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. And now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are almost here, you can expect prices to drop even further.
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
Rating: 4.5 stars
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: 3.5 stars
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: 3 stars
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.
Rating: 3 stars
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.
Rating: 2.5 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.
Rating: 2.5 stars
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 pland 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, 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 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.