Top 5 Noise Cancelling Earbuds

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The Top 5 NC Earbuds are divided into 3 categories:

  1. Top 2 ACTIVE noise cancelling earbuds
  2. Top 2 PASSIVE noise cancelling earbuds
  3. Best active noise cancelling Bluetooth earbuds

How do Noise Cancelling Earbuds compare to NC Over-the-ear headphones?

  • Generally, both the sound quality and noise-cancellation are better on the over-the-ear NC headphones. That’s because they have a lot more space for electronic circuits to be placed.
  • However, NC earbuds have the clear advantage of being light-weight and portable. That’s why they’re generally the headphones of choice when it comes to sports/workouts!

Top 2 ACTIVE Noise Cancelling Earbuds

Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Earphones

 Of all the NC earbuds, the Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Earbuds are in a class of its own. Their noise-cancelling is SUPERB, almost as good as those high-end over-the-ear headphones. However, they’re awfully expensive for a pair of earbuds. Audio quality is almost as good as that of the over-the ear NC headphones, and way better than most other NC earbuds.

Major Features

  • ACTIVE noise cancellation – there is both active and passive noise cancellation with these earbuds. The first line of defense is provided by the StayHear+ tips. They block quite a bit of ambient noises and then the electronic circuitry in the battery pack blocks the rest. You can switch between active noise cancellation and aware mode as you please
  • Aware mode – this is similar to the ‘open mic’ feature of the Plantronics BackBeat PRO Bluetooth headphones. Basically, ‘aware mode’ allows some of the ambient noises to be heard. If it wasn’t for aware mode, you’d have to take the earbuds off every time you wanted to hear outside noises. Imagine you’re at the airport waiting for an announcement about a rescheduled flight. What would you rather do? Turn off your music and stare at the screen or listen to your favorite music with aware mode turned on? It’s also useful in certain situations like when walking on the busy streets New York. You don’t want to cut down outside noises completely when you’re on the streets, because that will likely get you in trouble, if not get you killed! Aware mode is NOT complete turning OFF of noise cancellation. You still have background noise cancellation to a certain limit. The ‘aware mode’ button is conveniently located on the in-line controller.
  • Built-in-microphone – Bose QuietComfort 20 ANC Earbuds have a built-in microphone on the backside of the in-line controller. Thanks to this mic, you can switch to phone calls coming on your cell phone without having to take off your earbuds
  • TriPort technology – Bose’s proprietary TriPort technology delivers a deep bass response and in-turn gives an overall superior audio performance
  • StayHear+ tips – as you may have already noticed, these soft tips have two parts. First the actual eartip that goes inside your ear canal. Secondly, the cone shaped part that fits snug inside your ear lobe. This second portion helps the eartips stay put inside your ears without popping out even with rigorous exercise. Three pairs of StayHear+ tips are included in your purchase (small, medium and large), so that you can pick the size that fits your ears best.
  • In-line remote with 4 buttons – the front side has 3 buttons: volume up, volume down and a button for play/pause/skip forward/skip backwards. The rear has the built-in mic. The fourth button is a slider switch on the side which helps you switch between noise cancellation and aware modes
  • Voice commands
  • Long battery life – with a single charge you can have up to 16 hours of playback time. This is a rechargeable Lithium ion battery located inside the ‘control module’, the little square device you see on the picture above. This control module houses not only the battery, but also the active noise cancelling circuitry of these earphones.
  • This is the model for iPhone, iPad and iPod
  • This is the model for Android, Blackberry and Windows


The audio quality and level of noise cancellation on these earbuds is amazing. It’s difficult to comprehend that such a small device is able to be so good. However, nothing is perfect. There are a couple of complaints we see people make about these. One is about the ‘control module’: the control module is about 3.5″ X 1.5″ big and it has to go inside your pocket together with the iPhone/iPod/Android phone. We can totally see why people don’t like this control module, but there simply has to be a space to house the battery and the noise cancelling circuitry. May be in a few years, these will shrink in size and will fit inside the earbuds. But until such technology is available, we will have to tolerate the annoying control module. As you can see, all active noise cancelling earbuds (not just the Bose QC 20s) have these control modules  😡

The other complaint people make is about the cord/cable. It’s a little thicker than other cables and those who have gotten used to regular cords on earphones can find this to be irritating. The good thing about these is that they don’t get tangled as easily as others do. May be that’s why Bose made them this thick.

Remember to compare prices at the manufacturer and before making a purchase

Check out the 1700+ Reviews on here…

Audio Technica ATH-ANC23 QuietPoint Active Noise-Cancelling Earbuds

  • Active or passive noise cancellation? These Audio Technica QuietPoint Earbuds cancel out as much as 90% of the background noises by ACTIVE means. In other words, the noise canceling circuitry inside its control module generates audio signals of the opposite polarity of distracting external noises identified by the strategically placed microphones in each earbud. These signals of the opposite polarity cancels out the ambient noises and thereby achieve active noise cancellation. Of course, all earbuds partially block the entry of external noises by passive means as well (by causing a tight seal between the ear canal and the eartip).
  • Ear tips: 3 different sizes of eartips included to fit different sizes of ear canals
  • AAA battery: unlike the Bose QC20i that has a non-replaceable rechargeable battery, these run on a replaceable AAA battery. This means that you can have a spare battery in your pocket all the time and use it once the current battery runs out. No need to worry about recharging (unless you use rechargeable batteries of course; even then, you can use the spare battery). This gives the earbuds a looooong battery life of 60 hours as well!
  • Battery out of juice? Worry not, Audio Technica QuietPoint Earbuds work as regular earbuds without batteries (without noise cancellation)
  • Great audio quality: one of the common problems with these smaller earphones is lack of bass. In contrast, these buds produce very decent lows.
  • Airline plug adapter: yes, included
  • Built-in mic? Yes, there are a couple of mics dedicated to detecting background noises. However, this doesn’t have a mic for the purpose of telephone conversations. This is a major drawback of this model. However, it is a lot cheaper than the Bose QC 20i and therefore a pretty popular model among ANC earbud enthusiasts.
  • PriceVERY attractive compared to the Bose QC20s.


  • Can’t use for phone calls because there isn’t a mic dedicated for this purpose. These are exclusively for listening, not talking! However, this model from Audio-Technica (ATH-ANC33iS) has a built-in mic for conversations, and is still very cheap
  • Overall audio quality and noise cancellation not as good as those of the Bose QC20i, however, good enough for many of us looking for budget-friendly active noise cancelling earphones

TOP 2 PASSIVE Noise Cancelling Earbuds (Budget-friendly)

  • The prices range from ~$25 upwards.
  • Don’t expect active noise cancelling-quality noise cancellation or superb audio quality from these. However, they do a decent job for most of us on a budget without sacrificing too much sound quality!

Symphonized NRG Premium Genuine Wood Noise Isolating Earbuds

  • Why wood? Why not? What are violins, guitars, flutes, high-end speakers and even interior walls of concert halls made of? See the point I’m trying to make? Natural wood gives the best audio reproduction, a better bass response and better acoustics overall! That’s why Symphonized NRG Premium Genuine Wood Noise Isolating Earbuds are able to produce near perfect, deep bass, precise mids and crisp highs that other earbuds in this price range can only dream of
  • Has a built-in mic for use with cell phones – compatible with both Apple and Android phones. Other passive noise isolating models listed below don’t have microphones for phone conversations.
  • Passive noise-cancellation: simply blocks outside noises by means of tight fit between ear canals and ear tips. You didn’t expect to get ACTIVE noise canceling circuitry for this price did you?  😆
  • Nylon cords instead of rubber: tangles much less than rubber
  • Three tips: three sizes of ear tips for different sizes of ears
  • The price for all this? You’re paying an unbelievably low price for the premium-quality audio

Check out the 6000++ Reviews on here…

Sony MDRXB60EX/GLD Extra Bass Noise Isolating Earbuds

  • Sony MDRXB60EX Gold Extra Bass In Ear Headphones13.5mm high sensitivity XB drivers – most other in-ear headphones have 10mm drivers. Because of the larger size of the drivers, the Sony MDRXB60EX/GLD Extra Bass earbuds produce richer sounds with deeper, more powerful bass (drivers are not the only components in headphones that decide the quality and quantity of sound; however, if all else is identical, bigger drivers typically result in better sounds)
  • Advanced Direct Vibe structure – together with the 13.5mm drivers, provides “a vast soundscape filled with thrilling highs and deeply resonating lows”
  • Broad response frequency – 4 to 25,000 Hz
  • Noise isolation earbuds – pressure relieving urethane foam reduces ambient noise. Also help for an outstanding fit. Small, Medium, and Large sizes are included. However, if you want ACTIVE NOISE CANCELLATION, you should check out  Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones.
  • Siliconized earbuds – come in 4 sizes allowing for a tailored fit that further maximizes overall sound quality, noise isolation and comfort
  • Excellent user reviews
  • Checkout another similar pair from Sony (also have 13.5mm drivers)

Best Active NC Bluetooth Earbuds

Phiaton BT 220 Bluetooth 4.0 Active Noise Cancelling Earphones

  • Phiaton BT220 NC earbudsBluetooth 4.0 connectivity – compared to previous versions of Bluetooth (e.g. 2.0, 3.0) Bluetooth 4.0 is better on bandwidth, sound quality, energy consumption, battery life, pairing reliability, data rate etc. So, if you have a choice to choose between a model with BT 3.0 an 4.0, definitely go with the 4.0 option!
  • ACTIVE Noise Cancellation technology – Phiaton BT 220 NC Bluetooth Earbuds have built-in noise cancelling circuitry that blocks out as much as 95% of ambient background noise. These Sony Noise Canceling Bluetooth Headphones also have ACTIVE NC technology, however, are not as good as the Phiaton pair in many respects.
  • Multi-point connection: the early models could only connect with one device at a time. But many models like the Phiaton BT 220 are able to connect with two devices simultaneously (e.g. smartphone, tablet PC or MP3 player). This allows you to listen to music on your iPod and answer a call on your Samsung Galaxy Note 4! How cool is that?
  • Includes audio cable – most BT earphones only connect with BT-enabled devices and there’s no way of using them as ‘wired headphones’. But with the BT 220s you get a cable to connect to non-Bluetooth devices.
  • Built-in mic – lets you answer/make phone calls. In contrast, these noise canceling Bluetooth earbuds don’t have a built-in mic
  • Clear voice capture (CVC): this is a technology that aids in filtering out background/surrounding noises using advanced audio enhancements and even noise suppression for an improved, crystal-clear telephone experience
  • apt-X technology – like we explained earlier, APTX increases digital streaming efficiency by making the audio files smaller and thereby making the transfer between the two devices more efficient and complete
  • In-line controller with clip – FF, REW, PLAY, STOP, PAUSE, Vol+, Vol- and answer button to answer phone calls. However, some users complain that these controls can’t be operated with gloved hands. Given how tiny these things are, it’s actually not a very valid argument. You’ll find it hard to operate these buttons with gloved hands not only on this Phiaton, but any other headphone, given how tiny they are
  • NFC: Near Field Communication for quick and easy pairing with your Bluetooth-enabled device
  • Customizable, no slip fit – four separate sizes of silicon tips to fit all ear sizes
  • Long battery lifePhiaton BT 220 NC Bluetooth Earbuds has up to 16 hours of call time or 17 hours of music listening time while using the Bluetooth or noise canceling features. You might notice that this is very much longer than the battery lives of the Plantronics BackBeat FIT, JayBird BlueBuds etc. That’s because this Phiaton has a relatively large unit that holds the noise cancellation circuitry and the battery whereas the other models didn’t.
  • Standby time: 500 hrs. (with noise cancellation switched off)
  • 14.3 mm driver size – most earbuds have drivers less than this, some as low as 6 – 8mm. When it comes to driver size of headphones, it’s bigger the better!
  • Access manual here
  • Check out more features and customer reviews here…

Where to buy?


Other popular headphone reviews

  1. TOP 10 Noise-Cancelling Headphones
  2. Best Wired Earbuds
  3. TOP 8 Bluetooth Earbuds
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