It used to be that wireless earbuds were a convenient, but sorely lacking, audio accessory for active noise cancelling (ANC) technology. Not anymore. There are now several pairs of buds that are genuinely decent at dampening, or cutting out altogether, intrusive and unwanted noise around you. Here are the three best pairs for your money.
The active noise cancellation on Google’s latest flagship buds is right up there with any buds we’ve tested this year. One big contributing factor here is the snug fit. While buds are notoriously susceptible to falling out in certain types of ear shapes, these fit comfortably across the board. This helps both the ANC and the audio quality.
That sound quality improvement is partially driven by the larger 11mm driver packed in here. It’s crystal clear with the right amount of bass to give me oomph without being fuzzy. There’s no equaliser, though, so if you don’t particularly care for the sound, you won’t be able to do much about it.
One of the big advantages, to me, of the Pixel Buds Pro over some rivals is the multipoint connections. In English, this means that if your Buds Pro are connected to your laptop and you see a call coming in on your phone, the Buds Pro will automatically switch over to your phone when you answer the call.
Similarly, if you are watching a video on one device and want to see a quick social media clip on another, you don’t have to go into the second device’s settings to manually connect the Buds Pro over Bluetooth.
Of all the major earbud vendors, Samsung has been the biggest improver.
Early attempts at Galaxy Buds were very hit and miss; Samsung has always been good at delivering either very good audio (like the previous Buds Pro) or a very good fit (Buds Live), but rarely both at the same time.
This isn’t the case with the latest Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, which are easily the company’s best earbuds to date with very good sound quality, high-end active noise cancellation and an effectively snug, comfortable fit.
They also have some extra software features that come in handy, as well as having good battery life, a pocket-friendly pill-sized recharging box and a very sports-oriented level (IPX7) of water and moisture resistance.
That accompanying Wareable app has some easy-to-use controls, including a useful ‘Find My Earbuds’ setting which causes the buds to emit a pinging sound if you’re wondering where you left them.
For those who have a Samsung phone (but only those users), there are some nice additional features, like 360 Audio which is a virtual surround sound feature that has ‘head tracking’, a bit like Apple’s ‘spatial audio’.
The small pill case can be wireless recharged, including from any phone with a dual wireless charging facility.
The king of earbuds has a new flagship that’s worthy of the crown. Of all the new products Apple put out this year, the AirPods Pro 2 may actually be the most compelling upgrade.
This is for the tech improvements within the buds and the case, as much as the upgrade in the raw audio or noise cancellation.
Battery life is superb at up to six hours per charge from the box. Audio quality is about the best you can get in the market, with new drivers and tech within the AirPods.
The ANC is the most impressive around, too.
It’s not just that the noise cancellation itself is really decent, even comparable to some sets of overhead headphones; it’s the way that the AirPods Pro 2 now deal with the transparency mode.
The new chip intelligently dampens specific types of noise – like sirens or other disruptively sharp things – while still letting you hear what’s going on around you.
It’s pretty incredible and is miles ahead of any of its rivals’ transparency modes.
They also now have touch sensitive audio, playback and noise-cancellation mode controls on the stems of the buds, which is handy for adjusting something when you don’t want to take your phone out of your pocket.