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AirPods are everywhere. As much of the working world moved online more than a year ago, sales of the wireless buds nearly doubled — tallying 114 million units. The latest Apple craze isn’t without reason; AirPods stand as some of the best noise-canceling earbuds out there. They’re not alone in terms of good options, though. Bose, Sony, Samsung, Sennheiser, and others have also developed their own true wireless, active noise canceling (usually referred to as ANC.)
So, with more options than ever, here are the five best active noise canceling earbuds — ones to get your head down at work, focus on a meeting, or even just shut out the world and listen for a while.
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1. Bose Quiet Comfort 2
While Apple has the most widespread device, Bose might be responsible for the best. Their strength is, quite simply, the ability to cancel noise very well. The Quiet Comforts come with three switchable noise canceling “modes”, allowing you to select how much noise you drown out when you plug in. This steady muffling of sound makes them convenient for different settings, providing different sonic levels for sitting in a cafe or walking on a crowded city street, for example. Such a clever trick is put together by a system that selectively picks out real life sounds around you, designed to create the effect of not having headphones on at all.
The performance when music is playing isn’t too bad, either. Active EQ makes sure that bass survives regardless of how loud music is playing.
2. Apple AirPods Pro
AirPods are the most popular wireless earbud on the market. And it’s clear why. From the sleek, instantly recognizable Apple design to the simplicity of the touch command to pause and play music, they are an all-round excellent piece of tech. They’re lightweight, and fit snugly in the ear, able to cope with the wear and tear of daily use. Sweat-proof ability also makes them a good option for a run or workout session. Like Bose, the AirPods Pro also have a transparency mode, letting you toggle the amount of sound that’s filtered in. Though Bose or Sennheiser might offer better sound, for iOS users, AirPods are still the best earbuds on the market.
3. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
Few earbuds can match Sennheiser for sound quality. Indeed, their problem historically hasn’t been the company’s industry leading bass or fantastic treble; rather, it’s been a clumsiness, a certain lack of practicality. The Momentum True Wireless 2 aims to fix that — and does so. They’re smaller than previous models, and sit more comfortably in the ear. As such, there are no obvious gaps or uncomfortable spaces, allowing ANC technology to be as effective as advertised. Another interesting perk is the Sennheiser app, which offers the ability to tweak speaker and microphone settings — a certain advantage for phone calls or other voice commands.
4. Master and Dynamic MW08
Earbuds have fallen into a common shape — spherical, rounded, simple. That design is tried and tested, a truly effective formula. But Master and Dynamic have tried something different, giving the earbuds a unique look. Couple that with bright color options, and theyare certainly distinctive. They’re not M&D’s first attempt at noise canceling, but they functionally pass the test, and don’t lose too much battery while having ANC turned on. Three microphones in either bud also enhance call quality, bringing their functionality on par with AirPods or Bose. While an app to let users tweak sound setting is probably the next step, Master and Dynamic offer excellent sound quality and a striking design.
5. Jabra Elite 85t
Perhaps best known as a company for headsets, Jabra has recently wandered into the field of day-to-day headphones. Its Elite Active 75t model is a stellar running headphone, and it has built on that success with the 85t. Featuring 25 hours of constant ANC usage, as well as a sleek, semi-open design, the 85t is among the best options on the market. Where Jabra really excels, though, is with flexibility. The 85t offers 11 different customizable sound modes, with “HearThrough” technology allowing users to filter how much sound they let in. An easy to use app allows you to fiddle with different sound setups until you find the perfect one.
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