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The 7 Best Budget And Cheap Headphones - Winter 2023 Reviews

Updated

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 been steadily raising the quality of their budget-friendly products. Now, it's not uncommon to find solid-performing headphones without sacrificing an arm and a leg.

We've tested over 710 pairs of headphones, and below are our picks for the best budget and the best cheap headphones you can buy. 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 Q20 Wireless. Anker dominates the budget and mid-range over-ear space by offering reasonably-priced headphones with great sound performance. Unfortunately, there aren't many over-ears cheaper than these, but these headphones have a lot of premium features considering their price. Their powerful active noise cancellation (ANC) system is a stand-out feature and is uncommon in this range. It does a good job of blocking out bassy background noise from commutes and excels at isolating your ears from close-by conversations.

    Out of the box, these over-ears have an excited sound profile, with lots of bass and treble to compliment pop, rock, and hip-hop. While they don't have a companion app, and you can't change their sound via an EQ or presets, their built-in Bass Effect feature can add more thump and boom. They'll last several long workdays or listening sessions, thanks to their nearly 33-hour continuous battery life. They're lightweight, comfortable, and will survive a few accidental drops. If you're looking for great overall quality and some premium-level features at a reasonable price, they're worth checking out.

    See our review

  2. Best Cheap Headphones

    Although they're part of a gaming lineup, the Logitech G435 LIGHTSPEED are versatile headphones that support Bluetooth and are often on sale for less than $30. They come with unique features, like an adjustable volume limiter to protect your ears, but lack any companion software or adjustable EQ. They're a great option for users wanting a straightforward pair of reasonably-priced wireless over-ears.

    Their sound profile is warm and has a nice boost that extends to the mid-bass range, making EDM or video game explosions pleasant and full-bodied. However, they don't have any compatible software and don't include a graphic EQ to change their sound. They're comfortable and lightweight but leak a lot of audio and don't isolate you from much background noise, making these less than ideal for commuting or use at the office. As gaming headphones, their nearly 20-hour battery life will last you several long matches, and your voice sounds bright and clear through the integrated mic, if not a little thin. They don't support multi-device pairing but are compatible with consoles and PCs via Bluetooth and an included wireless USB dongle. However, latency is high through the dongle.

    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, you'll want to consider the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x. They're less portable and limit your range of movement with them on, but are still a worthwhile option to consider depending on your needs. While these headphones have a more neutral sound and more accurate audio reproduction than our top pick, the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Wireless, they lack some premium features, like ANC, and don't feel as well-built or comfortable.

    While their wired-only build removes the battery life problem, the cable isn't removable, and part of it is exposed at the headband's adjustment points, giving 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. However, these neutral closed-back headphones don't let in as much noise as open-back models, like the Philips SHP9500, and are even some of the best DJ headphones we've tested.

    See our review

  4. Best Budget Audiophile Headphones

    In an ecosystem where audiophile headphones can cost thousands of dollars, good headphones under $100 are rare. As a result, budget-level audiophile headphones tend to be a bit higher in price than their casual-use counterparts. That said, if you don't mind shelling out a bit more, the Philips SHP9500 are more expensive than other picks on this list but are low-cost in the context of the audiophile market. They have an open-back design that lets background noise from your environment mix with your audio to create a more immersive soundstage. In comparison, closed-back headphones, like the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x, make audio sound more closed-off and closer to your head.

    These over-ears have a very low impedance, so you can get the most out of their sound without needing a powerful amp. They also have a very neutral sound profile, with extra high-bass for added warmth that suits folk and jazz music. The rest of the range is well-balanced, but like most open-back headphones, there isn't much rumbly low-bass to the mix. That said, while they're great for listening to high-res audio, they aren't designed for any other purpose and don't perform well when used as casual headphones. Their open-back design means they leak a lot of audio, so your co-workers will hear whatever you're listening to. They also don't isolate you from much background noise, so you'll hear all the noise from a crowded subway car.

    See our review

  5. Best Cheap Audiophile Headphones

    The Superlux HD 681 are great for users curious about high-res audio. These over-ears deliver a satisfying audio reproduction that caters to instruments and vocals. Their sound profile is extremely well-balanced across most of the range, and they have more low-bass than most higher-price open-ear headphones due to their semi-open design. However, they don't create as wide or immersive of a passive soundstage as a result. They also leak a fair amount of sound, so they aren't ideal for highly sensitive recording sessions.

    These headphones are wired only and have a non-detachable audio cable. Unfortunately, if you snag the wire, you could damage the entire unit. They're also a lot more plasticky and feel less durable than the Philips SHP9500, but at this price point, you'll need to prepare to make sacrifices like this. On the upside, they come with a 1/8" to 1/4" adapter, so you can plug them into your audio interface.

    See our review

  6. Best Budget On-Ear Headphones

    The Skullcandy Riff Wireless 2 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. They have relatively comfortable foam earpads with a light on-ear fit, and their control scheme is relatively simple and easy to use.

    Out of the box, these headphones have an excited, v-shaped sound profile with lots of bass and treble that pop and rock music fans can enjoy. If you'd prefer a different sound profile, their companion app features a graphic EQ and presets to fine-tune the mix to your tastes. At nearly 47 hours, their continuous battery life is outstanding and easily lasts you several days without needing a recharge. However, they don't do a great job isolating you from background noise and can leak a lot of audio.

    See our review

  7. Best Budget Earbuds

    The Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless are the best budget earbuds we've tested. These buds are unique, as their charging case holds 13 extra charges. They last a little over seven hours on a single charge, which brings their total battery life to nearly 100 hours. Not only will they last through most of your workday, but they'll last several days before needing to recharge the case.

    These budget buds have a bass-heavy sound profile, with lots of thump and punch that's well-suited for hard rock and electronica. The rest of the mix is well-balanced, save for a dip in the treble range that makes vocals and lead instruments lose some of their detail. Unfortunately, these earbuds don't have a companion app, so you can't change how they sound. Otherwise, they're stable in-ear and are comfortable for all-day wear. If you're looking for even more affordable in-ears with a couple of built-in EQ presets, check out the JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless. Their total battery life pales in comparison, but they still offer a solid price-to-performance ratio at a lower cost. If you're looking for more earbuds, check out our best cheap earbuds article.

    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
  • Anker SoundCore Life P2 Truly Wireless: The Anker SoundCore Life P2 Truly Wireless have a bass-heavy sound profile and a comfortable fit that will suit gym rats on a budget. However, the Anker SoundCore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless have a longer total battery life and passively block out more ambient noise. See our review

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.

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