|For Weekend Getaways||Jabra Elite 45h||
A reliable pair of wireless headphones with an impressive battery life and in-app EQ.
|Home-Office Ready||Anker Soundcore Life Q20||
Active Noise Cancellation helps tune out the rest of the world and focus on what your listening experience.
|For Home Studios||Sony MDR7506||
For making music or mixing podcasts, these headphones will deliver excellent audio.
By: Carsen Joenk
Headphones have become a modern-day necessity; not only do they let us hear whatever inspires us, but they help us drown out whatever distracts us. Whether mobile or working from home, headphone enthusiasts have come to rely more and more on their personal audio to communicate and concentrate. And for a new wave of content creators—podcasters, producers, musicians, DJs, livestreamers, etc.—they’re incredibly important, letting them express their creativity and perfect their craft in close proximity to family and friends. If you’re looking for the best budget headphones, we’ve got you covered.
While it’s not uncommon that great audio can come at a high price point, we’ve dug a little deeper to bring you the best budget headphones whether you’re on the go, in the game, or gearing up to record. Quality sound shouldn’t have to break the bank; so long as you know what to prioritize, you shouldn’t run into any trouble picking out a new pair. And if you’re not exactly sure where to start, we’ve put together a guide to help you answer the essential questions, as well as some suggestions for your next pair of headphones.
The key to picking out a brand new pair of budget headphones is to focus on where you’ll be using them and what you’ll be listening to. The best set of cans for a true-crime podcaster may not be the best for an avid gamer. Being surrounded by noise when you’re trying to get work done warrants more noise cancellation than a DJ who needs to feel the kick drums while matching beats. Before you click “purchase,” make sure you consider your needs and review the specs on the pair you’re pondering.
Do you want a wireless option with extended battery life?
If you’re looking for an everyday pair of headphones that you hope to take with you on your commute, walks through the park, and weekend trips away, we recommend reaching for a Bluetooth-equipped option that promises over 20 hours of battery life. This ensures that you’ll still be able to rock out on your way to work or make it through a long flight, even if you’ve forgotten to charge your headphones the night before (…or the night before that…or the night before that).
Do you need to tune things out to dial in?
Whether you’re headed back to work in a busy office or your at-home occupation station is surrounded by talkative loved ones, a little active noise cancellation (ANC) can go a long way. ANC lets you listen to your music at healthy volumes by analyzing surrounding noise and generating a mirror signal to drown it out. Easily tune out an airplane engine, your kid’s TV show, coworkers on lengthy phone calls, and more. While higher-end models offer more features, like adaptive EQ and Transparency Mode, ANC options are plentiful, even if you’re shopping on a budget.
Are you a musician, producer, or podcaster?
If you’re often working on your latest compositions, you’ll need a pair of headphones that prioritizes accurate audio reproduction over noise cancellation or battery life. An over-the-ear design equipped with properly tuned dynamic drivers will provide clarity across various frequencies so that you can hear each and every chord progression, cough, and background cackle. Great headphones make engineering and editing a much easier task; go with an analog connection, large drivers, and a wide frequency response to get the most out of your mixing session.
Will you need a microphone?
Do you need a pair of headphones that can handle phone calls? Do you need gaming headphones that can connect to multiple devices and features a detachable mic for clear communication? Remember that not every built-in microphone will be the same. Some are equipped with advanced technology to isolate your voice and silence background noise. Some can utilize voice activation to answer calls or be triggered by touch-sensitive controls. Of course, not every pair of budget headphones will come with a built-in microphone, so make sure you check out the specs before purchasing.
How much do you want to spend?
One person’s budget pick might be exponentially more expensive than the next, so hone in on your price range and start to compare. While headphones under $100 offer several of the features that more expensive models do, they may not all be rolled into one package or technologically refined. If you’re looking for an option under $35, features may become a bit sparse. You’ll have a harder time finding ANC and extended battery life, so we suggest focusing on sound quality, portability, and connectivity options.
The best budget headphones
Finding quality budget headphones may seem like a daunting task; there are hundreds of options that tout excellent sound, batteries that rarely die, and supreme noise cancellation. When it comes to budget products, it can be hard to tell which claims are valid or exaggerated. The more familiar you are with the key terms surrounding your priorities, the easier it will be to select a great pair. We’ve gone ahead and gotten you started with a list of our go-to budget headphones.
For long weekend getaways: Jabra Elite 45h
Keep the Music Going
Up to 50 hours of battery life means you’ll be in good hands for the entirety of your plane, train, automobile, and bipedal travels. Amazon
These $100 wireless headphones from Jabra live up to their name. Truly elite and one of the best budget Bluetooth headphones, they produce quality sound using 40mm drivers in a compact, foldable frame. MySound in the Jabra Sound+ app is a feature that tests your hearing and analyzes your music for the ultimate listening experience, offering you a personalized, customizable EQ. The Elite 45h can support up to 50 hours of playtime, though this is, of course, dependent on volume and function. Rest assured, even if you can’t squeeze out the entire 3,000 minutes, you can get an additional 10 hours of battery from a 15-minute charge. Plus, the Elite 45h is equipped with two microphones to boost clarity on calls and connect you to compatible voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. Weighing only 5.64 ounces and foldable, this is a great pair to take with you for a long weekend, and you won’t have to worry if you forget your charger.
For home-office efficiency: Anker Soundcore Life Q20
Silence Your Surroundings
Active noise cancellation is supported by four built-in microphones to eliminate even subtle distractions. Amazon
It’s almost hard to believe that the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 headphones retail for under $55 given the wireless Bluetooth 5 connection, potential 60 hours of playtime (when using the wired connection), and hybrid noise cancellation, all backing a Hi-Res Audio certified response that reaches 40 kHz pumped through 40mm drivers. The Q20s reduce outside noise by 90 percent by using four microphones to detect exterior sound and a digital cancellation algorithm to counteract a range of frequencies, including engines, voices, and more. And if your own voice needs to be crystal clear, the microphones maximize your presence on conference calls, too. Keep in mind that using ANC will reduce the potential battery life to a max of 40 hours, but you can add four more hours with a five-minute quick charge. Plus there’s a 3.5mm aux cable to keep you connected, just in case you forget your microUSB charger.
On top of all that, the Q20s address one of the most common complaints when it comes to budget headphones: a lack of punchy, present bass. The Q20s include BassUp technology designed to analyze low frequencies and boost the bass. Double-tap the play button to trigger the function when listening to EDM and hip-hop to get the best out of bass-heavy beats. In or out of the office, you’ll keep the energy up having found one of the best headphones under $50.
For organizing a successful raid: SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless
For Pro-Grade Gamers
Trash talk opponents, organize teammates, and experience sweeping sounds in all your favorite games. Amazon
The Arctis 1 from SteelSeries is a dedicated, wireless gaming headset with a 20-hour battery and the accessories to pair with most systems. Foregoing lower-quality Bluetooth, ultra-low latency 2.4GHz wireless allows for a lossless connection to PC, Mac, the Nintendo Switch dock, and PlayStation 4/PS5 through an included USB-C dongle (with or without USB-A adapter), while that same dongle enables a connection to most Android phones and the Switch on the go. You can even use a 3.5mm aux cable, which is also included with your purchase, to connect to select Xbox controllers (and other devices with a compatible jack).
These comfortable headphones incorporate an adjustable, steel-reinforced headband for a secure fit. The speaker drivers in this $100 pair are the same ones found in the brand’s more expensive Arctis 7’s, so you don’t need to worry about missing any sonic details. You can easily adjust the volume or mute/unmute the microphone using on-headset buttons. You can make additional adjustments using the SteelSeries Engine software, which allows you to customize EQ settings, sidetone control, and mic levels. And the microphone itself is detachable and Discord-certified, with a bidirectional design that supports clear communication and atmospheric noise cancellation, so your teammates never miss a command.
For livestreaming DJ Pants Optional sessions: OneOdio Studio Pro-10
Guest Bedroom Beats
Aspiring DJs will appreciate the bass response, even if they’re just livestreaming to a screen of little squares. Amazon
These $30 OneOdio headphones are a multifunctional pair to support beat mixing, and making, on a budget. Suitable for long work (or werk) sessions, the headband is adjustable so you can get your perfect fit and the earcups are softly padded (as well as 90-degree rotatable to support single-ear monitoring). This pair comes with both 3.5mm and 6.35mm ended cables so you can connect to computers, DJ mixers, mixing boards, and interfaces of all sorts without searching for an adapter. In addition, both cables are detachable and span 9.8 feet, so you won’t have any problem reaching the console or kit. You can even use one of the cords to daisy-chain to another set of headphones for a shared listening experience.
Soundwise, the Studio Pro-10s are equipped with 50mm drivers with neodymium magnets that can reproduce the rumble and rush of bass drops and synth stabs that make your mix hard to resist on the dance floor. An in-line mic rounds out the headphone’s features, allowing you to take a break, make a call, and book a gig in the middle of a session.
For home studio setups: Sony MDR7506
For Players and Playback
A wide frequency response and quality sound reproduction leave this pair topping the charts 35 years after they hit the market. Amazon
The Sony MDR7506s are an industry-standard for tracking live sessions and monitoring broadcasts that won’t break the bank. Used in professional studios for decades, these cans feature 40mm drivers, neodymium magnets, and a frequency response of 10 Hz to 20 kHz. Sound quality is accurate with support across all frequencies, so vocals, instruments, and effects come through clean and clear.
These headphones aren’t designed to touch up your music for you but instead illuminate what areas might need a few tweaks. The padded earcups make for very comfortable headphones, suitable for long work sessions, and the closed-ear design gently reduces background noise without altering your mix. This pair comes with a coiled 9.8-foot cable ending in a 1/8-inch, gold-plated plug for a reliable connection; should you want to connect to an interface or amp, a threaded 1/4-inch adaptor is included.
While these aren’t necessarily the headphones you’ll want to take with you on the train or casually throw into your bag, you certainly could; they are a sturdy, reliable pair for all your production needs and come with a carrying case. And, as one of the best headphones under $100, you can afford to pick up several pairs of the MDR7506s so you can share with studio guests. If you’re looking for studio-quality sound and proven durability but want to spend a little less, check out the ATH-M20x from Audio-Technica, which retails for $50.
For hearing more without spending more: Philips SHP9500
Super-sized drivers and an open-back design deliver a full spectrum of sound. Amazon
If you’re not going to be sitting at the studio but want to prioritize sound quality, the SHP9500 from Phillips Audio will do the trick. With 50mm drivers, high-power neodymium magnets, a 12,000 Hz – 35,000 kHz frequency response, and an impedance of 32 ohms, these headphones deliver a punchy low-end, robust mids, and a crisp, clean high-end. Angled large-diaphragm drivers, a double-layered headband, and breathable earcups designed to dissipate heat keep you comfortable while you enjoy precise reproduction. This pair comes with a 4.9-foot removable cable with a 3.5mm socket on either side for switching sources, or adding a microphone. A 6.35mm adapter is also included for amp, instrument, and interface connection. For only $75, the SHP9500 provides you with a dynamic, transparent listening experience fo one of the best headphones under $100.
The Budget Bluetooth Backup
A rechargeable, wireless pair that retails for under $20. Amazon
Budget headphones often sit somewhere between $30-$100, but if you’re looking for something even more bargain to keep the kids (or even yourself) occupied in the backseat, the $17.99 Bluetooth 4.1-equipped iJoys might be for you. While we can’t promise top-quality sound reproduction from these cheap Bluetooth headphones, these headphones are designed with comfort and portability in mind. With an adjustable headband, snug padding, and plush earcups, they can be comfortably worn for hours at a time. Five built-in control buttons allow the user to play, pause, skip tracks, and adjust music volume. They can also answer or hang up the phone and adjust the EQ. The battery promises six hours of playtime and a two-hour charging time. There is even a radio receiver and plug-in microSD card so anyone can still listen to their favorite tunes even when there’s no cell service or WiFi. And, at less than $20, you won’t care if the kids treat these like, well, everything and you inevitably have to replace them.
Best budget headphones FAQ
Are cheap headphones good?
Generally speaking, you can find a great pair of cheap headphones to rival expensive models if you know what to look for. Not all budget cans will provide the same audio quality and special features as more expensive models; however, options like the Sony MDR7506 are considered an industry standard for mixers across the globe. It all depends on what you want to get out of your headphones and how you hope to use them. Luckily, there are several fantastic options out there for an inexpensive pair that doesn’t cheapen the listening experience.
What are the best budget headphones under $50?
If you’re looking for the best cheap headphones, check out the Anker Soundcore Life Q20, and OneOdio options listed above, or maybe look into the Tribit XFree Go Bluetooth 5.0 headphones. There are also a few options out there for wireless earbuds on a budget, like the Skullcandy Dime earphones or Tozo T10. Of course, the more you’re able to invest in your cans, the more options you’ll be able to consider, but you can certainly get plenty of pleasure out of the best headphones under $50.
Which is the best budget wireless headphones?
While it’s hard to give that trophy to just one pair, we know a number of folks really enjoy the Jabra Elite 45h. If your spending is a bit more flexible and you want to compare a few more options, check out the best Bluetooth headphones to peruse even more wire-free connectivity.
The final word on finding the best budget headphones
Just because your headphones are inexpensive doesn’t mean they’ve sacrificed connectivity options, microphones, noise cancellation, style, or sound. In fact, there are several options out there for the best budget headphones, so long as you know what you’re looking for. While there are some luxuries you might miss out on when it comes to the best cheap headphones, you should have no problem finding a pair that suits your priorities. Hone in on what’s most important for your listening experience and start cueing up your favorite playlist.