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Once reserved for expensive, premium headphones, a number of audio brands are now offering Active Noise Cancelling technology (ANC) in their entry-level units as well. What you get: cleaner, more direct sound without the interference of outside noise.
The best budget noise cancelling headphones on our list may be inexpensive but they will all help to eliminate engine noise, traffic, nature sounds and even the buzz coming from appliances or an air purifier. They’re great when you’re listening to music, and especially great when you’re taking calls or on a video chat and need to tune out the world around you. Keep in mind that ANC works mainly on lower frequency sounds — ANC does not cancel out high-frequency patterns like talking or music, so if your neighbor is also on a call or listening to his/her favorite track, you’ll still hear a little bit of noise.
The best noise-cancelling headphones under $100 feature two different modes: turn on the noise-cancelling function if you want to listen to a podcast, take a call or listen to music without hearing any outside noise. Turn on ambient sound mode to let some surrounding noise in — say, when you’re biking and need to hear traffic for safety.
Whether you’re shopping for pricey picks or cheap noise-cancelling headphones, you’ll always want to look for headphones with cushioned ear pads that can form a tight seal around your ear. A closer fit and tighter seal means less outside noise seeping through. While some luxury brands offer leather or lambskin-wrapped cups, many of the best budget noise-canceling headphones still have soft, vegan leather coverings with memory foam-style padding.
Of course, no pair of headphones will completely seal out the noise, but these cups on our list come pretty darn close. And at under $100, they’re an easy pickup if you’re looking for a good pair of cheap noise-cancelling headphones to zone out on the plane, to better concentrate on work, or to stay immersed in your favorite tunes.
1. Sony WHCH710N
Sony’s WHCH710N headphones manage to have most of the features you’d expect from one of the company’s ultra-lux pairs at a dramatically lower price.
The headphones use a version of noise cancellation that’s automatically triggered when you’re in loud environments. Their microphones pick up the sound, and neutralize harsh frequencies accordingly. You won’t have a lot of control over the headphones’ noise-cancellation feature, but Sony has spent a lot of time getting this feature right in other headphones.
The WHCH710Ns last up to 35 hours per charge, and offer around five hours of music playback off a 10 minutes per charge. Your battery life will vary on how long you keep noise-cancellation enabled, and your audio playback volume. We like that the WHCH710Ns use the ultra-plush earpads and headband Sony uses for its higher-end headphones. You shouldn’t have a problem listening to music for longer stretches of time.
If you want premium-feeling noise-cancelling headphones for under $100, Sony’s WHCH710Ns are the obvious choice.
2. Soundcore by Anker Life Q30
Soundcore makes some of the best budget-friendly audio equipment we’ve ever heard, and its Q30s continue that trend.
The headphones get an astonishing 40 hours of music playback per charge with noise-cancelling enabled, or 60 hours if you have it turned off. That’s enough juice to get you through several cross-continental trips without reaching for a plug. If they do run out of power, the Q30s offer four hours of music playback off a five minute charge.
Soundcore allows you to switch between three noise-cancellation modes designed to block sound from airplane engines, ambient outdoor sounds (cars), and ambient indoor sounds (typing). This is less control than you’d get from premium noise-cancelling headphones, but better than nothing. You shouldn’t have a problem with the Q30s sound out of the box, but you can tune their EQ to your specifications using Soundcore’s app.
If you’re constantly on-the-go, and want a pair of noise-cancelling headphones that can keep up with your busy lifestyle, Soundcore’s Q30s are our pick.
3. Wyze Noise Cancelling Headphones
Wyze is known for its inexpensive smart-home accessories, and it’s brought that same level of ingenuity to a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
These headphones use four microphones and a custom-developed processor to detect and eliminate unwanted sounds. They don’t offer any control over their level of noise-cancellation, but Wyze does allow you to tweak their EQ using the company’s free mobile app. Unsurprisingly, these headphones stand out because of their excellent smart features.
They have Alexa built into them, so you can ask the smart assistant to play tracks from your favorite artist, control smart-home accessories, or answer your questions all without touching your phone. This comes in handy if you don’t want to take your phone out of your pocket each time you change a track. Wyze says its headphones get 20 hours of music playback per charge, which is pretty good. You’ll also be able to get four hours of music playback off a four minute charge.
If you want headphones that can show you a glimpse of the future, but don’t want to spend more than $100, Wyze’s Noise Cancelling Headphones are the right pick.
4. JBL Live 460NC
Noise cancellation used to be a feature exclusively available on over-ear headphones and earbuds, but JBL brought it to its Live 460NCs.
The on-ear headphones are smaller and lighter than over-ear headphones, but its adaptive noise cancellation is just as powerful. JBL says the 460NCs adaptive noise cancelling automatically blocks unwanted sounds based on your environment, much like the Sony headphones we recommended earlier.
JBL says they last up to 40 hours per charge with noise-cancelling enabled, or 50 hours when the feature is turned off. Those stats are incredibly impressive for over-ear headphones. The 460NCs offer four hours of music playback off a 10 minute charge, too.
Your noise-cancelling headphone choices have been limited if you like on-ear headphones, but the 460NCs are an excellent option without any tradeoffs compared to over-ear pairs.