Want a pair of quality earbuds that are also affordable? Here are our favorite budget noise-canceling earbuds that cost much less than the AirPods Pro.
Apple's AirPods Pro 2 are some of the best wireless earbuds out there. We gave them a CNET Editors Choice award because of how well they performance for their size and weight and how well they fit a lot of people's ears. But not everybody can afford them, even if they do see some decent discounts on Amazon and other sites. Which is we've put together this list of budget noise canceling earbuds that are worthy alternatives to the AirPods Pro 2.
While none of these are going to be quite as good as the AirPods Pro 2 and are missing the AirPods Pro 2's bonus features, like hands-free Siri or Apple's spatial audio virtual surround mode for watching movies and TV shows, the picks listed below to deliver strong performance for their relatively modest price and are very good values. They also feature decent active noise canceling, are well designed and fit comfortably. Note that all these picks work with both iOS and Android devices and aren't Apple-centric like the AirPods Pro.
I'll be updating this list as new models arrive, but here are the best "cheap" noise-canceling, true-wireless earbuds I'm impressed with right now.
Read more: Best Cheap True-Wireless Earbuds Under $100 for 2023
Earfun has put out a series of wireless earbuds over the last couple of years with one important commonality: They're very good values, made more so by frequent discounts. The company's new-for-2023 Earfun Air Pro 3 earbuds feature the latest Qualcomm QCC3071 system-on-a-chip with aptX Adaptive for Android and other devices that support the new LE Audio standard and LC3 audio codec, which is superior to the SBC codec (they also support AAC for Apple devices).
Lightweight and comfortable to wear -- I got a good seal with the largest ear tip size -- these aren't a huge upgrade over the Earfun Air S, but they are better. They have slightly larger wool-composite drivers (11mm versus 10mm), slightly improved noise canceling and better battery life (up to seven hours with noise canceling on, according to Earfun).
In short, the Earfun Air 3 deliver strong performance for their modest price, with robust bass, good clarity and a relatively wide soundstage. They also pack in a lot of features, including a wireless charging case and "multidevice" connectivity. (I could pair them to two devices simultaneously but had to pause the music on one device and hit play on the other for the audio to switch.) They're IPX5 splash-proof and also work well (though not exceptionally well) as a headset for making calls.
Note that after you activate the instant 10%-off coupon at Amazon, adding the code EAP3CNET at checkout gives you an additional 20% off, bringing the buds' price down to $56.
Over the years, JBL has put out some decent true-wireless earbuds, but nothing that really got me too excited. That's finally changed with the arrival of the Samsung-owned brand's new Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 buds. Both sets of buds -- the Live Pro 2 have stems while the Live Free 2 have a pill-shaped design -- offer a comfortable fit along with strong noise canceling, very good sound quality and voice-calling performance, plus a robust set of features, including multipoint Bluetooth pairing, an IPX5 splash-proof rating and wireless charging.
The Live Pro 2 and Live Free 2 are equipped with the same 11mm drivers, six microphones, oval tubes and oval silicon tips. Aside from the design, the biggest difference between the two buds is battery life; the stemless Live Free 2 is rated for up to seven hours, while the Live Pro 2 is rated for 10 hours. The Live Pro 2 is available in four color options.
While their sound isn't quite up to the level of higher-end buds like Apple's AirPods Pro 2 and the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 that cost significantly more, the Soundcore by Anker Liberty 4 earbuds have a strong set of features, including a spatial audio mode with head tracking, multipoint Bluetooth pairing, up to nine hours of battery life, wireless charging and support for Sony's LDAC audio codec that can offer sound improvements if you have the right setup.
Compared to top-sounding buds I've reviewed, they lack a bit of overall clarity, accuracy and bass definition. But most people will think they sound quite good -- they play plenty loud and deliver strong bass -- and you can tweak their sound profile in the app or create a personal HearID Sound profile (it's also for noise canceling).
The 1More Aero earbuds carry a list price of $110 but Amazon often has an instant coupon on them that brings their price down substantially. They're essentially a more premium version of 1More's ComfoBuds Pro and feature a better charging case (the Aero does have wireless charging) and improved noise canceling and slightly improved sound.
I can't say these offer exceptional sound quality and noise-canceling for the price and the touch controls are a bit limited. But they do sound decent, they're comfortable to wear and the noise-canceling power is respectable. (You can tweak the sound profile in the companion app and adjust noise-canceling levels.) There's also a spatial audio mode with head-tracking -- you have to activate it in the companion app -- that expands the soundstage.
You'll also need to activate multipoint Bluetooth pairing, or "dual-device connection" as 1More calls it, in the app. It's under the experimental features section. Ear-detection sensors pause your music when you take the buds out of your ears.
Battery life is rated at up to 7 hours on a single charge, but don't expect to get that if you listen to your music at higher volumes. They have an IPX5 water-resistance rating, which means they can withstand a sustained spray of water. Equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, they support the SBC and AAC audio codecs but not aptX. Voice-calling performance is above average though not exceptionally good.
Jabra has replaced its entry-level Elite 3 buds with the new-for-2023 Elite 4, which offer active noise canceling and multipoint Bluetooth pairing. What's confusing is that Jabra also sells the Elite 4 Active, a slightly more ruggedized version of the same buds that carries a list price of $120 but sometimes sells for less than the standard Elite 4 if it (the Elite 4 Active) is on sale. But you should also see discounts on the Elite 4, which are available in dark gray, navy, lilac and light beige.
The lightweight Elite 4 fit my ears comfortably and offer good, well-balanced sound with punchy bass and decent clarity. They support Qualcomm's aptX audio codec (for Android and other devices that support aptX) but only the SBC codec for iPhones, meaning there's no AAC support. The Elite 4 are missing premium features such as ear detection sensors, and they have a four-microphone array for noise canceling and voice calls. (Voice-calling performance is good but not exceptional.)
Battery life is rated at up to 7 hours at moderate volume levels and the buds have an IP55 water-resistance rating, which means they can take a sustained spray of water and are also dust-resistant. As with a lot of other new buds, you can use either bud independently in a mono mode.
The Elite 4 are a good set of earbuds but do look for them on sale.
The Soundpeats Capsule3 Pro are the successor to the company's Air 3 Pro earbuds. While they're lightweight like those buds, they have more of a premium look to them. They also offer good sound and noise canceling for their modest price. While they work fine with iPhones, they're more geared toward Android because they support Sony's higher-resolution LDAC audio codec for devices that support LDAC Bluetooth streaming.
Just how good they sound will depend somewhat on how tight a seal you can get from the included ear tips (the largest tips fit my ears well but I got a better seal from another set of tips in my collection). If you do get a tight seal, they deliver big, bold sound with strong bass, which only lacks that extra bit of clarity and definition that higher-end buds offer.
Equipped with Bluetooth 5.3, they're IPX4 splash-proof and have a battery life rating of around 6 hours with noise cancellation on (it drops to 4.5 hours if you are using LDAC). There's an additional 5.5 charges in their charging case. The Capsule3 Pro worked decently for making voice calls, though their reduction of background noise wasn't quite as good as with some buds I've tested. They're also available in white.
In the past, we've recommended Earfun's AirPro SV and Air Pro 2 as excellent budget noise-canceling earbuds choices (they're still good values). But the Earfun Air S, which was released in the second half of 2022, is arguably a step up from those models and just slightly behind the new-for-2023 Earfun Air Pro 3. Equipped with a Qualcomm QCC3046 chip, the Air S buds have multipoint Bluetooth pairing and support the aptX audio codec for Android and other devices that support it. They have the same 10mm wool drivers as the AirPro SV and feature surprisingly impressive sound for their modest price. They also work well (but exceptionally well) as a headset for making calls with decent background noise reduction. The buds have an IPX5 water-resistance rating, which means they're splashproof and can withstand a sustained spray of water.