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 original Microsoft Surface Headphones are another top pick, thanks to a clearance sale that has the model available for under $200. It’s a steal for Windows users who want great sound and noise cancellation, along with cool features like dial controls and hassle-free pairing with Microsoft devices. Bargain hunters will discover other over-ear gems on our list as well, like the Anker Life Q20, a model praised for its solid audio and its 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.
With the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2 hitting store shelves, a price drop on the original Surface Headphones seemed inevitable. Look online and you’ll see Best Buy has the last-gen version on clearance for $193 (while supplies last), and it’s a deal worth jumping on if you want amazing work-at-home headphones to pair with your Surface Pro X.
Microsoft's first venture into the high-end-headphones space is a successful one that combines numerous smart features and quality sound into a distinctive over-ear design. The Surface Headphones were engineered for optimal listening with adjustable noise-cancelling levels and ingenious dial volume controls. Open sound with powerful bass is to be expected. Microsoft even equipped its cans with eight mics to better neutralize sound, which it does well, especially in drafty conditions. Connectivity is another strong point; you can pair the headphones with up to 10 devices.
See our full Microsoft Surface Headphones review.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you want noise-cancelling headphones with an upscale design and soundstage, the N700NC is a suitable option. It’s not only a handsome noise-canceller, but also upholds the elite sound performance we’ve come to expect from the pro-audio heritage brand. Frequencies are well balanced to deliver clean, detailed sound. Toying with the AKG Headphones app also grants access to personalize sound by tweaking the different EQ settings. AKG’s noise-cancelling technology is effective as well at blocking out ambient chatter. Battery life seems pretty average at 23 hours with ANC on, but playtime is still higher than what the Bose 700 offers.
Where the headphones lose points are in the listening modes (Smart Ambient and TalkThru), which perform poorly in comparison to other models, and the alarmingly high sound leakage that will draw unwanted attention when blasting music in public spaces.
Read our full AKG N700NC 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 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.