Nowadays, you can get a decent pair of headphones on a very tight budget. Cheap headphones are ideal for a last-minute purchase or if you need a temporary pair of headphones. However, the choice is limited and the build quality tends to be poor (check our article best headphones under $50 for more choices).
Below are our recommendations for the best budget headphones we have reviewed so far.
The best over-ear headphones under $25 that we have tested so far are the Koss UR 20. They have large, spacious and comfortable ear cups and a decently well-balanced sound. This makes them above-average budget headphones for critical listening.
However, they do not have any fancy active features, and they're quite bulky, so they won't be practical to use in all situations. Their build quality also feels plasticky and cheap and won't be very durable.
On the upside, they are the best-sounding over-ears that we've tested so far at this price range.
If you want a slightly more portable and durable alternative to the Koss UR-20 without compromising on sound quality, then get the Tascam TH-02. They won't be as comfortable as the Koss since they have smaller and shallower ear cups. Also like most headphones at this price range, they do not have the best build quality but should be a bit more durable than the UR-20. On the upside, they're easier to carry around since they fold. They also provide a somewhat decent audio reproduction, on par with the UR-20s but with slightly worse treble. Overall, they're a slightly better built and more compact alternative to the Koss, and they sound decently balanced for their below $20 price tag.
If you want an even more portable alternative to the Koss UR-20 and Tascam TH-02, then get the on-ear Koss KSC75. They won't be as comfortable as the Koss, and their sound quality won't pack as much bass as the Tascam.
On the upside, they have a portable on-ear design that will easily fit into your pockets. They also have an above-average sound that reproduces instruments and vocals surprisingly well for their price range. They're stable enough for most activities, even running, thanks to their ear-hook design, although they will not be the best sports headphones since they have no in-line remote.
Overall, if you're looking for a decent sounding and very portable headphone under $25 that's not an in-ear, then get the Koss KSC75. However, you could also spend a bit more and get the much better Koss PortaPros which are a bit better overall but not less than $25 even when on sale.
If you want a cheap wireless headset, then the best in-ears/earbuds we have tested at this price are the Skullcandy Jib. They will not be as open sounding as the Koss KSC75 and they won't be as comfortable as the Koss UR-20.
However, they're a lot more portable thanks to their compact in-ear design that will easily fit into all pockets. They're also easy to use although they do not have volume controls which is a little disappointing. On the upside, they have a decently balanced sound that packs a lot of bass, and they last fairly long on a single charge at 5.8 hours of continuous playback.
Overall, the Skullcandy Jib are not the best budget in-ears we've tested since you can get the much better Anker SoundBuds Curve for just below $30. However, for their price, they deliver a respectable performance and a decent sound that should be good enough for most.
If you want a more typical in-ear to carry on you at all times, then get the 1More Piston Classic. They do not have the convenience of a wireless design like the Skullcandy Jib but you also don't have to worry about battery life, wireless range or latency. They sound decently balanced although not as good as the more expensive headphones from 1More like the Triple and Quad Drivers. But on the upside, they are fairly well built for cheap headphones and they're surprisingly comfortable for an in-ear design.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cheap headphones to buy for most people. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one 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 under $25. 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.