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Published Sep 19, 2023 2:55 PM
Not long ago, the idea of cheap noise-canceling headphones felt like a technological fantasy. Effective active noise cancellation (ANC) was reserved only for headphones costing hundreds of dollars. Thanks to the inevitable progression of time—or, more accurately, technology—that’s no longer the case. Today, you can get a bargain on a pair of headphones and still land a whole lot of goodies, including noise cancellation that would have beaten some of the best pairs on the market just a few years back. Below, we’ve collected the best cheap noise-canceling earbuds that will play your tunes, quiet your environment, and do much more, all at a relatively minuscule price.
How we chose the best cheap noise-canceling headphones
We chose the best cheap noise-canceling headphones by analyzing sought-after features, general performance and fit, audio quality, and, of course, noise cancellation across a wide array of brands and models. To find the top choices, we utilized a mix of hands-on testing by the headphone fanatics on the PopSci staff plus contributors, professional and user reviews, and personal experience.
The best cheap noise-canceling headphones: Reviews & Recommendations
After much deliberation, we’ve put together a curated list of some of the very best budget noise cancellers on the market in a variety of designs and styles. We paid particular attention to budget, of course, but also looked at use cases and features like battery life, durability, audio quality, and other top factors. If you just want the most comprehensive or the cheapest, start with our best overall and best value picks. Otherwise, peruse the whole list to find the option that best suits your needs.
Best overall: Treblab Z7 Pro Wireless
Why it made the cut: The Treblab Z7 Pro Wireless offers an excellent mix of excellent battery life, sound performance, and noise cancellation.
- Battery Life: 20 hours with ANC (45 hours without)
- Weight: 8.64 ounces
- Price: $159.97
- Good audio quality
- Excellent noise canceling
- Impressive battery life
- Solid features
- Light and stylish design
Treblab’s Z7 Pro headphones are a refreshingly stacked option at a surprisingly good price. Yes, you’ll likely pay more than $100 for these cans, but considering flagship headphones with this many extras often run well over $300, and sometimes over $600, this is a fabulous package, and the best over-ears flush with features.
First and foremost is the Z7 Pro’s noise cancellation, which really impresses for the money. These headphones tend to do best with low-frequency sounds, which are eliminated to a low hum, while high-frequency sounds tend to slip through more easily. Still, you’ll find a solid state of tranquility with noise canceling engaged, especially with some music in the mix. When you need to hear what’s around you, the headphones also provide good fidelity in transparency mode.
The Z7 Pro headphones are loaded elsewhere, too, with a clear yet powerful sound profile, extras like multi-point pairing so you can connect to and switch between two source devices, and a trim and comfy design. Controls are handled via easy swipe commands, parodying Sony’s similarly styled WH-1000XM4, and the headphones will play for up to 45 hours with noise canceling on, ranking among the market’s top offerings.
You can sweeten the Z7 Pro’s already great sound quality thanks to aptX HD for high-quality Bluetooth streaming with supported source devices. The headphones even offer a feature that plenty of pricier headphones skip (including Beats’ Studio Pro): providing convenient sensors to auto-pause sound when you take them off.
It all adds up to a whole lot of bounty at a relatively meager price point, making the Treblab Z7 a fabulous choice for those seeking quality noise-canceling cans on a set budget.
Best value: Soundpeats T3 earbuds
Why it made the cut: Soundpeats’ T3 seems to do the impossible, offering effective noise cancellation and pleasant sound quality at a price that barely registers.
- Battery Life: 5.5 hours with ANC (16.5 hours with case)
- Weight: .162 ounces (4.6 grams) per bud
- Price: $45.99 (or less)
- Balanced sound profile
- Slick and comfy design
- Excellent controls
- Effective ANC
- No app or EQ
- No auto pause
When we first tried the Soundpeats T3, it was hard not to marvel at them. Priced leagues below budget noise-canceling earbuds from years past, these true wireless earbuds provide a slick and intuitive experience with relatively good sound, simple and accessible controls, solid features, and a light and airy fit. Tacking on decent noise canceling to this package seemed too good to be true.
True it is, of course, which is why the T3 buds are our top choice for those seeking noise cancellation on a budget that barely registers on your bank statement. These won’t hold up to the very best earbuds, like Bose’s QuietComfort II, when it comes to performance and comprehensive ANC, but considering that you’ll pay five times as much or more for such options, the T3 earbuds are mighty tempting.
As for the noise cancellation, it’s a modest helping, but it does well with baseline hums and other low-frequency annoyances and will also quell ambient sounds like a leaf blower down the road or cars rolling by. The T3’s transparency mode scores similarly. It sounds slightly muffled up top but does its job of keeping you aware of your environment when called upon.
The T3’s bass-forward sound isn’t going to wow the most discerning listeners, but it’s clear, accessible, and free from overt issues like flabby low frequencies or screeching treble. The controls are effective and responsive, even offering options many pricier earbuds skip like volume control. While there’s no controller app or autopause, these buds sport a few handy extras, including the ability to use one earbud at a time.
At this price, you really can’t do much better for noise-canceling earbuds with all the essentials, making the Soundpeats T3 a top choice for budget-conscious buyers.
Best for commuting: Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless
Why it made the cut: Anker Soundcore’s Life Q30 Wireless headphones offer great battery life, solid sound quality, good features, and impressive noise cancellation in a travel-friendly package.
- Battery Life: 40 hours with ANC (60 hours without)
- Weight: 9.3 ounces
- Price: $79.99
- Great battery life
- Good ANC
- Versatile app and EQ
- Comfy, foldable design
- Sound can be too bassy by default
- On the heavy side
Anker’s Soundcore headphones have made a name for themselves thanks to excellent performance at very competitive pricing, and the Life Q30 Wireless headphones are a sterling example. These headphones may not have it all, but they’ve got the goods where it counts, including impressive noise cancellation and seriously stellar battery life at well under $100.
That battery life is worth celebrating, as it’s among the best on the market. The Q30 headphones are also pleasantly packable thanks to a foldable design and a durable carrying case. The headphones are on the heavy side, but the earcups offer plenty of padding, and the fit is firm and stable.
Like other favorites in Anker’s arsenal, the Life Q30’s features can be unlocked by a powerful mobile app for iOS and Android, which is useful for adjusting settings and EQ. On that note, picky listeners will likely want to adjust the bass, which can sometimes be overwhelming out of the box.
The headphones’ ANC is appropriately impressive for their price point, offering solid suppression of frustrating exterior sounds. While they’re less effective in the higher frequencies than some of the absolute best noise cancelers, they’ll be great for your daily bus, train, or plane rides, adding solid passive noise isolation that aids their overall performance.
Useful features like different ANC modes to tune the headphones to your environment, sleep modes for that cat nap on your way to the office (or at the office), and the ability to activate transparency mode by holding your hand on the right earcup round out a fantastic package for listeners on the go.
Best battery life: 1More SonoFlow
Why it made the cut: 1More’s SonoFlow headphones pack unbelievable battery life to go with good sound and solid features for an excellent pair of budget noise cancelers.
- Battery Life: 50 hours with ANC (70 hours without)
- Weight: 8.8 ounces
- Price: $99.99 (or less)
- Fabulous battery life
- Great features
- Clear, accessible sound
- Foldable design and hard case
- Controls require a learning curve
1More is another budget brand known for punching well above its weight, and the SonoFlow noise-canceling headphones live up to that reputation. The big headline here is battery life, which is simply astounding at 50 hours with ANC and a whopping 70 hours without it. But plenty more to these headphones makes them well worth considering.
These cans pack in great style for their class. And speaking of packing, they’re easy to bring along thanks to a foldable design and a heavy-duty carrying case. The controls are a bit hard to navigate, but they get the job done, and you’ll find a bounty of features to futz with in the 1More mobile app, including multiple EQ modes and even a variety of soundscapes.
The SonoFlow’s sound profile is clear and punchy, with good balance between registers—aided by the inclusion of the LDAC Bluetooth codec, a higher-resolution protocol that can benefit music lovers with flagship Android smartphones and dedicated digital audio players that support it (sorry, iPhone users, but not you). This gives them the best wireless and best Bluetooth connection of our picks, even if it’s only strongest with certain handsets. Meanwhile, noise cancellation ranks among the best at their price point. You’ll find plenty of solitude with ANC engaged, especially in the lower registers, and cranking on the transparency mode keeps you tactfully aware of your surroundings.
You’ll also get some great convenience features, including multi-point pairing to connect to dual source devices at once, and the ability to plug the headphones in for wired connection. If you need great budget noise cancellers that keep the party going for days at a time, the 1More SonoFlow headphones are an excellent choice.
Best in-ears: Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC
Why it made the cut: Anker’s Soundcore Liberty 4 NC offer tons of features, clear sound, and fantastic noise canceling for budget buds.
- Battery Life: Up to 8 hours with ANC (four charges in the case)
- Weight: .175 ounces (5 grams) per earbud
- Price: $99.99
- Fantastic noise canceling
- Clear and balanced sound with EQ
- Tons of great features
- Stylish and comfy design
- Fussy controls
- Sound needs some EQ
When it comes to crazy good noise cancellation on a budget, it’s hard to compete with Anker’s Soundcore Liberty 4 NC. These earbuds offer serious silencing abilities, especially for sounds like airplane hums and fans, which are all but eliminated to a soft whisper. That’s just the tip of the earbuds iceberg here, as there’s plenty of other features to explore
Some standout extras include a Qi wireless charging case, autopause sensors, and the ability to fully customize the sound to your liking manually or via the app’s Hear ID Sound system to automatically customize it. The multi-band EQ definitely comes in handy, letting you shore up some boomy bass and a snappy upper register for smooth and pleasing sound quality.
You can also customize the controls, allowing for a comprehensive layout that offers all the functions you might need, however you like it. Speaking of the controls, they can be a little hit or miss, meaning you’ll really have to be deliberate to activate them on the go. That’s one of the few drawbacks to this loaded package.
Moving further through the app, you’ll find extras like multi-point pairing to connect to two devices at once, wind buffering to keep breezes from bothering you while using the included transparency mode, and even a sound limiter that can measure your playback volume and protect your hearing accordingly.
While not all features perform on par with flagship ANC ‘buds like Apple’s AirPods Pro (2nd generation), there’s a lot of good stuff here, making these “budget buds” feel much more like a premium pair. If you’ve been eyeing top-tier noise cancelers but can’t quite commit to spending that kind of money, Anker’s Souncore Liberty 4 NC earbuds are a great alternative. These loaded buds pack the performance you want, from clear sound to killer ANC, all at a very nice price.
What to consider before buying budget noise-canceling headphones
Active noise cancellation is a coveted feature in today’s headphone market that helps suppress ambient sound. Not to be confused with passive noise cancellation (also called passive noise isolation), ANC uses tiny microphones to capture sound around you, analyze it digitally, and create an inverse waveform that reverses the signal and quiets the sound.
Noise-canceling technology responds to your environment in real-time, which requires a lot of computing power and energy. That’s why ANC technology was long reserved only for large, expensive headphones. As technology has improved and gotten smaller, so has ANC computing technology, which has made effective noise cancellation attainable not only in smaller devices but also in more affordable ones.
It’s important to understand that noise cancellation can’t suppress all sounds (though this end goal is getting closer with each new iteration). In particular, noise-canceling headphones often struggle to quiet high frequencies, which are more directional and, therefore, harder to eliminate. The better the technology, the better the noise canceling across frequencies, which is why the best ANC is still generally reserved for flagship headphones and earbuds.
Thanks to a competitive market and trickle-down technology, however, you no longer have to spend an arm and a leg to get relief from the noisy world around you. The best cheap noise-canceling headphones we’re recommending offer surprisingly good ANC and audio quality at refreshingly low prices. Below are the factors you should consider most before picking up a pair.
Active Noise Cancellation vs. transparency mode
Riding alongside ANC, transparency mode (also known as passthrough or hearthru mode) can be just as important to your daily headphone use. That’s especially true if you have small children or like to exercise in high-traffic areas. Essentially the reverse of noise cancellation, good transparency mode helps you not only converse with those around you while wearing your headphones but also helps keep you safe.
There are different quality levels for transparency mode, just like ANC. Flagship models tend to offer not only clearer, more natural-sounding ambient audio, which can increase your comfort level. Some headphones, including Apple’s AirPods Pro (2nd gen.) earbuds, offer noise limiting with transparency mode so you’re not caught unaware by loud sounds. But even budget noise-canceling headphones offer transparency mode good enough to keep you aware of your environment, thus helping you stay safe.
Multi-point pairing lets you connect wireless headphones to multiple source devices at once for easy switching between the two. For example, you might connect to your computer to take a zoom call, and a phone to take a call from a family member or play a mobile game without needing to reconnect your headphones. While it’s not always perfect, multi-point pairing can make your communication and daily workflow much more convenient.
Whether it’s noise canceling or calling, microphones are an important aspect of modern headphones. The best microphones for call quality come with noise suppression features, letting you make clear calls in noisy areas. They’re also integral in active noise cancellation and transparency modes, utilizing digital technology to capture and analyze environmental sounds to suppress them or pass them through respectively. In general, the more microphones your headphones have, the better their calling and ambient audio skills will be.
Q: Do noise-canceling headphones protect hearing?
No, strictly speaking, noise canceling is not directly connected with hearing protection. Most headphones and earbuds makers are quick to make this clear. There are a lot of factors that go into protecting your hearing, chief among them is a protective seal created by earplugs and other devices that employ passive noise canceling in order to block out sudden loud noises that rise above safe hearing levels. Most purpose-built protective devices usually come with a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
That said, noise canceling can help reduce unwanted environmental noises, especially at lower frequencies, which can help you listen to music at lower volumes and contribute to healthier hearing habits. If you need hearing protection, we recommend contacting an audiologist or hearing health professional.
Q: Do 100% noise-canceling headphones exist?
No, at present, there are no noise-canceling headphones that block out all sounds. We also recommend taking any claimed percentage of blocked sounds a headphone manufacturer provides with a grain of salt. A company may claim a pair of headphones or earbuds blocks “97% of unwanted sounds” but even if accurate, such claims don’t include all audible frequencies. Noise-canceling technology continues to improve, but there is currently no way to block all the sound in a given environment, even with professional hearing protection.
Q: What are the disadvantages of noise-canceling headphones?
There’s no real disadvantage to noise canceling, per se, but there are compromises that must be accounted for with noise-canceling headphones. Those include lower battery life for wireless devices with ANC engaged, as well as the potential to miss important environmental sounds or warnings. That latter point is why virtually all noise-canceling headphones include some form of transparency mode to allow users to hear the sound around them when needed.
Q: How much do noise-canceling headphones cost?
As evidenced by this list, noise-canceling headphones can be affordable, starting well under $100. The very best noise-canceling headphones on the market will cost much more, rising to $300 or even higher for the fanciest models aimed at the most discerning listeners. Thankfully, as noise-canceling technology continues to improve, so do your options for budget noise-canceling headphones.
Final thoughts on the best cheap noise-canceling earbuds
If you’ve been wishing for a great pair of noise-canceling headphones, but your budget has stopped the presses, you’re living in the right timeline. As our list showcases, there’s never been a better time to get into noise-canceling tech at a very low price. Even if your budget is close to null, you can get noise canceling at stocking-stuffer prices these days. That’s something we can all get behind.
Why trust us
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