PROS / These headphones did a great job cancelling noise in both of our decibel tests. In fact, its noise cancelling abilities compare with those of the top three headsets on our list.
CONS / Sound quality is slightly improved with active noise cancelling enabled, but, overall, the quality is lacking.
VERDICT / The Audio Technica ATH-ANC7b offer a great choice if you want budget noise-cancelling headphones without Bluetooth.
The Audio Technica ATH-ANC7b headphones are the best noise-cancelling headphones under $100. While they're a few years older than many of the newer models on our lineup, they're still very competitive. These inexpensive headphones don't have new and impressive features, but they work better than other models at cancelling extraneous noise.
During our noise-cancelling tests, we had reviewers listen to 60 dB of music with the headphones on while we played the sounds of lawnmowers and airplanes over an external speaker. The Audio Technica ATH-ANC7b cancelled up to 80.85 dB, which is comparable with our top three best noise-cancelling headphones. We also saw that, on average, these headphones cancelled 11.45 dB with active noise cancelling (ANC) enabled versus when it was turned off.
With noise cancelling headphones, sometimes there are tradeoffs between sound quality and the headphone's noise cancellation abilities. With the Audio Technica ATH-ANC7bs, we found sound quality was improved with ANC turned on. The audio sounded more rich and full, and sounds were more crisp. Without ANC, our reviewers reported that the audio sounded muffled and boxed in. The soundscape on these headphones isn't robust, it's very flat. For an older, inexpensive pair of headphones like these, diminished sound quality is natural. One good thing, however, is the ANC buzz is minimal and won't disrupt your music.
The best noise-cancelling headphones typically last a day before needing to be charged. The Audio Technica ATH-ANC7b headphones require one AAA battery instead. According to our tests, the headphones lasted a little over 18 hours, which is pretty decent and beats out some of our rechargeable battery headphones. Audio Technica claims that on standby (without ANC), the headphones will last for 40 hours. You can always listen passively without the battery though, with the included cable.
While these were one of the lightest pairs of headphones on our lineup, they weren't the most comfortable. The 7.4-ounce weight doesn't pull on the headband; instead, the earcups bear the brunt of the weight. Reviewers reported that the backsides of their ears hurt and even more so for those who wore earrings or glasses.
The Audio Technica ATH-ANC7b doesn't have any controls either in line or on the earcup. The only button is for ANC, so you'll need to pull out your phone to change songs or pause audio. The headphones also aren't Bluetooth-enabled so, yes, you'll always need to listen with a cord.
The Audio Technica ATH-ANC7bs are a veteran pair in our noise-cancelling headphones review, but they still compete well with new headsets when it comes to cancelling noise. This inexpensive pair might not deliver the best sound quality, but they have a decent battery life, are simple to use and keep things real, real quiet.