Silence might be golden to some, but obviously we don’t subscribe to such nonsense here at Louder. What we do like is being able to listen to our favourite rock, metal and prog bands unhindered by the din of the outside world. The best budget noise cancelling headphones listed here enable you to immerse yourself in music whether you’re on the go, taking it easy at home or pulling a long shift.
Noise cancelling mic technology has improved dramatically in recent years, driven by ever more powerful processors. This has transformed the headphone market and means you can get a whole lotta bang for your buck.
In this expert guide to the best cheap noise cancelling headphones, we've got options from some of the biggest brands in the game, including Sony, Bose, Sennheiser and rock-perennials Marshall. What's more, we've tested them with the bands you listen to...
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The best budget noise cancelling headphones right now?
Rising to the top in this cheap noise cancelling headphone face-off are Sony's WH-XB900N cans. Borrowing heavily from the brand’s flagship WH-X1000XM3 model, they combine slick modern looks, with a deep bass performance and quality noise cancelling. When it comes to performance and value they’re difficult to argue with.
If Marshall’s classic none-more-black style is more to your liking, and you have a slightly bigger budget to play with, the brand’s new Monitor II A.N.C headphones are well worth your attention. Not only do they look the business, but they deliver great, grungy guitar-friendly sonics too.
Finally, if your budget is tighter than Justin Hawkins' catsuit, there’s no better deal out there right now than the on-ear Marshall Mid A.N.Cs.
Best budget noise cancelling headphones: buying advice
Our recommended cheap noise cancelling headphones don’t just keep your lugholes warm, they use active noise cancelling (aka ANC) to create anti-noise of the same frequency to cancel out any offending hubbub. Microphones on the exterior of the earcups – and sometimes inside as well – monitor and compensate for ambient noise.
Noise cancelling may seem like utter wizardry, but then so is Bluetooth, and not all Bluetooth is created equal.
For superior sound, you should look for Bluetooth aptX HD, which is capable of transmitting 24-bit hi-res audio. It’s also worth spending a little extra to get the largest drivers your budget can stretch to.
For sheer practicality, you might want to consider noise cancelling cans boasting Bluetooth 5.0. This updated BT specification ensures a more stable connection when jostling for position on the mobile mosh pit that is the Clapham omnibus (v5.0 theoretically sees outdoor transmission range increased from 50 to 200m). Bluetooth v5.0 also uses the least amount of juice, enabling longer play times.
When choosing your next pair of cheap noise cancelling headphones, you should consider which of the following is more important to you: the effectiveness of the noise-cancelling tech or the sound quality. This is a particularly good question to ask yourself if you’re working to a fairly tight budget. Going with noise-cancelling that’s merely decent can get you better sound, while compromising a little on the audio can bag you headphones that block out more external noise.
And remember, the best budget noise cancelling headphones in this guide can be used either wireless, or wired when battery power is low. They also tend to sound better with ANC on, rather than off.
All our top rated cans could also enjoy potentially significant performance and feature upgrades through firmware updates. Welcome to the future!
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Best noise cancelling headphones under £100
Sony’s clearly the dominant force in noise cancelling headphones these days, and if you want a taste of what the company can do but don’t have nearly £300 to buy the WH-1000XM3, the more entry-level WH-CH700N could be the best budget noise-cancelling headphones for you.
Naturally, the sound quality isn’t as accomplished and the noise cancellation is a little less effective, but for the money this is a really accomplished set of headphones. There’s a slight skewing towards the bassy end of the tonal spectrum, but not in a bad way. The overall balance is natural, there’s plenty of detail, and everything ticks along at a good lick.
On top of all that, this is a really comfortable pair of headphones to wear, and the battery life is amazing at roughly 35 hours. If £100 is your upper limit, you could do a heck of a lot worse.
The BNX-60s were perhaps the first to prove that it really is possible to get both noise-cancelling and Bluetooth technology for under £/$100 – and all without sacrificing sound quality.
These Lindy cans make our best budget noise-cancelling headphones list because they offer a comfortable and snug fit. They sport a volume control, on/off switch for active noise-cancellation (ANC), and a blue light that indicates when the ANC feature is in use on one ear.
There’s also a USB input for charging, pause/play/skip track controls, a Bluetooth connection light, and a standard wired headphone output on the other ear. A full charge gives you about 15 hours of wireless music playback, or a little less when the active noise-cancelling / noise cancellation is switched on.
Cheaper headphones often fall into the trap of producing loads of low-quality bass or overly sharp treble, but these Lindy headphones are surprisingly balanced and grown-up in their delivery. They’ve got a real groove and clarity to them, making them particularly well-suited to rock.
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Best noise cancelling headphones under £200
Aping the minimalist style of Sony’s flagship WH-1000XM3 but without the price, the WH-XB900N retain some of their stablemate’s more advanced user features, including a Quick Attention Mode, so you can hold a conversation without taking off your cans, and Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa interaction.
Battery life is outstanding at 30 hours, and that’s with noise cancelling engaged. If you’re caught short, just a 10 minute top up will give you an hour’s playtime. Bluetooth 4.2 supports high quality aptX HD connectivity with extra-headroom LDAC, although these cans are not designated high res audio compatible. NFC is on board for easy pairing.
The WH-XB900N also have enhanced bass response, courtesy of Sony’s Extra BASS technology, actually a dedicated bass duct which circles the hinge on each earcup.
We also rate them as practical commuting cans. The ear cups swivel and the entire headset folds down neatly for easy storage.
The WH-XB900Ns are available in either black or blue – which is admirably Van Halen.
Meet the current pinnacle of true wireless earbuds. The Sony WF-1000XM3 has an all-new Bluetooth chip that sharpens up music synchronisation and a noise-cancelling processor that vastly improves noise-cancellation.
There’s better in-ear grip than before too but, more to the point, these sound great. They’re clear, rhythmic and detailed, and deliver all the musical energy you could need to get you through your morning commute or a tedious day in the office. Listen to your favourite albums on these and you’ll fall in love with them all over again.
Read our Sony WF-1000XM3 review
If you want noise cancelling on a budget, be prepared to forego some of the more advanced tomfoolery. But as it happens, that might not prove too great a compromise.
These affordable Marshall Mid Bluetooth aptX on-ear headphones will still go a long way to drowning out extraneous noise – we’d always advocate over-ears rather than on-ears for superior isolation – thanks to a quartet of microphones which continuously measure and combat ambient noise. They offer riffing-good sound courtesy of custom 40mm drivers.
The design is pleasingly hardcore, with the brand’s distinctive multi-directional knob for track and volume control, and that timeless logo design. Battery life is impressive too, at 30 hours.
Probably some of the best budget noise cancelling headphones out there.
Another brand with a fine Hi-Fi legacy is AKG, part of the Harman Audio group now owned by Samsung. For on-ears, they’re ridiculously cheap for what they offer.
The headphones may use smaller drivers, which rather limit the weight of their audio attack, but a detailed mid-range will work with most genres.
Don’t expect class leading noise cancelling though, because they really don’t have the processing chops, and the Bluetooth iteration here is basic 4.0, albeit with AptX.
On the plus side, they’re lightweight and practical, folding down into a nice, flat bundle. The caveat is poor battery life. With noise cancelling engaged, you’ll not get more than 15 hours on the run.
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Best noise cancelling headphones under £300
Styled after Marshall’s legendary amps, this new flagship addition to the Monitor line of over-ear headphones adds low latency Bluetooth 5.0 and Google Assistant smart functionality to the standard noise cancelling cocktail.
Design is on point, with a multidirectional control knob for volume and track control. The headphones may be compact – they fold like a contortionist – but large 40mm drivers sound axe-sharp with guitar music. Bass is tight yet vicious.
We rate their noise cancelling as effective, but not as all-encompassing as you’ll experience with the Sony WH-1000XM3. Still, crank up Trivium’s Catastrophist and you’ll probably not hear anyone around you anyway.
Battery life is stonking – and, much like Bruce Springsteen, they just keep going, lasting around 30 hours with noise cancelling engaged.
Direct descendants of the headphones which effectively kicked off the Bluetooth Active Noise Cancelling popular revolution (the QuietComfort 35), they combine Bose’s signature sound and muffling, with added smart functionality, be it Google Assistant or Alexa.
They also feature Bose AR, a unique audio-only augmented reality platform, which detects the orientation of your head in order to work in conjunction with a number of AR augmented apps to deliver a more immersive audio experience. Which is clever but probably a bit pointless.
Design wise, they’re not going to win many beauty contests, adopting a fairly utilitarian look, although the finish, with an Alcantara padded headband and synthetic leather ear cups, is swish enough.
Levels of noise cancelling are variable, and there’s manual control for volume and track selection. Battery life lags behind rivals, at around 20 hours. Recharging is via Micro USB. At 240g they’re one of the lighter ANC headphones around.
Read the full Bose QuietComfort 35 II review
There are some brilliant deals to be had on big brand noise cancelling headphones, if you’re prepared to sacrifice extended battery life and some fancy functionality. These cut-price classic rockers from Sennheiser are a case in point.
Teutonic design and lauded Sennheiser tuning, the PXC550 clearly deliver on their sub £200 price tag. Given that the triangular cups offer a fair amount of sonic isolation, it’s easy to live with their last gen – so not cutting edge – noise cancelling technology.
There are manual controls for track skipping and volume, along with some simple EQ settings. Rotating ear cups can turn the PXC550 on or off.
Battery life, with noise cancelling on is rated at 20 hours, but if that doesn’t quite see you through the weekend, you can grab another 10 hours of wireless use by switching ANC off.
Best noise cancelling headphones under £400
Competitively priced, Bowers Active Noise Cancelling headphones are as advanced as they are lush. The design guarantees envious looks.
Audio quality, as you might hope from such a high-end brand, is classy and compelling. With large 40mm drivers, they rock and they roll, but they never lose control.
The cans also boast cute music pausing motion sensing. Lift an ear cup and Slayer are stopped dead in their tracks.
The PX use Qualcomm’s new aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codec, which means that they are not only 24-bit/48kHz capable, and blessed with low latency connectivity, for better AV synchronisation between your headphones and portable device.
Noise cancelling comes in three strengths, and works well. Battery life is also up there with the best, at around 30 hours. Given a 15-minute charge, they’ll be good for another five hours.
The downside is that they don’t fold down well, making them a bit of a chore to carry around.