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Best noise cancelling headphones under $100
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 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 cancelling headphones under $100 USD 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 August 4, 2022, to add the Skullcandy Hesh ANC to the top five picks, expand the buying options, and to update the formatting.
Why is the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 the best pair of cheap noise cancelling headphones for most people?
Anker continues to redefine the budget audio market with the update to its popular budget noise cancelling headphones: 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 cancellation. 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 cancelling, 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 cancelling is decent, muting low-frequency noises to about half their regular volume, and the passive isolation is quite effective. However, its ANC performance is not as impressive as higher-end headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM4 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.
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 a hair under $100 USD, 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 Skullcandy Hesh ANC is a great headset for bass lovers
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 USD price.
Bass response aside, the headset has very good active noise cancelling that renders low and midrange frequencies one-half to one-quarter 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.
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 will fit within those dimensions, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised with performance from 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 Philips PH805 is very comfortable
When it comes to Bluetooth headphones, there aren’t many options if you want to spend less than $10o USD. It’s even harder to find budget headphones with features like voice assistant integration, High-Res audio certification, touch controls, and active noise cancelling. The Philips PH805 has all of these bells and whistles and is extremely comfortable.
The headset has a dedicated smart assistant button for accessing Siri or Google Assistant. If you need to send a text or set a reminder without reaching for your phone, the PH805 is there for you. This headset has a High-Res audio certification, which means that if you connect the 2.5mm to 3.5mm cable to a High-Res audio source you can listen to lossless audio (this is true for any wired headset). The headphones’ sound quality emphasizes bass for a consumer-friendly sound but not so much that it detracts from the rest of the frequencies.
The Philips PH805 has a built-in microphone with echo cancellation. The ear cups can fold inward or lay flat for easy storage and transportation. You can use the touch controls to toggle volume as well as activate ANC and Awareness Mode which has the opposite function of ANC. This is definitely a headset for the budget-minded shopper to consider.
The best noise cancelling headphones under $100: Notable mentions
- AKG N700NC M2: This is 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.
- AUKEY EP-N12: If your primary goal is super cheap ANC and aren’t too fussed about perfect audio reproduction, the EP-N12 offers impressive noise cancellation for well under $100 USD, and a 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 microUSB charging can annoy the single cable users who have moved on to USB-C.
- JLab Audio Studio ANC: Priced at just under $60 USD, this is a great pair of headphones that costs less than most. Design-wise, these headphones are rather middle of the road, but it’s the price you pay for saving money.
- Monoprice BT-500 ANC: If you can’t afford big brother BT-600 ANC, little bro has high-quality aptX and aptX HD codecs as well.
- Sony MDRZX110NC: Want a wired ANC experience? You get a high-resolution audio experience by using a headphone jack, but the ANC needs a AAA battery.
- 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.
What you should know about the best noise cancelling headphones under $100 USD
If you want to learn more about noise cancelling headphones, you’ve come to the right place. Be sure to expand the boxes below to dive right in!
Generally speaking, noise cancelling headphones are more expensive than their non-noise cancelling 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 cancelling 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 cancelling (ANC) work?
Active cancelling 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 cancelling, 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 cancelling headphones?
Noise cancelling 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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