Best noise-canceling earbuds under $200 Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best noise-canceling earbuds under $200 you can buy in 2022.
When you think of noise-canceling headphones, you probably think of big, bulky on-ear pairs – the kind of thing people wear to sleep on planes. While those can offer outstanding active noise cancelation (ANC), you can get the same technology in a much smaller package. Which makes them a lot more versatile.
You can use them for exercise, for example, and because they're much smaller they're easier to stow in a bag or pocket. They also come with their own carry cases which not only protect them from knocks, they also double as portable chargers, extending their battery lives.
Surely all this technology carries a huge price tag, right? Not necessarily. While there's no shortage of premium true wireless earbuds, there are some great budget options too. You can also pick up some older models that were high-end when they launched for much less than their original 'tested at' price.
How to choose the best noise-canceling earbuds under $200
With any noise-canceling headphones, the two key considerations are sound quality, and the efficacy of the ANC. Thankfully, you can be confident that all of the four- or five-star pairs on our list do a great job cutting out noise, and that they sound superb, too.
However, none of these pairs will cancel noise quite as effectively as good over-ear ANC headphones. But what you lose there you gain in portability.
ANC can be a real drain on the battery, so make sure your chosen buds will last long enough on a single charge. You should also check out the total battery life – that's the life on a single charge plus how long extra the charging case will give you.
As is the case with any pair of wireless earbuds, fit and comfort are vital. We can give you our experience of testing a pair, but it's no substitute for trying them out for yourself.
Now let's find you a great pair of earbuds.
Panasonic doesn't have a long and storied history in ANC wireless earbuds – in fact, this is its first pair. But given their quality and low price, you would think the brand had been making them for years.
The noise-canceling tech includes an Ambient Mode, which lets in outside sound to make you more aware of your surroundings. There are also twin mics for voice calls, and an impressive battery life of 19.5 hours (6.5 hours from the buds plus another 13 hours from the charging case). A 15-minute USB-C quick-charge delivers 70 minutes of playback. The touch controls on each bud are responsive and intuitive too, letting you control your music and switch between noise-canceling modes with zero fuss.
Fussy about fit? These come with five sizes of ear tips. We found this a little hit and miss, so we'd definitely experiment and consider mixing the sizes if it means getting a more secure fit.
But performance-wise, we have no complaints. The sound quality is superb, with an agile low end and loads of texture across the whole frequency range. Music is clear, with a great deal of refinement, which is nothing short of stunning at this price. The best noise-canceling earbuds under $200.
Read the full Panasonic RZ-S500W review
The Sony WF-1000XM3 didn't launch at under $200. But they've been superseded by the newer XM4, which means their price has dropped. Just because they're old doesn't mean they're no good – they're What Hi-Fi? Award-winners, and still some of the best all-rounders you can buy.
Fit, battery life and sound quality are all excellent. They come with more ear tip sizes than a lot of rivals (especially those at a similar price). They last six hours on a single charge, while the case can extend that to 24 hours of run time before you need a plug socket (while 10 minutes of juicing up gives you 90 minutes of use). And they sound wonderfully musical, with a sense of scale that belies their petite proportions – instruments sound natural and authentic, with plenty of detail and composure to the performance.
They might lack some features from the newer XM4, but considering the saving, you won't be disappointed.
Read the full Sony WF-1000XM3 review
Take the excellent Earfun Air, add noise-canceling tech, and what do you get? Some of the best noise-canceling earbuds under $200, that's what.
Despite the Earfun Air Pro's obscenely low price, they pack plenty of useful features and boast an entertaining sound that demands you take them seriously.
They fit securely, connect easily and have reliable controls. And while their noise canceling profiles might be a little basic compared to some pairs, they're plenty effective at silencing the outside world.
The rest of the spec list continues to impress. Battery life is seven hours per charge – add the charging case and you get another 18 hours. There’s also USB-C charging and wearer detection, plus the sound is good for the money – well-balanced, relatively transparent, taut and full through the bass, and musically pleasing. We haven't come across any noise-canceling earbuds at this level that do everything these Earfuns do, as well as they do it.
Read the full Earfun Air Pro review
Bose's first-ever pair of noise-cancelling earbuds are a huge success. The QuietComfort Earbuds feel lightweight enough for the average commute or exercise session (they're both sweat- and weather-resistant) and they're great to live with. Battery life is six hours from a single charge, plus 12 from the charging case, making 18 hours in total – a decent reserve, but by no means class-leading. You can customize some features and controls, and adjust the excellent noise-cancelation, in Bose's handy companion app.
The sense of enthusiasm and excitement conveyed by the Bose buds is highly infectious. There’s power, poise and a fantastic sense of dynamism. Bass notes sound full-bodied, go deep and the QuietComfort Earbuds squeeze out lots of detail.
They launched at $280, but they can be found for under $200 on a deal (at time of writing they're selling for $199 at Amazon).
Read the full Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 tick a lot of boxes. They're comfortable for long listening sessions. Battery life is competitive, with a single charge giving seven hours of playback and the charging case providing an additional three charges, bringing the total battery life to 28 hours. And they're nice to use, with touch-sensitive pads on each earpiece which can be customized to control music playback and features.
The noise-canceling? It works extremely well, giving the best around a run for their money. Background noises are dumbed down leaving you free to enjoy the earbuds' excellent sound quality.
Sonically, they're refined and sophisticated. Highs and lows are smooth and controlled but dynamics aren't sacrificed. The Sennheisers present a wide, detailed soundstage with impressive scale and authority.
Like the Sony XM3 further up this list, they launched with a higher price, but now they've been superseded by a newer mode – the excellent Momentum True Wireless 3 – they can be found for under $200. Grab them while you can.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 review
Technics' attempt to crack the noise-canceling earbuds market has started with this premium pair of in-ears. The buds include Alexa voice control, touch controls, and 18 hours of battery live (six from the earbuds with a further 12 provided by the case).
The noise-canceling tech is Technics' own, and features three mics in each earbud which reduce background chatter. You can alter the strength of the noise-canceling in the Technics Audio Connect companion app, where you can also select from a range of different sound modes and even track down the whereabouts of your earbuds.
The connection is solid and stable, and the earbuds favor a lively, entertaining sound with plenty of punch – as you would expect from turntable stalwart Technics. Bass goes particularly deep and sounds defined with it. With its first attempt, Technics has made some of the best noise-canceling earbuds under $200.
Read the full Technics EAH-AZ70W review
For a brand normally associated with flashy colorful plastics and overt branding, the Beats Studio Buds are quite sedate-looking. These noise-canceling earbuds offer a comfortable, secure fit, and IPX4 splashproof rating plus one-touch pairing for iOS and, for the first time, Android devices.
Battery life is five hours with noise-canceling activated and can be bumped to around eight if you switch ANC off. The supplied carry case can deliver two additional charges. Multi-function 'b'-branded buttons on each earpiece allow you to carry out basic controls, take calls, and switch between noise-canceling and Transparency modes. The only thing missing is the ability to control volume.
Their ANC algorithm supposedly monitors and makes corrections at up to 48,000 times per second and they do an effective job at cutting out low-level noise, while the built-in mics do a good job of handling call quality.
Sonically, the Beats put in a very solid shift. Low frequencies are weighty yet controlled and articulate, and you're presented with an open and expansive soundfield. Pricier pairs boast more detail and refinement, but the Beats Studio have enough in their locker to make them worth auditioning, especially at this price.
Read the full Beats Studio Buds review
How we test noise-canceling earbuds
Testing ANC earbuds requires venturing into a number of different environments to see how the headphones handle certain frequencies. We'll use our office, the city streets and public transport to get a feel for just how effective the noise-canceling is. We'll also compare them to one or two of our favorite pairs at the money to see how they stand up to the competition.
We'll also use rivals to help us peg the audio quality on offer. We have dedicated test rooms in London, Reading and Bath so we can use these while making the final judgement with a selection of our favorite test tracks.
During the testing process, we'll also go over areas like fit and comfort, see whether the battery life claims ring true and also check to see if there are any lip-sync issues when watching video content.
Many noise-canceling earbuds come with a control app that allows you to tweak their performance and their controls, so we'll see how it impacts the user experience too.
All our review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible, too.
There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.
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