Last year, the cheapest noise cancelling headphones that really impressed us cost over £200.
Fast-forward to 2016, and you can now get noise cancelling tech into a pair of sub-£100 wireless headphones, such as the Phillips SHB8850NCs.
Keeping the balance between sound quality, price, and additional features is a difficult task, but we’re happy to say that Phillips have pulled it off to a Herculean standard.
We have to admit, there’s a certain kind of stylishness in the appearance of these headphones, and at 230g they’re very easy to carry around.
The rotating earcups, which also bend at the hinges, means that they don’t take up much space in a rucksack or handbag, while their comfortable fit makes them easy to wear over long periods.
Speaking of which, turning on the noise cancellation is an easy task - it’s quick, simple, and certainly effective in the noisy What Hi-Fi? offices or on the busy streets.
Just hold in the NC button on the bottom of the left earcup for two seconds, and a little green LED tells you when it is active.
Once you have the headphones set up and ready to go, the SHB8850NC’s waste no time impressing you.
Their 32mm drivers come full of surprises with clarity and detail much higher than we would expect from headphones at this price.
More after the break
The dynamics are powerful, too; your ears won’t be able to avoid pricking up at the first, striking piano chord in the song, which is introduced with a real physical presence.
The headphones manage the rise of the song’s climax with ease and a notable smoothness.
But the true quality of these headphones is in the way that they convey vocals. These Phillips are insightful enough to capture every little detail, and when Roger Daltrey starts singing you can hear the reverberations in every note.
The SHB8850NCs make other impressive headphones, such as the Lindy BNX-60s, sound a little muffled in comparison.
It’s not just classic rock that the Phillips are happy to handle, and if you’re looking to dim the lights and soften the mood you won’t be disappointed.
Changing to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, the headphones do a great job in conveying the sadness of the song.
MORE: Lindy BNX-60 review
The Phillips direct the richness in the vocals during the chorus well, while keeping the bass guitar and bright chimes controlled.
The SHB8850NCs are particularly potent in the midrange and the treble, and although they don’t reach down quite as much as we’d like on bass-heavy tracks, they’re still taut and responsive – still among the best for budget noise-cancellers.
The Phillips SHB8850NC are a pair of headphones that bring a lot to the table without taking a lot from your wallet.
They’ve got a lot of punch and a great deal of nuance, even over Bluetooth, to satisfy anyone wanting a good pair of budget noise-cancelling headphones.
Add in their portability, and there’s no doubt that these headphones will keep you satisfied.
See all our Philips reviews