In-Ear Headphone Advice

The Ultimate Guide to Noise Cancelling In-Ear Headphones


Noise canceling earbuds are now a reality. Do not expect such earbuds or in-ear headphones to cancel or shield every type of noise to the extent of creating impeccable quietness. However, you can expect reliable and satiating levels of noise cancellation. The technology used in the best noise canceling earbuds has evolved in recent years. Noise cancellation is no longer just a claim, or an unique selling point used for advertising.

As an audiophile, you must be aware that there are two types of technology and hence function in such earbuds. One is noise isolation, and the other is noise cancellation. Noise isolation earbuds are not the same as noise canceling in-ear headphones. Let us first understand the differences before delving further into the best noise canceling earbuds.

Noise Isolating In-Ear Headphones vs. Noise Cancelling Earbuds

Headphones that can isolate external noise essentially use physical means to block sound. This is also known as passive noise cancellation. The earbuds are designed in a manner that the seal is good enough to create an isolating barrier between the ear and the in-ear headphone. The fit of such earbuds can be a little bit snugger due to the cups may having thicker pads, and there may be other physical characteristics to block external sound. The objective is simple. The earbuds must have comfortable but strong seals to create a kind of an isolated chamber inside so the music or audio being played is not influenced by the ambiance or surrounding noise as it dissipates through the in-ear headphones and the ear canal. The result is a user hears only the music or the audio and nothing else.

Noise canceling earbuds rely on digital signal processing. This enables the in-ear headphones to be active neutralize sound waves or noise from the immediate surroundings. This is also referred to as active noise-cancellation. Noise canceling earbuds come with a microphone inside and there is an audio processor. The microphone listens to the ambient noise and then counters it with a sound of an opposite nature. The waves of two contradicting sounds clash and get neutralized. Thus, you have a quiet setting and the audio or music you play is heard without the interaction with surround or ambient sound.

The best noise canceling earbuds can easily manage constant noise in the ambiance or surroundings, such as the functioning of air conditioners, fans, buzzing conversations and sound of jet engines. The best noise canceling earbuds can also block out sounds of people around you shouting or a sudden noise of something crashing, breaking or a machine making an operational sound. Earbuds that can block all kinds of sound are not completely safe when you are on the streets, driving or walking, crossing the roads or in any setting where you should be able to hear essential alarms or environmental noise to stay away from danger.

Attributes of the Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds

The best noise canceling earbuds should be truly effective, reliable at all times and they must not compromise the quality of music or audio. It should be noted that noise cancellation or even isolation is not about increasing the volume of the audio output to drown out or muffle the external noise. Anyone can increase the volume in any headphone and hope to be totally engrossed in the music without any noisy disturbance. The job of the best noise canceling earbuds is to shield noise regardless of how loud the music or audio is. You should be able to listen to music or any audio at the lowest volume or output.

Choose whether you wish to go for noise isolation or noise cancellation. This will help you to prepare the shortlist for comparison. You can also prioritize the kind of physical features you want. Earbuds come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. They are also made of different kinds of materials. It is difficult to generalize form factor or the construction as people have varying preferences. Study the pros and cons of the preferences you have and then review the shortlist. The best noise canceling earbuds are also among the most expensive ones. You cannot expect a premium product at an inexpensive price. The quality of the materials and construction, the drivers, the shape and design or the size and how it operates, if the in-ear headphones are durable and if they will play a piece of music or audio in a manner that befits the composition will depend on the brand, specification, technology, and price.

You may want to prioritize the renowned brands. You may look for bargains. Both approaches may work depending on the kind of experience you are looking for. It is better if you get familiar with different types of noise cancelling in-ear headphones. Since there are plenty of brands and too many variants, you should get somewhat accustomed with the kind of experience they offer. Swing by a store, try a few earbuds on, assess the qualities and then compare the experiences. If you are shopping online, then trying them out is a nonstarter so you must rely on reviews. Trying them on is not only necessary to know if they are effective at noise cancellation or isolation but also to find out if they fit well. All of the best noise canceling earbuds should have a snug fit, even if they are not using a seal for noise isolation.

You may want to test some of the best noise canceling earbuds against external sounds. Many stores have a quiet setting so you may not fully comprehend the impact of the noise cancellation or isolation technology. Go out of the store, get close to a speaker or some source of the sound and then check out the in-ear headphones for their efficacy. As you are testing the noise cancellation feature, make sure you also assess the quality of the output. The music or audio should not be compromised in any manner, not just the loudness but also the subtler elements, from bass to treble, recognizing different instruments to having the surround sound experience.

The best noise canceling earbuds will also come with the most comprehensive warranty and reliable batteries. Any in-ear headphone with active noise cancellation that uses digital signal processing will consume more power. Hence, you must be conscious of this basic need of the earbuds to rely on power for them to be effective at noise cancellation. Noise isolating earbuds do not need this excess power so the batteries will last longer. The warranties vary considerably from brand to brand and also among the various models. Do not settle for an extremely limited warranty if you are shelling out big bucks for a pair of one of the best noise canceling earbuds.

Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds

  • Bose QuietComfort 20 is one of the best noise canceling earbuds available right now. The battery lasts for sixteen hours. It sells for around two hundred and fifty bucks. The noise cancellation is reliably effective. The earbuds come with wires, and there is a slight emphasis on the bass. Bose QuietControl 30 is a good option if you want a wireless set. It works via Bluetooth. The battery lasts for ten hours, and it is priced at three hundred dollars. This pair does not have the bass emphasis in its output.
  • B&O Beoplay E4 NC is much cheaper than the Bose earbuds. It sells for around two hundred dollars and has a battery life of twenty hours. The audio output is balanced, and the noise cancellation is effective. Phiaton BT 220 is nearly fifty bucks cheaper than the B&O. It is a Bluetooth wireless noise canceling in-ear headphones with a battery life of ten hours. If the noise canceling feature is turned off, then the battery can run for sixteen hours.
  • There are many other much more affordable options among the best noise cancelingearbuds. These usually do not offer complete noise cancellation. You can expect up to ninety percentnoise cancellation in most cases. These are all priced below a hundred dollars. Linner NC50 is aBluetooth enabled pair with battery life of nine hours or thirteen hours with noise cancellation turnedon or off respectively. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint has wires and a battery life of sixtyhours. It has balanced audio output.
  • Cowin HE8D is a Bluetooth enabled pair with nine hours of battery. 1MORE E1004 is a wiredset with above average performance. Sony MDR NC31EM is an Xperia compatible set that has nobattery and has a balanced audio output with sufficient noise cancellation. TaoTronics ANC Earbudshas a battery life of fifteen hours and sells for less than fifty dollars.


The best noise canceling earbuds priced less than a hundred dollars a set will offer you a reasonably good experience. If you are looking for awesome noise cancellation, then you must be willing to spend more than a hundred bucks. Do not expect the more affordable sets to be capable of miracles. However, even the best of the best noise canceling earbuds will not make the ambiance or surrounding feel like a vacuum.

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