Are you looking for wireless headphones to listen to your music while cut off from the rest of the world? nextpit has tested and compared the best Sony, Bose, Apple and Jabra headphones that offer active noise cancelling (ANC). Find out which pair of true wireless earphones is right for you in this comparison.
The best in-ear headphones with active noise reduction in 2024
This selection focuses on in-ear headphones. The open-fit design is generally not recommended for optimal noise reduction, even though there are models with ANC.
Noise reduction isn't the sole criterion considered in this selection. Factors such as audio quality, intuitiveness of controls, customization options (equalizer, app), water resistance, and connectivity have also shaped this comparison.
We don't advise purchasing the AirPods Pro 2 unless you own an iPhone or another Apple device. The features become quite limited otherwise. However, if you use an iPhone but aren't keen on AirPods, rest assured that all models highlighted here are fully compatible and functional with an Apple smartphone.
If you spend more money on a pair of headphones, you'll usually get better sound. Of course, there are exceptions, like the legendary Koss Porta Pro on-ear headphones, but you can use this rule of thumb as a guide. As for technical data regarding the evaluation of sound quality, you will find the following information online and on the packaging:
Technical data and what it means
|Size of the drivers
|The small speakers that sit in headphones are also called drivers. Their size is often cited as a relevant criterion, but the evaluation also depends on the materials used and the quality of the drivers. So don't be put off by small drivers.
|The frequency response describes which pitches and depths the headphones cover. The wider the frequency range, the better the sound quality in theory.
|The power of loudspeakers is measured in watts. The more watts, the higher the output.
|Manufacturers usually specify the maximum volume in decibels. Since the sound level becomes critical from 85 decibels, the volume of most headphones is perfectly adequate.
|The Bluetooth codec is particularly important for wireless in-ear headphones. It determines in which limitations the technical components can work. Read more on our overview page about Bluetooth codecs!
However, it is not advisable to judge the sound quality of a pair of headphones solely because of these technical characteristics. After all, preferences in sound quality are as varied as your taste in music. It is therefore very practical if you can adjust the sound to your listening habits via equalizers and sound profiles.
The term "ANC" stands for Active Noise Cancellation and describes a technique for reducing background noise. Unlike the classic, passive noise-canceling headphones used in the industry, ANC is active noise cancellation.
However, since ANC is a very popular feature, manufacturers try to integrate the function into their headphones by hook or by crook. The result is grotty ANC features in cheap headphones. So be sure to check out our reviews because we test the effectiveness of noise cancellation in every new pair of headphones.
The battery life of in-ear headphones comes down to two components. One is the runtime of the headphones themselves, and then there is the capacity of the charging cases that come with them. Make sure that not only the total runtime is long, but also that of the individual earbuds.
Generally, though, it's a plus that you can still get 1-2 full charges via the charging case when you're on the go. Features like Quick-Charging or Wireless-Charging, which works with some smartphones even by putting it on the phone, are practical functions.
When we mention in-ear headphones with ANC, we usually mean models that sit directly in the ear canal. If you don't like this design, there are models like the OnePlus Buds or the Apple AirPods. These sit in front of the ear canal and are not inserted directly into your ear holes.
The Jabra Elite 10 are unquestionably my favorite headphones of the year. Jabra has successfully addressed the sole shortcoming that previously hindered its competitiveness against giants like Sony and Bose. The advancements in active noise reduction are evident, and Jabra now stands toe-to-toe with its high-end counterparts. Additionally, these headphones boast a sleek design, superior audio quality, and commendable battery life.
The Scandinavian design, characterized by its minimalist aesthetic and subdued colors, continues to impress. The Jabra Elite 10 rank among the most comfortable earphones I've ever tried. They ensure an excellent fit in the ear and are some of the lightest in this category.
In terms of features, they leave no stone unturned, offering multipoint, port detection, and mono use. The audio quality is stellar, though it's worth noting that these headphones do not support HD audio codecs, limiting themselves to SBC/AAC.
Their battery life is also impressive, placing them in the higher end of the mid-range market.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 are Sony's latest wireless earphones featuring active noise cancellation. Boasting a minimalist and compact design, they ensure a snug fit and comfortable usage.
New drivers and processors deliver balanced audio quality, enriched with deep bass and outstanding spatialization. Naturally, the HD LDAC codec remains integral. The active noise cancellation is remarkably effective, bolstered by three microphones in each earpiece.
Battery life is another highlight, offering 8 hours of playback with ANC and extending up to 36 hours with the charging case. Given these features, the Sony WF-1000XM5 stand out as a top choice for those in the market for premium wireless headphones with ANC
The AirPods Pro 2 are the top Apple headphones for enjoying music on your iPhone via Apple Music with your Apple account. In essence, if you're deeply ingrained in Apple's ecosystem, this review won't sway you. Purchasing the AirPods Pro 2 is the most straightforward and logical choice.
The noise cancellation is truly outstanding. It rivals, if not surpasses, the Sony WF-1000XM5. Apple has genuinely outdone themselves, though it's a pity that the ANC isn't adjustable.
That stands as the primary drawback of the AirPods Pro 2. Everything operates on autopilot, offering scant customization options. The audio quality is commendable but relies solely on the basic AAC codec. The lack of support for lossless audio baffles me.
However, spatial audio shines bright. Paired with an iPhone, the user experience is seamless. Pairing, equalization, and noise cancellation all happen automatically. Everything is tailored for you—it's as simple as plug-and-play.
The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds actually have what it takes to be the winner, which is expected since it comes with an MSRP of $299.00. However, Bose made a few mistakes that eventually cost its podium finish—the earbuds neither support multipoint Bluetooth connectivity nor have a wireless charging case.
Leaving this faux pas aside, you get very good in-ears that perform exceptionally well, especially when it comes to active noise cancellation. It simply leaves the competition from Jabra to Apple and Sony behind in the dust. The Bose QC Ultra earbuds are IPX4-certified and have a very high-quality finish, but are also quite massive and chunky in design.
On a positive note, the earbuds support Qualcomm's adaptive aptX audio codec. Apart from that, not much has changed technically compared to the Bose QC Earbuds II. In the review, our colleague Antoine also praised the 360° immersive sound, which is particularly impressive when used in place.
With ANC, the batteries last up to six hours and thanks to the charging case, you can fully charge them by another three times. If you want to use the best pair of earbuds currently available in terms of ANC, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds are the best choice. In general, however, we think the price is too high, even if you can currently get them for around $250.
The Jabra Elite 8 Active are the best wireless headphones for sports. The headphones are IP68-certified, which means you can use them without worry even when you're sweating profusely. They can withstand all weather conditions, and you can even submerge them to a depth of 5 feet (1m50).
But even apart from sports use, the Jabra Elite 8 Active are excellent wireless headphones. Their audio quality is second to none. Their battery life of over seven hours with ANC activated is among the most solid on the market. The physical controls are intuitive. What's more, their compact, discreet design ensures an excellent fit in the ear, even without silicone fins, and they remain very comfortable during long sessions.
The only drawback is that their noise reduction isn't as good as that of the best models on the market. However, headphones from Apple, Bose or Sony, which offer better noise reduction, are also much more expensive than the Jabra Elite 8 Active.
The Jabra Elite 8 Active supports SBC and AAC codecs, Dolby Atmos for 360° audio, as well as multipoint. The battery lasts eight hours with ANC and 14 hours without ANC. The IP54-certified charging box provides up to 56 hours of total listening time.
The Nothing ear (2) undoubtedly offer the best value for wireless active noise-canceling earphones in the market. For under $150, they come equipped with adaptive ANC, wireless charging, and an HD audio codec with LHDC.
While their noise cancellation might not match that of pricier headphones in this selection, the ANC is still commendable for its price bracket.
The sound quality has seen a significant upgrade, thanks to the HD codec that was notably absent in last year's Nothing ear (1). A battery life of 6 hours is also quite satisfactory.
In essence, the Nothing ear (2) strike a balance of being comprehensive, affordable, and genuinely wireless. They also boast a unique transparent design, allowing a peek into their inner workings. Isn't that incredibly cool and unique? Or maybe not?
The Jabra Elite 4 are a hidden gem. Priced at less than $120, these true wireless headphones come with ANC—a feature seldom seen in this price bracket.
What's even more impressive is the quality of the ANC in a pair of wireless headphones at this price. The inclusion of the aptX codec further elevates their appeal.
Their sound profile is accurate, and any lack of bass can be readily adjusted through the comprehensive Jabra Sound+ app. The capability for multipoint Bluetooth connection is another commendable feature, especially considering even the pricier $250 AirPods Pro 2 lack genuine multipoint functionality.
However, the Jabra Elite 4 aren't without shortcomings. The microphone quality leaves much to be desired, the design might not appeal to everyone, and there's a lack of customization options for controls and noise reduction. Yet, for under $120, they're arguably the best option available.
What's your take on this selection of true wireless headphones with ANC? Is noise reduction crucial for you too? Which brands or models should be included? Should we also review models above $300?
|Best headphones and earbuds
|The best in-ear headphones: Find the best compact options with noise-canceling (ANC).
|Best Bluetooth headphones: Your guide to the best over-ear headsets for maximum comfort and audio quality.
|All the Apple AirPods models: The best options for iPhone users of all budgets.
|The best Samsung Galaxy Buds: All models tested and compared.
|Bluetooth codecs guide: Understand the meaning of SBC, AAC, AptX, LDAC, and other acronyms.
This post was updated on February 14th with updated impressions on the Jabra Elite 8 Active and current prices.