Everybody appreciates the need for a silent environment. Constant noises can elevate your stress levels over time. That’s where noise-cancelling headphones come in handy. They are an excellent way to cut outside ambient noises and help you relax. For example, you might want to block that low hum in a plane or vehicle while traveling.

Image used under Creative Commons from Fe Ilya

Best Noise Cancelling Headphones under $50

There aren’t that many noise-cancelling headphones below $50 out there. At least not many worth considering. Besides active noise-cancelling headphones, there are a few passive noise-cancelling models. They do a good job of reducing outside noises so it makes sense to add the to the list. Consider buying those instead of choosing cheap headphones with active noise cancellation.

Please remember that you can’t expect $50 headphones to be of as great quality as high-end $300 ones. Buying in this price range you should be okay with the quality of the headphones not being top-notch.

Sony MDRZX110NC

Sony MDRZX110NC

PROS

  • Minimalistic (if you’re not looking for additional features)
  • Foldable
  • Sound quality

CONS

  • Minimalistic (if you’re looking for additional features)
  • No carrying case

If you’re looking for an inexpensive and kind of minimalistic set of ANC headphones, Sony MDRZX110NC is definitely worth checking out. The price for these is quite low because you pretty much get only the headphones and that’s it. These are foldable, which is great for travel, but don’t come with a carrying case. That means you have to take care of storing them safely while travelling.

They are powered by a single AAA battery (included), so whenever the battery runs out, you can simply plug in a new one and keep going. For frequent users I’d recommend buying a set of rechargeable batteries and a charger to keep the cost under control.

Now let’s talk about subjective qualities. First of all, these are on-ear, so it’s a great choice for people who aren’t into bulky headphones or are wearing glasses. People find these quite comfortable, even when wearing for an extended period (long flights). The sound quality is really good and the active noise cancelling does its job quite well. Please not that these cost one tenth of a cost of top-tier ANC headphones. Therefore, both the sound quality and noise cancelling can’t be nearly as good as in Bose or other quality (and pricey) devices.

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Bluedio T4 ANC Over-ear Headphones

Bluedio T4 ANC Over-ear Headphones

PROS

  • Great design
  • Comfortable
  • Sound quality

CONS

  • Bluetooth delay

If you’re looking for budget-tier wireless ANC headphones, Bluedio T4 headset is worth taking a closer look on. For less than $50 you get a great-looking, comfortable, over-ear Bluetooth-enabled set. If you’re tired of plain-black-with-some-accents headphones, you can choose red or white ones. When it comes to sound quality and active noise cancelling, they do the job well, but these definitely aren’t Sennheiser-level ones.

The earcups can be rotated to fold these flat for travelling. Bluedio T4 doesn’t come with a carrying case, so consider buying one if you expect to travel with these and need a place to store them safely. Speaking of earcups, they feature a whole myriad of buttons that give you full control of the headphones and the music you’re listening to. There’s a built-in microphone in the too, so taking calls using these is an option too.

When it comes to powering these, Bluedio T4 features a built-in battery that runs with Bluetooth and ANC on for about 10 hours. The battery is charged using the usual USB-C to USB charger. If you want the battery to run for longer and don’t mind the cord, you can wire these using the provided cable.

Pretty much the only downside that many users mention is the audio delay in Bluetooth mode. While when listening to music the delay is not a big deal, it pretty much ruins watching movies or videos. If you’re looking for headphones with video in mind, these aren’t a good choice.

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Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23

PROS

  • lightweight (therefore great for traveling) and affordable
  • cancel reqular noise (e.g. on an airplane) well
  • not dependent on battery

CONS

  • cord length

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC23 is a must see if you’re looking for affordable noise cancelling earphones . All the electronics that generate the noise-wave that cancells the outside noises is in the control box. Batteries are there as well. It needs 1 AAA battery that’s included in the package. These headphones work when the battery is dead but the noise-cancellation feature is gone. They work best in environments where the outside noise is regular. Sudden or high-pitched sounds aren’t being cancelled well.

ATH-ANC23 is a great choice for a someone who is looking for headphones great for traveling. It offers good (for the price) noise cancelling features while remaining lightweight and easy to carry with.

Here’s a quote pulled from Amazon from on of the buyers.

thought that surely i’d be returning these with disappointment but thought affordable, active noise-canceling earbuds would be great if they worked so it was worth the risk. Not only do they work, they work like a miracle. I haven’t used these on an airplane yet but i’ve been finding noisy stuff to test them around. My apartment’s A/C is completely muted when these are on, in fact if i leave them on over the course of an hour i can only tell the A/C is on because air starts blowing on me.

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Sony Noise Canceling OH Headphones

Sony Noise Canceling OH Headphones

PROS

  • affordable
  • really good sound quality
  • you can fold these headphones which makes traveling with them not that big of a deal

CONS

  • sound quality drops significantly when you turn of the noise cancelling feature

Sony Noise Canceling OH Headphones is another model of inexpensive active noise-cancelling headphones. Reviewers like the sound quality and are pretty happy about the noise-cancelling abilities. Obviously, they won’t cancel outside noises as good as Bose headphones do, but Bose cost a few times as much. These headphones aren’t full over-the-ear ones, so the noise reduction they offer isn’t that great. It could be better if these were covering entire ears. When it comes to batteries, it needs 1 AAA battery to work.

Here’s what one of the buyers wrote about these headphones in a review on Amazon:

A good alternative to the overpriced Bose. Trying them at the store, the Bose did block more background noise (like things went SILENT when I put them on). However, for 1/4 the price, these work just fine! They do make a big difference on a plane.

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Koss QZ-99 Noise Reduction Headphones

Koss QZ-99 Noise Reduction Headphones

PROS

  • really good sound reduction
  • great alternative if you need to reduce all outside noises (e.g. when mowing the lawn)

CONS

  • offers only passive noise reduction

The Koss QZ-99 Stereophone is a passive noise reduction headphone that offers great noise reduction. They were initially designed for use with metal detectors and radio scanners. That’s why they’re built to endure the harshness of outdoor or indoor use. Over time they became a choice for people who need to cut down on ambient noises. The headphones also feature a 3.5mm and 6.4mm plug to enhance a connection with most radios and scanners.

The Koss QZ-99 headphones also feature a volume control mechanism that enhances easy sound level adjustment. The headphones are filled with Pneumalite ear cushions and a more secure headband seal to create a complete seal around the ear. That seal eradicates all external noise from getting through. Please note that these headphones don’t offer active noise cancellation. All you get is passive noise reduction. They got their way to this list as they are an alternative to noise-cancelling headphones in a similar price range. Please note that they’re quite heavy and put some pressure on the head (as many headphones that reduce outside noises passively). If you’re looking for headphones that work great in a loud environment, check there ones out!

Here’s a quote from one of the reviews on Amazon.

They passivly block external sounds thru extremely effective sound silencing. and the audio is not bad either. the cable is curly so it does not get caught up in my chair’s wheels or drag on the floor.. yet it has the reach where i can stand up and move around the room a bit so i love the cord.

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Best Noise Cancelling Headphones under $100

iDeaUSA Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones

iDeaUSA Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones

PROS

  • Up to 20 hours of playback time
  • Great sound quality
  • Comfortable

CONS

    Great-quality Bluetooth ANC headphones for a good price are not that easy to find. iDeaUSA ANC headphones fit all of the mentioned qualities though. These over-the-ears headphones are really comfortable, even for long hours. The rotating ear cups allow you to adjust them to your needs and once you’re done listening to music, you can fold them flat. Once folded, they go to the carrying case included in the package. That makes them portable and a great choice for travelers.

    What many users really appreciate is the playback time. The manufacturer informs that it’s up to 25 hours and users confirm they get up to 20 hours on a single charge in Bluetooth and ANC mode. This way you can charge the built-in battery only every few days, instead of daily (depending on use, of course). If you want to save battery time, you can wire them using the 3.5mm audio jack cord that comes in the package.

    Like other Bluetooth headphones, the ear cups feature all the controls you need to change tracks, adjust the volume or take calls with the built-in microphone.

    When it comes to sound quality and active noise cancelling, the first is really good and the latter is at least decent. Just read some reviews of users happy to report the noisy office isn’t that annoying anymore and they can focus on work or studying.

    All in all, if you’re looking for wireless ANC headphones with tons of happy users and a decent price of around $70, check out iDealUSA ANC headphones.

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    AUSDOM ANC7 Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones

    AUSDOM  ANC7

    PROS

    • Comfortable
    • ANC does its job well
    • Luxurious design

    CONS

      There are just a few sets of wireless headphones with built-in active noise cancelling in the under $100 price range. AUSDOM ANC7 is one of them. These are quite bulky, over ear (or supra aural, if you like fancy names) headphones that rock quite a luxurious look. Don’t be surprised if you get compliments from strangers while wearing these. For around $70 you get headphones with soft ear cups and a good fit around ears. That means you most likely can use them for hours on end without any issues. Once you’re finished, the ear cups can be folded for easy storage and there’s a carrying case for travelling included in the package.

      These use a built-in 500mAH battery that’s charged the usual way via the microUSB cable. A single charge can last for up to 18 hours in Bluetooth and ANC mode according to the manufacturer. If you’d like to extend the battery, AUSDOM ANC7 can be wired using the included 3.5mm audio cable. In case you were wondering, active noise cancelling works when these are wired too.

      The ear cups feature a few control buttons that allow you to change tracks, adjust the volume and pause and resume the music. You can also take calls using the built-in microphone, but please note the mic doesn’t work when these are wired.

      When it comes to sound quality, it’s really good (just check out the reviews) and the noise-cancelling does its job on an airplane, while commuting, working out, or in an office environment.

      All in all, if you’re looking for great value for a reasonable price, AUSDOM ANC7 is definitely worth considering.

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      COWIN E7 Active Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones

      COWIN E7

      PROS

      • Sound quality
      • Comfortable
      • Travel case sold separately

      CONS

      • Not for big heads

      If you’re looking for Bluetooth ANC headphones, COWIN E7 is one of the most popular ones in the under $100 price range. It’s great for getting rid of (or at least minimaiing) background noises such as a busy office, traffic or air conditioning. If you want to focus on your job or studying in a noisy environment, these can do wonders to your ability to focus. You will still hear loud noises well, so if your family calls you for dinner, you won’t miss it.

      These headphones are comfortable (unless you’re a big head) and the sound quality is really good too. Overall, if you’re looking for best value for the price, choosing a set in this price range seems like the best decision. The sound quality and noise cancelling won’t be as good as in $300 headsets, that’s a given, but for most users it’s good enough. Spending additional $200 on a better set won’t make that much of a difference. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong in going for the best quality out there. The decision is up to you.

      COWIN E7 has a built-in 600mAH which according to the manufacturer gives about 30 hours of playback time. When you’ll look at user reviews, it seems the average is more like 10 or so hours with the Bluetooth and ANC settings on. If you want to keep the battery charge for longer, you can wire them it, which is a nice bonus not all wireless headphones feature.

      If you’re a traveler, you’ll be please to know that the earcups can twist 90 degrees, which is helpful for storage. If you need a travel case, a dedicated one is sold separately, so make sure to order one if needed.

      All if all, COWIN E7 is a great choice for someone looking for a set with good active noise cancelling and sound quality that doesn’t break the bank.

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      Solitude XCS2 Active Noise Canceling Headphones

      Solitude XCS2

      PROS

      • stunning sound quality
      • good noise cancellation

      CONS

      • not as good as models that cost 2x the price

      XCS2 is a new model of headphones presented by Solitude. The previous model(XCS) received a lot of positive reviews and the creators took the feedback and came up with an even better product. First thing most people mention about these headphones is the sound quality, which is exceptional for a sub $100 pair of headphones.

      If you switch off the active noise cancelling feature the quality degrades substantially. That’s quite normal for pretty much all headphones of this type. That means running on batteries all the time is a must if you want to enjoy the best sound quality (and I’m sure you do).

      The noise cancelling feature is also really effective. But make no mistake, it’s obviously not as good as in $100+ and $200+ headphones described below. Solitude XCS2 comes with a carry case, microphone, dual pin adapter, microphone cord and a stereo adapter. That makes all the bases covered.

      If you’re looking for noise cancelling headphones that don’t break your budget, check these out. Just read what one of the Amazon buyers wrote about this model:

      Are they as good as Bose? No! Are they 90% as good? HELL YES!!!! The quality of them isn’t Bose, but then again they’re a third the cost. Time will truly tell, but I’m currently very happy with them. I gave it 4 stars because of the slightly cheap feel of them, but I’d buy them again.

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      BÖHM Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Headphones

      PROS

      • Bluetooth-ready, but you can plug them in as well
      • rechargeable battery

      CONS

      • not that comfortable

      First thing worth mentioning about these headphones is that with them you can go wireless (via Bluetooth) or plug them in. That’s a feature many people love. Most of us don’t mind the cord while working or watching TV, but that changes when we want to work out or need to commute. That’s the time when the cord is annoying and going wireless is a godsend. The sound quality is overall really good. Please note that quality is a bit worse when you go wireless, which is understandable. People find these quite comfortable and the noise cancelling feature does its job. Not the most comfortable set on the market, though.

      BÖHM headphones feature an inline remote and a microphone, so they are ready for hands-free call. They come with a male-to-male cord, a case and a USB charger. Charging the battery takes about 3 hours and it lasts for up to 18 hours. That obviously dependins on the volume and if you’re only listening to music or talking as well.

      If you are looking for wireless ACN headphones that don’t break the bank BÖHM Bluetooth headphones are definitely worth checking out. Here’s what one of the reviewers wrote about these:

      All I can say is that I’m buying another pair this month to give as a gift, and will probably purchase a third before the end of the year so that I can keep an extra pair in my office. If you’re trying to decide between this and a more expensive brand, I’d strongly recommend giving the BOHM headphones a chance first. They’ve exceeded my wildest expectations so far, and I’m just really glad I got a chance to try them before shelling out a lot more money for something else that probably wouldn’t be as great as these have been!

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      Paww WaveSound 3 Bluetooth Active Noise Cancelling Headphones

      Paww WaveSound 3 Bluetooth Headphones

      PROS

      • Great for air travel
      • Comfortable
      • ANC does its job really well

      CONS

      Paww WaveSound 3 headphones are advertised by the manufacturer as one of the best headphones for air travel and they do deliver on that promise. They have pretty much every feature and quality frequent flyer could wish for.

      First of all, these are comfortable to wear for a prolonged periods, so you won’t have to adjust them often. Please note that these aren’t “lightweight” headphones. There’s quite a lot of electronics in the ear cups so they have to weigh a bit. Still, people find these really comfortable. Second is the sound quality and noise cancelling. The overall sound quality is good and the ANC feature works wonderfully, just check out the reviews online. Paww WaveSound 3 drastically reduce engine and cabin noise and the baby crying a few rows in front of you feels much more distant. Obviously these won’t “cancel” all unwanted noises, but the reduction is significant and makes the travel much more pleasant. These are foldable and come with a zippered carrying case, another feature perfect for travelers. There’s also the airplane adapter in the package, too.

      Great headphones for air travel make great headphones for everyday use. Keep that in mind if you don’t travel that often. The comfort these provide can be enjoyed at home or in the office, too. And the active noise cancelling does great job in mumbling office noise and the air conditioning, so you can focus on work or studying.

      Like most Bluetooth headphones, these are charged via microUSB cable and can be wired in using the provided aux cord if you want to spare the battery or if it dies. The ear cups have all the buttons needed to adjust volume, change tracks, pause and resume the music. You can even take calls with these using the built-in microphone.

      All in all, if you’re looking for Bluetooth-enabled ANC headphones perfect for frequent flyers who don’t want to spend $300 on the top of line products, Paww WaveSound 3 is definitely worth checking out.

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      Best Noise Cancelling Headphones under $200

      Audio Technica ATH-ANC9

      PROS

      • top-notch noise cancelling and comfort of use
      • amazing sound quality

      CONS

      Audio Technica ATH-ANC9 is a more powerful and more expensive version of ATH-ANC7B mentioned above. The noise-cancelling technology is even more advanced: you can choose from one of three modes: airplane, office or study. Different modes target different frequencies. For example the airplane mode (used for trains and busses as well) targets low frequencies (as they are dominant in that kind of environment).

      The sound quality is even better than in ATH-ANC7B. You can use the headphones with the battery dead, but the sound quality is better when noise cancellation is on. For this feature to work it requires 1 AAA battery.

      Let’s talk about customer’s complaints. Similarly to ATH-ANC7B, they leak sounds so if you’re in a very quiet environment it’s important to keep the volume low.

      Overall, ATH-ANC9 seems like on of the best options when it comes to under $200 headphones with noise cancelling.

      Here’s a quote from one of the reviews of these headphones on Amazon.

      I normally use it on a train ride but also used it for a flight from SF to NY. Peacefully quiet. You’ll still hear a faint distant engine hum but if you take it off, you will see how loud that hum really is! No wonder NC headphones are so popular with the folks that fly often.

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      JVC HANC250 Noise Cancelling Headphones

      PROS

      • good value for the price
      • travel-friendly: lightweight, foldable and come with a carring case
      • good noise cancelling despite the on-ear design

      CONS

      • cable is fairly short for using with home stereo

      If you’re looking for middle-of-the-road headphones with noise cancelling, JVC HANC25 are worth taking a closer look at. They offer good noice reduction, even though they are on-the-ear, not over-the-ear headphones. They need 1 AAA battery for up to 50 hours of using. They’re lightweight and their cable cord is detachable so if something happens to the cable you can buy a new one. They fold flat and go into a slim carrying case, ideal for traveling.

      When it comes to comfort and sound quality they are decent but you definitely can find better ones in a similar price. Reviewers are really happy about how the noise cancellation works so if that’s your primary concern these are a very good choice.

      Here’s quote from one the reviews posted on Amazon.

      These headphones gave me a nice quiet flight from the US to India, which alone is worth quite a bit. They’re pretty low profile as far as noise cancelling headphones go, which I appreciate – I hate wearing huge cans on my head.

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      Best Noise Cancelling Headphones over $200

      Here are the most expensive and, in most cases, the best noise cancelling headphones available on the market. As you can see Bose headphones are pretty much dominating the list and for a reason.

      Many people who decide to buy noise cancelling headphones simply search for Bose headphones and buy one of the newer models. That’s because Bose headphones are well-known for their quality of sound, comfort, and ability to cancel outside noises. If you’re looking for top-notch headphones, you’ll find them below for sure. If you’re not sure you’re ready to spend over $200 on headphones feel free to go through the models listed earlier. Many people find those good enough for the job without breaking the bank.

      Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

      PROS

      • probably best noise cancelling earphones on the market
      • amazing sound quality
      • comfort, obviously
      • rechargeable battery charged via USB

      CONS

      • price
      • sound quality degrades when the battery is dead

      If you’re looking for noise cancelling earphones and you are ready to pay about $300 for a set of headphones, Bose QuietComfort 20 is the choice for you. Everyone knows Bose headphones are of the best quality on the market.

      When buying noise cancelling headphones, people search for three things: sound quality, noise cancellation, and comfort. And if you decide to buy Bose QuietComfort 20, you will get all three of them. Plus, since these are earphones, they’re small and lightweight. They are perfect for carring around and using while commuting, or taking with you to the office so you don’t have to overhear your coworkers. Obviously, the price is quite steep. But if you need a good pair and can afford those, thousands of happy buyers will tell you they are worth the price.

      Here’s a quote pulled from one of the reviews on Amazon.

      I don’t use the word “revolutionary” casually. Truth is, a product rarely qualifies for that accolade. But knowing as much as I do about noise-cancelling technology, I would not have believed that what Bose has accomplished with the QC20 series was even possible. In fact, I’d say they’ve created the best all-around earphone or headphone on the market today for everyday use with portable music players.

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      Bose QuietComfort 25 Headphones

      PROS

      • amazing sound quality
      • top-notch noise cancelling
      • comfortable

      CONS

      • price
      • few people complain about these headphones using AAA batteries (like almost all other do) instead of charging via USB

      Are you looking for the absolute industry leaders when it comes to noise cancelling? If so, Bose is the company you’re looking for and QuietComfort 25 headphones are one of their core products available on the market. While QuietComfort 20i has a rechargeable battery QuietComfort 25 use an AAA battery like most other headphones do. Many people mentioned that the quality of sound without the battery is much lower so better pack a spare battery. With QuietComfort 25 you get pretty much everything you need – comfort, great sound quality. And most likely the best noise cancellation available up to date. If that’s what you’re looking for, look no further.

      Here’s a quote from Amazon from on of the reviews.

      The QC25 represents the best Bose noise cancelling headphones to date. If you are considering upgrading from the QC15, the improvements are incremental and I would think twice about parting with $300. If you’re looking to supplement a set of QC20 earbuds, this is a great buy. If you have no Bose noise cancelling headphones, this is THE clear choice

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      What You Need to Know About Noise-Cancelling Headphones

      Noise Reduction vs Noise Cancellation

      Let’s start with the distinction between noise reduction and noise cancellation. The first one is a passive process that occurs every time you put your headphones on. By putting them on you automatically reduce the amount of outside noise that gets to your ears simply because you covered them with something. Noise reduction has its limitation though. The better the noise reduction the tighter the fit of the headphones has to be as they work as a barrier between your ears and outside sounds. Obviously, they tighter the fit the least comfortable the headphones. And you don’t want to choose a pair that’s great at reducing noises but you can only use it for 20 minutes at a time because after that period your ears hurt and beg you to take those headphones off.

      Noise cancellation comes to the rescue here. It’s an active process that, in short, picks up outside noise and generates a pitch that negates that noise. So by the time the outside noise gets yo tour ears it’s nullified by the pitch created by the headphones which results in you not hearing the noise even though it’s there. The process of negating the sound is referred to as destructive interference. Headhpones with noise cancellation have a small microphone that picks up ambient noises and generates the mentioned nullifying pitch. To do that theose headphones are equipped with batteries and additional electronics that create that pitch on the fly. Similarly to noise reduction noise cancellation has its limits as well. First of all, it nullifies the lower-frequency portions of the noise while it doesn’t do that great of a job for higher-frequency parts. That’s why you’ll often hear speech unchanged. Because of the way active noise cancellation works some headphones offer different modes (.e.g airplane mode, stuy mode, etc.) that you can switch between to work best in the circumstances you’re in.

      The most important thing to remember when it comes to noise cancellation is that is allows you to listen to music on a fairly low volume and not hearing most of outside noises. Using normal headphones you would have to switch the volume to high or even very high to achieve the same result.

      You can read more about noise-cancelling on Wikipedia and How-To Geek.

      Differences between typical headphones and noise-cancelling ones

      As mentioned before, noise cancellation is an ative feature that requires additional electronics and batteries for the electronics to work. That results in increased weight of the headphones. Please note that most headphones can work without batteries but if that’s the case, the noise-cancelling feature is disabled. Some of the headphones don’t work without batteries at all. Also, it’s important to remember that in some situations the noise-cancelling feature might result in a bit worse sound quality as the nullifying pitch interferes with the actual audio.

      Price range and expectations

      In electronics the quality almost always depends on the price of a product. You can’t expect great sound quality and noise cancellation from a product that’s below $50. In most cases the product will simply be ‘good enough’ for its price. So the higher your expectations are the more you’ll have to pay to fulfill them. On the other hand, not everyone has to invest 300 bucks to get the top-notch model. For an average listener with typical needs a model from the middle-of-the-pack is something that will both meet their needs and won’t break the bank.

      Reading reviews

      Almost all noise cancelling headphones have a bunch of critical reviews. While obviously some people might not like certain headphones much, you’ll often see reviews in which people complain about the noise cancellation not working. Please note that many of those reviewers don’t really know how and in which situations the feature should work so they’ll complain they still can hear other people talking, etc. That’s why earlier in this guide you can find a simple expplanation of the feature to give you a bit of context so you’ll know what you will buy.