Best cheap noise-cancelling headphones in 2021
The best cheap noise-cancelling headphones are proof that a once high-end feature can now yours without paying a premium at all. Active noise cancellation (ANC) is a fantastic feature that can greatly enhance music playback, and although it requires additional onboard hardware, these days you can easily find a great set of ANC headphones or earbuds for less than $200.
We should not the these are not the absolute best noise-cancelling headphones; when it comes to the most effective sound-silencing on the market, it can be worth paying more for the Sony WH-1000XM4 or Bose 700. But we know from having tested them that there are much more affordable alternatives out there, so let’s jump into the best cheap noise-cancelling headphones you can buy.
Editor’s Note: The Tom’s Guide Awards 2021 for audio have been announced, and the Cleer Enduro ANC has won the Best headphones for battery life award! Head to the audio awards page to see all the winners and recommended runners-up.
What are the best cheap noise-cancelling headphones?
The Cleer Enduro ANC currently tops our list of the best cheap noise-cancelling headphones. Its modern, feature-rich design is backed up by great sound quality and effective ANC, and even with the latter enabled it produces battery life than even the very best over-ear headphones can’t hope to match.
Our second pick, the Sennheiser HD 4.5 BTNC, offers a similar mix of rich sound and strong noise cancellation, while the Urbanista Miami takes a deserved 3rd place with its clean styling and battery life that’s only a few hours short of the Enduro ANC.
If you’d prefer a pair of the best wireless earbuds, check out the Sony WF-1000XM3. This is actually Sony’s flagship set ANC earbuds, but has dropped in price to the extent to the point where you don’t need to spend AirPods Pro money to afford it.
The best cheap noise-cancelling headphones (under $200) right now
The Cleer Enduro ANC offers an almost irresistible combination of affordability, audio richness, active noise cancellation and battery life. Emphasis on the battery life: we got more than 50 hours of mid-volume, fully ANC-enabled playback out of this over-ear set.
Unlike a lot of low-cost headphones, even cheap ANC headphones, the Enduro ANC also comes with a respectable range of features. NFC pairing comes in handy, for instance, and if you connect the bundled 3.5mm cable instead of using Bluetooth, you get Hi-Res Audio support. And, unlike the identically-priced Urbanista Miami, the Enduro ANC can fold up for easier carrying.
Read our full Cleer Enduro ANC review.
The Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC remains the best pair of cheap noise-cancelling headphones for many reasons. Audio is clean and discernible in both the highs and lows, which is very impressive from a wireless headphone. Sennheiser’s exclusive NoiseGard technology is effective at blocking out ambient sounds, though you might still hear some engine rumble when flying on airplanes. Even better is how ANC doesn’t affect the profile too much; only those with discerning ears will notice subtle differences in audio quality.
One must also admire the HD 4.50 BTNC’s minimalist and elegant aesthetics, featuring a matte-black plastic covering over the headphones, which display the silver-accented logo. They certainly look like baller headphones, but much far cheaper than what Bose and Sony charge. With a rechargeable wireless design and up to 19 hours of battery life, Sennheiser’s headphones are an excellent choice.
Read our full Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC review.
The Urbanista Miami is perhaps the most stylish pair of cheap noise-cancelling headphones you can buy, but it’s more than just a pretty face. The sound quality is great, with strong bass that never overwhelms the rest of the mix, and the ANC works well enough to cut out most background noise. There’s a transparency mode too, which you don’t always get on affordable ANC cans.
The real star, though, is battery life. Urbanista promises 40 hours of ANC playback, and the Miami easily achieved that in our own testing. That’s more than double the lifespan of the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC and almost matches that of the Cleer Enduro ANC, so definitely consider picking these up if you’re a regular traveller.
Read our full Urbanista Miami review.
Sony headphones are becoming noise-cancelling staples, and just recently, the company launched its own game-changing product in the true wireless category: the WF-1000XM3. With better ANC, audio, and battery life than the AirPods Pro, it’s almost a crime to see these buds marked down below $200. Bass is well-balanced, giving music an impactful presence that isn’t overpowering on the ears. The Sony Connect app also allows users to adjust noise cancellation and sound, though it’s unnecessary since the default settings already do the trick. Noise cancellation is where these buds truly excel, resiliently minimizing ambient sound across the frequency spectrum.
The touch controls are disappointing, especially since Sony demonstrated great progress with the feature on the acclaimed WH-1000XM3, and the call quality could be much better. Still, one listen and you’re bound to overlook these faults.
Read our full Sony WF-1000XM3 review.
For such a low price, the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC does almost everything you need from a pair of running headphones. The loop design is tricky to put on but holds each earbud firmly in place, while IP66 water resistance makes it essentially sweatproof. Sound quality is surprisingly good, too, and the mobile app offers a fully customizable EQ.
The ANC isn’t as effective as what you’d get from the Sony WF-1000XM3, but this pair is cheaper brand new than Sony’s aging headphones. The Epic Air Sport ANC also comes complete with am ambient sound mode, Be Aware, so you can keep an ear out for traffic and pedestrians while out on runs without needing to remove an earbud.
Read our full JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review.
Bigger sound, noise cancellation, and bonus features: Anker blessed this set of cans with the works. The Life Q30 comes equipped with 40mm silk drivers that generate thumping lows and crisp mids to enjoy music across multiple genres. Anker also made these headphones compatible with the Soundcore app, so you can personalize the soundstage to your liking by manually adjusting the EQ or by picking any of the 22 presets available. You don’t see that on many noise-cancellers priced under $100. Noise neutralization is improved from the previous model, so you’ll be able to block out a higher level of external sounds. The three ANC modes (Transport, Indoor, and Outdoor) are engineered to cancel out noises found in different settings too.
We applaud Anker for giving the Life Q30 a more premium look and better aesthetics, though this is still one big, heavy pair of ‘phones to lug around.
The Sony CH710N bringS together many of the brand’s beloved hallmarks (e.g. bass-forward signature, bountiful battery life) and welcome unique features such as Artificial Intelligence Noise Cancellation to the party. Listening to music rewards you with deep bass and crisp-sounding mids, along with 35 hours of uninterrupted playtime. You can also use these in wired mode to preserve power.
While the CH710N’s smart noise reduction sufficiently minimizes background clatter, the technology is a step down from the active noise cancellation featured in Sony’s flagship headset, the WH-1000XM4. You’ll be able to drown out chatty neighbors and loud televisions. Power tools and washing machines, not so much. For the sub-luxury price, we also felt Sony could have done a better job constructing these cans, as the plastic frame isn’t aesthetically pleasing.
The design might lead you to believe this is an older pair of noise-cancelling headphones, but it’s relatively new and comes equipped with some cool features that enhance the user experience. For one, you can use the them in either wireless or wired mode; the latter is achieved by connecting the bundled aux cable to the 3.5mm jack. Sound-wise, the NuraLoop delivers amazing percussion and vocal clarity, and the Nura app lets you create a custom listening profile based on your ear shape. The wrap-around-the-head design means these headphones stay put. ANC is also highly effective and adjustable, so you have control over the level of noise you want to cancel out or allow into the soundstage.
You’ll just want to be mindful of the overly sensitive touch controls, which can be frustrating to deal with whenever needing to adjust fit. It’s also odd that Nura chose to develop its own proprietary charging cable, meaning you’re stuck with it as your only solution to recharging the headphones.
Read our full NuraLoop review.
The WF-SP800N is a superior upgrade that outperforms its predecessor, the WF-SP700N, in numerous areas, including audio, battery life, and most importantly, noise cancellation. Music sounds lively, as Sony’s bass-forward signature feeds your ears impactful lows that play nicely with mids and highs to produce warm, well-rounded sound. Access to the Sony Headphones app opens the lane to personalize sound by customizing the EQ or selecting from different music presets.
ANC is a step down from the WF-1000XM3, but still serviceable for blocking out distractions at the gym. The adjustable Ambient Mode setting also lets you control the level of ambient sound entering the earbuds, so you can be better aware of your surroundings; it’s a great feature for outdoor runners. We’re just a bit disappointed these buds are missing some key Sony features, including NFC and the QN1 processor that optimizes sound and noise cancellation.
Read our full Sony WF-SP800N review.
The Life Q20 is further proof that you can score a nice pair of cheap, noise-cancelling headphones for less than a Benjamin., even with noise cancellation serving as its third-best feature. Audio is the Life Q20’s main attraction with custom 40mm drivers that produce rich sound; bass is punchy and doesn’t muffle the mid-range or vocals. Battery life is up there as well, generating up to 40 hours of playtime on a full charge, which can be extended up to 60 hours when ANC is off.
Anker’s headphones have better-than-average noise cancellation that realistically blocks out 70% of environmental sounds (Anker claims 90%). Although, the feature struggles to filter out proximate noises such as keyboard clatter and neighborly chatter. You’ll also want to refrain from using the included aux cable since it hinders audio performance. Nonetheless, it’s impressive for such a dirt-cheap set of headphones.
Just as the Urbanista Miami seems like almost unrealistically good value, the sheer affordability of the Enacfire A9 is hard to believe. This is a pair of ANC earbuds, with a modern, true wireless design, for less than half the price of even the other cheap earbuds on this very list.
It’s even got an IPX7 rating, so it’s fully waterproof even if you drop an earbud into the bath. Sound quality, ANC effectiveness and even call quality are all pretty good too. All that said, there are some significant drawbacks: the earbuds aren’t that comfortable, battery life is so-so, and the touch controls don’t work nearly as well as we’d like. But if you want ANC earbuds at the lowest price possible, the A9 is worth considering regardless.
Read our full Enacfire A9 review.
How to choose the best cheap noise cancelling headphones for you
The term cheap often has negative connotations, but as we’ve learned through months of testing, there are plenty of cheap noise cancelling headphones that are just as good, if not better than some of the industry’s more premium selections.
Active noise cancellation will also be the key feature of these models. Most headphones that advertise “noise cancelling” are often categorized as ANC headphones. You want a model that has credible noise-cancelling performance and can block out a large percentage of ambient sound; anywhere above 70% is great. Keep in mind that ANC technology can compress sound, which may affect audio performance when turned on, but there are models that limit these disruptions to produce full, crisp results.
Battery life is just as important, as several factors (e.g. ANC, Bluetooth, volume) are known to drain the power quickly. If you’re going the over- or on-ear route, seek out wireless cans that hold anywhere between 15 to 30 hours. Should true wireless earbuds pique your interest most, aim for something with a minimum of 6 hours, not including the bundled charging case, which should store about double the playtime.
You’ll want to keep the design in mind as well. Over-ear headphones are known for having the best noise cancellation, but there are also some on-ear and in-ear models that get the job done.
How we test the best cheap noise cancelling headphones
When creating our list of the top cheap noise cancelling headphones, we rate each model based on several traits. Audio performance, battery life, Bluetooth range, call quality, comfort and fit, and the effectiveness of the noise cancellation are all accounted for. We factor special features into the equation, too.
Our reviewers wear each pair of headphones for 2 hours at a time over the course of a week. Tom’s Guide also employs a thorough review process that compares products with similar fit, features, and price to determine the best options.
Active noise cancellation is tested in numerous environments where ambient sounds are produced at high levels. This includes airplanes, city parks, convenience shops, offices, public transportation, and at home. Any headphones programmed with a transparency mode are also tested to determine how well the listener can hear their surroundings.
For audio performance, we listen to songs across a number of genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical and R&B, while evaluating volume, clarity, and fullness. Movies, podcasts, and video games are considered, when necessary.
After testing is completed, we rate the headphones based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). If a product hits nearly every mark, it receives our Editors’ Choice badge.
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