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Best cheap noise-cancelling headphones: Over-ear and in-ear options for ANC on a budget

The top true wireless earbuds and over-ear wireless headphones for blocking out unwanted noise without breaking the bank

Choosing the best cheap noise-cancelling headphones isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. A low price is always tempting, but you don’t want to waste your money on a pair of headphones that aren’t able to deliver satisfying sound quality or reduce the impact of external sound effectively. Even if the floor has been raised significantly in recent times, there are still some real duds out there.

Below, we’ve curated a list of budget-friendly options that all deliver impressive noise-cancelling performance for less than £100. They may not be able to match the attenuation of the very best noise-cancelling headphones around, but technological advancements mean many affordable options now offer a level of noise cancellation you’d have had to pay hundreds of pounds for a few years ago.

Whether you’re a frequent traveller or need to focus in a noisy environment, our selection of the best cheap noise-cancelling headphones has got you covered. Click HERE to jump to our comprehensive buying guide on what makes the best cheap noise-cancelling headphones or simply scroll down to get into our recommendations about what to purchase.


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The Sony WF-C700 are selling for less

The Sony WF-C700N Earbuds are down to just £79 from an average cost of £93. Lightweight with noise cancelling, and a useful quick charge feature, they’re ideal for on-the-go audio on a budget. Check our mini review for more details or click the link to see this deal for yourself.

How we test the best cheap noise-cancelling headphones

When it comes to scrutinising cost-effective noise-cancelling headphones, we focus our attention on audio quality and sound attenuation. Thoroughly evaluating audio quality necessitates the use of various content platforms via all the connection types supported by each pair of headphones. Streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music are used to anlayse how well the headphones handle music, while we’ll also watch TV shows and films on YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus. Exploration of supported Bluetooth codecs and audio formats is undertaken here, too, not to mention a meticulous examination of any additional audio enhancements, such as in-app presets and customisable equalisers.

Our external sound attenuation tests are conducted in diverse environments that mirror those that you’d experience in your day-to-day life. From the home, where kettles and washing machines challenge a pair of headphones’ ability to subdue domestic noise, to the bustling thoroughfares of London, the noisy Tube and our busy office hub, we gauge their mettle in real-world conditions. No ANC option is left unexplored, including varying levels of attenuation and transparency modes, and we make side-by-side comparisons with similarly priced competitors wherever possible.

Build quality is evaluated as soon as a product is taken out of its box, while comfort is tested by wearing the headphones for extended periods of time, allowing us to ascertain whether they’re suitable for prolonged use. We expose models with IP ratings to both rain and sweat, and leave no stone unturned to assess their resilience against the elements. We’ll also diligently monitor playtime to verify manufacturers’ battery life claims.

Any headphones with communication capabilities are also rigorously tested during calls over both traditional cellular calling and web platforms such as Zoom and Teams. Voice pick-up is assessed along with the efficacy of background noise reduction.

The best cheap noise-cancelling headphones

1. Oppo Enco Free 2: Best cheap noise-cancelling earbuds overall

Price when reviewed: £40 | Check price at Amazon

The Oppo Enco Free 2 are a compelling option for those who want affordable noise-cancelling earbuds that don’t compromise on sonic performance. Developed in collaboration with Danish Hi-Fi experts Dynaudio, they offer impressive audio quality characterised by a well-articulated mid-range and tight trebles.

Despite being even cheaper than their predecessors, the Enco Free 2 don’t skimp on features, with wear detection and touch controls alongside their active noise cancellation, which is very effective at muffling background noise and immersing you in your music.

Battery life could be better – the Enco Free 2 last around four hours in-ear and 20 hours including the charging case – but for those who prioritise affordability and engaging audio over stamina, the Oppo Enco Free 2 earbuds are the best buy around.

Read our full Oppo Enco Free 2 review

Key specs – Type: True wireless earbuds; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 4.4g per earbud, 39g charging case; IP rating: IPX5; Battery life (total with ANC on): 20hrs

2. Anker Soundcore Life Q30: Best cheap over-ear headphones for noise cancellation

Price when reviewed: £80 | Check price at Amazon

When it comes to pound-for-pound attenuation of external sound, the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 are top of their class. The ANC is exceptional for the money and there are three modes available – Transport, Indoor and Outdoor – all of which are effective in their own right.

The Soundcore companion app is another big plus point. You get a whopping 22 EQ presets to play around with, plus an eight-band graphic equaliser to create your very own sound profile. That’s particularly helpful since the default sound is a little heavy on the bass, and by making a few tweaks you can reduce the prominence of those low frequencies and balance out the sound.

With battery life of up to 40hrs with noise cancellation engaged, the Life Q30 are something of a marathon runner too, and this impressive stamina secures their place as our favourite cheap noise-cancelling over-ear option.

Read our full Anker Soundcore Life Q30 review

Key specs – Type: Over-ear headphones; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0, 3.5mm jack; Weight: 265g; IP rating: Not stated; Battery life (total with ANC on): 40hrs

3. Sony WF-C700N: The smartest noise-cancelling headphones under £100

Price when reviewed: £95 | Check price at Amazon

The Sony WF-C700N are our favourite affordable true wireless earbuds for those that appreciate clean, well-balanced sound and they’re the smartest, too, thanks to support for Sony’s Adaptive Sound Control, which automatically adjusts settings based on your location and what you’re doing.

Vocals and instruments are articulated in a natural fashion and this helps retain artistic intent, but there’s still plenty of low-end impact to keep bass enthusiasts happy. Should you want to change the audio profile, you’ll find plenty of options in the Sony Headphones Connect app, including equaliser presets that can be adjusted using a five-band graphic equaliser.

While commendable, noise cancellation isn’t as effective as some other in-ear picks on this list, while total battery life is underwhelming. But the WF-C700N’s extensive array of features make up for this: there’s wear detection, the aforementioned Adaptive Sound Control, and even support for Sony’s proprietary spatial sound format, 360 Reality Audio. They may be the most expensive in-ear entry on this list, but the WF-C700N offer pretty much everything you could ask for from a pair of earbuds under £100.

Read our full Sony WF-C700N review

Key specs – Type: True wireless earbuds; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 5.4g per earbud, 35g charging case; IP rating: IPX4; Battery life (total with ANC on): 15hrs

4. Creative Zen Hybrid: Best-value over-ear noise-cancelling headphones

Price when reviewed: £57 | Check price at Amazon

The Creative Zen Hybrid deliver a no-nonsense audio experience that hits all the right notes for over-ear enthusiasts. Noise cancellation is effective, while the soundstage is multi-layered, well defined and really puts vocals and instruments in the spotlight.

The plush synthetic leather cushion on the headband guarantees a comfy listening experience, while the foldable design adds portability to the package. They even come with handy extras such as a fabric carrying pouch and a 3.5mm audio cable for wired connections, making them versatile in various scenarios.

Some might find the bass response a tad lacking, and there’s no room for handy features such as wear detection or Bluetooth multipoint – limitations that prevented us from giving them a wholehearted recommendation at their review price of £100. They’ve come down considerably since then, however, and at around £50, they’re a steal.

Read our full Creative Zen Hybrid review

Key specs – Type: Over-ear wireless headphones; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0, 3.5mm jack; Weight: 271g; IP rating: IPX5; Battery life (total with ANC on): 27hrs

5. Anker Soundcore Life P3: Best-value noise-cancelling earbuds

Price when reviewed: £60 | Check price at Amazon

Like their over-ear stablemates the Life Q30, the Life P3 deliver noise cancellation superior to that which you’d expect from a budget pair of true wireless earbuds. ANC is handled in the same way, with three modes (Transport, Indoor and Outdoor) offering different levels of attenuation. Transport is the most effective and drowns out a surprising amount of external sound when engaged.

Equalising the default sound profile of the Life P3 is as easy as it is on the Life Q30, and further customisation is available should you wish to tweak the earbuds’ touch controls. The controls themselves could be slightly more responsive, but if you’re willing to overlook that minor issue the P3 offer superb value for money. They’re often found available at a hefty discount, too, so keep an eye out for offers and you can pick them up for a fraction of the price at which we reviewed them.

Read our Anker Soundcore Life P3 review

Key specs – Type: True wireless earbuds; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 5.5g per earbud, 50g charging case; IP rating: IPX5; Battery life (total with ANC on): 34hrs

6. 1MORE SonoFlow: Best cheap noise-cancelling over-ear headphones for battery life

Price when reviewed: £65 | Check price at Amazon

If you want to spend less time charging your headphones and more time using them, you can’t go wrong with the 1MORE SonoFlow. These over-ear cans last for up to 50 hours with ANC turned on or a whopping 60 hours with it switched off. No sonic sacrifices have been made to hit those numbers either: audio performance is solid across the board and is complemented by a number of useful and well-implemented features.

Our only grumbles with the SonoFlow are pretty minor; the noise cancelling isn’t quite as good as some other options on this list, the headphones are a bit fiddly to get in their case, and there’s a background hiss when using transparency mode. If you’re willing to trade a little bit of attenuation for a lot of extra battery, the 1MORE SonoFlow are an excellent proposition.

Read our full 1MORE SonoFlow review

Key specs – Type: Over-ear wireless headphones; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0, 3.5mm jack; Weight: 250g; IP rating: IPX5; Battery life (total with ANC on): 50hrs

7. EarFun Air Pro 3: Best cheap noise-cancelling earbuds with aptX

Price when reviewed: £50 | Check price at Amazon

Enter the EarFun Air Pro 3; the affordable noise-cancelling earbuds to buy for those with smartphones that support aptX. AptX support is a rarity at this price point – most buds make do with SBC and AAC – and the Air Pro 3 sound very good for the money. They handle low-end frequencies extremely well and an in-app equaliser gives you the freedom to make changes to the sound signature if you’re not completely happy with it.

The ANC is impressive too, reducing external intrusions to a light grumble when music’s playing at around 50% volume. The buds themselves are well-suited to exercise, with a secure and stable fit that’s IPX5-rated for water resistance, and outlast many of their competitors thanks to in-ear battery life of up to seven hours with ANC on.

Frequent discounts make these earbuds extremely accessible too. You’ll rarely see them going for anywhere near their list price of £90; most of the time they’re available for somewhere in the region of £50.

Key specs – Type: True wireless earbuds; Connections: Bluetooth 5.3; Weight: 5.2g per earbud, 52g charging case; IP rating: IPX5; Battery life (total with ANC on): 43hrs

How to choose the best cheap noise-cancelling headphones for you

What style of cheap noise-cancelling headphones should I buy?

Active noise cancellation is typically reserved for two types of headphones: true wireless earbuds and over-ear headphones.

True wireless earbuds fit inside your ears and, of the two styles, have the largest pool of cheap options that come with ANC. As the name suggests, they are completely cable-free and connect to your devices via Bluetooth.

The best over-ear headphones feature earcups that completely cover your ears and are most effective at blocking out sound from the world around you. They’re the bulkiest style of headphones but many can be folded for easier transportation.

How effective are cheap noise-cancelling headphones at reducing external noise?

It will probably come as no surprise that more expensive headphones typically dampen environmental sound more effectively than their cheap counterparts. Pricier models often house more microphones and use smarter algorithms, enabling them to attenuate a broader range of frequencies and reduce the impact of those frequencies to a greater degree.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that all noise-cancelling headphones, no matter their price, are better at attentuating lower frequencies than higher ones. While class-leading options such as the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II do a decent job attenuating mid-range frequencies, most cheap noise-cancelling headphones struggle to cut out much above 300Hz. That said, a lot of the most egregious noise around us, like the rumbling of trains or passing traffic, falls around that frequency value, so even cheap noise-cancelling headphones can prove very useful.

Fit is a key factor when it comes to noise cancellation. Regardless of how much a pair of noise-cancelling headphones cost, they’re only able to attenuate external sound effectively if they create a tight seal in or over your ears. Without this seal, sound leaks in and severely hampers the ability to create the anti-signal central to the noise-cancelling process.

What are the benefits of noise-cancelling headphones?

Extended exposure to loud noise can permanently damage your hearing, and noise-cancelling headphones help protect you from this in two ways.

First, they soften the impact of external sound, reducing the volume of potentially damaging noises below 85dB – the level at which they can do long-term harm. Second, by dampening external distractions, noise-cancelling headphones allow you to listen to audio at lower volumes than you might be forced to otherwise. Rather than pumping up the volume of your headphones to drown out the world around you, you can simply engage ANC and continue listening at a comfortable and safe level.

Noise-cancelling headphones can also help prevent longer-term health conditions including anxiety or depression. Cortisol and other stress hormones are produced at higher rates when the body is exposed to loud noises, so keeping these at bay can assist in regulating bodily processes and aid your mental state.

On a more basic level, noise-cancelling headphones can stop intrusive noise from being a distraction, allowing you to focus on what you’re doing and become more productive as a result.

This can also be beneficial when trying to fall asleep. If you can find a pair of noise-cancelling headphones you can comfortably wear in bed, you can drown out sounds that disrupt sleep, such as a noisy neighbours, nearby traffic or a partner snoring. There are sleep headphones designed specifically for this purpose, but a general pair of ANC earbuds will often do the trick.

What else should I look for when buying cheap noise-cancelling headphones?

Touch controls: Once reserved for pricier headphones, touch controls are now a common inclusion at most price points. They provide access to a wide range of commands, including playing and pausing audio, volume adjustment, activating ANC and hailing your voice assistant. Different models will offer different control options, so you’ll want to check what’s available if having every command at your fingertips is important to you.

Sound quality: This is crucial no matter what type of headphones you’re buying and can’t be judged by simply looking at the specs of a particular product. The types of Bluetooth codec supported can play a big part, however; look for LDAC, aptX HD or aptX Adaptive if you’re after high-resolution playback.

In our experience, many cheap noise-cancelling headphones tend to have bass-heavy default sound signatures. This is great for mainstream music, but those wanting a more balanced listen should keep an eye out for headphones with audio options that allow their sound to be personalised.

Equaliser controls: EQ options are a big part of that personalisation process and take different forms. They’re generally accessed via a companion app, with some headphones offering presets that boost specific sections of their frequency response, such as “treble boost”, and others providing genre-specific EQs tailored specifically for certain types of audio. You’ll also find companion apps featuring graphic equalisers that can be used to make more granular tweaks to how a pair of headphones sound.

Water resistance: This primarily applies to earphones and earbuds, but some level of water resistance is preferable no matter what style of headphones you buy. Look for a certified IP rating – anything IPX4 or above will be able to withstand trips to the gym or being caught out in a rainstorm.

Battery life: Active noise cancellation is a power-hungry feature that has a significant impact on battery life. Manufacturers will sometimes state battery life estimates with and without ANC engaged, but it’s worth checking the fine print as specifics are often found buried deep in a product’s specifications.

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