Which Is Right for You?

Great Noise-Canceling Wireless Earbuds Are Finally Here. These Are the Ones You Want

November 23, 2019 Tech By Photo by Chandler Bondurant
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True wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation (ANC) are a relatively new development in the audio scene, with the Sony WF-SP700N being the first pair to make a considerable splash when they landed last year. They sounded alright and the fit was snug, but their noise-canceling abilities hardly up to snuff.

Fast forward a year and a half and the landscape for ANC true wireless buds has changed entirely. There still aren’t a ton of options out there and there are some notable holes. Heavyweight Bose won’t release its own pair, the Bose Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700, until 2020 for example. But what options there are follow through on the promise of their design. Here are the best of 2019, in order of their price.

Amazon Echo Buds

How’s the noise-canceling? The Echo Buds use Bose’s “active noise-reduction” technology, which Bose claims isn’t as good as the “active noise-cancelation” technology that’s in its own headphones (and will be in Bose Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700, when they’re released in 2020). That said, the noise-canceling ability of the Echo Buds is suprisingly good and better than some other earbuds on this list. The secret, I think, is that in addition to the noise-reducation technology, the Echo Buds go for a fit that is snugger than most and it creates a nature, passive noise-canceling seal.

What else we like: The touch controls on the earbuds are very responsive, with a double-tap to switch between noise-canceling and transparency modes, the latter of which is quite good. Alexa voice controls work with third-party services, like Spotify. The earbuds come with swappable silicone ear tips and ear wings, so it’s pretty easy to get a secure fit. Also, you can’t beat the price.

What we don’t like: They still charge via micro-USB and the case and the earbuds feel kind very plastic-y. Also, to get the most out of these earbuds you’ll want to use the Alexa app, which can be confusing for the unfamiliar.

Sony WF-1000XM3

How’s the noise-canceling? Sony’s WF-1000XM3 offer the most effective noise-canceling abilities of any wireless earbuds on the market. It’s not quite up to the levels of the Sony WH-1000XM3, the company’s flagship noise-canceling over-ear headphones, but then again we wouldn’t expect it to. Also, via the companion app, you can easily customize the noise-canceling levels, which very few wireless earbuds (or wireless headphones in general) allow you to do.

What else we like: In addition to their great noise-canceling abilities, these are the best-sounding wireless earbuds that happen to also have ANC. They slightly edge out the other premium competition.

What we don’t like: The Sony WF-1000XM3 aren’t sweat-resistant and the fit isn’t secure enough to work out in. Also, the charging case is pretty gigantic.

Apple AirPods Pro

How’s the noise-canceling? While not quite up the levels of the Sony WF-1000XM3, the AirPods Pro have pretty excellent noise-canceling abilities. They’re able to eliminate mid-to-low frequencies that are continuous, but are a bit less effective with higher frequencies.

What else we like: Apple packed the AirPods Pro with a ton of new tech. There’s Adaptive EQ, which is a sort-of hearing test to help you find the best fitting silicone ear tip. The transparency mode is pretty phenomenal. And they have Apple’s H1 chip for easy iPhone pairing. The best things with the AirPods Pro, however, don’t have to do with technology; these are Apple’s first wireless earbuds that are sweat-resistant (IPX4), and their new design with silicone tips mean that they won’t fall out of your ears nearly as easily.

What we don’t like: Lovers of the traditional AirPods might not like the way they fit — it’s different. The battery life of each earbud with ANC turned on is actually worse regular AirPods. Also, you still should only buy these if you have an iPhone.


Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus

How’s the noise-canceling? The noise-cancellation of the MW07 Plus’s was slightly less effective than the Echo Buds’s, which may have to do primarily with the seal; the MW07 Plus fit more loosely in the ear, which makes them more comfortable to wear for long periods of time, but also allows more ambient sounds to seep in. The neat thing about the noise-cancellation of the MW07 Plus is that, at least by my ear, it actually improves the overall sound quality of the buds when on, whereas the opposite is usually the case.

What else we like: Master & Dynamic’s wireless earbuds are all about style and sound quality. If you want the flashiest wireless earbuds out there — the MW07 Plus wireless earbuds are made of acetate and stainless steel — these are what you are looking for.

What we don’t like: There’s no doubt that the MW07 Plus are on the expensive side, but the thing that will be the most polarizing thing about them is their lack of a companion app. Normally that would be a good thing, like with the AirPods Pro, but it makes it a little difficult to know which mode you’re in (there’s an ambient listening mode in addition to an ANC mode).


The 10 Best Wireless Headphones for Running and Working Out

It’s time to swap out your basic buds for a pair that goes the extra mile. Read the Story

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Tucker Bowe

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol's editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

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