Photonic integrated circuits are widely used in applications such as telecommunications and data-centre interconnects. However, in optical systems such as microwave synthesizers, optical gyroscopes and atomic clocks, photonic integrated circuits are still considered inferior solutions despite their advantages in size, weight, power consumption and cost. Such high-precision and highly coherent applications favour ultralow-noise laser sources to be integrated with other photonic components in a compact and robustly aligned format—that is, on a single chip—for photonic integrated circuits to replace bulk optics and fibres. There are two major issues preventing the realization of such envisioned photonic integrated circuits: the high phase noise of semiconductor lasers and the difficulty of integrating optical isolators directly on-chip. Here we challenge this convention by leveraging threedimensional integration that results in ultralow-noise lasers with isolator-free operation for silicon photonics. Through multiple monolithic and heterogeneous processing sequences, direct on-chip integration of III–V gain medium and ultralow-loss silicon nitride waveguides with optical loss around 0.5 decibels per metre are demonstrated. Consequently, the demonstrated photonic integrated circuit enters a regime that gives rise to ultralow-noise lasers and microwave synthesizers without the need for optical isolators, owing to the ultrahigh-qualityfactor cavity. Such photonic integrated circuits also offer superior scalability for complex functionalities and volume production, as well as improved stability and reliability over time. The three-dimensional integration on ultralow-loss photonic integrated circuits thus marks a critical step towards complex systems and networks on silicon.