The best noise-canceling earbuds for 2024

Whether it’s blocking the noises of your daily train ride, trying to be productive at a coffee shop or just needing to tune out the world for a while, noise-canceling earbuds can provide solace. But, as is the case with all audio gear, the effectiveness of active noise cancellation (ANC) can vary greatly from model to model, even with products from the same company. We test dozens of sets of wireless earbuds every year, and I’ve shortlisted a selection of the absolute best in terms of pure ANC performance. You might find better sound quality or all-around choices elsewhere, but if blocking out unwanted sounds is your primary concern, this list has everything from high-end to budget options, in addition to those with the best battery life.

Looking for new ANC headphones but don’t like the feeling or style of earbuds? Check out our picks for best noise-canceling headphones, which focuses on full-size models.  

Most true wireless earbuds these days have a “traditional” design that’s a round bud that fits in your ear. However, there are some variations on the formula in terms of shape, size and additional fitting elements. Some companies include fins or fit wings to help hold their earbuds in place while others opt for an over-the-ear hook on more sporty models. You’ll want to pay attention to these things to make sure they align with how you plan to use them. Also consider overall size and weight since those two factors can impact the fit. A less-than-ideal seal due to a weird fit will affect the performance of active noise cancellation.

Next, you’ll want to look at the type of ANC a set of earbuds offer. You’ll see terms like “hybrid active noise cancellation” or “hybrid adaptive active noise cancellation,” and there are key differences between the two. A hybrid ANC setup uses microphones on the inside and the outside of the device to detect ambient noise. By analyzing input from both mics, a hybrid system can combat more sounds than “regular” ANC, but it’s at a constant level that doesn’t change.

Adaptive ANC takes the hybrid configuration a step further by continuously adjusting the noise cancellation for changes in your environment and any leakage around the padding of the ear cups. Adaptive ANC is also better at combating wind noise, which can really kill your vibe while using earbuds outdoors. For this best wireless earbuds list, I’m only considering products with hybrid ANC or adaptive ANC setups because those are the most effective at blocking noise.

You’ll also want to check to see if the ANC system on a prospective set of earbuds offers presets or adjustable levels of noise cancellation. These can help you dial in the amount of ANC you need for various environments, but it can also help save battery life. Master & Dynamic, for example, has ANC presets that either provide maximum noise-blocking or prioritize energy efficiency. Other companies may include a slider in their companion apps that let you adjust the ANC level.

The primary way we test earbuds is to wear them as much as possible. I prefer to do this over a one-to-two-week period, but sometimes deadlines don’t allow it. During this time, I listen to a mix of music and podcasts, while also using the earbuds to take both voice and video calls.

Since battery life for ANC earbuds is typically 6-10 hours, I drain the battery with looping music and the volume set at a comfortable level (usually around 75 percent). When necessary, I’ll power the headphones off during a review without putting them back in the case. This simulates real-world use and keeps me from having to wear them for an entire day.

To test ANC performance specifically, I use the earbuds in a variety of environments, from noisy coffee shops to quiet home offices. When my schedule allows, I also use them during air travel, since plane noise is a massive distraction to both work and relaxation. Even if I’m not slated to hop on a flight, I simulate a constant roar with white noise machines, bathroom fans, vacuums and more. I also make note of how well earbuds block human voices, which are a key stumbling block for a lot of ANC setups.

I also do a thorough review of companion apps, testing each feature as I work through the software. Any holdovers from previous models are double-checked for improvements or regression. If the earbuds I’m testing are an updated version of a previous model, I’ll spend time getting reacquainted with the older set, and revisit the closest competition as well.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at