Best Noise Canceling Headphones Under $200 (2019)

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Comfort is Key – Above all, make sure that your selected headphones are comfortable. If you plan on wearing these for long periods of time or in uncomfortable environments like in an airplane, having that extra padding can really go a long way. At the very least, make sure that your headphones of choice have replaceable ear cups.

Kate Brunotts

Kate Brunotts FOR MUSIC CRITIC

Noise Canceling Headphones Under $200 Buyers Guide

All headphones cancel out background noise to a degree because their very nature means that they provide not only a barrier between your ears and your surroundings but also they are playing audible waves directly into your ear so you are bound to be somewhat less aware of what is going on around you audibly.

We call this passive cancellation and whilst it worked to a degree, particularly loud environments are still going to penetrate the barriers created and spoil what you are listening to unless you really turn the volume up which you should know can be incredibly damaging to your ears.

Over-ear/on-ear/ around-ear (circumaural) headphones do the best natural passive noise activation because quite simply they provide the biggest physical barrier as well as the largest headphone audio drivers and they encompass the whole of your ear.

If you live, travel or work in an environment with high decibel levels a passively filtering pair just won’t be enough and that is where the wonders of active noise cancellation come into play.

What Is Active Noise Cancellation?

Active noise cancellation is a process which has to happen in real-time to be effective. Active noise canceling headphones employ 1 or more noise rejection microphones that are usually situated on the outside of the ear-cups, they pick-up the audio signals in the vicinity.

Once they have the wave signatures they immediately reproduce them in real-time but cleverly play them 180 degrees out of phase which phenomenally makes the 2 signals cancel one another out as the brain cannot distinguish either signal.

What to look for when buying Noise Canceling Headphones Under $200?

How accurately the input waves and reproduction are is of vital importance, which means the digital signal processing needs to be up to scratch, and the driver components need to have a wide and refined response.

If they are tuned to a fine degree of frequency detail then the will match the signal to the nearest which can create a sort of white-noise effect instead of matching the external input precisely enough.

So despite having the same chips installed to handle the process and drivers of identical size built from the same materials 2 sets of headphones can have very different capabilities.

Effective active noise cancellation can reduce exterior decibel levels by up to 99% and premium models on the market often manage to deprive listeners of their environment entirely.

Because the process is happening in the moment very sudden sounds such as a loud car horn can often be problematic because the microphones hard at work filtering the ambiance simply aren’t expecting a random surge in levels and therefore can’t respond quickly enough to counter the surprise.

There are some on the market which have a cut-off that helps counter this keeping the volumes at the same level at all times and actively equalizing.

The double signals out of phase with one another invoke phenomena known as destructive interference and as mentioned most brains can’t figure out what they are listening to and therefore ignore it completely.

There are however some individuals who will be plagued by the chaos within and find that noise-canceling a set of headphones muddies their audio rather than enhances its clarity.

Whilst it is true the final effect of the cancellation waves and the audio player is a little muddier the audio inputs are far more isolated from that which is going on around you and in some situations it is an essential feature where the audio quality overall must be sacrificed if you are to hear your playlist at all above the sounds surrounding you.

For this reason, you need to opt for a set with great sound quality, to begin with in order to preserve how your tracks will sound with the ANC running.

Finally, as with any set of headphones, you have to consider the comfort and durability of the product especially if you are buying at the higher end you should get a product that lasts.

Conclusion

If you live in a busy town and enjoy your music or travel in built-up environments then a set of noise canceling headphones is a sound investment. Whilst regular headphones offer some passive cancellation they often struggle to compete with louder external noise.

Active noise-canceling headphones work hard to reduce decibel levels around the listener, they do an effective job and with chip production being easier and cheaper than ever before there is a wider variety to choose from available to you.

The majority of our selection included here in this article do a pretty great job, we have tried our hardest to pick a few at different price regions within our $200 budget. Of course, you do get what you pay for as with any consumer electronics, but, we think each is commendable in their respective regions.

Expert Tip

We recommend a set with controls for activating the onboard ANC as it does give the battery a good rest extending the life significantly, this is especially useful if you are on the go in different environments as you can power it up as and when it’s needed.

Did you Know

The first active noise cancellation headsets to receive Federal Aviation Administration Technical Standard Order certification was made by Sennheiser in 1984 for Lufthansa Airlines, they could capably drown out the decibels of a jet engine.

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