Noise cancelling headphones can be a lifesaver in tons of situations. A noisy house, commuting, or traveling in general. However, they are also a bit expensive, and finding the best without trying them can arguably be a bit of a pain.
That’s why we’re here to help. From all the headphones we’ve tried, we decided to include our top 5 picks and we also intend on telling you why they are our top picks. So, without any further ado, let us get right into it!
Things to Keep in Mind
Headphones are not linear. They all have different pros and cons – even when we’re comparing the same kind (Noise cancelling).
That’s why knowing a thing or two about them can help you pick what really suits you best. So, here are some basic things.
- Type (Over-ear, on-ear, in-ear): Most noise-cancelling headphones are actually over-ear. But you can also find other types. All have their own pros and cons in terms of comfort, sound, and noise isolation
- Sound signature: Not to be confused with sound quality. Some headphones emphasize more on the low-end while others are sharper with everything in-between. It’s good to know what you prefer before buying (Even though our ears can adjust over time)
- Connectivity: As far as noise-cancelling headphones are concerned, you generally have to choose between 3.5mm wired ones and Bluetooth wireless. Usually, both require batteries as ANC requires a bit of energy
- Onboard controls: Because nobody likes pulling their phone out of their pocket in the middle of a run to raise the volume
- Compatibility: Some headphones with onboard controls only work with either iOS or Android (Though you can often find different variants of the same model for this exact reason)
- Enclosure: If you’re after noise isolation and noise cancellation, avoid open-back headphones like the plague. They may sound good – but they offer zero soundproofing by design
- Battery life: Both wired and wireless noise-cancelling headphones need a battery for ANC to work. Make sure that it lasts long enough for you
- Build quality: Because nobody wants to be replacing a pair of expensive headphone soon after the purchase
- Microphone: Not all headphones include one. Pay attention to that kind of thing if you need it
Our 5 Best Noise Cancelling Headphones Under 200
These are some of the top things to keep in mind when looking for noise-canceling headphones. Again, it’s not like one pair of headphones is going to be superior to all others. Just because one pair is more neutral-sounding or more bassy doesn’t mean that it’s better. It’s just different. But it can be better if you like that kind of sound that it’s made for.
So, now that you’ve armed yourself with knowledge, let us check out some noise-cancelling headphones.
1: Mixcder E9
Our Budget Pick
As far as budget noise-cancelling headphones are concerned for less than $200, or less than $100 even, the Mixcder E9 is without a shadow of a doubt the best-sounding pair we’ve seen so far.
- Type: Over-ear
- Battery: 30 hours
- Features: Microphone, wireless (with a 3.5mm jack), and onboard controls
Now, we know that this is a guide about headphones that cost less than $200 and that under $100 may be too much of a stretch. But trust us when we say that these can compete with many $100+ models.
They offer great base and decent mids. But the highs are admittedly a little bit all over the place sometimes – and that’s to be expected from a budget offering. We’re not saying that they sound bad. But there are times when they are a bit too sharp or too muddy depending on the song and EQ settings.
Sound aside, comfort is pretty decent too. The pads are big and well-padded with the clamping force being just about right. These can admittedly be a bit too tight for long usage periods. But, we assume that most of you aren’t going to be listening to music for 2 to 3 hours straight.
As far as controls are concerned, you get volume controls, music playback, and a dedicated button for ANC.
Overall, for even less than $100, it’s hard to go wrong with this pick. Again, it definitely lacks a bit of sharpness sometimes. But, it’s still amazing for the money.
- Superb value
- Onboard controls and the microphone are a welcome addition
- Can be used both wirelessly and with a cable (Though you still need to have battery life left for ANC)
- Decent noise isolation (Not as good as most of our pricier picks)
- Can be a bit too tight for some
- Highs are sometimes underemphasized (Which is something that can be partially fixed with an equalizer)
2: AKG N60NC
Our On-Ear Pick
Most decent noise-cancelling headphones are over-ear. So, if you prefer an on-ear alternative for less than $200, we’d say that the AKG N60NC is quite possibly your best choice.
- Type: Over-ear
- Battery: 15-30 hours
- Features: Integrated microphone, onboard controls for playback and calls, and a power switch
Let us start by saying that comfort is a hit or miss depending on your personal preference here. These have very little clamping force. So, if you generally don’t mind having the headphones resting directly onto your ears, chances are you’ll find them extremely comfortable. For the rest of you, they’ll probably get tiresome after long periods of usage.
The sound is a bit boomy and at times sharp as well, which seems to be a recurring theme with on-ear headphones. But, it’s definitely not bad.
One thing to keep in mind at this point is that the actual price is close to $300. However, for some reason, it often goes on sale for much less than $200. Right now it’s slightly less than $100 even. So, even if it’s back to its normal price by the time this post is published, keep an eye on it and chances are you’ll find it for much less at some point.
As far as downsides are concerned, while there are plenty of controls for music playback and volume, there is no dedicated ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) button. This means that there is no way to turn ANC off. This is a small con as noise canceling drains your battery – even if you’re using the headphones wired.
- Pretty lightweight
- Relatively portable as far as on-ear headphones are concerned
- Plenty of onboard controls with an integrated microphone
- Superb noise-cancelling performance
- Kind of boomy and at times sharp as well
- Most people won’t find the on-ear design very comfortable
- Expensive when not on sale
Our In-Ear Pick
A little-known fact is that even budget earbuds generally offer superb passive noise isolation by design. After all, they are directly blocking the ear canal. And while that can be unpleasant for some people, there are pros and cons to everything.
- Type: In-ear
- Battery: Up to 6 hours and up to 24 hours with the charging case
- Features: Integrated microphone, touch controls, charging case, and true wireless connectivity
One thing to keep in mind here is that even the smallest ear-tip (and these come with 7 options) can be a bit too large for some people. If that’s the case for you, you’re going to get less stability and less noise isolation as well. Other than that, the actual MSRP is slightly over $200 but you can still generally find them for much less than that.
As for as audio is concerned, Sony’s offering comes with a close to neutral sound signature. They generally don’t have a lot of thump to them but the base can still be heavy without overwhelming the other frequencies. Mids and highs are pretty good too – which is why these are one of the best-sounding earbuds we’ve ever tried for less than 200. Though, keep in mind that bass lovers may still prefer something with a stronger kick to it.
That aside, we’re also looking at decent ANC performance and a charging case as well. The touch controls can be a bit weird at first but you quickly get used to them.
The battery can last for about 6 hours without the charging case. And while that’s definitely not a lot compared to our other picks, wireless earbuds are generally inferior in terms of battery life compared to on-ears or over-ears.
- Great, neutral sound
- Onboard controls (Touch)
- True wireless
- Charging case is a welcome addition
- Ultra portable
- No soundstage by design
- Lacks a bit of thump in some songs
- Mediocre battery life by design
4: Cowin E8
Our Over-Ear Pick
Over-ear headphones are usually the best choice when it comes to noise cancelling. And as far as over-ear pairs for less than $200 are concerned, we’d say that the Cowin E8 is one of the best, if not the best choice that you can make.
- Type: Over-ear
- Battery: Up to 20 hours
- Features: Integrated microphone, onboard buttons for everything, and the option of using them wirelessly or wired
This offers the best noise cancelation we’ve seen so far on this list. It can effectively block most of the rumble that comes from engines and pretty much everything in-between – which is rather impressive at this price point.
It can even compete with some more expensive headphones that punch way above the $200 mark. But, obviously, high-end options from Sony and Bose are still the ones that rule.
The Cowin E8 also offers onboard controls and the option of using it wired if you want to. Just keep in mind that you still need its battery for ANC to work.
Speaking of batteries, you can expect to get about 20 hours of continuous usage which we assume is going to be way more than enough for most people.
Sound isn’t the best for your money. We’d say that there is quite a bit of boominess considering the price and the highs get a bit too sharp in certain tracks. Of course, this means that people who like intense sound may actually be into that. But we’re obliged to mention everything as objectively as possible anyways.
If there’s one downside, then that’s probably the ear-pads. They are not bad by any means. However, they can be a bit too small for some people.
- Great ANC
- Fairly comfortable
- Ear-pads can be a bit too small for some
Bose is one of the biggest names in the headphone industry. Especially as far as noise cancelling options are concerned. So it’s no surprise that one of their most popular models is our top pick. After all, there is no doubt that the QuietComfort 25 offers the best ANC on this list!
- Type: Over-ear
- Battery: Up to 35 hours
- Features: In-line microphone and onboard controls
Let us start by saying that unlike our previous picks, these are not wireless. The battery life only refers to ANC. But at the very least they do give you the option of removing the cable which is great for both portability and longevity.
The sound is absolutely great in the lower and mid frequencies. However, the highs can be a little bit over the place. Sometimes they are overly sharp while others they just lack a bit of detail. We’re not saying that there are objectively bad. But, for a pair of $200 cans, every small detail counts.
Speaking of pricing, do keep in mind that it’s all over the place. You can find these anywhere from $140 to $300 – usually second hand – most likely thanks to their more expensive successor (Quiet Comfort 35).
If there’s one aspect where the Quiet Comfort 25 has almost zero competition, then that’s comfort. It comes with very comfortable ear-pads and very little clamping force which is a match made in heaven.
Build quality is also pretty good and noticeably better than most noise-cancelling over-ear headphones. These are still plasticky but they feel very sturdy.
The only downside is probably the pricing as it’s very unstable. Other than that, we hardly have anything to complain about. The lack of wireless connectivity can be annoying for some. But that’s a matter of personal preference.
- Great build quality
- Best ANC we’ve seen for less than 200 so far
- Onboard controls
- Extremely comfortable
- The higher frequencies can be a bit weird sometimes
- No wireless connectivity
These were our top picks. Here is everything you need to know about them as quick as possible:
- Mixcder E9: The best budget pick. It lacks a bit of detail in sound compared to our more expensive picks – but that’s to be expected. Other than that, it’s a superb pick for the money
- AKG N60NC: A very good pair if you prefer on-ear headphones. The only downside is that it’s a bit boomy and sharp sometimes – but that can also be a pro if you like that kind of sound
- Sony WF-1000XM3: One of the best noise cancelling earbuds. This one is very portable with superb sound. The only downside is that it lacks a bit of thump and that it also doesn’t have the best battery life. But that’s to be expected from earbuds
- Cowin E8: The best over-ear for the money – second only to the Quiet Comfort 25. It offers more soundstage than most of the other picks on this list by design but the earpads can be a bit too small for some which is possibly its only downside
- Bose QuietComfort 25: Offers the best ANC on this list and also the highest levels of comfort. But it’s also rather expensive while it lacks wireless connectivity
That’s all for now. If you have any questions, feel free to let us know about them in the comments.