Best Budget Noise Cancelling Headphones
The Best and Most Budget-Friendly
As a writer I can appreciate the need to silence out the outside world. Constant noises, even though they don't bug you, can elevate your stress levels over time. Even when you're home alone there's random noises: the hum of the fridge, truck engines roaring down alleyways. Any of these thing can limit your ability to concentrate.
However, lately I've discovered the benefits of having noise-cancelling headphones. Unlike regular headphones that form a seal over your ears and block out some noise, noise-cancelling headphones will actively cancel out distracting noises. You don't even have to be listening to music and it will still block out the world.
Unfortunately the technology behind noise-cancellation is expensive and these headphones tended to go for around $300 and up. Thankfully the price of that technology is going down, and now headphones that use to cost $300 can now be had for less than a third of that price. (see #2 and #3 below!).
Why are some cheaper than others? The Sony MDR-NC7 headphones, which are definitely the best NC headphones you can get for under $40, are an older model that has been around for a long time. As a result, the prices tend to drop (headphones don't age as fast as other electronics do!). In the end you get a great set of headphones for a steal.
If you want to know which noise-cancelling headphones are the best overall (regardless of price), visit here: http://classicalmusicheadphones.com/best-noise-cancelling-headphones
How Do Noise-Cancelling Headphones Work?
While most headphones have some sort of passive noise-cancellation when it comes to external noise, active noise-cancelling headphones actually negate any external noise in a process called "destructive interference".. The headphones have a tiny mic placed close to the ear, and when it picks up on external noise, it generates an 'anti-noise' signal that effectively negates the original sound.
This is why noise-cancelling headphones require batteries in each earcup. Some have rechargeable batteries that you can charge via USB, while others require replaceable AAA batteries.
3 Things To Consider When Buying Noise-Cancelling Headphones
1. All the circuitry required to create noise-cancellation inherently reduces sound quality. So while I'll be comparing the sound quality of each of these headphones, noise-cancelling headphones and regular headphones are in a different class when it comes to sound.
2.What kind of battery does it have? - Some are rechargeable batteries that can be charged via USB. Others use disposable AAA batteries. Which ones do you prefer?
3. They may introduce a 'hissing' noise at a high frequency. This was a major problem for early noise cancelling headphones, although you can still usually hear a little hiss in between songs on more modern headphones.
"Block Out the World" Poll
What Would You Use These Headphones For?
1. Audio Technica ATH-ANC7B
Whereas most budget NC headphones will block out around 80-85% of external noise, these headphones will block out over 90%, putting it on part with the higher-end Bose QC15 Headphones. The ear cushions are extremely comfortable and fit well around the ears. the drivers are an impressive 40mm, bringing out some impactful bass as well as a clear and detailed mid-range.
Audio Technica ATH-ANC7B Video Demonstration
In this video you can see how the ANC technology works in the ATH-ANC7B headphones, although it really applies to all noise-cancelling headphones.
2. JVC HANC250 - Comfortable on your head and on your wallet
I found the HANC250's to have great sound quality for their price. In fact, I would say that they rival the Bose QC15's in tight bass response. The HANC250's have the ability to work with either NC turned on or off (the QC15's don't work without NC turned on). The earpads are flexible to help you find the right fit for your head, and the headband is padded nicely. They come with a hard-travel case as well as an airplane adapter and a 1/4" plug for home use. They block out around 85% of external noise reduction. The HANC250's were a good alternative to the QC15's when they were originally listed at $200. Now that they're half that price, these headphones are a great bang-for-your-buck deal.
3. Able Planet NC1100B - A deal at $300, now a steal at $60
Sometimes when newer models of headphones come out the older models, which are just as good, become incredible deals. That's what's happened with the NC1100B's. Designed to compete with Bose's QC15's, they have a great design, feel very comfortable on the head, and have a bevy of features usually reserved for higher end versions. It has an inline remote for making calls, works seamlessly with your smartphone or tablet, and will work with noise-cancellation turned off.
The one conceit is that Able Planet seems to have targeted bass-heads with this pair because the bass is heavy. The QC15's are no slouches when it comes to bass, but Able Planet overshadows them completely. It comes at the cost of overall sound quality, as everything else tends to sound a bit muddy.
4. Sony MDR-NC7 - The Best in the $30 Range
The Sony MDR-NC7 was my first exposure to headphones with active NC technology built into them. They block out an impressive 85% of external sounds. They are also small, compact and durable. You can literally take them anywhere.
5. AUDIO TECHNICA ATH-ANC27 - Great sound but the tiny ear-cups hurt my ears!
Whereas the ATH-ANC9 above is designed to compete directly with the Bose QC15's, the ATH-ANC27's are designed to be more budget friendly. Cancelling out 85% of external sound, these headphones also come with some handy features. They have a detachable cable for when you want to use the active NC but don't want to listen to music. Why? Sometimes when you're on a plane, or bus, blocking out the loud engine sounds can be extremely calming. The ANC27's also have great battery life (25 hours+) and terrific sound quality. One problem people seem to have is that the earcups are small. I have large ears, so you may not have this problem! This feature does make them small and portable, but if you have larger than average ears then you might find these uncomfortable. That being said, these are the highest quality NC headphones you'll find for under $100.
6. JVC HANC80 Noise-Cancelling Headphones - Very compact and wallet-friendly
It's hard to argue with the price of the JVC HANC80's. The NC is pretty good, however it only affects low-frequencies. Other NC headphones use padding to help limit higher frequencies, but because these headphones' ear-cups are so tiny they do virtually nothing to limit the sound of people talking. It will cancel out plane noise but not much else. The Sony MDR's mentioned above are more comfortable, have better noise-cancellation and are about the same price.
My Favorite Quote about Silence:
"Silence is a source of great strength."
There's Always Deals on eBay:
If there's one place where you can get the most for your budget, it's eBay. The auctions below are just the most recent for noise-cancelling headphones and this list is automatically updated every 24 hours. There could be some steals here!