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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.

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Active noise cancellation headphones, also known as ANC headphones, produce 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.

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David Carnoy/CNET

No earbuds are perfect, of course, and not everybody will love the fit of the Sony WF-1000XM4 buds or be able to afford their high price ($280). But if you're looking for great-sounding earbuds with great noise canceling, solid voice-calling capabilities and good battery life, these buds check all the boxes.

Bose's QuietComfort Earbuds also have top-notch noise canceling and sound quality, but the Sony is right there with the Bose for noise canceling (and some might say it's a touch better in that department), but the Sony offers slightly better sound quality and also has a more compact design, particularly for the case (though the Sony buds certainly aren't small).

Read our Sony WF-1000XM4 review.

 

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In many ways, Bose's QuietComfort Earbuds are excellent true wireless earbuds, particularly when it comes to their sound and noise canceling, which was the best out there right now in a set of earbuds until the Sony WF-1000XM4 came along (some have declared the Sony the winner but it's very close). Performance-wise, they clearly have a leg up on Apple's best-selling AirPods Pro true wireless noise-canceling buds and a lot of people like how Bose's StayHear tips lock the buds in their ears.

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 in that battle. Ultimately, it depends on what your priorities are.

Read our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review.

 

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Even if they don't sound quite as magical as you'd hope a $249 model would, the Apple AirPods Pro still manages to be a great pair of true wireless earphones with noise cancellation. That's largely due to their winning design and fit, improved bass performance and effective noise canceling -- and now these true wireless headphones have been updated with spatial audio, a new virtual-sound mode for watching movies and TV shows (only works with iPhones and iPads running iOS 14).

They're an excellent choice when you want to make a call or listen to music during your workout. Yeah, they're expensive at $250, but the good news is they tend to sell in the $200 to $220 range.

Read our Apple AirPods Pro review.

 

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Available in four color options, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 hew more closely to the newer Galaxy Buds Pro and Galaxy Buds Live, both of which have eye-catching glossy curved designs and the same compact charging case as this new model. In fact, it's the Buds 2's design and fit -- they're 15% smaller and 20% lighter than the Buds Plus -- that make them a potentially more likable alternative to the slightly better-sounding Buds Pro.

Like the Buds Pro, the Buds 2 are equipped with active noise canceling. That means all the latest Galaxy Buds models now feature some form of active noise canceling, though it's slight with the Buds Live, which have an open design sans ear tips. While the Buds 2 look more like shrunken versions of the Buds Pro, I found them more akin to the Buds Live in that they barely stick out of your ears and are fairly discreet. Because they sit more flush with your ears -- and have that curved design -- they also pick up less wind noise. They're IPX2 sweat-resistant.

Read our Galaxy Buds 2 review.

 

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Bang & Olufsen's earlier Beoplay E8 earbuds were good but underwhelming for their high price. The new Beoplay EQ are also rather expensive, but at least they're among the very best true wireless earbuds available right now, with top-notch sound and adaptive noise canceling, along with a natural sounding transparency mode. Multipoint Bluetooth pairing means you can connect them to a smartphone and computer simultaneously. They have three microphones on each bud and are good for voice calling though not exceptionally good. 

Needless to say, the premium design elements are here -- the aluminum-shelled case opens and closes with precise smoothness and the buds themselves have their own aluminum accent on the outer surface where the touch controls live.

The buds are fairly large and do stick out of your ears like premium buds from Sony and Sennheiser. They fit me comfortably and securely and are suitable for sporting activities, with an IP54 splash-proof rating. Battery life is rated at around 6.5 hours at moderate volume levels and you get an extra two charges from the case, which has USB-C and wireless charging.

The sound is big and dynamic with deep, well-defined bass and a wide soundstage. The mids sound natural and the treble has nice sparkle to it. They're a pleasure to listen to and among the best-sounding true wireless earbuds. I didn't experience any listening fatigue over longer listening sessions. aptX is available for devices that support the aptX audio code; these have aptX Adaptive and use Bluetooth 5.2. 

Are they better than the Sony WF-1000XM4, which cost $120 less? The answer to that will depend partially on just how well they fit your ears and just how good a seal you get from the included ear tips. I personally ended up getting the best fit using Sennheiser's large tips, which work best for my ears. They're a great set of earbuds if you can afford them. Just buy them from a retailer that has a good return policy in case you're not completely satisfied.

David Carnoy/CNET

A lot of people love Nura's original over-ear Nuraphones that are uniquely designed with an in-ear component and personalized sound. I'm personally more fond of the company's new NuraTrue earbuds, which also have a fairly unusual design and give you the option to create a personalized hearing profile. 

The buds look big but are lightweight. They fit a bit more like sport earbuds -- they include a couple of sizes of stabilizing fins -- and stick out of your ears a bit (they're not exactly discreet). I got a good seal and comfortable fit with one of the larger tips and if you're able to get a good fit, these deliver excellent sound and decent noise-canceling performance. Nura has some of the best hearing personalization and a quick 5-minute process, with no test tones involved, yielded good results for me with improved sound.

You can adjust the bass level with a slider in the "immersive" mode in the app and I found these delivered big sound with a wide soundstage. aptX audio codec support is available for compatible devices. 

The NuraTrue also have a "social" transparency mode -- it's good, but not quite up to the level of the AirPods Pro's transparency mode in terms of how natural it sounds. Battery life is rated at around six hours with noise canceling on at moderate volume levels. I thought the touch controls worked well and these are splash-proof with an IPX4 rating. Call quality was't quite what I hoped it would be -- it's fine but some callers said my voice sounded unnatural and canned when noise reduction was engaged in the noisy streets of New York. There is a sidetone feature that allows you to hear your voice in the buds, which is good.

Initially there were some complaints about the earbuds not playing loud enough, but a firmware update fixed that issue. I had no problem with the volume levels; they play plenty loud now, perhaps too loud for some people. Though fairly pricey, If these fit your ears well, they're among the better premium buds, particularly for sound quality. Hopefully some firmware upgrades will make them even better over time.

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After a long wait, Bowers & Wilkins has finally released a couple of sets of true wireless earbuds -- the PI7 ($400) and PI5 ($250) -- both of which are excellent and feature active noise canceling along with a transparency mode. The flagship PI7 has a different driver design and sounds slightly more detailed and refined with a little more bass energy. They both sound excellent, but if you're looking for the absolute best sounding set of earbuds, the PI7 buds are arguably just that, besting the Sony WF-1000XM4 by a small margin (they also sound slightly better than the excellent Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless II and Master & Dynamic MW08).

While the PI7's noise canceling is quite decent, the Sony's noise canceling is superior. I also thought the Sony did better with voice calling (it has better noise reduction so people can hear you better in a noisier environments) and it has better battery life.

The PI7's case does transform into a Bluetooth transceiver, so you can plug it into your laptop for aptX streaming or an in-flight entertainment system. That's a nice bonus feature (the PI5 doesn't have it), but the Sony is the overall better value. However, if sound quality is your priority, the PI7 are worth considering if you can afford them. Hopefully they come down in price over time.

The PI5 buds also sound excellent and are a touch lighter than the PI7. At $250, the PI5 competes directly with the $280 Sony 1000XM4. As with all in-ear headphones, you have to try them to see how they fit your ears. Bowers & Wilkins' buds may fit your ears better than Sony's and vice versa. 

Note that despite their high price there's limited stock on the PI7 and the black version is sold out at a lot of retailers.

Read our Bowers & Wilkins PI7 first take.

 

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Edifier has a few different new true-wireless earbuds and most, including the TWS 330NB, are very good values. While the TWS 330NB buds are missing a sensor that automatically pauses your music when you take them out of your ears, they feature excellent sound quality for the money, decent active noise canceling with a transparency mode, and solid voice calling (they have three microphones in each bud for noise canceling and noise reduction during calls).

They fit my ears well -- they're essentially AirPods Pro clones -- and while the touch controls are a little limited, they are programmable using the Edifier Connect app for iOS and Android; you can also set the level of touch sensitivity. They have an IP54 rating, which means they're splash- and dust-proof, and battery life is rated at four hours with noise canceling on and five hours with it off (at moderate volume levels). That's only OK, but you do get an additional two charges in the charging case.

David Carnoy/CNET

The Momentum True Wireless II remain Sennheiser's flagship true-wireless earbuds. But shortly after the release of the CX ($130), Sennheiser's second-generation midrange buds, the company has followed up with the CX Plus, which add noise canceling for $50 more ($180). They look nearly identical to the standard CX buds but have a glossy black finish on the touch-sensitive surface on the exterior of the bud -- cosmetically, they're more akin to the older and slightly larger CX400BT.

I like the CX for the money and the CX Plus deliver the same excellent sound while rounding out the feature set with active noise canceling and a transparency mode. Battery life is rated at up to eight hours at moderate volume levels and these are splash-proof, with an IPX4 rating. They do stick out of your ears a fair bit. 

The noise canceling isn't quite as good as the Sony WF-1000XM4's noise canceling, but I thought it was quite effective and headset performance was also decent, though not necessarily stellar. These are all-around solid noise-canceling earbuds that can count their sound quality as their biggest strength. 

David Carnoy/CNET

The second-gen Momentum True Wireless 2 pair of headphones aren't cheap at $300, but they've come down in price as we suspect a third-generation model is coming soon. They earned a CNET Editors' Choice Award in 2020 for their stellar sound and active noise cancellation that rivaled that of the AirPods Pro, as well as a slightly smaller design (compared to the originals'), improved battery life (up to seven hours versus the originals' four) and better ambient noise reduction during calls.

These use Bluetooth 5.1 with support for the codecs AAC and aptX, for devices that support the latter, like Samsung's Galaxy phones. And if you don't like them in black, a white version is available as well. They're IPX4 splash-proof.

Read our Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review.

 

David Carnoy/CNET

The OnePlus Buds Pro ($150) may have some chrome on their stems, but they're pretty much AirPods Pro clones, right down to the same pinch controls. But their charging case is different, at least, and they deliver good sound quality and noise canceling, as well as top-notch ambient noise reduction for voice calling. In short, they're a good set of true wireless earbuds that cost less than the AirPods Pro and have a companion app for Android and iOS devices.

Read our One Plus Buds review.

 

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The Beats Studio Buds look a lot like the rumored stemless AirPods we've been waiting for. Geared toward both iOS and Android users, they are missing a few key features on the Apple side of things (there's no H1 or W1 chip), but they're small, lightweight buds that are comfortable to wear and offer very good sound. While their noise canceling isn't as good as the AirPods Pro's they do have a transparency mode and they're decent for making calls. Ultimately, their fit and sound quality are their strongest selling points -- and they are about $50 cheaper than the AirPods Pro.

Read our Beats Studio Buds 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 offer some significant improvements, including the addition of solid noise cancellation and call quality, that makes them one of the top models for 2021. Alas, they're 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. 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 -- I'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, like their predecessors, the MW08 include 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.

David Carnoy/CNET

TaoTronics' SoundLiberty P10 is another AirPods Pro knock-off, but it's one of the better ones out there for the money, with good sound and decent headset performance for making calls. The noise canceling isn't up to the level of the AIrPods Pro, but it's reasonably effective and there's also an ambient mode that lets sound in (the equivalent of the AirPods Pro's transparency mode, just not quite as natural sounding) and an anti-wind mode.

I've tried many TaoTronics headphones over the years and these may be the company's best earbuds yet. While they're not fancy, they fit my ears well, their case is compact and the instructions clearly spell out how to use the touch controls. They're equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 and are fully waterproof with an IPX8 rating. Battery life is rated at six and a half hours with noise canceling on and volume at 50%.

David Carnoy/CNET

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 six hours with noise canceling on and eight with it off. The earbuds are IPX4 rated for water-resistance, which means they're splash-proof, the 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, which is similar to the standard AirPods and costs around $50. This Pro version is better.

David Carnoy/CNET

Anker's Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Proare 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, meaning they're splash-proof. 

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. While they list for $130, wait for them to go on sale for $100 or less before buying them.

Read our Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro review.

 

Klipsch

Apart from with their sturdy and somewhat weighty case, which looks a bit like a Zippo lighter, Klipsch's new T5 II True Wireless ANC earphones have a couple of key feature highlights. Not only are they the company's first earbuds with active noise canceling, but they have head-gesture controls "powered by Bragi embedded AI." 

This being Klipsch, the earbuds have a sound profile more geared toward rock music (expect well-defined but not thumping bass), with good clarity and balance. I thought the earbuds were a tad bright at the "flat" setting and I generally went with the "bass" preset EQ, though you can create create your own custom EQ.

If you can get a tight seal, both sound quality and noise canceling are excellent. Call quality is also solid, with three mics in each earbud for the noise canceling and noise-reduction during calls. And there's a transparency mode that lets ambient sound in. 

This new model features essentially the same design as the Klipsch T5 II True Wireless but adds active noise canceling, Dirac HD Sound technology (Klipsch says it delivers clearer, richer sound) and the aforementioned Bragi AI, which allows you to do such things as answer a call by nodding your head. Battery life is around five hours with noise canceling on and up to seven hours with it off. They're splash-proof, with an IPX4 rating.

The fit of these Klipsch buds isn't for everybody and their high price puts them in direct competition with such heavyweights as the Sony WF-1000XM4 -- I prefer the Sony, but the Klipsch's noise-canceling performance is surprisingly close. The Klipsch T5 True Wireless ANC have a lot to like about them. Hopefully they'll come down in price -- ideally closer to $200.

David Carnoy/CNET

LG's Tone Free FP8 are a nice improvement over previous Tone Free true-wireless earbuds I've tried in the last couple of years, offering better sound with fuller bass and decent noise canceling. They're lightweight and comfortable to wear (yes, they look quite a bit like AirPods Pro but come in black) and their touch controls are responsive. They performed well as a headset for making calls, though I expected a little better noise reduction when I was making calls in the raucous streets of New York.

Their most distinguishing feature is the built-in self-cleaning feature. It's a bit of a gimmick, but for all you germaphobes, the case has a UV light -- LG calls it UVnano -- that kills bacteria on the speaker mesh.

The Tone Free FP8 are quite likable but LG has to get the price down to make them more enticing. There's just too much competition at their list price of $180.

David Carnoy/CNET

TCL is best known for its high-quality, high-value Roku-powered TVs, but it's moved into the headphones arena in the last few years. I wasn't too impressed with its earlier models, but its latest Moveaudio S600 delivers excellent sound and good active noise canceling along with decent battery life (up to 6.2 hours with noise canceling on and eight hours with it off, with three extra charges from the charging case). I found that headset performance for voice calls is decent, but not quite up to the level of the AirPods Pro. The charging case does offer wireless charging. 

These are slightly more geared toward Android users -- TCL makes budget Android phones, after all -- and feature Google Fast Pair. That said, they work fine with iPhones and TCL's companion app is available for iOS and Android (you can customize the sound and touch controls in the app). The earbuds support the AAC audio codec, but not aptX. 

These automatically pause your music when you pull the earbuds out of your ears and they're IP54 splash- and dust-proof. The stems are a little long, but the earbuds fit me comfortably and I got a tight seal using the largest ear tips. The S600 is available in three color options.

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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 seven hours of battery life without the noise-canceling function or about six 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.

Samsung

Samsung's Galaxy Buds Pro are slightly superior to the new, slightly more affordable Galaxy Buds 2 -- at least when it comes to sound, noise-canceling performance and water-resistance (they're fully waterproof). They also have a couple of features missing from the Buds 2, including Samsung's new 360 Audio virtual surround feature that's similar to Apple's spatial audio (360 Audio only works with certain Galaxy devices, but the list is growing). 

The Buds Pro are mostly impressive, although just how good you think they are will ultimately depend on how well they fit your ears. For some people, the smaller Galaxy Buds 2 will be the better fit -- and better choice.

Read our Galaxy Buds Pro review.

 

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Anker's Soundcore Life P2 buds have been popular budget earphones. The new-for-2021 Life P3 has been upgraded with active noise canceling and is essentially a more affordable version of the Liberty Air 2 Pro ($130 list). The Life P3 is missing wireless charging and a wear-detection sensor that automatically pauses your music when you take the earbuds out of your ears. That said, these earbuds sound quite decent (they have a bass-boost mode) and are also good for making calls. A companion app allows you to tweak the sound a bit, but I mainly stuck with the default sound profile. 

Battery life is rated at up to seven hours at moderate volume levels. These offer IPX5 water-resistance, which means they can withstand a sustained spray of water and are splash-proof.

Like with the Liberty Air 2 Pro, I had a little trouble getting a tight seal with the included tips (it should only affect a small percentage of users), so I used my own. To get optimal sound and noise-canceling performance, it's crucial to get a good seal. There's also a transparency mode that lets ambient sound in, which works fine but isn't on par with the AirPods Pro's excellent transparency mode. 

Available in multiple color options, the Life P3 carries a list price of $80, but I do expect to see some discounts that bring them closer to $60, which would put it in bargain territory. The Liberty Air 2 Pro sporadically sells for $100, or $30 off its list price, by comparison.

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