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The 6 Best Budget And Cheap Headphones - Summer 2024 Reviews

Updated Jun 05, 2024 at 08:54 am
Best Budget And Cheap Headphones

Looking for good headphones can get expensive fast. With how manufacturers market their flagship models, it's easy to think that premium features like active noise cancellation (ANC), balanced sound, and all-day comfort can only come at a high cost. While you may be used to seeing barebones, no-frills products at this price tag, manufacturers have steadily raised the quality of their budget-friendly products. It's not uncommon to find solid-performing headphones without sacrificing an arm and a leg.

We've tested over 790 pairs of headphones, and below are our picks for the best budget and best cheap headphones. For more recommendations, check out our picks for the best budget noise cancelling headphones, the best wireless Bluetooth headphones under $100, and the best wireless earbuds under $50.


  1. Best Budget Headphones

    The best budget headphones we've tested are the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless. They're the previous generation of the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 Wireless. As you might expect from budget headphones, they lack some of their successor's features, like support for high-res audio codecs. That said, you don't have to compromise too much. They have an ANC feature that does a fantastic job of blocking out a wide range of noise, including rumbling engines and background chit-chat. They also last for around 44 hours on a single charge and support multi-device pairing to keep you connected to your phone and computer simultaneously.

    Out of the box, their sound delivers a lot of extra bass. There's extra thump and rumble in genres like EDM and hip-hop, but instruments and voices still sound clear and bright. If you prefer a different sound, you can use the in-app EQ and presets to customize it to your liking. While these headphones are lightweight and comfy, their earcup padding is a bit thin, which can get fatiguing during long listening sessions. Their plastic frame isn't particularly premium, but they feel decently sturdy.

    See our review

  2. Best Cheap Headphones

    Consider another pair of Anker headphones if you want something less expensive. The brand dominates the budget and mid-range over-ear space by offering reasonably priced headphones with great sound performance. There aren't a lot of cheap over-ear headphones out there that outperform the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless, especially regarding their powerful ANC system.

    They don't cut out as much noise as the Anker Soundcore Life Q30 Wireless, but they still do a good job of reducing bassy background noise from commutes and excel at isolating your ears from close-by conversations. They have a comfortable fit and feel decently well-built, even if some parts, like their plastic hinges, feel flimsy. Out of the box, they have an excited sound profile with lots of bass and treble to complement pop, rock, and hip-hop.

    Unlike our previous Anker pick, they don't have a companion app, and you can't change their sound via an EQ or presets. Fortunately, you're permitted some sound control via their built-in Bass Effect feature that adds more thump and boom to the mix. They'll also last several long workdays or listening sessions, thanks to their nearly 33-hour continuous battery life. You miss out on a few extras, like an auto-off timer to help conserve battery life and multi-device pairing. However, they still offer great overall quality and some premium-level features at a reasonable price.

    See our review

  3. Best Budget Wired Headphones

    Wired headphones can be an advantage for listeners who want the best sound quality, no lag, and no possibility of connection issues. If you prefer this, consider the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x. They're less portable and limit your range of movement with them on, but they're still a worthwhile option to consider, depending on your needs. They reproduce bass frequencies well, thanks to their closed-back design, and their great mid-range accuracy ensures clarity and detail to vocals and lead instruments. While their build quality isn't quite up to the same standard as the manufacturer's best-known closed-back headphones, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x, they're still comfortable and well-built enough for casual use.

    While their wired-only build removes the battery life problem, the cable isn't removable and is exposed at the headband's adjustment points. This gives them lots of points for potential damage, which requires replacing the entire unit to fix. Their lack of a mic means you can't use them for calls either, and they do a poor job of passively isolating you from background conversations at the office.

    See our review

  4. Best Budget Audiophile Headphones

    The Superlux HD 681 are a great entry point for users curious about audiophile headphones. These over-ears deliver neutral audio reproduction that caters to instruments and vocals. Plus, their semi-open design brings a wider and more open soundstage, creating a more immersive listening experience. They leak a fair amount of sound, so they aren't ideal for highly sensitive recording sessions or casual use around the office. You can't detach their audio cable either, so any damage to the wire will require you to replace the entire unit. On the upside, they come with a 1/8" to 1/4" adapter, so you can plug them into your audio interface.

    The tradeoff at this price point is that these headphones are much less durable and well-made than pricier audiophile headphones like the Philips SHP9600. If you're willing to spend a little more for comfort, the Philips are worth a look since their well-padded design helps you avoid fatigue over time. They're the next generation of the Philips SHP9500, which are also a great pick if you can find them. However, the SHP9600's open-back design means that they lack a thumpy low bass, and while they try to account for this with extra emphasis in the high bass, this slightly muddies vocals and lead instruments.

    See our review

  5. Best Budget On-Ear Headphones

    The Sony WH-CH520 Wireless are the best budget on-ear headphones we've tested. On-ears offer a compromise between the two standard types of headphones. They do away with the bulkiness of over-ear headphones, like the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless, while giving you a more immersive soundstage and a different fit than in-ears. This design struggles to isolate you from much background noise, like rumbly bus engines or ambient chatter, since they can't create a seal around your ears or inside your ear canal.

    Fortunately, they're lightweight and fairly comfortable for extended listening sessions, though their build quality is somewhat lacking. Their faux leather earpads feel prone to cracking, and their plastic headband can likely snap if it falls off your head. Out of the box, they have a warm sound profile that makes audio sound full without overpowering the rest of the mix. Their companion app also features a graphic EQ and presets, allowing you to fine-tune the mix however you want. They also have virtual surround sound, but you'll likely need a subscription to a compatible streaming service.

    Provided you don't plan to wear them running, their stability is okay. Their nearly 53-hour continuous battery life is also quite good and will last a whole work week before needing a recharge. If you're okay with sacrificing long battery life for active noise cancelling, the JBL Live 460NC Wireless are a great option to filter out some ambient noise. Unlike the Sony, they're foldable, but they only reach 29 hours of battery.

    See our review

  6. Best Budget Earbuds

    Current Deal: The JBL Vibe Buds True Wireless has dropped in price by $21 at Amazon.com.

    If you're looking for smaller, more portable headphones, the JBL Vibe Buds True Wireless are the best budget earbuds we've tested. While they won't create the same immersive soundstage as over-ear and on-ear headphones, they can be more convenient for everyday use since you can slip them into your pocket or bag more easily. The JBL are lightweight and decently comfortable and have an IP54 rating for dust and water resistance, making them a good choice for workouts. They don't have ANC and won't block out much bass-range noise like rumbling engines, but they do a good job of passively isolating you from noise like conversations and computer fans.

    These buds have a V-shaped default sound profile, so mixes have extra rumble and punch, while instruments and vocals are bright and detailed. For a different sound, their companion app features a graphic EQ and presets to help you customize the mix. If you want something even cheaper and don't care to customize your buds much, the Skullcandy Dime 3 True Wireless have a pleasant neutral sound that isn't too bassy or trebly, although they're less customizable and don't protect against dust like the JBL. They last for nearly nine hours off a single charge, which isn't as long as bigger, more powerful over-ears, but it'll still get you through a standard workday.

    Check out our article on the best budget and cheap wireless earbuds for more low-cost options.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Superlux HD 668B: The Superlux HD 668B are semi-open headphones designed for budget audiophiles. While they have a balanced and bright sound profile, they're not as comfortable and lack the deep bass and clarity of the Superlux HD 681. See our review
  • JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless: The JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless are cheap in-ears with good battery life and a stable, gym-friendly design. However, the JBL Vibe Buds True Wireless are more customizable, thanks to their in-app graphic EQ and presets. The JBL headphones are rated IP54 for dust and water resistance, while the JLab are only rated IPX4 for water resistance. See our review
  • JBL Vibe Beam True Wireless: The JBL Vibe Beam True Wireless are similar to the JBL Vibe Buds True Wireless. They aren't as comfortable and have a shorter battery life but offer a better mic performance, so they're a better choice if you want budget-friendly earbuds for phone calls. See our review
  • JBL Tune 520BT Wireless: The JBL Tune 520BT Wireless on-ears are a close competitor to the Sony WH-CH520 Wireless. The JBL have a longer battery life than the Sony and a slightly more boomy bass response, but the Sony are just somewhat more comfortable, stable, and well-built. Still, it's not necessarily worth paying substantially more for the Sony headphones if you find the JBL for less cash. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Jun 05, 2024: This article has been updated to add the JBL Tune 520BT Wireless to the Notable Mentions.

  2. Apr 09, 2024: No changes have been made to the picks, but the JBL Live 460NC Wireless was mentioned as an alternative to the Sony WH-CH520 Wireless.

  3. Mar 11, 2024: This article was updated to check the picks, make minor text edits, and mention the Skullcandy Dime 3 True Wireless.

  4. Jan 12, 2024: Replaced the JBL Vibe Beam with the JBL Vibe Buds because they offer a more comfortable fit and longer battery life at the same price point.

  5. Dec 08, 2023: The Philips SHP9500 are out of stock, so we've replaced them with the Superlux HD 681.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best budget and cheap headphones you can get. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).

If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews for headphones and earbuds under $50. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference, and listening habits will matter more in your selection.