What to Buy (or Avoid)
You don't need to spend a small fortune to block out noise when you're listening to music or bingeing on video streaming services. There are high-quality, noise-canceling headphones to be had for under $200, which we discovered after purchasing and testing the best-selling models on Amazon.
Based on our testing, here are the best (and worst) noise-cancelling headphones you can get on the cheap. For more premium ANC picks, check out our best noise-cancelling headphones page. And be sure to visit our best headphones and truly wireless earbuds pages for cans and buds for every budget and use case.
Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC
The Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC headphones were the clear-cut winner in multiple categories and quickly became my favorite pair. The design is minimal and elegant, with a matte-black plastic covering over the headphones, which display the silver-accented logo. There is a good amount of padding on the ear cups and acceptable padding on the headband, making them comfortable to wear for a few hours.
The audio was clean and discernable in both the highs and lows, even from a wireless headphone. NoiseGard noise cancellation was effective and didn't change the sound profile too much. With a rechargeable wireless design and up to 19 hours of battery life, Sennheiser's headphones are my first choice.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Anker Life Q20 Wireless ANC Headphones
Contrary to popular belief, you can score a solid pair of ANC headphones under $100. The Life Q20 is exemplary of this, even with noise cancellation serving as its third-best feature. Audio is the headphones’ biggest selling point with custom 40mm dynamic drivers producing 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.
The Life Q20 has better-than-average noise cancellation that realistically blocks out 70% of environmental sounds (Anker claims 90%). The technology does filter out mid- and low-end ambient noises well, but also struggles with proximate noises such as keyboard clatter and neighborly chatter. Nonetheless, it’s impressive for $60 headphones.
Rating: 4 stars
1More E1004 Active-Noise Cancelling In-Ear Headphones
If you haven’t already given in to the pressure of buying AirPods, then you’re still on the hunt for an inexpensive pair of lightning earphones. These in-ears might be just the ticket. The 1More E1004 delivers solid audio performance and noise cancelling on the cheap. The sound is warm, plus the noise-cancelling technology is capable of blocking out high-pitched sounds from screams to truck engines. 1More also offers a wide range of accessories including a carry case, shirt clip, and several ear tips and wings in different sizes.
The hefty control module does make it difficult to form a tight seal, as the extra weight pulls the earbuds from your ears. This, in turn, affects bass response and causes sound to bleed. Wind can be an issue with ANC mode as well, producing clatter that interferes with music enjoyment.
Rating: 4 stars
TaoTronics TT-BH046 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
TaoTronics is a promising audio brand that continues to create quality headphones at a convenient price point. The TT-BH046 is a perfect example, delivering warm sound and decent noise cancellation for under $100. We’re not talking Bose or Sony standards here, but these over-ears can provide a silent backdrop to enjoy clear vocals and instrument separation. Using the bundled aux cable slightly improves audio as well.
With powerful circuitry comes a bulky and uncomfortable design. The headband is too tight and doesn’t offer much flexibility. Call quality doesn’t hold up well either; the built-in mic stuggles to pick up vocals in both quiet and rowdy environments. You’ll want to use these strictly for listening to music on short commutes.
Rating: 4 stars
Read our full TaoTronics TT-BH046 review.
Audio-Technica offers a great-sounding pair of headphones with the ATH-ANC9. Although they're an older pair, they still deliver a solid audio experience and comfort. You get memory foam in the ear cups and headband for a comfortable experience, though those ear cups tended to squeeze more than I preferred after a while.
Sound quality is fairly balanced, and the noise-canceling circuit has three modes – one for airplanes, a second for noisy offices and a third for studying – noted by one, two or three beeps. Despite its estimated 25 hours of battery life, my only gripe is that it is powered by AAA battery rather than a rechargeable internal battery.
Rating: 4 stars
Phiaton BT 150 NC Earphones
The Phiaton BT 150 NC Earphones manage noise cancellation and sound better than most of their over-ear counterparts. Enabling the feature silences up to 90% of ambient noise, which is great for creating an isolated listening experience to enjoy crisp vocals and full bass. The earphones also earn creative points for having responsive touch controls that make operating playback and volume simpler.
As comfortable as the behind-the-neck design feels, it’s starting to look outdated in comparison to other Bluetooth models. The retractable wire system is a unique way to personalize fit, but also requires a lot of adjusting to establish comfort. But our biggest complaint is that the BT150 NC doesn’t come charged out of the box. Luckily, the earphones juice up quickly and reward you with 70% on a 30-minute charge.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Audio-Technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC700BT Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
If not for the arcane controls and bass-heavy profile, Audio-Technica’s latest noise-cancellers would rank higher. That’s not to say they fall short of being a solid pickup. The ATH-ANC700BT can silence sound with the best of them, blocking about 90 percent of high-frequency sound waves. Isolation is just as solid, keeping outside interference to a minimum when disabling ANC mode.
The one major complaint I have is the touch panel, as the motion and swipe gestures often fail to register commands. Covering the entire left cup with your palm to activate noise cancellation might sound practical in theory, however, it doesn’t translate well in real life. The pronounced lows also weaken the mids and highs on certain records, but not all.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Plantronics BackBeat Go 810
Plantronics’s newest 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 punchy and responsive, giving bass-heavy content some extra oomph. Sonics also receive a boost when pairing the headphones with the bundled auxiliary cable.
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. 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.
Rating: 3.5 stars
JBL LIVE 650BTNC
The JBL Live 650BTNC is a solid noise-canceler with rich sound, but noticeable flaws. As for the positives, the headphones produce rich, well-balanced mids and impactful bass. Many low-fi recordings receive a boost in clarity. Playing with the EQ in the JBL Headphones app lets users personalize audio by creating their own sound profile or selecting from different music presets.
While it possesses many good traits, the Live 650BT isn’t perfect by any means. JBL’s noise-canceling technology does block out low frequency sounds very well, but don’t expect it to mute an airplane engine or marching band. Oddly, the aux cable brings down audio performance. Lastly, bass is barely noticeable without ANC on.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Sony WF-SP700N Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
A pair of truly wireless sports earbuds with great sound and noise-cancellation features – the Sony WF-SP700N is a one-of-a-kind product that caters to both audio and fitness lovers. The buds provide a secure fit with water-resistant capabilities to prevent slippage. The earbuds promote deep bass that delivers punchy lows for adrenaline junkies while giving them the option of customizing the sound profile to their aural needs via the Sony Connect app. The WF-SP700N also comes digital assistant-ready (Google Assistant or Siri). The buds only last three hours on a full charge, which seems paltry in comparison to other wireless earbuds, plus the portable charging case only provides a meager 2 charges.
Rating: 3 stars
BOHM B76 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones (2.5 stars)
Skullcandy’s first attempt at noise cancellation is impressive to say the least. The company’s bass-heavy signature is more fine-tuned, opening the soundstage for clearer mids and highs. However, you’ll want to keep the volume at a moderate level due to the high amount of noise leakage these cans produce when blasting music.
Enabling the ANC mode will block out 75 percent of ambient noise – just don’t expect it to silence the drones of an airplane engine. Battery life does hold up well at 24 hours of listening time. Also, smart functionality in the forms of digital assistant support and Tile integration help cancel out some of the Venue’s other drawbacks such as its poor control scheme.
Rating: 3 stars
In design and functionality, the Bohm B76 are a not-too-distant cousin to what Damson and Linkwitz offer. Slightly more elegant and subdued in their design, the Bohm B76 feature only a volume up and down button on the right ear cup. Long-pressing these buttons skips the track forward or backward. Unfortunately, in my pair, holding the volume (-) advanced the track and volume (+) skipped back a track, the reverse of the way it is noted in the user manual.
The sound profile is muted and not as crisp as more expensive headphones, but at this price, it's certainly adequate. The ear cups were initially comfortable, but after an hour of listening, they started to press on my jawbone; due to their size, they were uncomfortable for me. If you have a larger head, this might not be an issue.
Libratone Q Adapt Lightning In-Ear Earphones
As the only pair of in-ear headphones we tested in round-up, Libratone brings an interesting concept of noise-cancelling earbuds to the market. This pair was created for Apple devices that have abandoned the 3.5mm headphone jack, allowing a wired connection through the Lightning port and won’t work with Android devices or even your laptop. The shape somewhat resembles that of Airpods in a wired version. While they fit in my ears, their hard-planed metal construction got a bit uncomfortable after twenty minutes of listening. Surprisingly, these earbuds put out some serious bass, but I wish it was a little cleaner and tighter and in some cases, overpowering to the rest of the track.
Libratone’s Q Adapt noise cancellation worked to drowned out wind and some of the rumble from passing cars, however, compared to over-ear models in this test, it couldn’t stand up to the passive noise reduction from a big padded earcup. Overall a decent design, however, wish comfort was higher on the priority list for design.
Rating: 2.5 stars
Cleer Trek Noise-Canceling In-Ear Headphones
Noise-canceling earbuds not manufactured by Bose are a tough sell. The Cleer Trek won’t win over audiophiles, but it offers admirable noise neutralization and fairly decent sound for the price. We actually find it most useful for phone calls, as its mics pick up vocals clearly. Quick charging gets you an hour of playback on a 5-minute charge, while a 2-hour charge equates to 13 hours of playback with ANC on.
The 12mm neodymium drivers lack bass and volume, leaving sound with less oomph than desired. You’ll be able to block out low-frequency sounds such as deep voices and rumbles, but that’s basically it. Also, these buds don’t play well with MacBook models, not recognizing the inline mic controls, and unpairing at random times.
Rating: 2.5 stars
AtomicX Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones (2 stars)
While no longer a current model on JVC's website, you can still pick this wired pair up on Amazon for a little more than $100. The HA-NC250 uses an on-ear design that's made to sit on your ear rather than enclose the outer portion. While comfortable, you will likely notice a fair amount of pressure on your ears.
The noise canceling circuit is also powered by a single AAA battery, and JVC claims it lasts up to 50 hours. Sound quality was acceptable, though a bit hollow and distant with ANC off. Additionally, the volume output was somewhat soft, but it got significantly louder and fuller when the ANC circuit was switched on.
Rating: 2 stars
Sony MDRZX110NC Noise Cancelling Headphones
While Sony is known for making some nice products, I would give this model a hard pass. Build quality is cheap and plasticky, and the padding was the worst of the headphones I tested, with zero padding on the headband. That made it uncomfortable for me to even test the MDRZX110NC for more than 10 minutes.
Sound quality was also by far the worst we heard from budget noise-canceling headphones. Unless a track was extremely bass-heavy, there wasn't a great bottom end or fullness to the music. Instead, you get an overaccentuated midrange and harsh upper end. Enabling the ANC makes the headphones about 15 to 20 percent louder. Similar to other headphones on this list, the MDRZX110NCs use an AAA battery to power the noise-canceling circuit, and it lasts an estimated 80 hours.
Rating: 1 star