Buying Noise Cancelling Headphones - How Much Should You Spend?

Looking to buy a pair of noise-cancelling headphones? We've put together some helpful tips to maximise your savings.

Black wireless headphones on a red background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Types of Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Passive Noise Cancellation: uses the headphones’ design/materials to block out noise, similar to ear defenders. Most headphones have at least some level of this. Passive Noise Cancellation on its own is usually less expensive but also less effective than Active.

Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) - Uses a form of electronic white noise to cancel out any ambient noise actively. Especially effective when combined with passive noise-cancelling ear cups.

Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation - Much like regular ANC, except it uses microphones and speakers to automatically adjust the level of noise filtered based on your surroundings.

Transparency Mode - Transparency mode allows you to hear your surroundings without needing to turn off your music or take your headphones off.

What to Consider?

Sound Quality: The noise cancelling feature shouldn’t compromise the sound quality.

Battery Life: Active Noise Cancellation requires more power than regular headphones. Look for at least 15-30 hours for wireless models.

Comfort: Especially important if you’ll be wearing them for extended periods. More expensive models will even come with memory foam cups for the travel enthusiast with a bigger budget.

Portability: Consider if they can fold or come with a carrying case to make packing and travel easier. Especially for plane journeys with strict luggage rules, easier-to-pack headphones are a huge plus to avoid paying extra. For more ways to save on air travel, try our article on the best ways to save on flights.

Extra Features: Generally, more expensive models come with touch controls, voice assistants, adjustable ANC, Ambient sound modes, water resistance and more.

Try Before You Buy: If you buy a pair of headphones that don’t fit your ears or your needs, don’t worry. Return them and try again. Companies such as Amazon have incredibly easy return processes. As a consumer, you have a right to a 30-day return period, so be sure to use it when needed. Also, consider the user reviews. Other people's reactions can be a good gauge of how good the product is.

Sales: Noise-cancelling headphones are often on sale during big events such as Black Friday, so if you’re in the market for a pair, shop around the sale and clearance sections first. During Prime Day, I saved 30% on my SoundCore Q45 headphones on Amazon. Or even buy refurbished headphones from stores such as BackMarket. For more information on saving with refurbished tech, check out our guide to refurbished tech

Budget Guide

Directly above view of green headphones on a salmon and green background

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Low Budget (Up to £100)

Expectations: Basic ANC capabilities, decent sound quality, and potential compromises in comfort or build. They likely won’t have many extras, such as water resistance or touch controls, but they will do the job for the now-and-then commuter or someone with a tighter budget.

Recommended Brands: Anker Soundcore, JBL, Creative

Frequently, ANC headphones that fall under £50 are generic brands that will do the job but are unlikely to have added comfort and sound extras. You can often mind mid-range headphones within this bracket during popular sale seasons such as in and around Prime Day, Black Friday or Cyber Monday. 

Moderate Budget (£100-50)

Expectations: Reliable ANC with added capabilities such as passthrough mode, better sound quality, more comfortable wear and longer battery life. Headphones in this budget range are more likely to be foldable and come with a carry case.

Recommended Brands: Anker Soundcore, Sony, Sennheiser

Arguably the most competitive range with the most brand variations, you can often find great deals on mid-range brands on sale at Amazon, eBay or Currys during Black Friday or Prime Day. 

High Budget (£200+)

Expectations: Premium build quality, best-in-class ANC, top-notch sound, usually surround sound. Extra features include folding, touch controls, long battery life, weather protection, lightweight build, adjustable ANC and passthrough. 

Recommended Brands: Bose, Sony, Bang & Olufsen, Bowers & Wilkins.

It goes without saying that for over £200, you are paying for the best of the best with all the mod-cons. You’ll get design, luxury and more. However, it should be noted that you are also paying for brand prestige, so I advise comparing expensive brands with mid-range ones to maximise your bang for your buck. You should also watch for tech sales around the holiday season.

Remember, more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. Identify your needs and choose a pair that offers the best value for your requirements. If you only travel occasionally, a budget pair will be fine. If you use them in the work office and daily, mid-range is likely the best, especially if you catch a sale. But if you love to make a statement and enjoy sleek comfortable designs combined with great tech, then go all out with a high-budget pair and be the envy of every plane journey. 

Considering buying a new TV soon? If this article helps, then check out our guide to buying a TV

Nathan Walters

I joined MyVoucherCodes as a Deal Expert, searching the web and sourcing the best deals, discount codes and sales to benefit our readers. I decided to combine these money-saving skills with my love of writing and become an Editor, sharing what I have learned to help you get the most out of your money. As a student for four years, I understand the need to budget and get more for less.  As well as providing budget-friendly advice here at MVC, I have written money-saving works for well-known publications such as The Sun and Pick Me Up!

I love playing video games and later writing reviews at GameReport in my spare time. I also enjoy anything to do with technology and cool gadgets, and I'm constantly adding extras and components to my home gaming computer. Additionally, I love DIY. Having worked in a tool store as a student, I enjoy fixing things, whether my car or home.