If you’re looking for an active noise cancelling headphone, but always refrained yourself from buying one, because they tend to be very expensive, then look no further. In this article, I’ve hunted down some of the best noise cancelling headphones under $100.
So instead of looking at the $300 Bose QuietComfort headphones, check out these budget-friendly noise cancelling headphones.
That being said, let’s take a closer look…
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First up is this nice little contender from Sony. The MDRZX110NC is an On-Ear headphone that is powered by one AAA alkaline battery which should provide up to 80 hours to power the noise-cancelling feature. The battery is easily replaceable and goes in one of the earcups.
Comfort wise these cans score very well. Because these are On-Ears you would expect that the pressure of the earpads on the ears would become quite an irritation over longer periods of use. I’m glad to tell you that this is not the case. Sony used urethane foam in the earpads to relieve pressure on the ears and to make sure that the user has a nice and comfortable fit. Furthermore, you’ll be happy to hear that these are also super lightweight, weighing only 149g.
The earcups are foldable and lay flat within the headband, which means easy transportation in your travel bag. Unfortunately, a travel case is not included. The 3.9ft (1.1m) cable is non-removable and has an L-shaped gold-plated 3.5mm plug. The cable has no integrated mic. An airline adapter is included.
Sony has opted for 30mm neodymium drivers and tuned these headphones to be very suitable for today’s modern music genres. This means that they have a slightly V-shaped sound signature. So expect some elevated lows & highs. Frequency response is between 10-22,000Hz. Overall these headphones sound very nice. Not great, but nice!
The ANC performs quite remarkable. When turned on, it was able to block about 85% of the unwanted ambient sound. Which is great, taking into account that these do not go completely over your ears! I have not used them on a plane, but I’ve read from someone who did that this headphone performs almost on par with the more expensive Bose QuietComfort! Considering the price of the MDRZX110NC this is an excellent achievement from Sony. ANC can also be turned off when not needed, meaning you’ll save on battery life.
Last but not least these headphones are also very good at isolating your music, which is good news for the people around you, as you will not disturb them with your tunes.
+ Good ANC and can be turned off to save battery life
+ Up to 80 hours battery life
+ Won’t disturb other people with your music
+ Very lightweight and comfortable
+ Foldable design which leaves a small footprint
– Non-removable cable
– No case
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Solitude Designs is a small family owned business that specializes in creating high-quality active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones at a more budget-friendly price. The XCS2 is an Over-Ear headphone powered by two AA batteries (included) that deliver up to 35 hours of ANC use.
Being that these go completely over your ears means that no pressure can build up on your ears and also guarantees a better passive isolation from ambient noises. The plush earpads are very comfortable and the adjustable headband ensures a perfect fit. The headphone itself weights about 217g.
A nice hard shell travel case is included to protect your headphones during travel. A standard cable and a microphone cable, both with a 3.5mm plug are also included, as well as a dual pin airline adapter and a 6.3mm plug. I’m particularly fond of the quality of the travel case! As you can see in the picture, it provides adequate room for your headphone and accessories.
Most headphones only have one driver in each earcup to produce music, but the XCS2 is equipped with a dual driver system. A 40mm neodymium and a 30m driver. This is the secret to the excellent sound quality of these cans and to some reviews they have a richer, cleaner and broader sound than the $300 Bose QC-25!
You may expect great performing active noise cancellation. Some reviews even say they perform better than the Bose ones while others say they are 90% as good. For a headphone that costs only 1/3 of the price, this is an exceptional result!
Like the Sony above, there is little to no sound leakage, meaning you won’t disturb the people around you.
+ Great ANC and can also be turned off to save battery
+ Amazing sound quality
+ Little to no sound leakage
+ Lightweight and very comfortable
+ A lot of extras including a hard shell case
– None I can think of!
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The Naztech i9BT is a Bluetooth 4.1 Over-Ear headphone using a lithium-ion battery to provide up to 15 hours of active noise cancellation over Bluetooth connection. The battery is rechargeable using a standard USB-cable which is provided.
It’s good to see that, although these are wireless headphones, Naztech has provided a cable with a 3.5mm plug so you can even use these headphones in wired mode. Like the USB-cable, this is a tangle-free braided cable which means no frustration with the cables getting tangled up. ANC works both wired and wireless. However do note that the ANC always uses the battery!
To make sure your investment is protected, a high-quality hard-shell travel case is provided. Also, in the box are an airline adapter and a 6.3mm adapter. Both gold plated.
The comfort level of these cans is very high. The earpads fit nicely around your ears and instead of using some cheap plastic, the earpads are genuine leather and memory foam. Not something you always see in this price range! You’ll also be glad to know that at 226gr the i9BT are still pretty much lightweight headphones.
The i9BT is equipped with 40mm neodymium drivers and are fun tuned headphones which excel in today’s modern music genres. I did notice a significant difference in sound quality with ANC on and off. I first tested without ANC and found the sound a bit muffled with too much bass. Also, the treble sounded really rolled off. I did not have high hopes until that point. Then I switched on the ANC and it was like day and night difference! Bass response was toned down a bit, but don’t worry, it still delivers enough kick! Furthermore, the music really came alive with lots of dynamics and a way better treble response. Honestly, I would never switch off the ANC with these cans!
Again as with all headphones that have made this list the noise cancellation performs as it should. Maybe not as good as the Solitude XCS2, but definitely adequate considering the price of these.
Something I really want to point out is that you get a 2-year warranty on these headphones if you buy them through Amazon. You have the normal 1-year warranty from the manufacturer and only for Amazon customers the warranty is extended for another year!
+ Leather and memory foam earpads
+ Great comfort and lightweight
+ Good ANC and can also be turned off to save battery
+ In-Line Noise Cancelling microphone
+ Fun sound with ANC on
+ Can be used wired/wireless
+ Good hard shell case & high-quality cables
+ Little to no sound leakage
+ Unbeatable price
+ 2-year warranty buying through Amazon
– Sound quality with ANC off
– Not the most convenient ANC on/off button
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The manufacturer of the well known or should I say legendary ATH-M50’s comes with its own active noise cancelling headphone under 100 bucks. The ATH-ANC7B uses QuietPoint technology which should reduce environmental noise by 90%, according to Audio-Technica.
These over-ear closed-back headphones are equipped with comfortable pleather earpads which offer good cushioning to minimise pressure on the head. The earcups fold flat for easy storage in the included storage case. The headband is nicely padded and provides good comfort. The headphone weights 210gr, which adds to the comfort level.
1.6m and 1.0m detachable cables are included, both with a 3.5mm stereo plug. There’s also a 6.3mm adapter, an airline adapter and one AAA battery included in the package.
The ATH-ANC7B is equipped with 40mm neodymium drivers and provide a nice powerful and balanced sound. Do keep the ANC on, though! As with some other noise cancelling headphones, the ATH-ANC7B sounds significantly better with the ANC on. When turned off you loose some clarity and the overall sound becomes a bit muddy. Nonetheless, these cans offer a nice balanced sound with maybe a bit emphasis on the bass. But don’t worry, it’s not overly emphasised and I found it actually fun to listen.
The ATH-ANC7B does a very good job of eliminating outside noise. Just take a look at the reviews of other people on Amazon! The on/off button is placed on the left earcup while the AAA battery sits nicely in the right earcup.
Maybe a point of criticism it that for some strange reason, these cans leak out more sound than any other model on this list. It’s not as bad as an open headphone, but even at moderate volumes, my wife who was sitting next to me on the train could hear my music.
+ Comfort & build quality
+ Sound with ANC on
+ ANC performs very good and can be turned off to save battery
+ Extras including an excellent carrying case
+ Foldable for easy storage
– Above average sound leakage
– Sound quality with ANC disengaged
All four headphones offer great Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and are definitely worth checking out!
I couldn’t test them on flights because I haven’t been flying. But you can read numerous customer reviews on Amazon that testify these all work great for that purpose! However, I did test them on plenty of train trips as my wife and I often travel to the coast.
If you have never used an ANC headphone, I can tell you it is a real eye opener! A decent closed headphone can offer good passive noise isolation, but ANC adds another level on that! Although the outside noise never completely disappeared, it was pushed way back into the background. It really helped me relax, especially when we took the train back home in the late evening. Even as a passenger in the car next to my wife these headphones performed marvellously.
The Sony MDRZX110NC is unbeatable when it comes to price and weight. You’ll hardly notice they’re there! And they’ll just keep going with 80 hours out of one small AAA battery!
The Solitude XCS2 is my personal favourite. It has one of the best ANC, and certainly the best sound quality of all! Mostly because of the dual driver system. Being a music lover, I cannot help but have a soft spot for these headphones. It also comes with a lot of extras of which the storage case is the best thing.
If wireless is a must for you, then you cannot ignore the Naztech i9BT. This thing is a beauty! Luxuriously build, super comfortable, Bluetooth connectivity, great ANC and a super nice storage case. To get all this for under $100 is simply astonishing! And it’s backed by a two-year warranty if you buy them from Amazon!
Another great contender is the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B. Nice balanced sound signature, good ANC and the build quality you can expect from a reputable company as Audio-Technica. Also delivered with an excellent storage case and the usual adapters.
That’s it for my top four picks. I do hope you enjoyed this overview and that it will help you in making the right choice. If you should have any questions about these headphones, please let me know in the comments below.