Top 10: The Best ANC In-Ear Headphones from Our Tests – Apple Beats Bose

Alana Grace

Apple Airpods Beside A Macbook Pro
Photo by Mahdi Daldawala on Pexels

The market for completely wireless in-ear headphones is huge. Our past tests have shown that it’s no longer just the expensive models that excel in both noise cancellation and powerful sound. When making a purchase, it’s important to consider that there are significant differences between headphones not only in terms of sound quality, but also in terms of handling, active noise cancellation, appearance, ease of use, and battery life.

Sound Quality

Sound quality is a crucial factor when buying ANC in-ear headphones. However, it is not solely determined by the hardware of the headphones themselves, but also by the supported audio codecs. Codecs are algorithms used for compressing and decompressing audio data. They influence how the audio signal is transmitted wirelessly and can therefore have a significant impact on sound quality.

Different codecs provide different sound qualities and connection speeds. Some of the most common codecs are SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, and LDAC. SBC is the standard Bluetooth codec and offers sufficient, but not outstanding, sound quality. It is not suitable for higher demands. AAC is preferred by Apple devices and provides better sound quality than SBC, especially for higher frequencies. aptX and aptX HD, developed by Qualcomm, offer even higher sound quality, low latency, and are primarily well-suited for Android devices. LDAC, a codec developed by Sony, provides the highest sound quality among the codecs described here, but it is not supported by all devices.

The sound quality can only be as good as the weakest link in the chain. Even if the headphones support a high-quality codec, the sound quality will be compromised if the playback device does not support that codec. Ideally, one should choose headphones that support the smartphone’s best codec.


Active noise cancellation (ANC), also known as active noise cancelling, uses microphones to capture ambient sounds and minimize them with out-of-phase sounds. The result is a significant reduction in background noise, which is particularly useful in loud environments such as airplanes, trains, or busy offices. ANC requires additional power, which reduces the headphones’ battery life.

However, the quality of ANC can vary significantly between different headphone models. Some models also offer customizable ANC levels, allowing users to adjust the strength of noise cancellation according to their environment. Additionally, some ANC headphones also offer a transparency or ambient mode that digitally feeds ambient sounds into the ear and even amplifies them. There are also significant differences in effectiveness and sound fidelity in this area.


A good pair of headphones should be comfortable enough to be worn for extended periods of time without discomfort. This depends on various factors, including the design of the earbuds, the weight of the headphones, and the quality of the materials used.

Some headphones use earbuds that are inserted deep into the ear canal, while others remain in the outer ear canal. Both designs can be comfortable, but it depends on individual preferences and the shape of the ears as to which design is best. Therefore, it is advisable to choose headphones that come with different sizes and types of earbuds to ensure an optimal fit. Those who are not satisfied with the standard earbuds should check out the guide to improving fit, noise isolation, and sound quality for in-ear headphones. The weight of the headphones can also affect comfort. Heavy in-ears can become uncomfortable after a while, especially when worn during workouts or while running.

Battery Life

Long battery life allows for extended use of the headphones without constantly needing to search for a power source. This is particularly important for people who are often on the go or who want to use their headphones for extended periods of time.

Battery life can vary significantly depending on various factors such as volume, use of ANC, and type of connection. Some headphones offer up to 30 hours of battery life when combined with the charging case. Some charging cases support Qi-standard wireless charging or can be used as power banks.


Rank 1: Apple Airpods Pro 2

The Apple Airpods Pro 2 are high-priced but powerful true wireless headphones that offer a range of improvements over their predecessor. They deliver clear and balanced sound, efficient active noise cancellation (ANC), and impressive battery life of up to 30 hours when considering additional charging through the case. Operation is simple, with the new ability to control the volume directly on the stem of the earbuds.

Despite their strengths, the Airpods Pro 2 are not without weaknesses. The biggest limitation is their compatibility with Android devices. While they can technically be connected to Android smartphones, some of their features, such as switching the ANC mode, are only possible with an iPhone. Additionally, the AAC codec is better optimized for the Airpods Pro 2 under iOS than under Android, resulting in slightly inferior sound quality on Android.

Overall, the Apple Airpods Pro 2 are excellent earbuds for users willing to pay a high price for quality, comfort, and performance. They are particularly exciting for those who have already invested in the Apple ecosystem. However, Android users should consider the mentioned limitations before making a purchase decision.

Rank 2: Bose QC Earbuds II

Bose has made a big breakthrough with the Quietcomfort Earbuds II. They are among the best in-ear headphones available. Compared to their predecessor, they have significantly reduced in size. The two-stage system with interchangeable tips ensures a secure and tight fit in many ears. This is crucial for ANC, which is excellently implemented here, even better than in the Apple Airpods Pro 2. The Earbuds II also block out high frequencies better than most other headphones, whether in-ear or over-ear.

The sound quality is impressive and on par with the best in-ears on the market. The secret lies not in the driver or the codecs used; aptX, Bluetooth LE Audio, or LDAC are missing here. Apparently, Bose achieves the impressive noise cancellation and brilliant sound by measuring the internal ear shape. This is not new, but it is particularly well done here. The high price of 250 euros is a real damper for many. The absence of Bluetooth Multipoint is also a drawback.

Rank 3: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3

If one uses a new pair of headphones as an excuse to rediscover old songs, then the manufacturer has done something right. The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 achieves this feat. It’s simply a lot of fun to listen to old playlists and discover new details.

In addition to the sensational sound, the ANC is also excellent. The anti-wind function, in particular, is great – finally, there’s no more annoying wind noise. In addition, the headphones offer a very good battery life, even with ANC activated. The everyday wearing comfort is good, and with the included wings, they can also be used for sports.

What are the drawbacks? First, the price of 180 euros is simply expensive. It’s worth waiting for discount promotions. We would also have liked an option

to locate the devices, either in the app or through third-party services like Tile. Formats such as Atmos for Headphones or 360 Reality Audio would also be nice, although the excellent sound from Sennheiser doesn’t make us miss these features too much. Those who can live with these compromises get excellent true wireless headphones for almost any everyday situation and type of music.

Rank 4: Google Pixel Buds Pro

The Google Pixel Buds Pro are good in-ear headphones, no doubt. However, with a price tag of over 200 euros, they compete with other high-end devices, especially the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3. And here, it becomes apparent that Google has cut corners in many small details. This starts with the lack of alternatives to AAC (why not LDAC or LHC?), continues with ANC (there are now anti-wind features in this price range), and extends to the Bluetooth used.

Google could have been more daring, for example, by positioning the Pixel Buds Pro as flagship headphones for Bluetooth 5.3 and the new LC3 audio codec. This could already be achieved with Bluetooth 5.2, which is also integrated in the new Pixel 6 smartphones. Google could have showcased its technical innovations and offered customers real high-tech devices.

While the Google Pixel Buds Pro are very good headphones, they don’t really stand out from the competition in this price range. Our tip: If you can get them cheaply in combination with a smartphone, go for it. For everyone else, we recommend taking a look at the world of true wireless headphones. There, we showcase some exciting alternatives, such as the Edifier Neobuds Pro or the Nothing Ear 1, which are significantly cheaper but still offer ANC and good sound.

Rank 5: JBL Reflect Aero

The JBL Reflect Aero hardly leaves anything to be desired as a sporty all-rounder and offers excellent value for money in the segment above 120 euros. The build quality and wearing comfort are good, the sound and battery life are great, and it has almost all the desirable features. If it had an aptX or LDAC codec for Android devices, a few more ear tips, and maybe even Qi charging on board, there would be practically nothing left to criticize.

JBL’s suggested retail price for the Reflect Aero is 149 euros. At the time of testing, they can be found on the market for around 120 euros.

Rank 6: Huawei Freebuds 2 Pro

Huawei still knows how to do it. The Freebuds 2 Pro sound good and have great ANC. The app is also good, mainly due to the feature for testing the fit. However, it is annoying that software updates do not simply run through the play store. This also applies to control. We don’t quite understand why Huawei insists on the squeeze control.

Rank 7: 1More Aero

In fact, in the test, the 1More Aero convinces not so much with the advertised premium feature called Spatial Audio, but rather with its solid performance in many areas, which is above average with respect to the price segment. Design, comfort, and above all ANC are remarkably well done. Added to this is a great package of features, including AAC codec, Bluetooth multipoint, and dynamic EQ adjustment to the selected volume. A lot is offered for the money, even if we would still wish for a higher quality audio codec for Android devices in a somewhat apologetic tone.

So, if you want an almost perfect ANC all-rounder with good mid-range sound, you can confidently go for it.

Rank 8: Edifier Neobuds Pro

There are many true wireless headphones that entice with good ANC, high-res sound, and a reasonable price. The Edifier Neobuds Pro deliver on their promise and provide a balanced, good sound that isn’t overshadowed by excessive booming. The excellent noise cancellation and usable microphones make them good everyday headphones that can isolate you from the noisy outside world during commuting or in the office. The design is pleasing, and the battery life could be a bit longer, but the fast charging function helps: a few minutes in the charging case and the headphones are ready to go again.

Overall, Edifier delivers good Bluetooth headphones that can be obtained for a reasonable price of under 100 euros. This also raises the bar for other manufacturers – because LDAC, AAC, and LHDC simply provide great sound. We would not recommend the headphones for sports activities such as jogging or cycling, where things tend to get turbulent. The secure fit is missing here.

Rank 9: Huawei Freebuds 5i

The Huawei Freebuds 5i impress with good sound, even without using the LDAC codec. The compact design, reliable touch controls, and moderate price leave a positive overall impression.

While the in-ears cannot match premium models at high volumes, these models are also twice as expensive. Those looking for true wireless headphones with LDAC get a fair price-performance ratio here.

Rank 10: Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2

The Bowers & Wilkins Pi7 S2 is a high-quality and stylish in-ear headphone that one could wear all day without a break if it didn’t need to be recharged after four hours. With the included Bluetooth transmitter powered by the case battery, it eliminates the need for a separate aptX-compatible Bluetooth transmitter. However, we would also like to see longer battery life, volume or transparency mode control on the earbud, and a single mode – albeit somewhat sheepishly.

Before making a purchase, one should be aware of whether they want to have and regularly use an earbud system and whether it needs to be such a high expenditure. However, if these criteria are met, then the Pi7 S2 is just right: it is even suitable for webinars and video conferences on desktop PCs in the office. The extra 100 euros compared to the Pi5 S2 are well spent on better sound and the proprietary Bluetooth transmitter, which makes the headphones usable even with sources without Bluetooth.


Sound quality, ANC, comfort, and battery life are just a few of the aspects to consider. It is important to choose a model that meets individual needs and preferences to ensure the best possible listening experience.

Those who listen to a lot of music and have trained ears may have to pay more than 150 euros for the last bit of sound quality. The best models not only offer first-class sound, but also the most extensive customization options and above-average ease of use.

However, those who are willing to compromise slightly on sound or control options can also get true wireless headphones with sufficiently good noise cancellation and rich sound for around 100 euros.

Despite its advanced age, the Sony WF-1000XM4 is still exciting. In just a few weeks, in mid-2023, its successor is expected to be released. We’re excited! For individual tests, more about over-ear and gaming headsets, check out our Headphones category.

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