You don't need to spend a small fortune to block out noise when you're listening to music or bingeing on Netflix. 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.
To narrow the field to our top picks, we evaluated each pair of noise-canceling headphones based on fit and comfort, as well as audio quality. But the most important criterion was the ability to create a cone of silence around us. Based on our testing, here are the best (and worst) noise-canceling headphones you can get on the cheap just in time for summer.
Credit: Tom’s Guide
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.
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.
A pair of truly wireless sports earbuds with great sound and noise-cancelation 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 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.
If you just require something to pass the time or taking a short commute into the city, then the BH040 should suffice. The headphones do a fine job of cancelling out ambient sound in enclosed settings like an apartment or coffee shop. Lows and mids are prominent, though treble can sound harsh at high volume. However, wearing them for long stretches does apply extra pressure onto your ears and head.
Bluetooth holds up well enough that you can teeter around the max range (est. 30 feet) and not worry about interference. The ability to connect to multiple devices simultaneously makes switching between media players seamless.