With a snug fit and rich sound, earbuds these days also offer active noise cancellation for a truly immersive experience. Image Credit: Shutterstock

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You don’t have to wear a pair of large, bulky over-ear headphones if you want to tune out external sounds. Over the years, active noise cancellation (ANC) technology has made its way to wireless earbuds, as well.

In fact, “earphones should include ANC because it helps reduce unwanted background noise, making it easier to enjoy your music or calls,” says Reza Moradi, audiovisual instructor at Canadian University Dubai, and founder of Hollywood Studio Dubai. He advised us on other features to look out for, when buying noise cancelling earbuds, and shared his top recommendations. Scroll down to read his advice.

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1. Best Overall: Sony WF-1000XM5 


  • Great sound quality
  • AI-based noise reduction
  • Long battery life
  • Speak-to-Chat function
  • IPX4 rated for water resistance


  • Bass could be better

Both the Sony WF-1000XM5 and its predecessor, WF-1000XM4, are worth top spots on your wish list. Reza praised the ANC technology in this pair of earbuds, which also uses artificial intelligence (AI) to adjust your listening experience based on your surroundings, via adaptive sound control. The earbuds are slim and 20 per cent lighter than their earlier iteration, with a premium look and feel. They fit comfortably, according to reviewers, and the box comes with four different sizes of tips, if you’d like to alter the size of the earbud tips. You can connect the earbuds to two devices simultaneously, thanks to its Multipoint Bluetooth feature, and use Speak-to-Chat to automatically pause music playback when you’re talking to someone. With a battery life of up to eight hours (24 hours with charging case), and IPX4 water resistance rating, it's an excellent device to take with you to work, the gym, when travelling or on errands.

Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh62 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty by Salama Care for Dh46, and two-year extended warranty for Dh65.

2. Best Premium: Bose QuietComfort Ultra 


  • Excellent ANC
  • Comfortable fit
  • Good sound quality
  • ActiveSense feature
  • Reliable battery life


  • No support for LDAC or aptX HD
  • Shorter battery life with Immersive Audio

With arguably some of the best active noise cancellation technology out there, Bose’s QuietComfort Ultra earbuds are both comfortable and offer excellent sound quality. Its predecessor, Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds II, also comes highly recommended by Reza. This newer model, which was released late last year, lets you customise exactly how much noise you want to cancel, through the Bose app. It also automatically adjusts the ANC based on how noisy your surroundings are, thanks to its ActiveSense feature. The earbuds offer balanced sound that’s ideal for daily use, but do note there is no support for high-quality wireless audio codecs such as LDAC or aptX HD. The Immersive Audio mode, which makes it sound like there are two stereo speakers in front of you, also tends to drain the battery quickly.

Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh83.24 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty by Salama Care for Dh6, and two-year extended warranty for Dh81.

3. Best for Apple Users: Apple AirPods Pro 


  • Works well with Apple devices
  • Good ANC
  • Comfortable fit
  • Transparency mode and Conversation Aware feature
  • Charging case has a built-in speaker and USB-C port


  • Relatively short battery life
  • Android users may miss out on some features

If you use an iPhone, iPad or MacBook, there’s no doubt – Apple AirPods Pro are your best bet. Designed with Apple’s H2 chip for fast and seamless audio performance, this pair of earbuds offers 3D sound and top-notch ANC. Apple has swapped out its proprietary Lightning port for a standard USB-C port on the earbuds’ case, making it easy to charge all your Apple devices with a single cable. Reviewers say the earbuds have a snug, comfortable fit, although you can choose from four oval eartip sizes for one that suits you best. The AirPods Pro pair automatically with your iPhone – just tap once to connect them – and multiple Apple devices, so it’s easy to switch between them. The IP54 rating (for both the earbuds and the case) means it’s dust-resistant but it can only withstand mist and light splashes of water. Features like Transparency mode (which lets you hear sounds around you), Adaptive Audio (which dynamically blends Transparency mode with ANC for the best listening experience), and Conversation Awareness (which automatically lowers media volume and enhances voices in front of you) all work intelligently to make it an excellent experience. Do note, however, that the battery lasts only up to six hours before it needs a recharge.

Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh60.75 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty by Salama Care for Dh46, and two-year extended warranty for Dh65.

4. Best Value: JBL Live Pro 2 


  • Excellent noise cancellation
  • Powerful audio
  • Customisation options
  • Ambient Aware, TalkThru and other features
  • IPX5 rated for water resistance


  • Call quality is inadequate, say some reviewers

A true all-rounder, JBL’s Live Pro 2 combines true wireless technology with effective ANC to bring you the perfect pair of earbuds for all-day listening. This mid-range pair features noticeable upgrades from its previous iteration: adaptive noise cancellation, multi-device pairing and customisation options within the app. Their 11mm dynamic drivers reproduce powerful, clear sound, and you can tweak it with an EQ or fiddle with pre-sets in the app. The app also allows you to customise gesture control on the earbud stems’ capacitive touch panel – you can switch noise cancelling on or off, for instance, with a tap on the right stem, or use it for volume control instead. You can even customise ANC levels, based on your surrounding noise level, through the app. Ambient Aware and TalkThru features add further noise reduction control. Reviewers like the minimalistic design of the earbuds, and its mirrored finish – they’re comfortable too, and come with a choice of small, medium and large silicone tips. Their IPX5 rating makes them water resistant, and the pair will last for up to 10 hours, with an additional 30 in the Live Pro 2’s case. On the downside, calls can sound muffled, according to reviewers.

Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh49.92 for 12 months with select banks.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty by Salama Care for Dh35, and two-year extended warranty for Dh49.

5. Best Budget: EarFun Air Pro 3 


  • Good, comfortable fit
  • Multipoint Bluetooth connectivity
  • Three ANC modes
  • Value for money


  • Sound quality could be better

A pair of earphones that proves you don’t have to splurge to get the noise cancelling performance you need, EarFun’s Air Pro 3 is our top budget pick. With a secure fit and easy connectivity, this pair of earbuds has reliable playback controls and effective noise cancelling profiles. You can choose from three ANC modes – noise cancelling, normal and ambient sound. Six high-performance mics are built into the earbuds, so call quality is great. Reviewers say their voice is clearly transmitted, even in the busiest locales. The earbuds support Multipoint Bluetooth connection, so you can sync up to two devices to work simultaneously. A battery life of up to nine hours seals the deal! Reviewers do note that the music’s sound quality could be better; it’s not as well-defined and sophisticated as our top picks in this list.

Bonus: Apply a coupon to get Dh10 off.

Warranty: Amazon offers one-year extended warranty by Salama Care for Dh12, and two-year extended warranty for Dh17.

Why buy noise cancelling earphones?

ANC headphones and earbuds are becoming more and more common these days, because it’s a winning combination. If you could enjoy excellent audio quality, with a device that also muffles external sounds, it would provide an immersive experience no matter where you are – in the middle of a crowded bus, in the university library, or your home office.

Reza said: “In Dubai [or UAE, in general], with its bustling environment and frequent travel, having good ANC earphones can make a big difference in your daily life.”

Our expert noted that a few people would find the ANC feature more to be more useful, than others: “In the UAE, especially in a busy city like Dubai, ANC can be very helpful in crowded public places, noisy workplaces, and for frequent travellers.” Reza broke down the demographics:

Commuters: People who use public transport or travel often, like on buses, trains, or planes.

Students: Those who study in noisy places, like cafes, or libraries, can focus better.

Office workers: Professionals working in noisy offices can concentrate more easily.

Travellers: Frequent flyers or road travellers can enjoy quieter trips and sleep better.

What features should I look for, when buying ANC earphones?

The best noise cancelling wireless earbuds offer high-quality audio, do a stellar job at muting out ambient noise, and fit your budget. Reza advised taking into consideration the following factors:

Sound quality: Look for clear and balanced audio with good bass, midrange, and treble.

Battery life: Prioritise long battery life, especially if you use ANC often.

Comfort and fit: Pick earbuds that are comfortable to wear for long periods and fit securely in your ears.

ANC performance: Choose devices that feature effective noise cancellation in different environments.

Transparency mode: This bonus feature allows you to hear outside sounds when needed, for safety.

Durability: Pick earbuds with good build quality and resistance to water or sweat if you use them for exercise.

Price: Buy a device that comes with a reasonable price for the features offered.

Our expert also advised checking factors that may work against you. For instance, some earphones may claim to have ANC technology, but it may not work well – opt for trusted brands and read reviews before buying, to ensure the noise cancellation feature actually works well.

Reza added: “ANC should not reduce sound quality, so avoid earphones with poor audio. Also, earphones that need frequent charging can be annoying. Lastly, avoid models that are uncomfortable or don’t fit well.”

Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.