JVC is a decent brand to consider if you're looking for noise-canceling headphones but are working with a limited budget. The company's HA-NC100 headphones, for example, are comfortable, offer solid sound quality, and can be found for less than $80 online. At $49, an even cheaper option is the JVC HA-NC80. These 'phones aren't as comfortable as the NC100s, but they get the job done.
The HA-NC80s' completely circular shape and relatively small 2.5-inch diameter are no doubt responsible for the uncomfortable fit. However, the headphones aren't overly tight--and the earcups have some cushy padding--so those with less sensitive ear cartilage may find them suitably comfortable. The cord is plenty long at 5 feet, but it doesn't retract like that of the HA-NC100. The HA-NC80 headphones fold up flat into a semicircle--it's not the most compact design we've seen, but JVC does include a travel pouch for transport. There's also a dual prong adapter for in-flight use and a AAA battery for the noise cancellation feature.
As is indicated by the product name, the JVC HA-NC80 headphones offer an active noise-canceling mode. JVC asserts that the 'phones offer as much as 75 percent noise reduction. We have no way to measure that accurately, but the HA-NC80s did a good job eliminating the noise from our office ventilation system, as well as some hum from a nearby server. The headphones actually have two modes for reduction: Low, meant for bus and train rumblings; and Wide, which will take care of that pesky airplane engine noise. In any case, neither mode will block out higher-frequency noises, such as the clickity-clack of a neighbor's keyboard.
On the sound-quality tip, the JVC HA-NC80s do a surprisingly decent job. I wouldn't call it fantastic, but when paired with a Creative Zen V Plus, the headphones provided clear highs and a balanced midrange. Even low-end response was decent, though bass addicts may not be entirely satisfied. All in all, I was most pleased with the performance for rock and midtempo electronica. Rated battery life with the noise cancellation turned on is a respectable 25 hours.