Whether you’re commuting to the office or trying to block out some of the people in the office, noise canceling headphones are a great tool to have. The problem is that if you want some of the best noise cancelling headphones around, you’re going to have to break open your piggy bank and start counting pennies. But that isn’t always the case. There are plenty of solid noise cancelling headphones under $100 that might be worth picking up if you’re in the market for a new pair of cans.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on July 14, 2020, to address price fluctuations regarding the AKG N60NC, and to add the Tribit QuietPlus Active Noise Cancelling headphones to the notable mentions section.
Related: Best noise cancelling earbuds
Most people should get the Anker Soundcore Life Q20
Anker continues to redefine the budget audio market with the Soundcore Life Q20 noise cancelling headphones, striking a perfect balance between price and performance at a sub-$100 price tag.
Anker Soundcore Life Q20
Comfort and usability is where these headphones shine through. Its lightweight construction and adequately plush ear cups make these very comfortable to wear during long playback sessions. You’ll also never have to worry about battery life, as these headphones are designed with up to 40 hours of playback with ANC on, and up to 60 hours without noise cancelling.
While its noise cancelling may not be on par with the Sony WH-1000XM3, the Soundcore Life Q20 does a great job in attenuating mid-range sounds, blocking out noisy conversations and general background noise. When it comes to low-frequency sounds, such as the rumble from a bus or airplane engine, these headphones do an okay job—though not nearly as good as more expensive headphones.
In terms of sound quality, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a pair of sub-$100 noise cancelling headphones. If you’re a fan of EDM or hip-hop, you’ll appreciate the Soundcore Life Q20’s emphasis on lower frequencies, resulting in deeper-sounding kicks and booming sub-bass. These headphones also tend to emphasize treble frequencies, which helps vocals shine through in a mix.
For less than a hundred dollars, the Soundcore Life Q20 has everything you’d want in a budget pair of noise cancelling headphones. With an ergonomic design, long-lasting battery and better-than-expected noise cancelling performance, you’d be hard-pressed trying to find an equally capable pair of cans at such a low price point.
What you should know about the best noise cancelling headphones under $100
- Generally speaking, noise cancelling headphones are more expensive than their non-noise cancelling counterparts. That’s because there are more components packed into ANC cans, like extra microphones, to enable the technology.
- Unfortunately, the old adage, “you get what you pay for” applies to noise cancelling headphones under $100. While you’re still benefiting from the technology, the effectiveness of it can’t compare to the cream of the crop.
- Noise cancelling headphones use destructive interference to attenuate external noise, so droning sounds will be cancelled—while incidental noise like conversations, children being loud, and disorganized sounds will come through clear as a bell.
- Bluetooth audio quality still hasn’t caught up with wired audio quality, and that’s fine. Most of use prefer Bluetooth for its convenience and are fine with the drop in audio quality when on the go.
For the best on-the-go headphones, get the AKG N60NC
Another great headset by AKG: the N60NC. The ear cups are incredibly comfortable, despite how they rest directly on top of the ears, rather than around them. This great comfort has much to do with how the headband handles weight distribution across the crown of the head.
AKG N60NCFull Review
Noise cancelling is excellent even without extreme clamping force, and if your bag is already full to the brim with gadgets, you’ll appreciate the space saved by these on-ears. Not only are they compact, but they’re also lightweight, and fold up easily for storage. Sound quality isn’t superb, but it outperforms most all other cheap noise cancelling headphones.
Editor’s note: The AKG N60NC is currently priced just above $100, though its price has been known to fluctuate. We will be updating this article as pricing information changes.
Sony is always in the ANC conversation, this time with the MDR-ZX110NC headphones
Sony makes a lot of great stuff, so this next one should come as no surprise. Though the company has a—let’s say—unique method of naming its products. The Sony MDRZX110NC Noise Cancelling headphones are on-ear headphones, so the passive noise blocking is less pronounced than the others on this list. Still, if you prefer on-ears to over-ears while traveling these are the best you can get.
To help with portability Sony included hinges, so you can easily fold them and stuff them away in a bag. On top of that, the ear cups swivel for a more comfortable fit. Like some of the other options on this list, these use AAA batteries. One battery should last you about 80 hours of noise cancelling. If you keep a spare around, you should be covered for quite some time.
The Sony MDRZX110NC headphones have a 3.9-foot audio cable that ends in a gold-plated L-shape 3.5mm plug, which helps strengthen the connection’s durability. That’s pretty handy considering many people will be using these while commuting or traveling. Naturally, they also come with an in-flight adapter. If you think these might be the ones for you, you’re not alone. Sony got it right with these.
Not looking to spend too much? Then look to the JLab Audio Studio ANC
Priced at just under $60, the JLAB Audio Studio ANC are a great pair of headphones for anyone looking to dip their toes into the world of active noise cancelling without having to spend a whole lot.
JLab Audio Studio ANC
Design wise, these headphones are rather middle of the road. These cans feature what JLab Audio calls “plush cloud foam cushions”, however these headphones start to feel rather uncomfortable over longer listening periods. Its design does have some redeeming qualities, featuring a sleek, minimalist aesthetic and a lightweight construction.
The noise cancelling on these headphones will do a good job dampening harsh sounds like construction work. However, these cans are quite lacking when it comes to attenuating low frequency sounds, such as the rumbling of an airplane engine. Sound wise, mids and highs are relatively balanced, though you may notice a lack of detail in the low-end. Kick drums and bass-lines are under-emphasized, which may be a dealbreaker for fans of electronic music.
These headphones are a prime example of the old adage: “you get what you pay for”. For less than $60, you get a pair of on-ears with serviceable sound quality, noise cancelling performance, and design.
Looking for a pair of earbuds? Try the Phiaton BT 100 NC
When it comes to Bluetooth headphones, there aren’t many options if you want to spend less than $100. That’s just as true, if not more so when it comes to Bluetooth earbuds. Luckily, the Phiaton BT 100 NC get the job done with the help of a flexible neckband that packs all of the technology inside.
Phiaton BT 100 NC
Not only do you get NFC pairing, Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX, and vibrations for notifications, but they’re also surprisingly IPX4 rated for water and sweat resistance. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, though. You’ll only get about five hours of battery life and the ANC is not great, if we’re being honest. Ultimately, there aren’t many other options at this price point, and good luck trying to find another pair of wireless earbuds that you can plug into your source device to continue listening to music when the battery dies.
You might like: Best Bluetooth headphones
Best noise cancelling headphones under $100: notable mentions
- AKG N700NC M2: These are the successor to AKG’s original entry-level noise cancelling headphones. Although it’s currently priced above $100, these cans are still worthy of your consideration thanks to its overall balanced sound signature and competitive noise-cancelling performance—all at a price tag that is still much lower than Sony or Bose’s offerings.
- Tribit QuietPlus Active Noise Cancelling Headphones: Featuring hybrid active noise cancelling technology, aptX support, and a 30-hour battery life, these are perfect for budget-conscious listeners looking for affordable noise cancelling headphones.
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