You don't need to spend a small fortune to block out noise when listening to music, as there are some great cheap noise cancelling headphones to be had for under $200. We’re not just talking one headphone category either. Our reviewers at Tom’s Guide have spent many months testing numerous models across different price points and styles. Out of hundreds, we’ve narrowed down our list to a solid 10 headphones that guarantee the most bang for your buck and keep you streaming Spotify playlists in peace.
- Here are the best noise cancelling headphones money can buy
- The best wireless headphones in 2020
- These are the best cheap wireless headphones
Hallmark audio brands (e.g. Sennheiser, Sony) and promising newcomers (e.g. Anker, Tribit) are introducing noise cancelation in different forms, and at inexpensive price points. Over-the-ear headphones – wired and wireless – remain atop of the list since they offer the best results. True wireless earbuds are getting the ANC treatment as well. Not to mention, there are some notable in-ear models in the same price range that are capable of delivering a high-quality, noise-canceling experience. Here’s a breakdown of the best cheap noise cancelling headphones based on our testing.
What are the best cheap noise cancelling headphones?
The Sennheiser HD 4.5 BTNC currently stands as our favorite pair of cheap noise cancelling headphones, thanks to its powerful ANC and sound. Most models in the category usually take a hit in the audio department when having ANC enabled, but not these cans, as Sennheiser’s soundstage remains unaffected whether the feature is turned on or off. It boasts a clean, luxe design that should fare well with executive types too.
Coming in a close second is the Sony WF-1000xM3, the best ANC true wireless earbuds to date. These tiny sound-silencers offer an incredible 1-2 punch, blending remarkable sonics with noise neutralization in a tiny package. The recently launched Sony WH-CH7100N has plenty going for it at $199, featuring new 30-millimeter drivers and Sony’s “Artificial Intelligence Noise Cancellation” (AINC) technology, which adapts to your environment to effectively cancel out unwanted noises.
The all-new Anker Soundcore Life Q30 cracks the top three and is an awesome upgrade to what we already considered really good ANC headphones, the Soundcore Life Q20. Battery life is unbeatable at 40 hours with ANC on, plus the headphones come equipped with plenty of features, from multiple music presets to NFC. Bargain hunters will discover other over-ear and in-ear gems on our list as well, like the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 and Nura NuraLoop, two models praised for their solid audio and noise reduction.
The best cheap noise cancelling headphones (under $200) now
The Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC remains our favorite pair of cheap noise cancelling headphones for many reasons. Audio is clean and discernible in both the highs and lows, which is very impressive from a wireless headphone. Sennheiser’s exclusive NoiseGard technology is effective at blocking out ambient sounds, though you might still hear some engine rumble when flying on airplanes. Even better is how ANC doesn’t affect the profile too much; only those with discerning ears will notice subtle differences in audio quality.
One must also admire the HD 4.50 BTNC’s minimalist and elegant aesthetics, featuring a matte-black plastic covering over the headphones, which display the silver-accented logo. They certainly look like baller headphones, but much far cheaper than what Bose and Sony charge. With a rechargeable wireless design and up to 19 hours of battery life, Sennheiser's headphones are an exceptional first choice.
Read our full Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC review.
Sony headphones are becoming noise-cancelling staples, and just recently, the company launched its own game-changing product in the true wireless category: the WF-1000xM3. With better ANC, audio, and battery life than the AirPods Pro, it’s almost a crime to see these buds marked down to $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 critically acclaimed WH-1000xM3, and the call quality could be much better. Still, one listen and you’re bound to overlook these faults. Not to mention, if the rumors of aptX HD support via software update pan out, then these tiny noise-cancellers may very well find themselves sitting in the No. 1 spot.
Read our full Sony WF-1000xM3 review.
Bigger sound, noise cancellation, and features, Anker blessed its latest flagship headphones with the works. The Life Q30 comes equipped with 40mm silk drivers that generate thumping lows and crisp mids to enjoy music across multiple genres. Anker also made these headphones compatible with the Soundcore app, so you can personalize the soundstage to your liking by manually adjusting the EQ or by picking any of the 22 presets available. You don’t see that on many, if any, noise-cancellers priced under $100. Noise neutralization is improved from the previous model, so you’ll be able to block out a higher level of external sounds. The three ANC modes (Transport, Indoor, and Outdoor) are engineered to cancel out noises found in different settings too.
We applaud Anker for giving the Life Q30 a more premium look and better aesthetics, though these are still some big, heavy cans to lug around.
The Sony CH710N headphones bring together many of the brand’s beloved hallmarks (e.g. bass-forward signature, bountiful battery life) and welcome unique features such as Artificial Intelligence Noise Cancellation to the party. Listening to music with these on your head rewards you with deep bass and crisp-sounding mids, along with 35 hours of uninterrupted playtime. You can also use these in wired mode to preserve power.
While the CH710N’s smart noise reduction sufficiently minimizes background clatter, the technology is a step down from the active noise cancellation featured in Sony’s flagship headset, the WH-1000xM3. You’ll be able to drown out chatty neighbors and loud televisions. Power tools and washing machines, not so much. For the sub-luxury price, we also felt Sony could have done a better job constructing these cans, as the plastic frame isn’t aesthetically pleasing.
The design might lead you to believe these are older noise-cancelling headphones, but they’re very new and 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, they deliver 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 that as your only solution to recharging the headphones.
Read our full NuraLoop review.
Plantronics' ANC model is a solid entry-level option for music lovers who want dependable noise cancellation and the same audio performance as the BackBeat Pro 2 SE. The lows are prominent and responsive, giving bass-heavy content some extra oomph. It’s cool to see these cans support the Plantronics app as well, giving users the option to enhance sound for music and voice output on phone calls. Another brand hallmark that remains intact is strong battery life, as the BackBeat Go 810 gives listeners 22 hours with ANC mode on and 28 hours in standard mode.
There are two ANC modes – Low and High – each engineered to deal with ambient noise in different settings. You’ll want to be selective when choosing one over the other, as the built-in mics do pick up a lot of noise when outdoors. Also, be mindful that the controls and connectivity become finicky at times.
See our full Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 review.
The WF-SP800N is a superior upgrade that outperforms its predecessor, the WF-SP700N, in numerous areas, including audio, battery life, and most importantly, noise cancelation. Music sounds lively, as Sony’s bass-forward signature feeds your ears impactful lows that play nicely with mids and highs to produce warm, well-rounded sound. Access to the Sony Headphones app opens the lane to personalize sound by customizing the EQ or selecting from different music presets.
ANC is a step down from the WF-1000xM3, but still serviceable for blocking out distractions at the gym. The adjustable Ambient Mode setting also lets you control the level of ambient sound entering the earbuds, so you can be better aware of your surroundings; it’s a great feature for outdoor runners. We’re just a bit disappointed these buds are missing some key Sony features, including NFC and the QN1 processor that optimizes sound and noise cancellation.
Read our full Sony WF-SP800N review.
Contrary to popular belief, you can score a nice pair of cheap noise cancelling headphones for less than a Benjamin. The Life Q20 is exemplary of this, even with noise cancellation serving as its third-best feature. Audio is the Life Q20’s main attraction with custom 40mm drivers that produce rich sound; bass is punchy and doesn’t muffle the mid-range or vocals. Battery life is up there as well, generating up to 40 hours of playtime on a full charge, which can be extended up to 60 hours when ANC is off.
Anker’s headphones have better-than-average noise cancellation that realistically blocks out 70% of environmental sounds (Anker claims 90%). Although, the feature struggles to filter out proximate noises such as keyboard clatter and neighborly chatter. You’ll also want to refrain from using the included aux cable since it hinders audio performance. Nonetheless, it’s impressive for $60 headphones.
Sol Republic’s noise-cancelling headphones are a plausible entry in the category that packs powerful battery life and sound into a robust, professional-looking design. The 500mAh battery built into these cans generates up to 30+ hours of playtime, which, when listening in moderation, equates to about a month of use. Listening to orchestral songs demonstrates the Soundtrack Pro’s wide frequency range, as lows and highs are well defined to distinguish sonic elements. You can also snag a pair in three stylish finishes: Glossy Black, Gray, and Champagne.
Active noise cancellation won’t blow you away. It’s adequate to silence office rumblings, though you’re bound to hear street noises when sporting these hefty suckers around town. Something else we noticed is that enabling the feature scales back the bass response, while listening in aux mode produces a fuzzy noise in the background.
A newcomer with plenty of promise, the QuietPlus 72 is the latest creation from Amazon darling, Tribit. These are bass-heavy cans that produce full, emphatic lows without hindering vocals. Enabling noise-cancelling mode slightly increases the bass levels and minimizes environmental distractions a lot better than you would expect for $70 headphones. It’s capable of hushing cat meows and loud door buzzers, though it’s not a pair that will grant you complete silence when walking past a construction site. The controls are a surprise as well; they’re responsive to multi-press commands and the buttons provide great tactility, while showing the playback options on the side.
The company’s track record with aux cables isn’t the greatest, and that trend continues with the QuietPlus 72. Refrain from using wired mode because it absolutely destroys the soundstage; everything sounds hollow and distorted. Another problem you’ll encounter is the carrying case, which, for some odd reason, doesn’t store the headphones properly and makes for a very tight and awkward fit.
Note: You’ll need to charge the headphones for a few seconds to turn them on and enter pairing mode.
How to choose the best cheap noise cancelling headphones for you
The term cheap often has negative connotations, but as we’ve learned through months of 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 selections.
Active noise cancellation will also be the key feature of these models. Most headphones that advertise “noise cancelling” are often categorized as ANC headphones. You want a model that has credible noise-cancelling performance and can block out a large percentage of ambient sound; anywhere above 70% is great. Keep in mind that ANC technology can compress sound, which may affect audio performance when turned on, but there are models that limit these disruptions to produce full, crisp results.
Battery life is just as important, as several factors (e.g. ANC, Bluetooth, volume) are known to drain the power quickly. If you’re going the over- or on-ear route, seek out wireless cans that hold anywhere between 15 to 30 hours. Should true wireless earbuds pique your interest most, aim for something with a minimum of 6 hours, not including the bundled charging case, which should store about double the playtime.
You’ll want to keep the design in mind as well. Over-ear headphones are known for having the best noise cancellation, but there are also some on-ear and in-ear models that get the job done.
How we test the best cheap noise cancelling headphones
When creating our list of the top cheap noise cancelling headphones, we rate each model based on several traits. Audio performance, battery life, Bluetooth range, call quality, comfort and fit, and the effectiveness of the noise cancellation are all accounted for. We factor special features into the equation, too.
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.
Active noise cancellation is tested in numerous environments where ambient sounds are produced at high levels. This includes airplanes, city parks, convenience shops, offices, public transportation, and at home. Any headphones programmed with a transparency mode are also tested to determine how well the listener can hear their surroundings.
For audio performance, we listen to songs across a number of genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical and R&B, while evaluating volume, clarity, and fullness. Movies, podcasts, and video games are considered, when necessary.
After testing is completed, we rate the headphones based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). If a product hits nearly every mark, it receives our Editors' Choice badge.