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 May 15, 2020, to replace the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B QuietPoint with the AKG N700NC, and the MPow H10 with the AKG N60NC.
Related: Best noise cancelling earbuds
Most people should get the AKG N700NC
The AKG N700NC headset wasn’t met with a ton of fanfare, but it’s a great noise cancelling option made even better by the sub-$100 price. These headphones rival the noise cancelling performance of the Sony WH-1000XM3, but aren’t nearly as comfortable due to the relatively hard headband and more rigid structure.
AKG N700NCFull Review
If you do a lot of air travel, this the best noise cancellation you’ll find when shopping around for cheap noise cancelling headphones. Low-frequencies are slightly attenuated, and midrange sounds (voices, general background din) are rendered 1/3 to 1/4 as loud as they’d normally sound. Sound quality is very good too; the drivers are tuned to slightly amplify bass notes, which aligns with what most consumer headset do anyway.
Microphone quality is great, and if you take a lot of hands-free calls you’ll sound very good through the embedded mic system. It even does a good job of rejecting background noise, so you can take calls from your local coffee shop without sounding like you’re at an underground party.
AKG N700NC microphone demo:
Although these are over-ear headphones, they’re fairly compact and can be folded upward or collapse inward for transport. Battery life is stellar, lasting more than 22 hours on a single charge, but when you do need to top them back up, you best have a microUSB cable handy and a few hours to spare.
So why didn’t the AKG N700NC supersede Sony’s flagship headphones? Well, comfort aside, the N700NC only support AAC for high-quality streaming, which really only benefits iPhone users. Android doesn’t process AAC consistently well, and when the headset was released it retailed for $349 sans-aptX support. For $100 though, this is the best noise cancelling headset you’ll find.
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 great on-ears, 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.
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 Soundcore Life 2
Anker has been in the high-value audio game a long time, and the Soundcore Life 2 are just another example showing this company knows how to get things done on a budget. These wireless ANC headphones bring memory foam earpads and 30 hours of battery life (60 when ANC is off) to a foldable, travel friendly form factor.
Soundcore Life 2
The Soundcore Life 2 support both wireless audio via Bluetooth and wired audio through a detachable 3.5mm cord. They have an embedded noise cancelling microphone, which should make you come through loud and clear. On top of all that, the headphones include a bass boosting mode, called BassUp, which no doubt appeals the EDM fans out there.
Get these if you’re looking for something affordable that travels well.
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.
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