Active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones use an 'active' combination of hardware (microphones) and firmware to make external sounds or noises sound quieter when you’re listening to your favorite music or podcasts, say. Unlike passive noise isolation, which simply muffles those sounds by forming a seal around your ear with headphone ear cups or inside the ear canal with in-ear tips, active noise cancellation listens out for background sounds and uses clever audio trickery to “cancel” out these potentially disruptive sounds. For a more in-depth explanation see ANC explained.
The best cheap noise-cancelling headphones show that a high-end feature such as active noise cancellation (ANC) can be yours for some very reasonable prices. Premium capability made affordable? What’s not to like about that?
It’s worth remembering that not all ANC implementations are identical, and the finest examples remain at the pricier end of the spectrum. But it is perfectly possible to find headphones or earbuds that effectively cancel out that pesky ambient noise, leaving you to enjoy your music without distractions. Read on to find out our picks of the best cheap noise-cancelling headphones, based on our testing.
Best Cyber Monday deals on cheap noise-cancelling headphones
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Cyber Monday 2022 is here, which brings deals on a number of the best cheap noise-cancelling headphones. Below are some deals on a few of our top picks. Be sure to check out our Cyber Monday headphone deals page for more bargains.
Best over-ears: Cleer Enduro ANC was $149 now $119 @ Crutchfield (opens in new tab)
The Cleer Enduro ANC over-ear headphones are still by far the best pair of cheap ANC headphones we've tested, especially when it comes to battery life. Its modern, feature-rich design is backed up by great sound quality and effective ANC. The transparent ambient mode works well, fit is decent, and Bluetooth supports aptX Adaptive.
Best value overall: 1More PistonBuds Pro was $69 now $39 @ 1More (opens in new tab)
At $69, these are the best value wireless earbuds with ANC. Even better news for buyers is that they're discounted to $39 on the 1More website (opens in new tab)as well as through online retailer Newegg (opens in new tab). ANC is effective at the price, and the 'buds are a win for consumers looking for great performance in a stylish and affordable package.
Best for sound: Sony WF-1000XM3 was $199 now $131 @ Amazon (opens in new tab)
If you want some of the best-sounding wireless earbuds at an attainable price, check out the Sony WF-1000XM3. This is the model that helped kickstart the true wireless ANC movement, it may have been superseded by the WF-1000XM4 (opens in new tab), but it's still available for as little as $128 and delivers top-tier noise cancellation and sound.
The best cheap noise-cancelling headphones to buy right now
The Cleer Enduro ANC offers an almost irresistible combination of affordability, audio richness, active noise cancellation and battery life. Emphasis on the battery life: we got more than 50 hours of mid-volume, fully ANC-enabled playback out of this over-ear set.
Unlike a lot of low-cost headphones, even cheap ANC headphones, the Enduro ANC also comes with a respectable range of features. NFC pairing comes in handy, for instance, and if you connect the bundled 3.5mm cable instead of using Bluetooth, you get Hi-Res Audio support. And, unlike the identically-priced Urbanista Miami, the Enduro ANC can fold up for easier carrying.
Read our full Cleer Enduro ANC review.
The PistonBuds Pro are a win for budget-conscious consumers who desire outstanding ANC and sound in a stylish, affordable package. Are they going to replace your AirPods Pro? No, but they are easily one of the best AirPods alternatives that can be had for a third of the price.
Okay, battery life isn’t anything to write home about, nor is call quality. But these shortcomings are forgivable when factoring in the audio and noise cancellation these buds deliver, and are enough to satisfy (especially at the $69 price) and give the Piston Buds Pro mass appeal.
Read our full 1More PistonBuds Pro review.
The Sony WF-1000XM4 has officially replaced this model, though thanks to the resulting price cuts it's still worth picking up as a budget-friendly alternative. With better ANC, audio, and battery life than the AirPods Pro, it’s almost a crime to see these buds marked down below $200. Bass is well-balanced, giving music an impactful presence that isn’t overpowering on the ears. The Sony Connect app also allows users to adjust noise cancellation and sound, though it’s unnecessary since the default settings already do the trick. Noise cancellation is where these buds truly excel, resiliently minimizing ambient sound across the frequency spectrum.
The touch controls are disappointing, especially since Sony demonstrated great progress with the feature on the acclaimed WH-1000XM3, and the call quality could be much better. Still, one listen and you’re bound to overlook these faults.
Read our full Sony WF-1000XM3 review.
To the surprise of many critics, including us, Jabra’s over-the-air ANC update works surprisingly well on the Elite 75t and its superior sporty alternative. The technology blocks out nearly 75 percent of external sounds and can be adjusted to your hearing in the Jabra Sound+ app. It isn’t going to trump the noise neutralization of other premium models, though you should consider it a sweet bonus for what remains a five-star product. However, this isn’t the Elite Active 75t’s greatest attribute. It’s audio quality.
Music sounds clear, balanced, and vibrant, plus you have the option to manually tweak sound using the built-in EQ or by selecting one of several presets. Listeners also get up to 28 hours of portable juice at their disposal, along with a conveniently comfortable and waterproof design.
Read our full Jabra Elite Active 75t review.
As with our best cheap noise-cancelling headphone overall, the Cleer Enduro ANC (above), Anker's Soundcore Space Q45 are quite the bargain with a remarkable set of features and effective ANC performance. They offer remarkable battery life, quality ANC, and superb sound powered by upmarket specs and special features. Sound quality has a liveliness that pulls listeners to the front row of the performance on whatever music you're listening to. The sonic soundstage is wide and immersive, and have a ramped up low end, rich mids and crisp highs.
Anker engineered the Space Q45 with a versatile Ambient Sound mode that features dual settings for both Noise Cancellation and Transparency settings. And they all work well when used in proper situations. These headphone are not without some flaws, but nevertheless they have compelling sound and noise neutralization for half the price of Bose and Sony’s flagship models and are worth tracking down.
Read the full Anker Soundcore Space Q45 review.
The Beats Fit Pro is an excellent sporty model that merges brand staples with high-end Apple features such as Adaptive EQ for well-balanced frequencies and Spatial Audio to enjoy 3D immersive sound with select content. A new proprietary transducer increases bass performance, while pumping out crisp mids and detailed highs. Beats added six mics to this model, five of which are used during calls to produce crisp-sounding voice and FaceTime calls. Battery life is also respectable at 6 hours with ANC on, better than the 4.5 hours offered by the AirPods Pro.
Android users get to enjoy most of the Fit Pro’s software perks, but they lose out on several that are tied to the H1 chip like automatic switching, “Hey Siri” voice activation and FindMy for locating misplaced buds. The Android app could also benefit from more features. Still, they get to experience fantastic sound and noise cancellation for a relatively affordable price.
Read our full Beats Fit Pro review.
Sennheiser’s third attempt at a true wireless mid-ranger is their most successful. The CX Plus improves on the original by adding ANC and Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX Adaptive codec support for high-quality wireless streaming. Not only do these buds do a better job with noise neutralization than their premium sibling, the Momentum True Wireless 2, but also deliver similar audio performance; fantastic clarity and well-balanced frequency range are guaranteed. Connectivity is some of the strongest in the category, extending range to 60 feet for more free-roaming listening. The intelligible controls deserve praise as well.
A redesign and a few more features could have placed the CX Plus in the same company as the AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM4. Shortcomings aside, it is still a must have for audiophiles on a budget, especially at its current price of $125 (on Amazon (opens in new tab)).
Read our full Sennheiser CX Plus review.
The Edifier W240TN are a fine-looking and sounding pair of wireless earbuds. They're pretty well featured, although not everything works quite as well as we'd like. For an ANC model at the price, though, performance is strong and you get detailed sonics thanks to the dual dynamic drivers that deliver a wide and compelling sound, and effective noise cancellation.
We weren't sold on call quality or wind resistance when on the move, but these sorts of compromises are to be expected for wireless earbuds this affordable. Battery life is very respectable as is connectivity, and the overall comfort and craftsmanship make them well worth their asking price.
Read the full Edifier W240TN review.
The Urbanista Miami is perhaps the most stylish pair of cheap noise-cancelling headphones you can buy, but it’s more than just a pretty face. The sound quality is great, with strong bass that never overwhelms the rest of the mix, and the ANC works well enough to cut out most background noise. There’s a transparency mode too, which you don’t always get on affordable ANC cans.
The real star, though, is battery life. Urbanista promises 40 hours of ANC playback, and the Miami easily achieved that in our own testing. That’s more than double the lifespan of the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC and almost matches that of the Cleer Enduro ANC, so definitely consider picking these up if you’re a regular traveller.
Read our full Urbanista Miami review.
We'll admit to being surprised when the Beats Studio Buds was announced with full ANC support — we'd heard the Apple-owned Beats was making a small, affordable set of wireless earbuds, but the inclusion of noise cancellation for less than $150 was a very pleasant surprise. Not even the $179 Apple AirPods have this feature.
The ANC works pretty well, too, especially in terms of how little it changes the Studio Buds' sound signature when activated. We'd also recommend the Studio Buds to Android users much more readily than other Apple or Beats wireless earbuds, as it uses a more platform-agnostic chip to enable features like fast pairing on non-iOS devices.
Read our full Beats Studio Buds review.
Don’t sleep on JBL’s mid-range noise-cancelling headphones. The Live 660NC can block out 80% of ambient noise and minimize the presence of high-frequency sounds to keep you focused on what’s currently playing. Bass dominates the soundscape on these cans, though JBL did a better job of balancing frequencies to provide extra room for mids and highs to shine, depending on the songs. Special modes like Smart Audio let you optimize performance based on connectivity or sound, while Video Mode drastically improves lip synchronization when watching videos. Battery life is also top tier with a full charge giving you up to 40 hours of ANC playback.
Be mindful of how long you plan on wearing these headphones because the clamp force is tight and applies unwanted pressure atop the skull and your ears.
Read our full JBL Live 660NC review.
The design might lead you to believe this is an older pair of noise-cancelling headphones, but it's relatively new and comes equipped with some cool features that enhance the user experience. For one, you can use the them in either wireless or wired mode; the latter is achieved by connecting the bundled aux cable to the 3.5mm jack. Sound-wise, the NuraLoop delivers amazing percussion and vocal clarity, and the Nura app lets you create a custom listening profile based on your ear shape. The wrap-around-the-head design means these headphones stay put. ANC is also highly effective and adjustable, so you have control over the level of noise you want to cancel out or allow into the soundstage.
You’ll just want to be mindful of the overly sensitive touch controls, which can be frustrating to deal with whenever needing to adjust fit. It’s also odd that Nura chose to develop its own proprietary charging cable, meaning you’re stuck with it as your only solution to recharging the headphones.
Read our full NuraLoop review.
For such a low price, the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC does almost everything you need from a pair of running headphones. The loop design is tricky to put on but holds each earbud firmly in place, while IP66 water resistance makes it essentially sweatproof. Sound quality is surprisingly good, too, and the mobile app offers a fully customizable EQ.
The ANC isn't as effective as what you'd get from the Sony WF-1000XM3, but this pair is cheaper brand new than Sony's aging headphones. The Epic Air Sport ANC also comes complete with am ambient sound mode, Be Aware, so you can keep an ear out for traffic and pedestrians while out on runs without needing to remove an earbud.
Read our full JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review.
Despite earning a lower score than its predecessor, Anker’s latest noise-cancelling headphones are the better value. The Life Q35 is a great option that comes with acceptable noise cancellation and lossless streaming via LDAC codec support. Sound is punchy with the low end dominating most tracks, but it’s the instrumental separation on orchestral recordings that showcase the headphones’ sonic capabilities. Using the Soundcore app expands sound customization by allowing users to choose from over 22 presets that were engineered by some of the industry’s most popular audio engineers. Battery life is the Life Q35’s greatest strength, generating up to 40 hours of playtime, which can extend to 60 hours when ANC is off.
Bass does become overly aggressive when listening to modern tracks and the smart controls could have been better programmed, but these headphones still offer plenty of value for the price.
Read our full Anker Soundcore Life Q35 review.
How to choose the best cheap noise cancelling headphones for you
The term cheap often has negative connotations, but as we’ve learned through our testing, there are plenty of cheap noise-cancelling headphones that are just as good, if not better than some of the industry’s more premium offerings.
Active vs. passive noise cancellation: The first item to check off the list when shopping for the best noise-cancelling headphones is active noise cancellation, which shouldn’t be confused with passive noise cancellation. What are the differences?
ANC uses advanced circuitry and microphones to pick up noise signals and create inverse waves that cancel out these sonic disruptions, whereas passive noise cancelling physically isolates high-pitched sounds through the headphone design and materials. Most headphones advertised with noise cancellation are categorized under ANC.
Battery life: Noise-cancelling headphones have a reputation for sucking up lots of power, so you’ll want a pair that holds a charge long enough to get you through a long business flight or weekly commutes. Thanks to the arrival of Sennheiser's Momentum 4 over-ear headphones battery life standards have increased up to 60 hours, although more typical figures are anywhere between 15 to 30 hours. Noise-cancelling wireless earbuds are usually rated for 4.5 to 8 hours.
Sound quality: ANC technology can compress sound and reduce dynamics, which may affect audio performance when turned on. In some cases, you’ll notice a background hiss when listening to music. However, there are noise-cancelling headphones out there that limit these disruptions to deliver full, crisp sound.
Design: The look, build and feel of a pair of headphones is massively important when selecting the best noise-cancelling headphones, so consider how it looks and feels and whether the style is right for you. The type of headphone is also important when it comes to the most effective noise cancelling models. Over-ear headphones tend to give the best noise cancellation, though some of the more recent wireless on-ear and in-ear models are proving to be just as effective.
Pricing considerations: Obviously, price is a big consideration when looking for the best noise-cancelling headphones. Although there are always exceptions, big-name brands will typically command a bit extra, but generally speaking, the less you spend on a pair of headphones the greater the chance that sound and features will be compromised. Going for a budget option isn't always the best choice, as any money you save on your purchase won't do you much good if you're constantly needing to recharge your audio gear, or the sound quality is poor.
As the saying goes: timing is everything; and right now it's worth waiting for the holiday season sales when many of our favorite models will be discounted at online retailers, meaning you can bag a bargain for even less. Bookmark our Black Friday deals pages to keep on top of the best deals.
How we test the best cheap noise cancelling headphones
We've judged the best cheap noise-cancelling headphones on several factors: audio performance, battery life, Bluetooth range, call quality, comfort and fit, and the effectiveness of the noise cancellation. We also weigh special features, such as included apps, and how easy they are to use.
Our reviewers wear each pair of headphones for 2 hours at a time over the course of a week. Tom’s Guide also employs a thorough review process that compares products with similar fit, features, and price to determine the best options.
ANC, meanwhile, is tested in both indoor and outdoor environments where ambient sounds are produced at high levels. This includes airplanes, city parks, convenience shops, offices, and public transportation. ANC headphones programmed with transparency modes are also tested thoroughly to determine how well the listener can hear their surroundings.
For sound quality, we listen to many different sample tracks and span as many music genres as possible, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical and R&B, while evaluating volume, clarity and fullness. Find out what we listen for during our testing process and how to get the best headphone sound for you.
And now that more streaming music services are offering high-resolution audio, be sure to read our audio codec FAQ for all you need to know about FLAC files, MP3s and everything in between.
Once we complete our testing, we rate headphones based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). If a product hits nearly every mark, it’s awarded an Editor's Choice badge.
Contributions from: Alex Bracetti, Richard Priday