10 Best Noise-Cancelling Earbuds 2016

It goes without saying that environmental noise is really annoying, and that you want headphones to block out as much of it as possible. But finding a pair that suitably does that can be frustrating because of the confusing marketing terms, especially if you’re looking for in-ear styles. There simply aren’t many truly noise-cancelling earbuds available. That’s why we’ve brought together the best noise-cancelling earbuds that the market has to offer so that you don’t end up wasting tut hard-earned cash.

Our straightforward buying guide helps you break through all that marketing hype so tut can fund exactly what you need without any hassle. Here we’ll discuss a couple factors you should be on the lookout for, and provide a solid detailed review of each our top five choices.

What to Take Into Consideration

  • Isolation Versus Cancellation. You often see the terms “noise isolation” and “noise cancellation” used interchangeably as if they refer to the exact same thing. They aren’t the same thing, though they are similar.

Noise isolation is created from a physical barrier keeping sounds separated. It’s the good seal of properly fitted earbuds, or the nice cushioning of around-ear headphones. Noise isolation is a passive device; it requires no additional energy or action.

Noise cancellation is more than a physical barrier. It’s extra circuitry that listens to the ambient noise then changes it within your headphones so it’s not bothersome. Noise cancellation is an active device; it doesn’t happen on its own and requires extra hardware or software.

A label advertising noise cancellation should have specifications that reflect that. Another phrase you might see instead is “active noise cancellation.” We have a different guide for the best noise isolating earbuds.

  • Why Earbud Style. Earbud style headphones, or in-ear monitors, are fairly new to including active noise cancellation to their products. But having that tech doesn’t detract from the overall benefits of using earbuds.

In-ear monitors are easy to pack and travel. You can keep a good seal on them even while sleeping on them. And they fit better around things like glasses.

As with other styles, bear in mind that noise cancellation isn’t magical and won’t totally remove environmental sounds. But they should be considerably better than headphones without the tech. They’re best for low frequency things like engines, road noise, and droning.

  • Battery Usage. Extra software and/or hardware can be a power hog so most cancelling earbuds require batteries.Some are simply rechargeable units, while others need to have batteries inserted.

You’ll likely notice that even corded models could require batteries strictly for the noise cancellation features.

Wireless units that include active noise cancellation will need to be charged more often than their corded counterparts.

The Guide to the Top 10 Noise-Cancelling Earbuds

PictureNameWirelessPriceRating (1-5)
PictureNameWirelessPriceRating (1-5)
1. Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones, Apple DevicesNo$$$$4.7
2. B&O PLAY by BANG & OLUFSEN - BeoPlay H3 ANC HeadphonesNo$$$4.3
3. Phiaton BT 220 NC Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 and Active Noise Cancelling EarphonesYes$$$4.1
4. AKG K391NC High-Performance Noise-Cancelling In-Ear HeadphonesNo$$$4.0
5. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling In-Ear HeadphonesNo$$4.0
6. Phiaton PS 210 BTNC Bluetooth 3.0 Active Noise Cancelling Stereo EarphonesYes$$3.7
7. Sony MDRNC13 Noise-Canceling HeadphonesNo$$$3.6
8. Bluetooth Headset, Sweatproof V4.0 Wireless Bluetooth EarphonesYes$3.5
9. Phiaton BT 100 NC Black Wireless & Active Noise Cancelling Neck Band Style EarphonesYes$$3.3
10. Sennheiser CXC 700 Ear-Canal Travel HeadphonesNo$$$3.0

Top 5 Best Noise-Cancelling Earbuds Reviews

1. Bose QuietComfort 20

Bose is the industry leader for bringing noise cancellation technology to the headphone market. QuietComfort 20 aims to be a compact alternative to their full-size noise-cancellation unit the QuietComfort 25.

We remain satisfied with the assertion that these are also ranked among the most comfortable earbuds and the best headphones for airplane travel, around so we won’t go that into detail here. But you can get more information from the links referenced.

The noise-cancellation circuitry is contained in a small in-line box located beneath the y-junction that the cables. You’ll notice this for most of the products we’ll look at. A rechargeable lithium battery is integrated into that control pod.

The battery does hold a charge for about sixteen hours, but isn’t replaceable. Thankfully, the unit will still work with drained batteries. You just don’t get the noise cancellation.

The noise-cancellation function does require manual turning on and off. Remember to turn it off when you’re not using it because you’ll drain the batteries. It doesn’t switch off simply by unplugging your unit.

The best thing about the QuietComfort 20 is that no sound quality is lost through the noise-cancellation circuitry. No characteristic hiss. The bass response was excellent and perfectly balanced.

QuietComfort 20 manages to flawlessly combine two features that are known stumbling blocks of other providers- active noise cancellation and in-ear style. And it does it while maintaining Bose’s impeccable signature sound. These are the best earbuds with noise-cancelling currently available.


Unless you’re a gear junkie you’re probably not familiar with B&O; even though they’ve been around since the 1970s. The H3 line is part of Beoplay’s, B&O subsidiary, attempt to make B&O products more accessible to the average consumer.

The earbuds are visually stunning, like a work of art. Each is carved from a single block of aluminum and you can tell that this company prides itself on details. The rounded shape of the tips don’t dig into our ears and are quite comfortable. BeoPlay makes sure to include lots of different sized ear tips.

The in-line control panel for the active noise cancellation could be better constructed but is easy to use nonetheless. It also has a rechargeable battery; and takes less three hours to reach full charge.

Noise cancellation didn’t hinder the overall sound experience. Vocal clarity seems to depend on the type of vocal, but bass is well controlled. It’s obviously not tuned to audiophiles, but even so, the sound is enjoyable.

BeoPlay’s H3 is a solid entrance into a broader consumer audience. It looks good, performs well, and is priced competitively. Definitely worth a chance.

3. Phiaton BT 220

You’ve probably noticed that there are few wireless options on this list. That’s mainly because extra tech adds bulk to the units, and bulk largely defeats the purpose of using earbuds. It can also be pricey. And that’s where Phiaton enters with the BT 220.

Overall, BT 220 doesn’t sound bad at all. They punch some pretty commendable bass. Their signature is more focused mids- and high-mids. But balanced, clear, and satisfying.

With that said, we found the control box quite impracticable. It’s large and clunky. The cable connecting to the earpieces is short so the box lands in the middle of your chest. And the controls themselves serve many functions so it’s really easy to accidentally change something.

But the amount of noise it removes is tremendous.

Phiaton’s BT 220 is an acceptable option if you must have both wireless technology and active noise cancellation.

4. AKG K391NC

AKG is known for creating quality gear so we were excited to try their K391NC.

AKG designed the K391NC simply but elegantly. They’ve kept the basic barrel shape but fished it with silver metal housing that’s clean. We did notice that the cords were heavier than most models but that’s by no means a deal breaker.

The control pod includes a rechargeable battery and boasts 40 hours of active playback. But the unit can still be used in passive mode.

K391NC overall sound signature is clear with powerful bass. Active mode seems to increase the bass’ potency but high-mid and high frequencies are by no means forgotten.

AKG K391NC performed as well as expected. If you’re looking for an all-round reliable piece of gear then you’ll be satisfied with this purchase.

5. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23

Audio-Technica is another solid, reliable manufacturer we’re happy to see add noise cancellation to their earbuds.

We like that they angled the barrel instead of using the straight barrel. These see so much more comfortable and sit better than straight designs.

The control box can be heavy but has a clip on the underside so it can be attached to a strap or clothing. Try not to forget if you attach it to a strap though because you may yank the buds out of your ears.

We found that the ATH-ANC23 offers great low to mid frequencies in active or passive mode. The bass drives the music perfectly without becoming muddy.

ATH-ANC23 by Audio-Technica really hit the mark developing a comfortable product with active noise cancellation. Bonus points for being affordable as well.

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