You can’t fight fire with fire, but in the case of sonic waves, you can certainly fight noise with noise. Active noise-cancelling technology (ANC) uses microphones to pick up acoustic noise and then cancels it by emitting tones that are phase-inverted to the unwanted noise. The best noise-cancelling headphones under $100 are equipped with powerful ANC tech that supplements their other quality features to create private sonic experiences that are undisturbed by the outside world.
Great noise-cancelling headphones aren’t one trick ponies. They still feature quality sound with wide frequency response and excellent sensitivity, as well as comfortable builds and nimble connectivity. Most offer the ability to turn noise-cancelling mode on or off. Some come with additional sound modes, such as a hear through mode, which will mix your speaker’s audio with the sounds the microphone picks up from the outside world.. Whether you’re looking for a plush over-ear headphone that will root you into the soundscape, or a small in-ear earbud that will put you in the same room as the podcast host, there are all sorts of excellent options for noise cancellation available—even at the sub $100 price point.
How We Picked the Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones Under $100
When researching this list of ANC headphones, we wanted to make sure we found the absolute best options. To ensure this, we researched numerous headphones from multiple manufacturers and assessed their specs and special features. We compared these to the brands we most closely follow as tech reviewers. Along the way, we looked for a few specific criteria that we think are important markers of a headphone’s quality.
Battery and Charge: ANC headphones take energy. Because ANC tech requires a complex array of microphones and speakers to detect and cancel noise, they eat through charge in a way that traditional headphones won’t. Some charge their internal batteries through micro USB, others might require AA or AAA batteries (get rechargeable). With every set we selected, we looked at the battery life and charge method. Mostly, we looked for models that come with built-in rechargeable batteries that have excellent 24+ hour battery life. However, where it saved a lot of money, we considered options that are designed otherwise.
Connectivity: We factored how well each headphone we reviewed does with connectivity. Most of the picks on this list use Bluetooth or another similar wireless protocol to connect to your devices. Some connect to multiple devices at one time. Many offer microphone systems that allow you to use your headphones for phone calls or voice activated commands. Sometimes wired connections are also available, in such a case we looked at how well the headphone treats fidelity on a wired connection versus wireless (if both are available).
Active Noise Cancellation: Not every ANC device cancels noise as well as the next. We looked for devices that do an exceptional job at noise cancellation for the price. We also made sure to consider how disruptive the ANC effect is. Some find the slight hiss of noise cancellation to be wearisome on the ears. Devices that handle this better got nods.
Sound Quality: We looked for headphones with great frequency response, from deep bass to high trebles. We also prioritized devices that don’t apply too much of an innate EQ, though if devices have customizable EQs, we considered that a positive.
Comfort: We looked for headphones that are comfortable enough to wear all day.
Best Noise-Cancelling Headphones Under $100: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Soundcore by Anker Life Q30
Why They Made The Cut: Excellent frequency response, solid multi-device Bluetooth connectivity, a wired option, and extra long battery life with fast charging are a few of the features that distinguish this excellent noise-cancelling headphone set.
— Ear Placement: On-ear
— Connection: Wireless multi-device or wired (Bluetooth 5, NFC, AUX)
— Frequency Response: 16 Hz (hertz) to 40,000 Hz
— Pairs to multiple devices on Bluetooth or NFC (near field communication)
— Super long battery life with quick charge
— Superior frequency response
— Strong noise cancellation with multiple alt modes
— Not the best call function
— Somewhat tight fit
— Wired mode has some issues
The Anker Life Soundcore Q30’s extra-wide frequency response and superb audio would be selling points enough for most headphones, but they’re only two of a multitude of excellent features on this stellar noise-cancelling headphone set. The Soundcore is a loaded noise-cancelling headphone set that is tuned to the times. It features a 16 Hz to 40,000 Hz frequency response that offers a slice of the sonic spectrum that goes slightly wider than most humans can hear, allowing for extra treble and solid bass. Ensuring that that plush sonic space is audible, the headphones use two noise detection mics to pick up noise and cancel it with one of three modes—one focused on cancelling engine and transit tones, one focused on the out-of-doors, and one focused on people talking. This ANC function is quickly altered with a press of the earphones, which activates a hear-through transparency mode.
The Soundcore makes sure its loaded set of functions is available at all times thanks to an extra-long battery life, which lasts for well over a day (and up to 40 hours) on noise-cancelling mode, and far more otherwise. It also offers a talk mode that activates its mics for phone calls, though in practice this works less well than we hoped. The wired mode also presents issues, as the Soundcore fails to operate on noise-cancelling mode when plugged into an AUX and also loses its otherwise impressive custom EQ function. That’s okay though, because the Bluetooth and NFC connectivity is excellent, allowing you to connect to multiple devices at once, for easy transitions.
Best Budget: Sony MDRZX110NC
Why They Made The Cut: Expanding on the resilient value and quality of the budget-priced Sony ZX110, these add decent noise-canceling tech.
— Ear Placement: On-ear
— Connection: Wired (3.94 ft)
— Frequency Response: 10 Hz to 22,000 Hz
— Decent noise cancellation
— Multiple days of noise cancellation battery life
— Great sound for the price
— Requires batteries
— Noise cancellation is weaker than higher-priced headphones
I’ve owned a pair of non-ANC Sony ZX110NCs for enough years that I’m unsure when exactly they came into my life, which by my standards is about the perfect case for a budget set of headphones. I take them everywhere, never worry about them, and they keep on sounding good. Active noise cancellation only improves these excellent budget headphones.
With a frequency response of 10 Hz to 22,000 Hz, the ZX110s are well-equipped for hitting high-treble soprano voices and low bass and do a good job at the whole audio spectrum. They use a stable wired connection that won’t have you fiddling with menus (even if you need an adapter to plug it into your phone). They use comfortable earphones and fold nicely for storage in a fanny pack or coat pocket.
These do not do the absolute best job at cancelling noise, but for the price, you can’t exactly expect the best. They do perform a decent job, especially with static noises, like engine hum. Another issue with this model is that the ANC function runs on batteries, so consider investing in some rechargeable batteries to save yourself money over the long run. Otherwise, these are a great budget set of noise-cancelling headphones that come at a low enough price, and you’ll be able to take them anywhere without worrying.
Best Over-Ear: Philips PH805
Why They Made The Cut: With good sound cancellation, detailed sound, voice activation, and easy fold-up portability with a battery life that’s made for travel, this is a great buy.
— Ear Placement: Over-ear
— Connection: Wireless or wired (Bluetooth 5.0, 2.5mm, 3.5mm)
— Frequency Response: 7 Hz to 40,000Hz
— Extremely comfortable
— Sleek lines and solid build
— Good sound and decent ANC
— Doesn’t cancel background noise as effectively as some
The Philips PH805 is a headphone that puts premium right out front. With sleek lines, and a strong and agile build, these headphones look and feel premium, and offer cushioning that will enfold you just like the sound.
The PH805 headphones are true over-ears, and like other over-ears, provide some isolation from outside noise by their very (cushy) design. This innate isolation is supplemented by ANC tech. The ANC on this set isn’t as extensive as some and doesn’t do as complete of a job as other models but still offers great aural padding for the price. Similarly, the sound is quite good, though it isn’t as active as some models, delivering an ultra-wide frequency response that tends to taper off somewhat in the highs in practice. While their sound isn’t as exceptional as headphones like the Sony MDR7506, they’re still audiophile worthy and stand to impress, especially when you factor all of the headphone’s features.
While the PH805 is advertised as a Bluetooth set, it also functions as a hybrid wired model. It ships with a 2.5mm to 3.5mm cord that can be used for monitoring AUX connections. We think this is a nice additional feature for anyone who wants an extra stable connection. The battery life is also quite decent, clocking about a day of audio playback or talk with noise cancelling on.
Best Wireless: EarFun® Air Pro Hybrid
Why They Made The Cut: These Bluetooth ANC headphones block noise from interfering with your voice on phone calls and offer great audio along the way.
— Ear Placement: In-ear
— Connection: Wireless (Bluetooth 5.0)
— Frequency Response: Undisclosed
— Decent sound
— Good ANC
— Clear voice calls with ANC applied to call background noise
— Decent battery life
— Sits comfortably without falling
— Sound isn’t the end all be all
Good earbuds get pricey quickly. It might seem that solid sounding earbuds with noise-cancelling ANC tech would get priced out of this list, but that’s not so. The EarFun® Air Pro Hybrid is a feature packed earbud with good sound and excellent functionality. These true wireless in-ears connect with Bluetooth 5 and offer seven to nine hours of audio that’s supplemented with a USB-C chargeable case, which can add 32 hours of playback before you’ll need to find a socket. The same three mics per earbud are used for noise detection and voice recognition.
The Air Pros do a solid job with noise cancellation, which doesn’t beat out pricier models but still offers impressive dampening. This noise cancellation can also be applied to talk mode, easily improving the clarity of your voice when you’re taking outdoor calls. The sound quality is good — not as exceptional as some — but still highly impressive for the very reasonable price.
The Air Pro is an earbud you can rely on. With a tight-fitting build that will stay in place all day and IPx5 water- and sweat-resistance, these aren’t buds you’ll find yourself worrying about. It’s this reliability paired with their excellent talk, good sound, decent battery, simple touch and voice controls, and good ANC that make these the best noise-cancelling earbuds under $100.
Most Comfortable: WYZE Bluetooth 5.0 Headphones
Why It Made The Cut: Excellent noise cancellation comes with smart gesture controls, deep comfort, and solid sound that’s tweakable with custom EQs.
— Ear Placement: Over-ear
— Connection: Wireless and wired (Bluetooth 5.0, AUX), wireless connects to two devices
— Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz (Bluetooth), 20 Hz to 38,000 Hz (line)
— Excellent comfort and grip
— Easy touch controls
— Good sound with EQs
— Strong noise cancellation
— Voice clarity is poor for phone calls
If comfort is your goal, there’s no need to look much further than the WYZE Bluetooth 5.0 Headphones. With memory foam over-ear cups that swallow your ears in an oval embrace, and a band that stays firm without constricting, these are over-ears that will stay on through ballet practice or a bike ride around the park. Their noise cancellation is quite good for the price point, filtering low level constant tones like plane engines and bus rattles, even if they don’t do a perfect job with intermittent bangs or staccato voices.
The earphones have good sound, offering slightly better fidelity with a line connection than Bluetooth. That quality discrepancy is standard, even if the option for both isn't necessarily standard. While the natural EQ of the headphones is a little weak on bass (as is the frequency response), the headphones offer decent EQ options that do a good job at balancing the sound. The sound won’t match excellent reference headphones like the GRADO SR60x, but they live in a different class.
The headphones’ functionality is excellent, with nice touch controls built in that let you pause playback with a touch or easily cycle to transparency mode with a gesture. This is a nice feature for use on the street. Sadly, voice clarity for calls is something that’s missing with this set. These don’t work as well as some for answering calls.
All in all, this is a great set if you’re after superior headphone comfort that you can wear all day and a battery charge that will keep up. With solid sound cancellation, good sound, and superior comfort, WYZE is worth a look for anyone looking for great noise-cancelling headphones under $100.
Things To Consider Before Buying Noise-Cancelling Headphones Under $100
Before you buy, consider the features you need to get the best value out of your purchase.
The headphones on this list come in three main types — on-ear, over-ear, and in-ear. On-ear headphones cover your ear. Many are open, meaning that they allow some outside sound to mix with the feed. Over-ear headphones, on the other hand, cover and surround your ear with thick padding, isolating your ear from outside sound, so that you feel enclosed in the music. Good over-ear headphones will feel as though they offer some passive noise cancellation. Most of the time, this is just aural isolation, using foam or another substance to block off outside sound. This is quite different from active noise cancellation, which cancels sound with a phase-inverted signal. In-ear headphones on the other hand insert the speaker into your ear. Mostly these work like the Air Pro Hybrids on this list, though some like the Bose Sport Open Earbuds clip to your upper ear for a rare open-ear/in-ear hybrid.
These days, it's more common than ever to see folks walking around with Bluetooth headphones. Bluetooth offers excellent ease of use, especially when it’s able to connect to multiple devices at once. However, other options are also worth a look. Wired connections are usually more stable than Bluetooth and can transmit higher quality audio. This is why many great headphone sets come with a wireless option. Near field communication (NFC) is a somewhat uncommon alternative to Bluetooth that’s occasionally used by headphones. NFC uses a different wireless protocol to connect and is generally more secure than Bluetooth, if shorter range. Before you buy headphones consider whether you want a wired connection, all Bluetooth, or multiple connection options.
If you take your headphones with you on the go, it can be crucial to ensure that they’re ready for you to use all day long. Active noise cancellation requires a decent amount of battery power. Be sure that the headphones you choose will have a battery life that’s suitable for your goals and lifestyle.
Q. How much do noise-cancelling headphones under $100 cost?
Noise-cancelling technology can be expensive. While all the noise-cancelling headphones on this list cost under $100, they still run the gamut in terms of price. The cheapest cost about $30, while the most expensive come close to $100.
Q. Do noise-cancelling headphones hurt your ears?
All audio devices can hurt your ears, and noise-cancelling headphones are no different. Generally, noise-cancelling headphones don’t hurt your ears more than regular headphones. However, just make sure not to turn them up for too long. Some folks do find ANC technology grating after hours. However, this comes down to personal preference.
Q. Do noise-cancelling headphones block all sound?
No, noise-cancelling headphones block all sound, but some do a better job than others. Most noise-cancelling headphones under $100 do a good job with blocking constant room noises, such as a bus engine, or consistent car traffic from a freeway but do less well with intermittent noise.
Q. Can you sleep with noise-cancelling headphones?
While you could sleep with noise-cancelling headphones, most of them on this list are too large to be comfortable while sleeping. Most people looking for noise-cancelling headphones for sleep will want to look for earpods that will nicely fit inside your ears.
Q. Does noise-cancelling headphones affect sound quality?
Since noise-cancelling technology cancels noise using a phase-inversion of incoming sound, the slight hiss it makes can interfere with some parts of your music’s sound quality. However, this varies between models and bothers some people more than others.
For under $100 you can still get an excellent set of noise-cancelling headphones. The best come with powerful feature sets, slim design that will look great when worn around town, and offer vibrant sound even while they deaden external interference. For a budget pair that will cut down on sonic interference on the subway but won’t cost so much, you’ll worry every time you throw them in your backpack, check out the Sony MDRZX110NC. If you lead an active lifestyle, but you want to find that moment of zen on your trail running circuit, check out the EarFun® Air Pro Hybrid, which features a deep feature set, good sound, and great ANC for such an affordable and small device. If you want it all, however, you can’t go wrong with our best overall pick, the Soundcore by Anker Life Q30, a dynamic, feature-rich headphone set that’s chock full of power.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.