Noise cancelling earbuds with power source - Audio-Technica ATH ANC23 QuietPoint earbuds

Smartphone users want to have a great digital sound experience with their music. But the hassle lies that you don’t want to have to lug around big bulky headphones. Maybe you’re a frequent airline traveler or motorcycle rider and you want earbuds to reduce the external noises so you can hear your music. Headphones are an option, but you know they’re big an bulky to travel with, and they are hot to wear. If earbuds are the preferred choice over headphones, we’ve put a few earbuds to the test to let you know what we’ve found so you can make an intelligent decision for yourself. Our last criteria – the price has to be under $250. Tests were done using a iPhone 4 so we also wanted to make sure there were volume controls inline as well as a mic for taking calls.

Noise cancelling earbuds with power source – Audio-Technica ATH ANC23 QuietPoint earbuds

Noise Cancelling vs. Noise Isolation Earbuds

First thing is to make sure you know the difference between noise cancelling vs. noise isolation. Noise cancelling earbuds have a microphone and a power source.

  • Noise isolating earbuds are earbuds that isolate noise normally fitting deep into the ear to isolate the sounds directly to your ear canal. But there is no noise cancelling technology (e.g. mic and power).
  • Noise Cancelling earbuds have an electronic mechanism to offset external noises and are normally battery powered. These earbuds reduce distracting background noise by up to 90% while offering the superior sound. Engineered to create a comfortable listening environment in areas with high ambient noise, these in-ear headphones feature a miniature microphone in each earpiece that picks up ambient noise (such as traffic, air-handling systems, etc.)

Street Noise / Train Noise / Plane Noise

Want to hear a real test regarding noise cancellation vs. Noise isolation – Shure built an online test – Click Here (a new window will open).

The Big Names – Public Favorites – iBeats by Dr Dre and Bose MIE2i

The iBeats from Monster with Control Talk for the iPhone is a good set for noise isolation – but not noise cancelling.

After experimenting with the new Bose MIE2’s and the iBeats for the iPhone 4 I have to say, there are lot’s of other options out there. For the price, they didn’t really cut the job. They isolated. They fit well in the ear. Also important, they have volume controls and a mic so you can take calls as well. Honestly, one of the best things about the iBeats is they have that chord that doesn’t tangle (don’t laugh- it’s one of their greatest features).Another popular earbud is the Bose® MIE2i Mobile Headset – Awesome fit – great for activity focused folks that need the earbuds to stay in. Very comfortable. The only issue with these earbuds is that the tips go into the ear, but they didn’t surround the ear canal, so they just didn’t sound loud enough. But from a fit perspective, they really fit well.

 Top 5 or So Winners

Based on our unbiased review, the earbuds we tested are some of the best ones available on the market today. For today’s users, they need to first of all do what they’re supposed to do, be comfortable, not fall out or have to be adjusted every few minutes, provide great sound, and store easily. Also the price is important. We didn’t evaluate more expensive models. Our cap is $250!

Based on that criteria, the Bose MIE2i’s fit the best, the iBeats sound the best, and the Audio Technicia’s cancel best. Only issue with the Audio Technicia’s is they DON’T have a microphone so you can’t take a call.

  • Isolation Earbud – Klipsch IMAGE S4 In-Ear Enhanced Bass Noise-Isolating earbuds (about $60 online).
  • Isolation Earbud – Bose MIES2 for iphone (about $100-$130)
  • Isloation Earbud – iBeats with control talk (about $90)
  • Cancelling Earbud – Audio-Technica ATH ANC23 QuietPoint earbuds
  • Isolation Earbud – Etymotic Research HF2 Hands-Free Earphone Headset with Microphone (about $120 online)
  • Isolation Earbud – Shure SE215 Sound Isolating Earphones – Black & Shure CBL-M+-K Music Phone Adapter Cable ($140)
  • That’s 6 – YOU GIVE US THE NEXT FOUR….

Out there you might have a favorite earbud that works for you. Post your comments on your experiences to share with others.

Have a Top 10 favorite – Post your thoughts.

1 thought on “Top 10: Noise Cancelling vs Noise Isolation Earbuds – iBeats & Bose put to Test

  1. The Shure SE535 sits at the top of our list. These triple-driver earphones have a new fit with removable cables. In second comes the first true 3-way triple driver earphones with universal fit, the UM3X with a slight “bump” on the lower end, clear vocals and great soundstage. The Westone 4 is hands down our favorite earphones for Classical music. The Westone 4 earphones have a 3-way crossover and it’s the very first Quad Driver earphones with universal fit ever made. Each earpiece has four drivers! One “tweeter”, one mid-range and two “woofers” in a 3-way crossover configuration.

    Only $500….for the Shure SE535s

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