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2024's Ultimate Guide to the Best ANC In-Ear Headphones

Best In Ear Headphones USA 2023
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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.

Buying guide: What you need to know about in-ear headphones with ANC

Sound quality

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

Feature Impact
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.
Frequency response The frequency response describes which pitches and depths the headphones cover. The wider the frequency range, the better the sound quality in theory.
Watt The power of loudspeakers is measured in watts. The more watts, the higher the output.
Decibel 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.
Bluetooth codec 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.

ANC

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.

Battery life

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.

Design

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.

nextpit recommends: The best in-ear headphones with ANC

The best wireless earphones with ANC: Jabra Elite 10

The Jabra Elite 10 seen from above, resting on its charging unit, which in turn rests horizontally on a table.
The Jabra Elite 10 are my favorite headphones of the year / © nextpit

Jabra Elite 10 full review by nextpit

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 alternative to the best wireless headphones: Sony WF-1000XM5

Sony WF-1000XM5 headphones seen from the front and placed on a wooden table.
The Sony WF-1000XM5 are an excellent high-end alternative to ANC wireless headphones. / © nextpit

Sony WF-1000XM5 full review by nextpit

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 best true wireless earphones with ANC for Apple: AirPods Pro 2

AirPods Pro 2 case
The AirPods Pro 2 have touch and capacitive surfaces for the ANC and volume controls. / © nextpit

NextPit's full review of the Apple AirPods Pro 2

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 wireless headphones with the best active noise cancellation: Bose QC Ultra Earbuds

There is not Bluetooth HD codec supported in the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds.
The surface of each Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds is tactile. / © nextpit

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds in the full nextpit review

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 best wireless headphones with ANC for sports: Jabra Elite 8 Active

Jabra Elite 8 Active
The form factor of the Jabra Elite 8 Active, inspired by a guitar mediator, is very discreet and compact. / © nextpit

The Jabra Elite 8 Active in nextpit's review

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.

Best TWS earbuds with ANC under $150: Nothing Ear (2)

The stems of the Nothing ear (2) have a haptic surface for controls.
The stems of the Nothing ear (2) have a haptic surface for control. / © nextpit

The Nothing ear (2) complete review by nextpit

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?

Best TWS earbuds with ANC under $120: Jabra Elite 4

Jabra Elite 4
The in-ear format of the Jabra Elite 4 gives them excellent passive noise isolation. / © nextpit

NextPit's full review of the Jabra Elite 4

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?


This post was updated on February 14th with updated impressions on the Jabra Elite 8 Active and current prices.

  Editor's choice Alternative choice Apple choice ANC champion Best option for sports Best choice under $150 Best choice under $120
Product
Image Jabra Elite 10 Product Image Sony WF-1000XM5 Product Image Apple AirPods Pro 2 Product Image Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds Product Image Jabra Elite 8 Active Product Image Nothing ear (2) Product Image Jabra Elite 4 Product Image
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Go to comment (8)
Antoine Engels

Antoine Engels
Senior Editor

Black belt in specs sheet analysis. OnePlus fanboy in (slow) remission. Average estimated reading time of my articles: 48 minutes. Tech deals fact-checker in my spare time. Hates talking about himself in the 3rd person. Dreams he was a gaming journalist in another life. Doesn't get the concept of irony. Head of editorial for NextPit France.

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  • 5
    waqas Apr 13, 2021 Link to comment

    Sony airpods are better then apple i have used both !!!


    • 5
      waqas Apr 13, 2021 Link to comment

      Thanks for the info will buy Sony Airpods !


  • 7
    RowanRosh Jan 8, 2021 Link to comment

    Superb, will try this..!!


  • 3
    AlexanderOgden Aug 15, 2020 Link to comment

    Wow, great!


  • 4
    cheelen Feb 23, 2020 Link to comment

    Apple AirPods are the way to expensive but look dope.

    waqas


  • 1
    Bill Lee Feb 5, 2020 Link to comment

    How is the ANC of the Libratone Track Air+?

    I have both the Sony WH-1000XM3s and the Sony WF-1000XM3s. The ANC on the WFs is not as good, but is adequate for my use. The bigger difference in sound quality, I'm sure, is due to the drivers, but suspect a good amount is the use of AAC. That codec is really not optimal from an Android phone and the LPAC codec in the WH is measurably better. I've had good results from other headphones I use that have the APX HD codec so I'm wondering if I wouldn't be happier with the Libratone Track Air+....


    • David McCourt 16
      David McCourt Feb 7, 2020 Link to comment

      It's good, but don't expect anything on the level of the Sony WH-100XM3. The ANC microphones in the Track Air+ can also be used to bypass passive noise reduction, though, and can fade your music in and out as they do so - pretty cool.

      waqas


      • 5
        waqas Apr 13, 2021 Link to comment

        Thanks for the info!!

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