While noise-canceling headphones have long been a key item to bring along when you're commuting or taking a noisy flight, with so many people working from home these days, they're more important than ever.
We've spent a lot of time reviewing great noise-canceling headphones. But if you don't want to spend a lot of money, we recommend the Anker SoundCore Space NC(available at Amazon), which provide a great combination of comfort, features, and audio quality. If those aren't quite right, though, our list offers plenty more great budget picks, so you can block out the silence without breaking the bank.
These are the best noise-canceling headphones under $100 ranked, in order:
Anker SoundCore Space NC
Phiaton BT 120 NC
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The Anker Soundcore Space NC headphones offer an awful lot for the money. These headphones serve up a hefty slice of the features you'll get with flagship models, at a budget noise canceling price. Anker’s touch controls on the headphone cups are intended to allow easy access to the “play,” “pause,” and “skip” functionality. While we did find ourselves sometimes making accidental adjustments, overall it's a pretty nifty system.
The headphones also sound quite impressive for their price point. While bass may be somewhat lacking, the overall sound signature is full and rich. They offer a comfortable fit, though they lose a bit by way of a strong seal when wearing glasses, which can impact their noise-canceling abilities.
Overall, these are a great way to get noise canceling on the cheap in a design that looks and sounds more like pricier options, making them an easy choice for our best noise-canceling headphones under $100.
Contributors to this article include Reviewed's Home Theater Editor, Lee Neikirk, Electronics Managing Editor, Ryan Waniata, and Nicole Carpenter, who prior to working at Polygon (a gaming website), was a freelance reporter and reviewer who specialized in tech and gaming. Together, they have well over a decade of experience testing and evaluating headphones.
Headphone manufacturers are typically aiming for either a flat or a curved sound profile. A curved profile is most common, and can be used to try to replicate the Equal Loudness Curve (ELC). The human ear hears higher tones more easily than it hears the bass tones, so for a human to perceive highs and lows at a similar volume, the headphones boost the volume of the lows, and moderate the volume of the highs. These days, though, many headphone brands boost frequencies at different levels to create a distinctive sound signature, such as bass-forward headphones.
A "flat" profile is usually found in "studio" headphones; the treble, midrange, and bass tones are presented at similar volume levels. Studio headphones are designed to reproduce music exactly as it was recorded. As the name implies, they're most commonly used in studio control rooms to help mixers figure out which frequencies they should boost or reduce.
In addition to the more scientific lab testing, we also wear each pair of headphones around town to get a sense of their features (like noise cancellation and transparency mode), sound quality, as well as short-and long-term comfort.
Active vs. Passive Noise Cancelling Headphones
Active Noise Canceling headphones (ANC) minimize exterior sound by using small microphones to analyze the sound frequencies in the environment around you and then flip their polarity to "cancel" them out. Passive Noise Cancellation (PNC), on the other hand, uses materials built into the headphones to muffle outside sound. A strong mix of both is generally preferred to create the most effective noise cancellation.
Because active noise cancellation may introduce additional sound when engaged, it can affect the sound quality of what you’re listening to (though this is becoming less of an issue with many newer models). Many noise cancellation headphones have an option to turn ANC on or off, while more advanced models allow for different levels of cancellation to adjust for the scenario and environment.
In-Ear vs. On-Ear vs. Over-ear Headphones
You've probably seen a bunch of different headphones in your everyday life, but what you may not realize is that headphones, while they have number of different selling points, are primarily categorized into three types: in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear.
These types include everything from bulky over-ear models to tiny true wireless earbuds that easily fit in the palm of your hand. While still available, on-ear headphones, which utilize earcups that sit atop your ears rather than over them, are becoming less common in today's market.
Do you want wireless headphones? A pair of Bluetooth headphones will let you go completely without wires, while a set of "true wireless" earbuds are even more minimalist. If you're looking for an experience that won't tether you to your phone, tablet, or laptop, Bluetooth headphones are what you need—and fortunately, they're ubiquitous enough these days that you can find them in every style and price range.
Other Noise Canceling Headphones We Tested
Phiaton BT 120 NC
If you're more interested in a pair of noise-canceling earbuds, the Phiaton BT 120NC should be on your radar. Designed as a sports product, the BT120 are flexible, light, and sweat-resistant, featuring a behind-neck band with conveniently placed controls. They also come with a solid selection of ear tip sizes, making it easier to get a tight seal to aid in their noise cancelation efforts.
These headphones sound good for general listening. The treble isn't of the highest fidelity, but then again, it's hard to complain at this price point. The active noise cancelation won't knock you out of the park, but it is a real improvement over what might be reproduced while using them passively. Pour in a little music at moderate levels and you'll be able to say goodbye to most distractions.
The Taotronics TT BH046 wireless headphones have a whole lot to offer for well under $100. Unlike a lot of headphones in this price range, especially the wireless noise-canceling kind, these don't cut many corners: for what you're paying, they're still comfortable enough to wear for a full workday, and they're durable enough to be worth the investment.
While they've got nothing on the class-leading pick, the Sony WH-1000XM3, their noise dampening and cancellation are enough to reduce whatever cantankerous din is intruding upon the solitude of your commute or workspace. Their quality is also pretty solid, too, especially for the money.
Sound quality is middle-of-the-pack, but they're more than ample to handle most workloads, while saving you a ton of money over flagship models.
If you need a pair of ANC cans that stand up to wear-and-tear, the ANC7b are a great candidate. These wired headphones have solid noise-cancellation that emphasizes blocking out higher-pitched noises, like conversation and trains shrieking, over lower-pitched sounds like A/C hum and the rumbling of an airplane. That means they may be better for your workspace than commuting or traveling.
Additionally, the bass-heavy sound profile will have some listeners rejoicing and others straining to better hear the detail in higher instruments or vocals.
While not wireless, the ANC7b do come with some great extras. These include two removable cables, two adapters, and a sturdy carrying case. The controls are also intuitive, while the durable headband fits snugly on your head. If you treat them right, you might not need to buy another pair of noise-canceling cans for a good while. Read the full review.
These wireless over-ears have squishy, comfortable ear-pads that allow you to wear them for hours at a time without feeling like your head is in a vice. The controls are easy to operate and the battery life clocks in at about 30 hours. We were able to get a solid connection even from a couple of rooms away from our device.
The sound quality isn’t the best; it was tough to hear the bass, but these headphones were great for music that emphasized the mids and the highs. If your use case is more listening to podcasts or pop than classical music, these headphones will work just fine.
The most impressive part of these headphones is the passive noise isolation. The ANC doesn’t really cancel noise out, so much as it boosts the volume of your music, but the seal of the headphones on our ears was good enough that, without the ANC, we completely missed a fire alarm going off. A fire alarm! Amazing.
The Mixcder’s E9 won't excite you, but for the money, they shouldn't have to. The best way we can descrive the sound of these headphones is that they sound just fine, and there’s nothing that stands out as particularly bad. They just work. Nothing is especially punchy or particularly exciting, but nothing is offensive either, which could be just what you need to escape from work distractions or other noises.
We had no problems with connectivity during use, and noise cancellation worked as expected. We found these nice to use in a coffee shop, where there are a lot of different sounds. One issue to point out is that they feel fragile. It’s not like they’re going to snap in half, but you can feel the material quality or lack thereof. Otherwise, if you're going to treat them nicely, the Mixcder E9 are a solid, if not exciting, option.
Okay, so the Panasonic RP-HC800 aren't quite within the right price range, but they're quite close at most retailers. And if your main goal is great noise cancellation, they may well be worth the extra dollars you'll spend.
With the ANC activated, the Panasonic RP-HC800 easily eliminate the sound of babies crying or the rumble of an air conditioner. That said, in an attempt to make the bass more powerful, the sound profile minimizes the midrange, making it more difficult for you to hear the parts of your music that carry the melody, such as notes from common instrumentals like a guitar or a trumpet.
Additionally, when playing music at high volumes, these headphones tend to leak sound to the outside world easily. We recommend you use these headphones when you're alone in a room, as your music may disturb others around you. These headphones have their issues, but if you're a bass-lover who needs to concentrate, the Panasonic RP-HC800 are a great fit.
Noise reduction headphones have to be able to 1) block out ambient noise and 2) function as headphones that transmit music to your ear canal. The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 do a pretty good job at both tasks, but there are some trade-offs. Without the ANC, the bass is really de-emphasized and sounds rather tinny and hollow. With the ANC, though, the reverse is true: the bass gets a boost, but the mids and high-mids are muddied and muffled.
On the other hand, these headphones have plush ear pads and a headband that doesn't feel like it's digging into your skull after a couple of hours. The controls are easy to use (even if you have to hunt around for the ANC button), and the ANC is powered by a single AAA battery.
These headphones can't be used for wireless playback, but they can be used as wireless isolators (if you really need just peace and quiet) by removing the cable. For those who prioritize comfort and noise cancellation over audio fidelity, the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 are a solid investment.
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
Nicole Carpenter is a reporter and reviewer based out of Massachusetts. For the past few years, she’s specialized in the technology and gaming sectors, reviewing a number of different headphones with a specialty in gaming gear.
Hailing originally from Montana, Ryan parlayed his time working as a musician and audio engineer into a career in digital media in 2013. Since then he's had extensive experience as a writer and editor, including everything from op-eds and features to reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.