CNET experts tested a bunch of budget noise-canceling headphones. Here are the models that really are good values.
You don't have to spend more than $150 on high-end headphones to get active noise cancellation. The technology has come a long way in recent years, and there are plenty of affordable headphones that are able to muffle background noise so you can focus on your music, podcasts or audiobooks. These affordable models won't compete with the noise-canceling capabilities of premium pairs from Sony, Bose and others, but we've rounded up the best budget noise-canceling headphones that still have plenty to offer.
I've tested all the headphones on this list and I'm highlighting only models that cost less than $100 -- a few even come in under $50 -- that feature decent sound and performance along with a comfortable fit. If you're looking for the best ANC headphones regardless of price and style, check out our list of the best noise-canceling headphones overall. And we also have a list of the best noise-canceling true wireless earbuds for those looking for earbuds -- there aren't any earbuds on this list. We update all these lists regularly.
The design of 1More's SonoFlow headphones reminds me a little of some earlier Sony headphones and also the newer Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 4. They're a bit generic looking but sleek enough and more importantly, comfortable to wear. They also feature very respectable sound quality. While it doesn't quite measure up to the sound quality of what'll get with more premium models like the Momentum Wireless 4, it isn't that far off. The SonoFlow headphones deliver smooth sound with good clarity and relatively well-defined bass (they're just not quite as rich or dynamic sounding as those premium models I mentioned). They also have support for the LDAC audio codec.
The noise canceling is a step down from what Sony and Bose models offer but it does a decent job of muffling ambient sound and there is a transparency mode. Voice-calling performance is similarly solid but unspectacular. Note that you can use this in wired mode with the included cable but the noise canceling only works in wireless mode, which is an issue for frequent flyers who like some noise canceling when plugging into an in-flight entertainment system.
As far as sound, comfort level and build quality go, you'd be hard-pressed to do better than Anker's SoundCore Life Q30 for the money. It doesn't have quite the clarity or bass definition as some of the top premium models, but it's less than a third of the price and gets you about 75% of the way there in terms of sound. It's well balanced overall, with punchy bass, and there's an app that allows you to tweak the sound. Noise canceling is good for the price, though certainly not up to the level of the Sony WH-1000XM5 or Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones. Battery life is rated at an impressive 40 hours with USB-C charging.
The only area where the Q30 falls a little short is for voice calls. It picks up your voice fine in quieter environments but it just doesn't reduce background noise all that well.
Compared to the Q20 (see below), the Q30 does offer improved sound (it's not a huge difference, but it definitely is a notch up) and a more premium design. There's also the new Life Q35 ($100), which adds support for Sony's LDAC audio codec for high-resolution audio streaming with music services that support it. Also note that you can save 15% on a pair of Life Q30 headphones when you activate the instant coupon at Amazon.
Edifier's makes some good-sounding PC speakers and true-wireless earbuds and it's done a nice job with its W820NB noise-canceling headphones. The first thing you'll notice about them when you put them on is that they're comfortable -- the earpads are nicely cushioned and the headphones fit snugly on your head. They also sound good for their price, offering just enough clarity and decent bass performance. Their sound didn't blow me away but I was fine listening to these headphones for a while; they sound pretty pleasant.
There's also an ambient mode that lets outside sound in and a low-latency gaming mode. They're decent enough for voice calling and battery life is pretty impressive with up to 49 hours of battery life on a single charge at moderate volume levels (and noise-canceling off).
A couple of things are missing. There's no carrying case or headphone jack -- they're Bluetooth only. But the 820NB headphones are still a good value.
Anker's SoundCore Life Q20 is arguably the best value in noise-canceling headphones. Not only do these budget noise-canceling over-ear headphones sound quite decent for their regular list price of $60 (currently $6 off with an instant coupon at Amazon), they're also comfortable to wear thanks to their puffy ear pads. Expect that price to go down even a bit more as Anker has now released the SoundCore Life Q20 Plus, which adds app support and USB-C charging (instead of Micro-USB).
No, the Life Q20 doesn't sound as good as premium Bluetooth headphones such as the Sony WH-1000XM5, but the audio quality sounds pretty good, which is all you can ask for noise-canceling headphones at this price. It's fairly well balanced with a reasonable amount of clarity and plump bass that's not bloated or muddy (there's a bass boost or BassUp mode if you want an extra helping of bass with your music). Also, the noise cancelation is acceptably effective at noise reduction and blocking out ambient sound and it's decent enough as a headset for making calls. Battery life is good at 40 hours. A simple carrying pouch is included.
Founded by four former Amazon employees, Wyze is known for its value security cams but it's now doing a nice job with value headphones. Its over-ear noise-canceling headphones offer a comfortable fit with deep memory foam ear pads and solid all-around performance. Their noise canceling is quite good, although you do get some added passive noise isolation from the tight seal the ear pads give you (your ears will get pretty steamy in warmer weather). These are Alexa-enabled, so all you have to do is press a button to access Amazon's voice assistant, or you can use your phone's native voice assistant if you prefer. There's also a transparency mode that lets ambient sound in.
As for sound quality, these are on the warmer side -- they have lots of bass and a pretty open soundstage, though they lack that extra clarity and definition you get from higher-end models (the bass is a touch loose). In other words, the sound is quite good for the money but not ridiculously good.
Battery life is rated at up to 20 hours at moderate volume levels and I thought the headset performance was decent as well. A cloth carrying pouch is included along with a USB-C charging cable and a cord for using these as wired headphones.
JLab makes the cheaper Studio Pro headphones, which don't have active noise canceling, and this model, which does. They look very similar.
The lightweight headphones have a bit of a retro vibe, and they're comfortable to wear with decent noise canceling and voice-calling performance. There are two levels of noise canceling to choose from along with a transparency mode and the headphones have multipoint Bluetooth pairing so you can pair them simultaneously with a smartphone and computer.
Like I said about the Studio Pro, don't expect these to deliver the clarity and definition of higher-end headphones, but the bass has some punch to it and there's an acceptable amount of detail. You can choose between three sound modes -- JBL signature sound, balance and bass boost. There's no companion app (so no firmware upgrades).
There aren't too many on-ear noise-canceling headphones. Beats' Solo Pro was one of the best, but it's been discontinued. Meanwhile, these cheap noise-canceling headphones, the JLab Studio ANC, cost a lot less and deliver solid all-around performance for a budget model with decent sound quality, noise canceling and battery life (28 hours with ANC on). While they may not be stellar for making calls, they do work well as a headset -- callers said they could hear me clearly, even with some outside noise around me. A carrying pouch is included.
The Studio ANC headphones are reasonably comfortable for an on-ear model (I prefer over-ear), but those with bigger heads may feel it clamps a little too tightly.