Earbuds come with many different features, highlights, specs and overall types of “technology”, and for today, we wanted to focus on a specific type of feature many love — noise isolation. But what does it actually mean? Quite literally, isolating noise (away from our ears as well as others, that is) is important for many reasons and uses — whether you’re at the library and need some privacy from those listening to what you’re hearing, or the opposite such as in public bus to ensure pesky ambient noise in the outside world doesn’t affect your grooves, there are viable solutions out there that can get the job done. Today we chose our 10 favorite earbuds with solid noise isolation worth looking at and made sure we had different budgets and other types of features in mind to give you some options.
What are noise isolating earbuds?
To be honest, the term noise isolation headphones does not mean a specific type of technology is built-in to your device. In fact, it typically is pretty broad and thrown around loosely in the headphones game. Technically, all headphones can “isolate noise” since they’re playing music directly into your ears. However, there are a few specific types of builds and technology that optimize isolation of noise in certain environments.
There is indeed a popular mix-up when it comes to ‘technology’ of headphones, such as “isolation” and “cancellation”. Read up on the difference between noise isolation and noise cancellation headphones if you want some more information; however, grabbing a pair of “noise isolation” doesn’t mean it also “cancels” out noise. Active noise-cancellation (ANC) is a lot more expensive and literally entails a pair of headphones to have tiny microphones on the outside of the earphones which ‘pick up’ the noise from the outside world. It then mimics these sound waves and cancels them out using polar opposite sound waves to disallow them from coming into your mix. It eats up a lot more battery and costs a pretty penny, but can definitely be worth it if you have the cash.
If you can indeed afford ANC headphones, always go with that (we have a few below). You just can’t match ANC technology when it comes to keeping an isolated sound. If not, never fear — there are a few of our favorite headphones down below that can still offer viable noise isolation. In our case today, earbuds and in-ear headphones (we titled it earbuds since most people associate the first term, although there minor differences between the two) are great at isolation because they’re engulfing our ears with our sound, acting essentially as earplugs do. So how do we know which earbuds are the best for noise isolation? We don’t. All of them do. However, we scoured user reviews and other technology and specs some popular pairs have which optimize noise isolation further than just their build alone.
The best noise isolating earbuds
Starting with our first pick as the best noise isolating earbuds in the market, the Shure SE215 have an over-the-ear design and come in both wireless and wired types with a variety of color options. These comfortable and sleek earphones have what’s called a ‘Single Dynamic Driver’ which isn’t necessarily as crazy as some extremely high-end in-ear monitors with dual drivers per se, but this still pretty much deepens the bass and also results in a clearer sound overall. What’s pretty cool is the detachable cable making it more convenient and portable and the noise isolating design, which blocks 37dB of unwanted noise. I am a fan of the over-the-ear design which is comfortable for at the gym or just on-the-go — simply wrap the wiring over your ears and it’ll stay put. Another great thing about these earbuds is the ability to hook up to Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity with 30 feet of wireless range. These noise isolating in-ears are easy to use with a remote and microphone attached (on select models) which allows you to easily make phone calls or voice commands. And lastly, the zippered case is comfortable and protects the Shure SE215 earbuds nicely.
Next up on our list, we have another one of our favorite picks as the best noise isolating earbuds, the V-MODA Zn. With over 45+ editor’s choice awards & trusted by 50% of top 20 producer DJs, (at least that’s claimed by V-MODA), these top noise isolating earbuds are at the top of my list. Let’s discuss the specs — they have a 8mm speaker driver, weighs about 20.8g, and has a microphone sensitivity of -42dB @ 1kHz. The frequency response is 20-25,000 kHz. Not only that, but the plug on these guys is 45 degrees and 24k gold-plated and there is an easy-to-use 3-button remote & voice assistant that helps you play music, make phone calls, control volume. These noise isolating earbuds have a clear communication and (my favorite) a tangle-free cable. And the great part of the design is the custom-made Italian tuning filters and the zinc metal housing that allows for a unique, clear sound. V-MODA typically has luxurious builds, and these are no different.
We are on to the Westone W10 in-ear headphones, which are known for the entry-level music enthusiast. We say “entry-level” because not only are they really comfortable, but they have just what you need in regards to isolation technology; however, they do come with a price. Also, these earphones are known to be “the most compact, low profile, ergonomic design in the world”. The ear tips are made of silicone and come in a variety of five different sizes depending on your choice of comfort. These earbuds are known ny many for being the best noise isolation earbuds and reduce unwanted sounds by 25 dB. The MMCX Audio Twisted Cable is convenient and light-weight and it helps reduce outside noise. Another cool thing about these is that they were created by musicians and music lovers, which is comforting to know because they want the best quality for their music. Lastly, others have said that the Westone W10 noise isolating earphones are the best and so comfortable that you could wear them for hours upon hours without any discomfort or pesky pain that often happens in cheaper models.
Bose QuietComfort 20
Let’s talk about the Quiet Comfort 20 acoustic noise cancelling headphones, one of the most popular pairs of earbuds in the world. These are not for the faint hearted or those on a strict budget. The average customer rating is a 4.2/5 overall and most reviewers state that these are the best noise isolating earbuds on the market due to their superb noise cancellation technology. With a touch of a button, these headphones allow you to turn on “noise cancellation mode” to focus on your music or turn on “aware mode” which allows you to hear your surroundings. The ear tips are Proprietary StayHear tips, which are comfortable and secure, too. Also, these headphones connect to Apple, Samsung and Android devices, so nobody is left out. The Active EQ and Triport technology creates a crystal clear and deep sound that I really appreciate. The controls are very easy to use and are all set up with a slider switch to control volume, call answer/end buttons, voice recognition, Google search and more. Lastly, the rechargeable battery is great quality. The battery charges in two hours and lasts 16 hours, which is very, very long for a pair of earbuds with noise cancellation.
Symphonized NRG 3.0
First and foremost, we really like the design of these headphones. The NRG 3.0 in-ear headphones have a nice stylish look to them with their wood design. The design doesn’t stop there, the eco-friendly pouch is the perfect earthy-designed case that I really enjoy. The tangle-free cords come in a variety of colors and so do the ear tips. There is a built-in microphone that activates ‘Voice Control’, which makes it easy to answer phone calls without all the hassle of finding your device. Some other notable specifications include the ‘Dynamic 8mm Neodymium’, the sensitivity is at 101+/3bD at 1KHz, 1mW, and the rated input power is 5mW. But for about the look and specs, what about the isolation? These definitely aren’t the most monstrous in this category and certainly don’t include any noise cancellation, but the reviews have stated they work fine in regards to both noise leakage and outside noise coming into your mix. They are also made for the latest Apple & Android devices. Top reviews state also that “the sound from these is warm, rich, balanced, and gives you everything you could want from your music and then some.” Lastly, the Symphonized NRG 3.0 headphones are budget-friendly, so check them out if you didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on your pair.
Klipsch Image S4i-II
The S4i (II) In-Ear Headphones are a hit or miss for most people and reviewers. With an average 2.9/5 review, these headphones do offer some of the best noise isolating earbud experience, but the cheap price entails some lacking in certain areas (what do you expect at nearly fifty bucks?) I do enjoy the sleek design of the white-colored headphones and the 3-button remote and built-in microphone is convenient when it comes to answering and ending phone calls on-the-go. Another plus is that the Klipsch S4i headphones audio connects to almost any device that has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The oval ear tips are comfortable and allow for a clear, deep noise. Some reviews on the website state that the ear tips have popped off after just a few weeks of use and other reviews discuss that the wires do get tangled easily. I do like the added options that you can purchase with the headphones like the 4 pairs of different sized ear tips, the carrying case, and the clothing clip for your microphone and remote system.
Sticking to another budget-friendly and super cheaply priced pair of noise isolating earbuds, the SoundMAGIC E10 are fun to look at and fun to use. These all-metal earphones are a comfortable fit and have a really unique design. I appreciate the tangle-free twisted sleek cable, too. They have decent noise isolation and are a good price for the package deal that includes the E10 earphones, 3 pairs of dome silicone ear tips, 3 pairs of flat silicone ear tips, 1 Double Flange silicone ear tip, a cable clip and a travel pouch. Some reviews state that these headphones last a long, long time and that they are a better choice vs. other expensive earphones they have purchased in the past. Other reviews share that these are the best earphones they have ever owned and that the sound quality is solid. Lastly, I like how the SoundMAGIC E10 package deal comes with a huge variety of ear tips to ensure a perfect and comfortable fit. Just a great value here for another pick as the best noise isolation earbuds in the market right now.
Let’s get back into the higher-end range and discuss the IE 80 by one of our favorite brands of all time. These earphones have come in with a 4.5 out of 5 stars on most websites and for good reason. Priced a bit higher than most of the earphones in our list, the IE80 features a stereo sound and high noise cancellation system. The design is trendy with a brushed-metal housing and interchangeable cables that are tangle-free. The neodymium magnets allow for a clear and accurate sound. The package includes the noise isolating earphones, protective case with dry salt pads, ear adapter, cleaning tools, & a cable clip for convenience. Reviews on some websites have stated that the sound out of these headphones is a big highlight but others have stated that the overall build is what’s key here. The reviews continue with some stating that the Sennheiser IE80 are the some of the greatest noise cancellation earbuds they have ever purchased, so it definitely depends on what you are looking for and if your cash flow allows for a pair of headphones priced at a few hundred bucks.
B&O PLAY H3
Nearing the end of our guide, the Beoplay H3 light-weight noise cancelling earbuds were designed by Jakob Wagner and have a pretty cool old-school design look to them. The specifications include a dynamic 10.8 mm driver, the microphone is a ‘MicroElectrical-Mechanical System‘, and the cord is also tangle-resistant. So, what’s in the box? The package includes the Beoplay H3 noise cancellation earphones, replacement ear buds in a variety of sizes, a flight adapter, quick start guide and a carrying pouch. The light-weight earphones come in three colors: black, neutral, and champagne. There is also a two variant remote that connects to Android or iOS. These earphones are designed for any ear size or shape and have a comfortable rubber earbud and is purposely designed off axis to fit the canal of the human ear. This results in no sound leakage and solid performance — noise isolation, if you will. Lastly, the B&O PLAY H3‘s remote and microphone mentioned earlier is easy-to-use and controls your device quickly and accurately.
MEE audio M6
Last but definitely not least, let’s discuss the MEE audio M6 headphones that are known to be some of the best noise isolating in-ear monitors that we’ve just recently reviewed. This model has an in-ear design with their comfortable ‘Comply T-Series’ memory foam ear tips which makes them super easy to wear. What I enjoy about these headphones is the sweat-resistant, too. When at the gym, you won’t feel the sweat because of the foam ear tips and they certainly won’t break on you easily. Not only that, but the headset cable comes with a microphone & remote to easily control media on most phones or tablets. My absolutely favorite part about the design is the customizable custom-engraved metal face plates — not only are they the perfect headphones for myself, but they are the perfect custom gift for friends and family. The box includes of course the M6 PRO In-Ear Monitors, a stereo audio cable, carrying case, stereo headset cable, the Comply memory foam ear tips, 6 pairs of ear tips, 2 shirt clips, an adapter, and the user manual for all you Q & A’s. The MEE audio M6 is our final pick as the best noise isolation earbuds for the money.