 2 review for more details

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 30hrs; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 5.4g per earbud, 50.8g charging case; IP rating: IPX4

8. Nothing Ear (2): Best ANC earbuds for contemporary design

Price when reviewed: £109 | Check price at Amazon

Best noise-cancelling earbuds - Nothing Ear (2)The Nothing Ear (2) don’t offer the best noise cancellation around, but there’s so much else to like here that they’re still worth considering. For starters, the design is particularly striking, with the Ear (2) featuring the same transparent plastic and exposed internals as the rest of the Nothing lineup.

Where their predecessors faltered on the audio front, the Nothing Ear (2) excel, adding new drivers and support for the LDHC 5.0 high-res codec to deliver engaging audio with weighty bass and excellent detail. Throw in more customisation options and a mild bump to battery life, and the Nothing Ear (2) are an impressively rounded package.

In-ear listening time does dip to a measly four hours with ANC engaged, and the noise cancellation is decent rather than class-leading for the money, but if you want style over sound attenuation, the Nothing Ear (2) are the way to go.

Read our full Nothing Ear (2) review for more details

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 36 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.3; Weight: 4.5g per earbud, 52g charging case; IP rating: IP54

9. Creative Outlier Pro: The best noise-cancelling earbuds for battery life

Price when reviewed: £55 | Check price at Amazon

While other options on this list offer great battery life, listeners who engage in marathon audio sessions should consider the Creative Outlier Pro. With ANC on, they’ll last you around ten hours in-ear, with a further three full charges in the case. Turn ANC off, and these figures jump to 15 hours in-ear and a whopping 60 hours total.

The Creative app gives you control over five levels of noise cancellation and ambient sound, allowing you to find the right setting for your environment. The ANC is effective at cutting out low-end rumbles and puts a decent dent in higher pitched frequencies, too, while the Ambient mode filters in enough external sound to let you hold a conversation.

The Outlier Pro’s sonic signature is warm and powerful, with the default profile offering rich, weighty bass that avoids encroaching upon the mid-range and treble. And, should you wish to tweak the EQ, there’s a companion app offering a wide selection of presets to choose from, ranging from R&B to country.

Read our full Creative Outlier Pro review for more details

Key specs – Built-in microphone and music control buttons: Yes; Battery life: 60 hours; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 4.1g per earbud, 30g charging case; IP rating: IPX5

How to choose the best noise-cancelling earbuds for you

What are the benefits of noise-cancelling earbuds?

As well as letting you enjoy audio with minimal distractions from the outside world, noise-cancelling earbuds can help protect your hearing. With the outside world leaking in, the tendency is often to crank the volume of your audio up. Loud-volume listening can damage your eardrums over time and potentially lead to permanent noise-induced hearing loss. Noise-cancelling earbuds let you listen at lower volumes, reducing the impact on your eardrums and better protecting your aural health.

What types of noise-cancellation are there?

Passive noise cancellation refers to the physical blocking of outside noise – this is achieved by using gel or foam tips that sit snugly in your ear canals. Most earbuds will come with a selection of different-sized tips, allowing you to get the closest fit possible for effective passive noise cancellation and, of course, comfort.

Active noise cancellation (ANC) uses microphones to pick up sounds from the world around you, such as the rumble of a train, and then produces opposing sound waves to cancel them out before they reach your eardrums. As high frequencies have a much shorter wavelength than lower ones, they’re harder to eliminate in real-time, so sounds like babies crying or a doorbell ringing will still make their way to your ears to some degree.

Different noise-cancelling earbuds use different combinations of microphones. Those that use feedback mics on the inside of the buds and feedforward mics on the outside of the buds are described as hybrid noise-cancelling setups. They’re typically more effective than those that rely solely on feedback or feedforward microphones.

What other features should I look out for?

While the efficacy of the noise cancellation is clearly a key consideration if you’ve found yourself here, there are several other factors that are worth bearing in mind when choosing a pair of ANC earbuds.

Battery life: The power required to implement noise cancellation takes a toll on battery life, and manufacturers typically state figures with ANC on and off. With in-ear stamina and additional juice from the charging case, 20 hours total audio playback is around average, though this will vary depending on volume levels and how much time you spend on calls.

Codec support: Audiophiles will want to make sure that the earbuds they choose support high-resolution codecs like Qualcomm’s aptX HD and aptX Adaptive or Sony’s LDAC. The SBC codec is pretty much universal, while Apple devices use AAC. Just bear in mind that your output device will need to support the codec: iPhones, for instance, aren’t compatible with aptX, so Apple users will want to look out for AAC support.

IP certification: If you’re planning on using your ANC earbuds to block out the din of your local gym, you’re going to want assurance that they can hold up against a bit of sweat. An IP rating reflects a device’s ability to withstand such endeavours, with the two digits after ‘IP’ indicating the resistance to particle and liquid ingress, respectively. IP67, for instance, is fully dust- and waterproof, while anything above IPX4 will be sufficiently protected against splashes of liquid like sweat and rain.

Touch controls: These have become pretty much ubiquitous, and allow you to perform actions like playing/pausing audio and skipping tracks without taking your phone out of your pocket. Some will have physical buttons that you push, but the majority of modern models use touch-sensitive panels.

Companion app: Like touch controls, companion apps are fairly commonplace these days. The level of customisation options offered will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but most will offer the ability to remap the controls and switch between different EQ presets.

Wear detection: This handy feature automatically pauses audio playback when you remove one of the buds from your ears and resumes when you put it back in. Once only found in the most expensive earbuds, wear detection is slowly making its way into more affordable models.

READ NEXT: Best headphones

How much should I spend on noise-cancelling earbuds?

The price of ANC earbuds can vary wildly depending on the audio quality and breadth of features. Previously only offered by high-ticket models, ANC can now be found in plenty of more affordable options, with surprisingly effective noise-cancelling earbuds available for less than £100.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you want the best of the best, you’ll naturally have to pay more for the privilege. Mid-range options that offer a smattering of great features can be picked up for between £100 and £200, while most premium offerings are priced between £200 and £350.

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