Noise cancelling headphones are a must have for some people that take public transit and want to reduce all the noise from outside to enjoy their music. Unfortunately, they can be quite expensive at times. However, breaking the bank isn't always necessary to have great overall performance. While some may lack some higher-end features, it's still possible to find good products that will suit your needs at an affordable price point.
We’ve tested over 400 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best noise cancelling headphones under $200 to buy in 2020. If you’re looking for our top picks in general or for different price brackets, check out our recommendations for the best noise cancelling headphones, the best headphones under $200, and the best noise cancelling headphones under $100.
The best noise cancelling headphones under $200 we've tested so far are the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2. These headphones are great for a wide variety of uses thanks to their comfortable design, decent isolation performance, and well-balanced sound profile. These wireless ANC headphones also have great and easy-to-use controls.
Their sound profile is one of the most accurate we've measured so far, although there is a little boost in low-bass, which may add a bit extra thump and rumble. Their ANC feature blocks a good amount of mid-range noises like ambient chatter, but their bass isolation is slightly disappointing and might not be the best at reducing the deep rumble of a bus engine. On the upside, they have a great continuous battery life of around 30 hours that will last you a few days without the need to charge them.
Unfortunately, their ANC feature isn't the greatest, which might be due to the fact that these are using 2016 technology, unlike more recent products. They are also not the most stylish headphones and have an unusual design that sticks out a bit. Nevertheless, for under $200, you can't go wrong with their comfortable design and well-balanced sound profile.
If the ANC is your most important criteria and you don't seem satisfied with the Plantronics BackBeat Pro 2 Wireless 2016's performance, check out the wired-only Bose QuietComfort 25. They might not offer the wireless freedom of the Plantronics, but their design is much more comfortable and their noise cancelling performance is noticeably better. If you're traveling a lot for long periods at once, like long flights, the Bose are probably the best option. Unfortunately, they use disposable AAA batteries, but you'll get around 33 hours of battery life, which is very good.
If you prefer wireless headphones, then the Plantronics are the better option; if you don't mind having a wire and comfort and noise isolation are your main concerns, get the Bose instead.
The best on-ear ANC headphones under $200 we've tested so far are the Marshall MID ANC Wireless. These Bluetooth on-ear headphones are a bit smaller than over-ears and even if they don't cover your entire ears, they're decently comfortable. They have a nice and sleek design that's covered by leather coating, reminiscent of Marshall guitar amps. They feel well-built and durable, and they perform quite well overall.
Their sound profile is very well-balanced, although ever so slightly excited in a V-shape. There's a bit of extra bass and some might feel like they can get quite bright and piercing on some tracks, but they're still one of the most well-balanced on-ears we've tested. They also last about 17 hours on a single charge, which should be more than enough for most people.
Unfortunately, their noise isolation performance isn't as good as over-ears as they don't completely seal around your ears, so some noise will seep into your audio. Nevertheless, they still do a good job at blocking out mid and treble ranges, which should be fine to reduce ambient chatter or the noise coming from an A/C system. You can also keep using them wired if your battery dies in the middle of your commute, which is very useful.
If you like the on-ear design of the Marshall MID ANC Wireless but would like something that's a bit more affordable, check out the AKG N60NC. They might not be as comfortable or as well-balanced, but their noise cancelling feature is better. They feel well-built but feel a bit cheaper than the Marshall due to the material used. Their audio reproduction sounds a bit muddy and cluttered, although it's fairly subtle. On the upside, they're a good option to reduce bass frequencies like plane or bus engine rumbles and isolate against outside noise well. You can also connect to two devices simultaneously and change easily between both sources.
If comfort and well-balanced sound are what you're looking for, grab the Marshall, but if you want better noise isolation for a more affordable price, then go with the AKG instead.
The best noise cancelling headphones with an in-ear design that we've reviewed so far are the Amazon Echo Buds. These Alexa-enabled truly wireless earbuds have great battery life and are decently comfortable to wear for a while. They have touch-sensitive controls, but lack volume up and down, which might be a deal-breaker for some.
They're nicely built and their sound profile should please most people. They can be used for a wide variety of music genres, but some may notice a small lack of bass kick. These in-ear headphones truly shine when it comes to noise isolation. Their in-ear tips passively block a lot of noise to begin with, but you can also enable their active noise cancellation for a little extra help. They're a good option if you often commute and need headphones that can easily fit in your pockets.
Unfortunately, they do have very high latency, which won't be ideal for watching video content during your commute, and they strongly rely on their Echo app, even for pairing, so it's pretty much mandatory to download it if you want to use them. If you don't mind having the app, which also allows for customization via a Graphic EQ, then these are some of the best noise cancelling headphones under $200.
04/03/2020: Changed the overall structure of the text, changes have been made in the recommendations.
02/03/2020: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; updated Notable Mentions to reflect current availability.
12/04/2019: Replaced Jabra Elite 65e with Amazon Echo Buds Truly Wireless, minor text changes.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best noise cancelling headphones under $200 to buy for most people. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our ANC headphones reviews. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones and the level at which you play your music will naturally drown the ambient noise of lower amplitudes.