If you want to get the most out of your favorite music or podcast without spending an arm or a leg, the best cheap noise-canceling headphones are the way to go. They block out ambient noise around you, making it easy to focus on what's playing — something that's especially useful when flying, working at a noisy coffee shop, or just being out in public. We've rounded up eight of the best ones you can get for less than $100, with the Soundcore Life Q30 as our top overall pick.
Anker's Soundcore brand has been at the forefront of the best wireless earbuds and best wireless headphones for a while, and the Life Q30 are another reminder of why it's one of the most compelling players in the game.
When it comes to active noise cancelation (ANC), our review of the Soundcore Life Q30 had us testing the three customizable modes to help get the perfect listening experience. Transport Mode helps block out things like an airplane engine, Outdoor Mode reduces traffic and wind sounds, and Indoor Mode fights against people talking. When it comes to audio quality, the 40mm drivers deliver "full-bodied sound with excellent clarity."
Battery life is just as impressive, if not more so. You'll get 40 hours of playback when ANC mode is on, and when it's turned off, you can expect up to 60 hours. Pair all of that with a comfortable design, free carrying case, and the ability to connect to two devices simultaneously, and the Life Q30 are hard to beat.
Treblab Z2 Over-Ear Workout Headphones with Microphone
Our alternative pick
If the Soundcore Life Q30 aren't for you, check out the Treblab Z2. They're not going to be quite as impressive as the Q30, but if you're looking to spend a bit less, they'd be worthy of your consideration. Sizeable ear cups make them a little bigger than some other headphones might be, but if you're worried about comfort, they should feel pretty snug on your head and ears.
It always helps when headphones sound really good at this price, but they also do it by striking the right balance between good bass and active treble. So even if you're not looking for heavy bass, you should come away liking the overall sound that Treblab produced here. Having ANC is also a big plus, performing at its best when blocking out low-frequency sounds.
They have a solid Bluetooth connection, which is always lovely. And it's hard to argue with up to 35 hours of battery life, giving you plenty of listening time before you need to charge again. Unfortunately, you have to do it via micro-USB when that time comes, so no fast charging is available.
SoundPEATS Air3 Pro
SoundPEATS isn't a household name by any means, but it has proven to have a penchant for making cheap wireless earbuds that perform better than their price indicates. The Air3 Pro are the latest to stand out because of the good audio playback made possible by 12mm drivers. Turn on the ANC and it only gets better from there. While they won't match what the best wireless earbuds on the market can do, they do an admirable job blocking out low-frequency sounds.
These should fit fairly comfortably, helping deliver some good passive isolation. Sound quality is really good, and with support for aptX Adaptive, plus a Low Latency Game mode, you have good flexibility with the content you want to listen to. No app support just yet, but that could very well change. These are also not the most rugged pair of buds you'll find, but they tout IPX4 protection, which means they'll be OK for runs or workouts.
Battery life is decent at up to six hours per charge, though the number goes down the more you raise the volume and use ANC. The case will get you an extra three charges, and it's very easy to carry around in a pocket. Plug in via USB-C for two hours and you'll fully get back up and running when you run out of juice.
If you want your headphones to stand out from the crowd, the COWIN E7 have you covered. The plastic used for the earcups is on the cheaper side, but the outstanding colors more than make up for it. You can get the basic black or white for something subdued or go with green or red. No matter which one you choose, all of them look incredible.
COWIN also gets things right when it comes to noise-canceling and audio quality. Like every pair of headphones on this list, the E7's ANC shines with lower frequency sounds, and music plays with a balance that will please everyone. Battery life is another win, with the 30-hour endurance being ideal for travel.
Should anything go wrong with the E7 after your purchase, COWIN covers the headphones with an 18-month warranty. They're also frequently on sale, so check for coupons and discounts at retailers like Amazon.
Srhythm NC35 Noise Canceling Headphones
For those times when you find yourself on a long car ride or international flight, having a pair of headphones you can rely on to not die halfway through your trip is essential. Plenty of headphones are out there with enough juice to last the full flight, but the Srhythm NC35 can handle your needs across multiple flights.
How many flights? Srhythm promises a good 50 hours of playback per charge with the NC35, which is pretty wild for headphones at this price. Even better, charging them for only 10 minutes gives you two hours of additional playback. Not bad at all, especially if you're in a rush out the door. They also fold up for a more compact size when you need to take them with you. And if you want to avoid a delay between the audio and the action on the screen, the Low Latency Game mode is ready to go.
Apart from the outstanding battery life, the Srhythm NC35 also deliver great audio quality thanks to 40mm drivers that kick out deep, powerful bass. ANC performance is solid for a budget pair, and you should find them pretty comfortable to wear for longer sessions. Call quality is OK, though you will struggle a bit in noisier backgrounds, and the onboard controls can be a bit finicky sometimes. These are all small gripes, though, when you just want to escape into the content you love.
JLab's Epic Air Sport ANC are rugged earbuds made for workouts and active scenarios thanks to their IP66 rating, as we discovered in our review. Since they're meant for more activity, JLab wants to ensure you get a great fit, which is where the ear hooks and different ear tips come in.
There are six pairs of tips in the box, and they come in different sizes, lengths, and materials, including foam. Somewhere in that mix, you're likely going to find a seal for some nice passive isolation. Turn on ANC, and that improves further, helping to block out background noise. When you need to hear your surroundings, the Be Aware mode takes care of that.
There's good sound quality, too. Bass response is noticeable, and if you need more of anything on the audio side, you have JLab's Air ANC app for some customization. Battery life goes up to 15 hours per charge when you leave ANC off. When turned on, it's closer to 10 hours, which is still solid by these standards. One unique feature is the USB cable is built right into the case, with wireless charging also an option.
Razer Opus X Wireless
Best for travel
Now that traveling is picking up again, you'll want to make sure you have a quality pair of headphones to take with you. We can recommend the Razer Opus X Wireless as one way to help you focus on your music while you're heading somewhere.
Ironically, Razer released these as gaming headphones, but the Opus X Wireless are actually not at their best in front of a PC or game console. The low-latency is there, which is great for watching movies and shows, and that's really where these headphones tend to excel the most. Audio quality is solid, and the ANC works well enough to block out droning sounds when commuting. The battery lasts for up to 30 hours with ANC on (40 hours off), and they charge back up pretty quickly.
There's a lot going on here, and Razer's app does help give you a little more, including an equalizer to tweak the sound the way you want. There are also different modes, including a game mode, but you don't have to stick to that. Active noise cancelation performance won't be the best in the business, but should work well enough on plane or train. Enjoy your movies, music, or podcast while tuning out the rest of the world.
The most surprising pick
1More isn't an unknown in audio circles, especially for those who have had the opportunity to listen to its products. But what we found surprising in our review was the quality of the ComfoBuds Pro relative to what they cost. These wireless earbuds compete favorably against pairs that sell for double the price.
Key to it all is the sound quality, which focuses on a neutral soundstage that keeps bass from overpowering the highs and mids. Unfortunately, there's no custom EQ in the companion app, so what you hear is what you get. When it comes to ANC, there are different modes to choose from, including ANC Strong, ANC Mild, Wind Noise Resistant, and Pass-through. The microphone performance also improves phone calls to a larger degree, though the AirPods clone design may or may not be what you're looking for aesthetically.
Battery life is modest at up to six hours per charge with ANC on (eight hours when off), along with two charges coming from the case. So a 15-minute quick charge will get you up to two hours of listening time if you need to get music playing again in a pinch.
Block out noise, save your money
These aren't the sort of options you'll find among the best noise-canceling headphones, but the market for options under $100 is larger than you might think. As a result, all of these picks deserve our recommendation, though the Soundcore Life Q30 are our number one choice.
Simply put, these headphones do it all. They look good, sound great, and the noise-canceling works as well as you can ask for at this price. The up to 60-hour battery life is also incredible, not to mention the super comfortable design that your ears will appreciate. And you get it all at a phenomenal price.
Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.
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