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Best cheap noise canceling headphones
Whether you’re commuting to work 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 canceling headphones around, you will have to break open your piggy bank and start counting pennies. But that isn’t always the case. There are plenty of solid noise canceling headphones for $100 or less that are worth picking up if you’re in the market for a new pair of cans.
- This list of the best cheap noise canceling headphones was updated on January 22, 2024, to refresh our Top Picks and Notable Mentions.
The 1MORE SonoFlow are the best cheap noise canceling headphones for most people
The 1MORE SonoFlow headphones are a great choice for budget-conscious buyers seeking noise canceling capabilities. Priced at $99.99, these headphones offer a combination of style, comfort, and functionality. They feature effective active noise canceling (ANC) in various environments. The well-fitting ear pads contribute to the headphones’ decent noise isolation, enhancing the ANC’s performance by blocking external noise across a range of frequencies.
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In terms of sound quality, the SonoFlow headphones deliver a decent audio experience, which can be significantly improved using the EQ settings in the 1MORE MUSIC app. The headphones’ long battery life, extending beyond the advertised 50 hours with ANC engaged, ensures prolonged usage without frequent recharging, adding to their practicality for extended travel or daily commuting.
The Soundcore by Anker Life Q30 are good bang for the buck
Anker is known for their many offerings in the budget audio market, but none is perhaps more popualr than the Soundcore Life Q30.
Like its predecessor, the Soundcore Life Q30 Bluetooth headphones feature a lightweight construction with plush ear cups, making these headphones very comfortable to wear during long playback sessions. Like the Soundcore Life Q20, this updated version is touted to deliver up to 40 hours of playback with ANC on, making battery life a non-issue.
The Soundcore Life Q30 also features improved active noise cancelation. Though its performance can’t hold a candle to the likes of Sony or Bose, it’s better than nothing. Sound quality is what you’d expect from a pair of sub-$100 headphones: it’s consumer-friendly with amplified bass notes.
For the best on-the-go headphones, get the Sennheiser HD 450BT
You can always rely on Sennheiser to prioritize great sound quality, and that holds true with the Sennheiser HD 450BT. While this headset doesn’t quite fit the budget, if you buy it new, you can find it renewed for a lower price, and it will work just as well. For people who are constantly on the go, the HD 450BT offers affordable active noise canceling, which is perfect for drowning out the world on your way to work. It also has a portable design with ear cups that fold inward for compact travel. The headband could stand to be a little more comfortable as it does have a really strong clamping force, but it should loosen up over time.
The sound quality of the HD 450BT is very good, delivering a relatively neutral frequency response that pleasantly reproduces mid-to-high frequency sounds like strings and vocals. Bass and upper-midrange frequencies are very subtly emphasized in a way that makes most genres sound good.
The noise canceling is decent, muting low-frequency noises to about half their regular volume, and the passive isolation is quite effective. Of course, its ANC performance is not as impressive as higher-end headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM5 or Apple AirPods Max.
The microphone on the Sennheiser HD 450BT sounds all right, but it isn’t going to make your voice stand out from the rest of your co-workers. Listen to our sample below and let us know your thoughts!
Sennheiser HD 450BT microphone demo (Non-standardized):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Redefine budget ANC with the Monoprice BT-600ANC
If you prioritize ANC above everything else, including things like EQ customization, consider the Monoprice BT-600ANC. We gave this headset an Editor’s Choice Award for its excellent (for any price) ANC performance. The lone frequency response is very consumer-friendly, and you can’t adjust it. For instance, you might notice it doesn’t offer the clearest sound quality.
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The BT-600ANC has no obnoxious logos or outlandish colorways, making it discrete and surprisingly expensive-looking. You get the aptX HD Bluetooth codec for a better wireless audio experience than the standard fare AAC and SBC, though it’ll support that too. Headphones costing hundreds more don’t necessarily have high-res codecs like that.
We got an impressive 36 hours 20 minutes on a single charge during testing. Monoprice does not include a quick charge option. However, you can connect with an audio cable if your battery dies. For hair under $100, the BT-600ANC does basically everything.
The microphone quality is pretty middle of the road, but the Qualcomm cVc tech does a bit of work to suppress background noise.
Monoprice BT-600ANC microphone demo (Non-standardized):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The best on-ear headphones are the JBL Tune 660NC
For the Goldilocks that considers in-ear headphones to be too small and over-ear headphones to be too big, the JBL Tune 600NC could be just right. Anyone who commutes to school or work every day will greatly appreciate the long battery life, wireless connectivity, and active noise canceling. Frequent fliers will also appreciate the combination of portability and performance of this headphone.
In our testing, the JBL Tune 660NC lasted 37 hours and 9 minutes with ANC on. The ANC provides a 10dB reduction to low-mid frequency noise, which means that all background noise sounds at least 50% quieter when wearing headphones, which is quite impressive for headphones in this price range. They also sound excellent. The frequency response of the JBL Tune 660NC closely follows our ideal target curve for consumer headphones, which means most people will enjoy the sound quality of these headphones, no matter what genre of music they prefer listening to.
If you’re in the market for on-ear headphones, these headphones should be near the top of your list.
Three years later, the Skullcandy Hesh ANC is a great budget pick
Do you like bass? Good, because the Skullcandy Hesh ANC delivers a uniquely bass-heavy sound, with certain sub-bass frequencies sounding about 15dB louder than what our consumer curve suggests. Since the bass is so boosted here, we consider the Hesh ANC a niche product despite its reasonable $99 price.
Bass response aside, the headset has very good active noise canceling that renders low and midrange frequencies one-half to one-quarter of their original perceived loudness. The ANC can’t compete with the very best headsets from Bose and Sony, but it’s good enough for your daily train commute. Thanks to the long battery life of nearly 23 hours, you can also use this headset on your next intercontinental flight; just be sure to top it up beforehand.
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There’s not too much to say about the Hesh ANC and its plain design. Those with larger-than-average ears may not find these headphones comfortable, though, because the ear pads only have 4cm by 6cm of clearance. If your ears fit within those dimensions, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the performance of these cheap headphones.
The Hesh ANC attenuates low frequencies to mitigate the proximity effect, which is a nice feature, but this can lead to somewhat unnatural-sounding low voices. From noisy environments, the Hesh ANC performs as expected: some background noise is suppressed, but not all.
Skullcandy Hesh ANC microphone demo (Ideal):
Skullcandy Hesh ANC microphone demo (Office):
Skullcandy Hesh ANC microphone demo (Street):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The best noise canceling headphones under $100: Notable mentions
- Anker Soundcore Life Q35 $99.99 at Amazon: These share some of the features of the 1MORE SonoFlow, including ANC, travel case, foldable design, 50h+ battery life, quick charge feature, and supporting app for EQ customization.
- AKG N700NC M2: This is the successor to AKG’s original entry-level noise canceling headphones. Although it’s currently priced above $100, these cans are still worthy of your consideration thanks to their overall balanced sound signature and competitive noise canceling performance—all at a price tag that is still much lower than Sony or Bose’s offerings.
- AUKEY EP-N12: If your primary goal is super cheap ANC and you aren’t too fussed about perfect audio reproduction, the EP-N12 offers impressive noise cancelation for well under $100 and long battery life.
- Edifier W828NB: Don’t need to make any phone calls? Good, this headset has no onboard mic, but it does have a long battery life, comfortable ear cups, and aptX and aptX HD codecs for better-quality streaming. Older tech like micro-USB charging can annoy single cable users who have moved on to USB-C.
- Philips PH805: This headset has all of these bells and whistles of ice assistant integration, High-Res audio certification, touch controls, and active noise canceling. Plus, it’s extremely comfortable.
What you should know about cheap noise canceling headphones
If you want to learn more about noise canceling headphones, you’ve come to the right place. Be sure to expand the boxes below to dive right in!
Generally speaking, noise canceling headphones are more expensive than their non-noise-canceling counterparts. That’s because more components are packed into ANC cans, like extra microphones, to enable the technology.
Unfortunately, the old adage, “you get what you pay for,” applies to noise canceling headphones under $100. While you’re still benefiting from the technology, its effectiveness of it can’t compare to the cream of the crop.
How does active noise canceling (ANC) work?
Active canceling headphones use destructive interference to attenuate external noise, so droning sounds are significantly blocked out. Passive isolation tackles incidental, high-frequency sounds like conversations and loud children. In order to achieve optimal noise canceling, you’ll need the best fit possible. With headphones, this means the pads shouldn’t create gaps between your skull, and with earbuds, it means the tips should create a seal to your ear.
What is the benefit of noise canceling headphones?
Noise canceling headphones can make your daily commute more pleasant by drowning out the distracting sounds around you. ANC can also protect your hearing because when background noise is less audible, you’re less likely to increase the volume to dangerous levels to hear your tunes. Since your brain spends less of its energy processing a ton of auditory stimuli with ANC headsets, it’s actually easier for your brain to perceive how your music sounds!
What Bluetooth codecs should you pay attention to when buying ANC headphones?
If you have an Android phone, you should look for a Bluetooth headset with aptX or LDAC support, though LDAC isn’t technically high-res. These codecs give you reliable, high-quality audio over Bluetooth, which you don’t always get with AAC on Android. iPhone owners should grab headphones with AAC support for high-quality audio since iPhones only support SBC and AAC.
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Frequently asked questions about the best cheap noise canceling headphones
When companies make new products, there’s a lot of manufacturing knowledge gained by designing the original product, and sometimes even leftover parts. In order to make sure that a company is extracting as much value as it can from existing assets, sometimes it will create a product using these existing assets to pass savings onto the customer.
With any cheap product, there’s a certain level of tradeoffs you should expect, and quality is one of them. However, the era of truly terrible headphones is largely over, thanks to some nifty manufacturing improvements. You may not be getting a top-of-the-line product, but you won’t be buying garbage, either.
While wearing noise canceling headphones can help you get a more focused and stress-free environment, wearing them all day or for long periods of time may find yourself feeling a little too isolated. Prolonged use might even alter your noise-localization neural circuitry, meaning your ability to locate where sounds are coming from. So, take breaks.