True wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation (ANC) were a new development in the audio scene just a few years ago, with the Sony WF-SP700N being the first pair to make a considerable splash when they landed in late 2018.
Fast forward to 2021 and the landscape for ANC true wireless earbuds has changed entirely. There are more options than ever before and all the heavy hitters — including Apple, Sony and Bose (finally) — have released their pair of wireless earbuds with active noise-canceling abilities. These are the best offerings that 2021 has to offer.
The AirPods Pro deliver almost as powerful noise-canceling skills as the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Bose QC Earbuds and sound just as good. The cool thing is 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. They have Apple’s H1 chip for easy iPhone pairing. They have a new "Spatial Audio" feature and support for immersive sound technologies like Dolby Atmos. And they are sweat-resistant (IPX4), so you should have no problem exercising with them.
Released in June 2021, the Sony WF-1000XM4 slightly edge out the Bose Quiet Comfort Earbuds as our pick for the best noise-canceling wireless earbuds you can buy. They are the successor to the nearly two-year-old WH-1000XM3, but Sony redesigned them from the ground up so they have more vibrant sound and better noise-cancellation. They also look and feel completely different; they have a more rounded design and they're noticeably smaller (each earbud is 10-percent smaller and the case is about 40-percent smaller). Finally, Sony gave them some new-age features like wireless charging and water-resistance (IPX4) so they feel like the new hotness.
Released in spring 2021, the second-generation Echo Buds improve on the first-gen models, which were already our favorite "budget" wireless earbuds with noise-cancellation, in basically every way. They sound better and deliver better noise-canceling and transparency modes. Amazon made smaller and lighter so that they're significantly more comfortable to wear; plus they come with silicone earbuds and wing tips, in case you want to wear them running. And they also charge via USB-C instead of micro-USB. For the price, you can't really beat them. The only decision you'll have to make, other than if you want them in white or black, is if you want to fork over an extra $20 for a wireless charging case (bringing the total to $120).
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds might be late on the scene — released in late 2020 — but they're definitely worth the wait. The company's first noise-canceling wireless earbuds pack great sound and top-class noise-canceling abilities into a familiar looking and fitting wireless earbuds; they use the same StayHear eartips that Bose has integrated into all of its in-ear headphones and wireless earbuds. The noise-canceling and transparency modes are also extremely customizable, just like with Bose Headphones 700. The only downside is that they're substantially more expensive than closest rivals, the AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM4.
Release in early 2021, the PI7 is Bowers & Wilkins's first pair of true wireless earbuds. Yes, they're expensive, but they also deliver better sound quality than the vast majority of other wireless earbuds out there. Each earbud is decked out with dual high-performance drivers, which have been engineered by the same team behind the company's 800 Series Diamond loudspeakers, premium kit that cost $15,000/pair. They're also capable of playing high-resolution audio files up to 24-bit/48 kHz (although you need to stream from a device that supports aptX Adaptive). The PI7 are packed with other premium features, like noise-canceling and support for wireless charging, but the coolest thing about them is that their charging case doubles as a Bluetooth receiver; so you can connect to an in-flight entertainment system or Nintendo Switch and listen to your wireless earbuds.
Jaybird's newest wireless earbuds, the Vista 2, are our pick for the best wireless earbuds for running. They fit snug and, with have an IP68 rating, they are some of the most rugged wireless earbuds you can buy. Unlike the original Vista, Jaybird gave the Vista 2 noise-cancellation and transparency modes, making them great for runners and bikers who want to block out all the noise — or hear all of it.
Released in early 2021, the Master & Dynamic MW08 are the true successor to the company's MW07 Plus. They're about 15 percent smaller than the MW07 Plus, but they also have slightly larger drivers — 11mm Beryllium ones, versus the MW07 Plus's 10mm Beryllium drivers — so they deliver a slightly more vibrant and punchy sound. And they're the company's first (and so far, only) pair of wireless earbuds that work with a companion app (called M&D Connect), which lets you toggle between various noise-cancellation and transparency modes. The new models are made of a combo of ceramic (rather than acetate) and stainless steel. All in all, they're a little more expensive in the company's MW08, but they're more comfortable, better-sounding and more versatile, making them some of our favorite luxury wireless earbuds.
Released in June 2021, the Studio Buds are the company's first noise-canceling wireless earbuds and they're positioned as a more affordable alternative to the AirPods Pro (Apple owns Beats, after all). They don't have Apple's special H1 chip, but they still have many of the AirPods Pro's best features, such as fast iPhone pairing and support for spatial audio and Dolby Atmos; they don't sync with your iCloud account, however, nor do they support multi-device pairing or audio sharing. The omission of the Apple's special H1 chip allows the Studio Buds to work really well with Android smartphones, too, as they support fast pairing and you can easily adjust noise-canceling and transparency modes in Bluetooth settings.
The Klipsch T5 II ANC are a newest wireless earbuds (released mid-2021) and they are essentially improved version of the company's T5 II (released in 2019). The big upgrade is that the new models add active noise-cancellation (as the name gives away), but Klispch also gave these new buds a couple other improvements, including wireless charging, hands-free gesture controls, better overall sound quality (thanks to a redesigned driver) and the ability to tweak the EQ settings via a companion app.
Sennheiser’s second-generation wireless earbuds look pretty much identical to original Momentum True Wireless that were released in 2018. But Sennheiser gave them significantly most battery life, active noise-canceling and transparency modes, and they still pack the company's best-in-class sound. If you’re comfortable paying $300 and they fit in your ears (of few of my colleagues can’t wear these), then these are one of the best-sounding noise-canceling wireless earbuds you can buy.
Released in fall 2020, the Elite 85t are the company's first pair of wireless earbuds with active noise-cancellation. (However, Jabra was able to roll out a software patch to its previous wireless earbuds, the Elite 75t, that gave them active noise-cancellation, too.) They have improved drivers and an improved ergonomic fit, so they should sound better and be slightly more comfortable to wear than the Elite 75t. That said, Jabra has been making some of our favorite wireless earbuds for several years now and the Elite 75t are still excellent and way more affordable.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live are the company's newest and innovatively-designed wireless earbuds with active noise-cancellation and transparency modes. They have a unique bean-like shape and fit comfortably in your ears without creating a physical seal, which also prevents you from getting that pressurized feeling of being underwater (and also allows you to better hear ambient sounds). While very good noise-canceling wireless earbuds, they're really designed for Samsung Galaxy smartphone owners because it has exclusive features like quick pairing and wireless charging (via Samsung's Wireless PowerShare).
The Galaxy Buds Pro are the best noise-canceling earbuds that Samsung currently offers, and they're different from the company's Galaxy Buds Live in a couple key ways. They have a more traditional in-ear design which helps them deliver better sound and improved active noise-cancellation. They also have a significantly better water-resistance rating (IPX7), so they're more suited for workouts. They also have a cool "voice detect" feature that you can turn on, which automatically lowers the volume of the music when you start talking. Again, these wireless earbuds should really only be considered if you have a Samsung Galaxy smartphone as there's no app support for iPhones
Released in mid-2021, Nothing's first wireless earbuds are one of the best budget pairs you can buy. They have active noise-cancellation and transparency modes (although they're not as great as higher-end options) and they support wireless charging. And they fit basically exactly like AirPods Pro. That said, other than price, the real reason you're getting these bad boys is design. Each earbud has a translucent stem so you can see the inner workings — they look like nothing else out there.
1More is a company that specializes in hi-fi headphones and earbuds that are way more affordable than the competition. And the 1More True Wireless ANC, which is the company’s first pair of true wireless with active noise-cancellation, as fit the company’s ethos. They deliver solid sound and impressive noise canceling abilities, and they come at a price that’s slightly more affordable than the AirPods Pro, Sony WF-1000XM4 and Master & Dynamic MW08.