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The best noise-canceling true wireless earbuds for 2021

Looking for a set of true-wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation? There are more options than just Apple's AirPods Pro.

Active noise cancellation headphones, also known as ANC headphones, work by essentially producing a mirror image sound wave in your ear to electronically counteract or "cancel out" external noise. The technology works best in environments where there's a sustained din, like the droning of a jet engine -- which is why Bose ANC wireless earphones became a status symbol at airports.

The technology used to be restricted to full-size over-ear headphones. But in just the past few years, it's been shrunk down to earbud size. Sony's 2018 models, the WF-SP700N and WF-1000X, were the trailblazers, but Apple's AirPods Pro have taken noise-canceling earbuds mainstream. To that end, we've rounded up the best true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation, all of which I've personally used. As more competitors keep coming after Apple, we'll see many more models hit the market, and we'll update this list accordingly. 

Looking for ANC headphones in all styles, including on-ear headphones or over-ear headphones? Check out the best noise-canceling headphones of 2021. Keep reading here to find out which models I consider to be the best noise-canceling wireless earbuds.

Now playing: Watch this: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: Best noise canceling
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It took Bose quite a while to get them into stores, but the new $279 noise-canceling QuietComfort Earbuds are finally here. In many ways, they're excellent true wireless earbuds, particularly when it comes to their sound and noise canceling, which is arguably the best out there right now in a set of earbuds. Performance-wise, they clearly have a leg up on Apple's best-selling AirPods Pro true wireless noise-canceling buds. However, the AirPods Pro's smaller design, somewhat more comfortable fit and superior voice-calling capabilities make it hard to declare the Bose the straight-up champ. Ultimately, it depends on what your priorities are.

Read our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.

 

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The second-gen Momentum True Wireless 2 pair of headphones, available now, aren't cheap at $300, but they're better all around than the originals. These wireless headphones come with a slightly smaller, more comfortable design, active noise cancellation rivaling that of the AirPods Pro, improved battery life (up to 7 hours versus the originals' 4) and better noise reduction and ambient noise blocking during calls. And if you don't like them in black, a white version is available as well. Most importantly, though, the Momentum True Wireless 2 have the same stellar sound -- for true wireless earbuds, anyway -- clearly superior in sound quality to the AirPods Pro. That makes them arguably the best true wireless earbuds on the market today and earns them a CNET Editors' Choice Award.

These use Bluetooth 5.1 with support for the AAC and AptX codecs (for devices that have AptX like Samsung's Galaxy phones).

Read our Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review.

 

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If you get a tight seal (three different sized ear tips are included), 1More's ComfoBuds Pro not only sounds good but also performs well as a headset for making calls, with three microphones in each earbud. There's a touch of presence boost in the treble and the bass packs good punch, which gives these a dynamic sound profile (they're not laid-back) and they play loud for those looking for that.

You can toggle between two levels of noise cancellation (as well as "off") using the touch controls -- and there's a pass-through transparency mode and a wind noise-reduction mode. You can also toggle through all of those modes using the companion app for iOS and Android. Battery life is rated at 6 hours with noise canceling on and 8 hours with it off. The earbuds are IPX4 rated for water-resistance, which means they're splashproof (same as the AirPods Pro). 

In short, if you don't want to spend $200 or so on the AirPods Pro, the 1More ComfoBuds Pro is a good budget alternative. Note that 1More also makes an open version of the ComfoBuds (see below), which is similar to the standard AirPods and costs around $50 (see below). This Pro version is better.

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Anker's Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro ($130), the company's first earbuds to feature active noise canceling, are a mostly excellent set of true-wireless earbuds that measure up pretty well against Apple's AirPods Pro for significantly less money. Like the AirPods Pro, they have an IPX4 water-resistance rating (splashproof). 

While I had an issue with the included ear tips and had to use some other tips (it's crucial to get a tight seal or both noise canceling and sound quality will suffer), they should fit most people comfortably. Sound quality is better than Anker's earlier Liberty Air 2 and the noise canceling is effective. These also work well as a headset for making calls and are available in multiple color options. Read our Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review.

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Master & Dynamic's earlier MW07 and MW07 Plus delivered top-notch sound for true wireless, but they were a little lacking in the features department and weren't so great for making calls. The new-for-2021 MW08 offers some significant improvements, including the addition of solid noise cancellation and call quality, that makes it one of the top models for 2021. Alas, it's expensive at $299.

Battery life has improved a bit (up to around 12 hours of battery life at 50% volume versus 10 hours for the MW07 Plus), and the earbuds are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, active noise cancellation with three microphones on each earbud (noise reduction during calls isn't up to the level of the AirPods Pro but overall call quality has improved). The noise-canceling on the MW07 Plus was pretty weak; the MW08's is much more effective.  

You can opt for two levels of noise cancellation in the new M&D Connect app for iOS and Android, as well as two levels of transparency that lets you hear the outside world. The app currently has no way to tweak the sound profile ('m OK with that because the sound profile is just fine for my tastes) and the earbuds have a physical button on each bud to control playback, not touch controls.

The 'buds may not fit everyone's ear equally well, but they certainly have a distinct look, as well as excellent sound and a great listening experience if you can get a tight seal (I was able to get a secure fit with the largest tip). They deliver more of an audiophile sound profile, with smooth, well-balanced sound and well-defined bass. This model has new 11mm drivers, which add a bit of punch to the bass and a touch better clarity. The MW08 works well with all genres of music.

Available in a variety of color options for $300, like their predecessors, the MW08 includes a swanky stainless-steel charging case (it charges via USB-C) that's compact but carries more weight than your typical buds cases. I prefer the matte finishes of the cases that come with the black and blue versions, and you also get a secondary pouch for safekeeping (yes, the charging case can get scratched up if you leave it in a bag).

These truly wireless earbuds now support both the aptX and AAC audio codecs and have an extended range of more than 20 meters, according to Master & Dynamic.

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The EarFun Free Pro buds offer strong features and sound for a modest price. They have active noise cancellation with a transparency mode, wireless charging and Bluetooth 5.2. Rated for 7 hours of battery life without the noise-canceling function or about 6 hours with it activated, they're IPX5 water-resistant, which means they can withstand a sustained spray of water.

They sound very good for the money, with relatively clean, balanced sound and bass that has some kick to it -- they're pretty open-sounding. Lightweight and comfortable to wear, they have little fins that help keep them securely in your ears, and they're fairly discreet-looking.

Don't expect them to cancel noise as well as the AirPods Pro, but they do provide some decent muffling. It's worth noting that you can use either the left or right earbud independently and there's a low-latency mode for video watching (and presumably gaming). Call quality was decent, too: Callers said they heard some background noise but it wasn't intrusive and they could hear my voice well. The touch controls were responsive. 

If you're choosing between the EarFun Free Pro and the Mpow X3 (below), it comes down to the style of the earbuds. The X3 earbuds have a stick-style design, while these don't.

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Even if they don't sound as magical as you'd hope a $249 model would, the AirPods Pro still manages to be a great pair of true wireless noise-canceling earbuds. That's largely due to their winning design and ear fit, improved bass performance, effective noise cancellation and excellent call quality. Yeah, these high-quality headphones are expensive, but the good news is you'll use them all the time. It is worth noting that you'll probably wear the battery down -- it does degrade over time and isn't replaceable -- and have to buy a new pair of earbuds in 18 to 24 months, if you don't lose these first. Regardless, man, will you look good when listening to your music.

Read our Apple AirPods Pro review.

 

Samsung

The Galaxy Buds Pro -- Samsung's long-awaited active noise-canceling earbuds -- have arrived with upgraded sound and high expectations to live up to for $200. (Yes, the Buds Live also have noise canceling, but it's pretty modest.) I've been mostly impressed, particularly with the sound quality and call quality, and there are some nice bonus features, including an improved ambient noise mode with voice detection. There's also a virtual surround feature that currently only works with the new Galaxy S21 models but will slowly trickle out to other Galaxy devices. The noise canceling is also effective if you get a tight seal from the included ear tips. That said, just how good you think they are will ultimately depend on how well they fit your ears. Read the CNET review.

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The Mpow X3 sound shockingly good for the price, with decent clarity and powerful bass (they play loud), and they even have active noise canceling that's fairly effective. They list for $60 on Amazon, but frequently dip to $50 or close to it. Note: The white version offers some small upgrades over the black version and costs slightly more. (Alas, it's currently out of stock, but should return soon). 

They did fit me comfortably and securely, and I got a tight seal from one of the XL ear tips. They're fully waterproof (IPX8) and get up to seven hours of battery life at moderate volume levels with USB-C charging. (The charging case looks like a fatter version of the standard Apple AirPod case.) Call quality is good -- they have a sidetone feature that lets you hear your voice in the 'buds -- but I've used other models with better noise reduction during calls. I noticed a touch of audio lag when I streamed a YouTube video, but I had no issues when streaming iTunes movies.

The touch controls take some getting used to (they're a little wonky), and it didn't help that the instructions in the box seemed to be for an older version of the X3 (I found the current instructions online, which helped me figure things out). Aside from a few minor downsides, the X3 is a very good value.

While the Elite 75t earbuds have been out for a while, they're still one of the best pairs of true wireless earbuds out there, and Jabra recently added noise canceling via a firmware upgrade. Earlier firmware updates improved voice-calling performance. 

The Elite 75t aren't quite as comfortable to wear as the AirPods Pro, but they do sound better, with clearer overall sound and better bass audio quality definition, so long as you get a tight seal.

The slightly more rugged Elite Active 75t model is also available for about $20 more, but with the new Elite 85t earbuds' arrival we are seeing some sales on the Elite 75t.

Read our Jabra Elite 75t review.

 

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I had Edifier's TWS NB2 ($100) on this list and then the very similar-looking EarFun Air Pro earbuds came along. No, they're not exactly the same as the TWS NB2 earbuds, which have a companion app, a "low-latency" gaming mode and a nicer textured finish on its case. But they're very close and the EarFun Air Pro model costs a good deal less when you factor in extra discounts.

As I had previously said about the Edifier, the EarFun Air earbuds distinguish themselves with a comfortable fit, decent noise cancellation (though not great) and nicely balanced sound with good clarity and well-defined bass. They're smooth-sounding earbuds.

Voice calling is also above average -- noise reduction outdoors was decent and callers said they had no trouble hearing me (there's a light sidetone feature that allows you to hear your voice in the buds as you talk). Battery life is rated at up 7 hours with noise canceling on and these have a IPX5 rating, which means they're splashproof and are fine for working out (I ran with them). For comparison, the Edifier buds are listed as having an IPX54 rating.

Note that the white version is currently on sale for $72.

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Jabra describes the Elite 85t as "semiopen" earbuds, meaning you don't have to jam the tips all the way into your ear canal. Rather, the new, more oval-shaped tips nestle in your ear for a more comfortable fit -- according to Jabra, anyway. A touch of sound will leak in, however, because you're not creating a supertight seal. Engineered with Qualcomm technology, Jabra calls the Elite 85t's noise-canceling Advanced ANC, which is designed for earbuds that don't have true noise-isolating designs.

Personally, I didn't find the 85t earbuds any more comfortable than the 75t. They didn't stay in my ears quite as securely, though they did stay in. While the 85t buds are bigger -- and so is their charging case -- they definitely seem like siblings in terms of design. They do sound richer than the 75t, with more bass, and their voice-calling capabilities are also very good. They do feature multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can take a call on your smartphone while being connected to your computer.

Available in multiple color options, they're splashproof like the AirPods Pro (IPX4 water resistance rating) and list for $230, but we've seen them sporadically discounted to $180.

Read our Jabra Elite 85t review.

 

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Sony's WF-1000XM3 earbuds have been out for a while and are probably due for an upgrade in the not-so-distant future, with rumors of the WF-1000XM4 starting to percolate. In recent months, we've seen them discounted by $50 off their list price and they remain a solid pick at that price. As far as sound quality goes, they're among the best-sounding wireless earbuds and also feature excellent noise cancellation technology to reduce ambient noise.

The only drawback is the WF-1000XM3 earbuds aren't rated as sweat-proof or waterproof headphones. That said, I've used them for light workouts with a bit of a sweat at the gym without a problem. They use Bluetooth 5.0 with support for AAC but not aptX.

Read our Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

 

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Sony's WF-1000XM3 earbuds are considered among the best true wireless noise-canceling earbuds. But to the dismay of some people, these earbuds lack any sort of water resistance, making them unsuitable for sports. It took a while, but now we finally have a new true wireless noise-canceling sports model from Sony: the WF-SP800N.

These aren't quite the WF-1000XM3 with water resistance -- they're missing Sony's QN1e processor -- but there's still a lot to like about them, including very good sound, solid noise cancellation and good call quality. It's definitely a nice upgrade over the WF-SP700N, which came out in 2018, and the "arcs" (sports fins) lock the buds in your ears. Just make sure you get a tight seal from one of the included pairs of ear tips or else both the sound and noise canceling will be lackluster.

Read our Sony WF-SP800N review.

 

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I can't remember the last time I reviewed a Technics product -- it's been that many years -- but the venerable audio brand, which Panasonic brought out of retirement in 2014, appears on the company's line-topping noise-canceling earbuds. The Technics EAH-AZ70W earbuds' list price of $250 puts them squarely up against Apple's AirPods Pro ($250), Sony's WF-1000XM3 ($230) and Sennheiser's Momentum True Wireless 2 ($300). While they're a little large, they stack up well against that stiff competition, with impressive sound and noise cancellation.

Read our Technics EAH-AZ70W review.

 

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