Best noise-canceling headphones under $100 for 2020


ANC headphones, short for active noise canceling, work by “canceling” out, or electronically counteracting, external noise by generating a mirror image sound wave in your ear. Noise-canceling technology works best in environments with a sustained din to the ear, such as a jet engine drone, which is why people wearing Bose noise-canceling headphones have become fairly ubiquitous at airports over the last few decades.

Budget headphones aren’t as great for listening to music and other audio as premium noise-canceling headphones from Sony, Bose, and others — I’m not going to lie to you about that. However, you can find some pretty decent noise-canceling models for far less money. Here’s a look at some of the best cheap noise-canceling headphones I’ve tried, all of which cost less than $100 and a few even come in under $50. All of these headphones offer decent sound quality, active noise cancellation and a comfy ear cup to boot (not an earbud to be seen on this list). I expect more to be released throughout the year and will update this list as I find new, recommendable models.  

Looking for the best ANC headphones for audio, regardless of price and style? Check out the best noise-canceling headphones and the best noise-canceling true wireless earbuds for 2020. 

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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 (they often sell for $10 less with an instant coupon at Amazon), they’re also comfortable to wear thanks to the secure ear pad.

No, the Life Q20 doesn’t sound as good as premium Bluetooth headphones such as the Sony WH-1000XM3, 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 blocking out ambient sound and unwanted noise and it’s solid as a headset for making calls. Battery life is good at 40 hours. A simple carrying pouch is included.

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Tribit makes one of our favorite budget pairs of headphones for sound quality — the Tribit XFree Tune ($40). That’s not an active noise-canceling headphone, however. This model is. You can find similar wireless ANC headphones from other generic headphone companies on Amazon (Taotronics, for example, has a model with a similar design), but this over-ear headset does sound quite decent and its noise canceling works pretty well and eliminates plenty of ambient noise and background noise. It doesn’t sound quite as good as the XFree Tune does with music, but it’s among the better sounding budget models in this roundup and also features USB-C charging. Plus, it has a decent battery: Battery life is rated at 30 hours.  

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TaoTronics is one of the better-known budget brands that sells on-ear headphones on Amazon. It has a few different wireless noise-canceling headphones that have generic designs. The SoundSurge 60, the cheapest of the bunch, got an upgraded design in 2020. They’re comfortable to wear and they have decent if unspectacular sound for their modest price of $35 (a $10 instant coupon from Amazon brings the price down to $35). They could use a touch more definition in the bass for music, but most people should think the audio quality is pretty good when listening to music thanks partly to decent noise reduction of ambient sound. Battery life is rated at up to 40 hours.    

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The SoundSurge 90 is one of Taotronics’ higher-end noise-canceling models but it’s still relatively cheap at $55 (a $10 instant coupon from Amazon brings the price down to $55). It’s definitely a step-up from the SoundSurge 60, with better overall build quality and sound (the sound isn’t incredible, but it’s decent). It has USB-C charging — it only takes 45 minutes to get a full charge — and battery life is rated at 30 hours with noise-canceling on. I found it comfortable to wear and while it’s not great for making calls, it does the job.

One warning: It might be a little big for people with smaller heads. 

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Panasonic calls the style of its bluetooth headphone RP-HTX90N “retro-modern” and that’s exactly what it is. Based on one of our favorite budget wired pairs of earcup headphones, the RP-HTX80, this wireless version with active noise canceling is comfortable and lightweight. These are warmer closed-back headphones that lack treble clarity and aren’t terribly dynamic, but the audio quality is pleasant overall with decent enough noise-canceling. Battery life is rated at 24 hours of playback, and a 15-minute quick charge gives you 2.5 hours juice. 

The noise-canceling is decent though not stellar. Ultimately, for its slightly higher price tag, the biggest reason to buy this bluetooth model is for its design and comfort level. It usually sells for around $120, but some colors, including the blue shown here, sometimes cost less than $100.    

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There aren’t too many on-ear noise-canceling headphones. Beats’ recent Solo Pro is one of the best, but it’s rather expensive at $300. Meanwhile, these cheap noise-canceling headphones, the JLab Studio ANC, only cost $60 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 street 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.  

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