The Best Cheap Noise-Cancelling Headphones of 2019

There are two kinds of noise-cancelling headphones: active and passive.

Headphones with active noise cancellation use a microphone to listen to ambient sounds, then playback those sounds out-of-phase so the noise cancels itself out. This method works well for monotonous, low-frequency sounds (like a humming engine or an air conditioner), but voices will bleed through. These headphones are effective without music playing, but they only work for as long as their battery is charged.

Passive noise cancellation just means the shape of the headphone (or earbud) will block some sounds like a pair of earmuffs or earplugs would. Many headphones that claim passive noise cancellation (or noise isolation) don't do much, but some truly form an acoustic seal that lowers the volume of everything around the listener, including voices. 

Are noise-cancelling headphones safe? Yes and no. Any type of headphone can damage your hearing if played too loudly. But, noise cancelling headphones have the potential to protect your hearing by encouraging safe listening levels. (E.g. if you don't need to crank up the volume to hear your music over a chatty co-worker).

Here are the best-reviewed noise cancelling headphones that have sold for $100 or less:

Good Price: $37 | Great Deal: $24

These Sony headphones are good at reducing engine noise on airplanes and buses, according to several Amazon customers, many of whom also claimed excellent battery life. Several reviews (even positive ones) said these headphones can sound harsh and that music doesn't sound as good when noise-cancellation is turned off. Some reviewers criticized the build quality of these headphones.

Good Price: $50 | Great Deal: $40

Avantree's Bluetooth headphones have comfortable ear cups and excellent battery life, according to several Amazon customers. Many critical reviews say that the sound quality and noise cancellation is only decent, and that these headphones are easily heard by other people (i.e. the sound leaks out).

Good Price: $94 | Great Deal: $60

Paww's WaveSound 3 headphones are well-packaged and built, according to several happy customers who say these noise cancelling headphones sound and work as well as models that cost four times as much. Many reviewers said these headphones are heavy and some wish they were more comfortable over extended wear. A few customers were disappointed by the battery life.

Good Price: $48 | Great Deal: $40

These earbuds sound great, have good battery life, and their active noise cancellation works surprisingly well, according to several Amazon customers. Some reviewers were disappointed that these earphones are wired (not Bluetooth). 

John DeFeo