This article was originally published on Make the Sound Better. I have edited this content, updating the recommendations to be more relevant for 2023.
Earbuds that are designed to block out noise naturally via isolation are not as popular as they once were now that active noise cancellation has become increasingly good and more affordable.
However, some people may prefer noise isolation over noise cancellation. With ANC, it can affect how the audio sounds, it is not uncommon for music to become more bassy with ANC enabled. ANC can also introduce a strange sensation of head pressure which some people find uncomfortable.
Also, with ANC, it may cancel out the noise, but it doesn’t block it; therefore, if you are using earbuds in a loud environment, you will still be exposing yourself to harmful volumes. This is why most musicians will wear specialist earbuds
Best Noise Isolating Earbuds Review Guide
1) ISOtunes Free True Wireless: Check Price On Amazon
These are unique pair of earbuds as they are one of the few true wireless earbuds on the market that focus on noise isolation rather than noise cancellation. Furthermore, these are specifically designed for noise isolation and reducing the risk of hearing loss.
These meet the OSHA and NIOSH requirements. These can be used as hearing protection for a safe work environment.
Many noise isolation earbuds are designed for audiophiles and have a neutral sound for analytical listening, whereas these are more bass emphasised and will provide a sound that is appealing for regular listeners.
- Specifically designed to prevent hearing loss
- Thick ear tips may make these uncomfortable for regular use
2) ISOtunes LITE: Check Price On Amazon
I am listing ISOtunes a second time because I like what they are trying to achieve. These have some mixed reviews, but they claim to offer 26dB noise reduction, which is quite a lot more than the 26dB that the true wireless pair offers. These are also IP67-rated, meaning you can use them in heavy rain without any concern.
Looking at the reviews, the main issue seems to be that these are quite difficult to get a good fit, and getting a good fit is essential for the noise isolation.
- 26 dB NRR Passive Noise Isolation
- The fit may not be suitable for a lot of people
3) Shure SE215 Special Edition PRO: Check Price On Amazon
While we mostly focus on hi-fi brands, a company like Shure that’s been making great studio and stage equipment also makes great stuff for regular music fans who just want to enjoy their music in peace.
For instance, they have great noise-canceling earbuds called SE215. And just like with all of their equipment, sound and performance are the main focus here.
And it would be an understatement to say that these earbuds sound great. In fact, many would use them as in-ear monitors for live performances or even monitoring for some home recording and mixing sessions.
Interestingly enough, these headphones manage to cover both casual music listening and studio work.
Their frequency response is somewhat “flatter” compared to other standard headphones. This is all thanks to their amazing Dynamic MicroDrivers.
However, this provides some clarity in the sound and they even have some additional bass boost in there that will make your music sound rather full.
All this comes with great noise-blocking features, managing to cover up to 37 dB of unwanted outside noises.
As if these features weren’t enough, Shure’s SE215 headphones are very light and comfortable, which makes them feel almost unnoticeable when you listen to music.
Interestingly enough, Shure also somehow managed to make each component very durable.
The only downside here is that they’re mostly designed as in-ear monitors for professional musicians, which might make the overall output somewhat weird to some casual music listeners.
Other than that, they’re pretty amazing, especially for their price range. If you’re also a musician who needs a nice reference for their recordings, then we’d recommend these for sure.
- Very durable
- Great clear sound all over the audible spectrum
- Slight bass boost makes things sound fuller
- Some casual music listeners might not like their overall performance and specific sound
4) Etymotic Research ER2-XR: Check Price On Amazon
While Etymotic Research is not as big and famous compared to some other companies that we mentioned here, they still make some of the best noise-isolating headphones on the market these days.
I have previously reviewed the Etymotic Research ER2-XR and the Bluetooth adaptor. I love them and still use them occasionally. They have a very unique fit, as you can see in the above image, the earbuds are designed to go quite deeply into your ear canal, which then creates a superb passive seal and blocks out a significant amount of sound.
They claim to reduce sound by up to 35-42 dB, which is superior to any other consumer brand (ignoring the work-orientated ISOtunes).
I didn’t mind the intrusive fit, but I can appreciate why some people would prefer not to have an earbud go quite deeply into the ear canal.
These are ACCU Fit ear-tips and we also have the CustomFit option available. They’re also pretty durable and can even withstand some moisture and rougher handling.
If great sound and comfort are your top priorities, you simply cannot go wrong with Etymotic Research and their ER2-XR earbuds.
Not to mention how amazing they are at noise isolation, which is also one of the top priorities here.
There is, however, one downside to them that we’d mention. The wired earphones are reasonably affordable at under £100, but if you want the Detachable Etymotion Bluetooth Cable that will set you back an extra £180.
- Great sound quality
- High level of noise isolation
- Optional Bluetooth cable.
- Intrusive fit
- Expensive Bluetooth upgrade
5) Jabra Elite 7 Pro
Best Noise Isolating Earbuds
Finally, the Jabra Elite 7 Pro are an excellent solution for anyone wanting good isolation from a pair of consumer focussed true wireless earbuds. It is reported that these have up to 30 dBA isolation. They won’t be as good as the Etymotic or ISOtunes, but the fit should be more comfortable, and they have a good well-balanced, neutral sound profile that ensures the accurate reproduction of vocals and lead instruments. Their bass and treble delivery is also very consistent. You can tweak their sound with a graphic EQ and presets in the companion app.
These also have ANC, but in comparison to some of the best ANC earbuds that are available, these don’t perform amazingly well.
One big selling point for these is the call-centric features like MultiSensor Voice, which uses four microphones to improve call quality.
- Comfortable fit
- Excellent sound quality
- Isolation wont be quite as good as the other options
Noise Isolation vs Noise Cancellation
But before we dive into this topic, it’s important to define exact differences between what noise isolation and noise cancellation mean.
These two types of earbuds have their own distinct ways of dealing with the outside noise and rely on completely different principles that we’re going to tackle here.
In case you need a simple explanation, noise isolating earbuds rely on blocking the outside noise by sealing your ear opening as tight as possible.
On the other hand, noise cancellation earbuds cancel sound waves. Noise isolation is pretty simple and relies on mechanically blocking any noise from coming into your ear canal.
To achieve this, noise-isolating earbuds can also come with ear tips of different sizes, which will make them fit any ear canal size.
And then we have noise cancellation, which is way more complex compared to regular noise isolation.
While they basically rely on the same principle of blocking the noise, noise cancellation earbuds come with additional features that go way beyond just the mechanical noise blocking.
These headphones actually have sensors (or microphones) that pick up the outside low-frequency noises and “neutralize” them.
After picking up the loud frequency, they generate a phase-inverted sound that cancels the noise out.
So, to put it simply – noise isolating earbuds mechanically block the outside noise, while the noise-canceling earbuds and headphones do this by picking up the noise and emitting the frequencies that would cancel it all out.
I am James, a UK-based tech enthusiast and the creative mind behind Mighty Gadget, which I’ve proudly run since 2007. Passionate about all things technology, my expertise spans from computers and networking, to mobile, wearables, and smart home devices.
As a fitness fanatic who loves running and cycling, I also have a keen interest in fitness-related technology, and I take every opportunity to cover this niche on my blog. My diverse interests allow me to bring a unique perspective to tech blogging, merging lifestyle, fitness, and the latest tech trends.
In my academic pursuits, I earned a BSc in Information Systems Design from UCLAN, before advancing my learning with a Master’s Degree in Computing. This advanced study also included Cisco CCNA accreditation, further demonstrating my commitment to understanding and staying ahead of the technology curve.
I’m proud to share that Vuelio has consistently ranked Mighty Gadget as one of the top technology blogs in the UK. With my dedication to technology and drive to share my insights, I aim to continue providing my readers with engaging and informative content.