Finding headphones on a budget can be tricky, but you don’t need to break the bank to get a decent listening experience. The headphones on this list generally aren’t as comfortable or neutral-sounding as some of the more premium options out there, but you can find quality offerings at a reasonable price.
We've tested over 400 headphones and below are our recommendations for the best headphones under $50 you can buy in 2020. See also our recommendations for the best earbuds under $50, the best wireless earbuds under $50, and the best gaming headsets under $50.
The best headphones under $50 that we’ve tested so far are the Mpow H5. They don't just look premium for their price; they come with tons of features that we normally find on higher-end headphones. They're reasonably comfortable, with a well-padded headband and earpads, and even have active noise cancelling. While the ANC is somewhat sub-par, they still do a passable job of isolating you from external noises.
If you haven't guessed it, they're Bluetooth headphones. With Bluetooth and ANC enabled, you can expect an average of 12 hours of continuous playback, and they take about 2.3 hours for a full charge. If you do run low, they can be used wired and Mpow has included a 3.5mm cable in the box. What's more, they also provide a hard carrying case. The overall build quality is satisfactory; however, one area of concern is the hinges and yokes, which are a little thin, but otherwise, they feel fairly sturdy.
These headphones aren't just about having lots of features, though; they have an above-average sound too. The V-shaped sound profile lends well to genres such as hip-hop and EDM, with a consistent, punchy bass, an even but recessed mid-range, and a fairly balanced treble. If you're looking for a decent pair of headphones on a budget, definitely consider these.
Bluetooth headphones like the Mpow H5 Wireless are great when you're on-the-go, but they often have too much latency to be usable for gaming; in this case, check out the Corsair HS60. They're not as portable as the Mpow, but they can be used casually, as the mic is detachable. Unfortunately, even though they're closed-back, they don't isolate sound very well, making them hard to recommend for commuting. When using the headset with the included USB adapter, the sound can be customized through Corsair's iCue software, which has plenty of preset options to choose from as well as a graphic EQ. If you're purely using the headset for gaming, you should know that the microphone is very good. Speech comes out clear and the microphone does remarkably well at separating speech from background noise.
If you need a pair of portable headphones, the Mpow are a better choice, but for gaming without latency, go with the Corsair.
The best truly wireless headphones under $50 that we've tested so far are the Anker SoundCore Liberty Lite. While if you wanted to get truly wireless headphones, it used to mean you had to spend a good chunk of change; these headphones prove that you can get a decent all-around truly wireless experience for under $50. While they aren't the most comfortable, their fit is still decent, and they come with four different sized tips, as well as three sizes of stability fins to help you get a proper fit. Their overall build quality is surprisingly good for their price point, and they feel more premium than their price would suggest.
Their out-of-the-box sound profile is quite well-balanced, with just a little bit of extra thump that isn't overpowering. They have a mildly excited sound that should please most people and is suitable for a wide variety of genres, but sadly they don't have a companion app, so you can't change their sound profile. While they don't have active noise cancelling (ANC) like some more expensive options, they passively block a surprising amount of ambient noise and should help keep you concentrated at work, as well as help a little with your daily commute.
Unfortunately, their battery is their major weak point at just over 2 hours off a single charge, and only an additional three charges from their case. They also take an hour to charge, which is disappointing considering how low their battery life is. It's worth noting that there's a new version of these headphones called the Anker SoundCore Liberty Neo that are advertised as having a much longer battery life. While we haven't tested the Neo yet, we expect them to perform very similarly. Overall, however, if you want a decent pair of truly wireless headphones that offer a surprisingly good price-to-performance ratio, the Liberty Lite are a good option.
If you want the freedom of truly wireless headphones but want something even cheaper, get the SoundPeats TrueFree/True Wireless. They have a much less-balanced and bass-heavy sound profile than the Anker SoundCore Liberty Lite Truly Wireless, but they have a slightly better battery and are quite a bit cheaper. While they don't come with stability fins like the Anker, we found them just as stable in the ear, and even a bit more comfortable. Their bass-heavy sound profile may not be for everyone, and if you like vocal-centric genres like pop or rock, you may find them a bit too muddy sounding, but they're well-suited for EDM or hip-hop. While the model that we got doesn't have a lid on the case, they're available in multiple options, including ones with a lid, or a longer battery in the case, so you can choose the option that better suits you.
If you listen to a wide variety of content and genres and want a pair of truly wireless headphones with a much better-balanced sound profile, get the Anker, but if you want something even cheaper and don't mind a bass-heavy sound profile, get the SoundPeats.
The best earbuds under $50 that we've tested so far are the Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019. These Bluetooth headphones are a great option for sports as they feature a stable ear-hook design and even come with stability fins as well. They're quite comfortable and come with five different sized tips to help you find the best fit. They're a minor upgrade over the Anker SoundBuds Curve Wireless, but sport an improved in-line remote, a longer battery, and are now rated IPX7 for water resistance, though we don't currently test for this.
The out-of-the-box sound profile of these headphones is a bit excited, with an overemphasized bass and treble. While it isn't the most accurate, this sound profile is still well-suited to most genres, and their bass doesn't come across as cluttered or overpowering. Their improved 18.5-hour battery life is great, and they should have no problem lasting you through a few full days before needing a charge.
Unfortunately, they don't do a very good job at blocking out the low rumble of bus or plane engines, but they leak almost no sound, so you should be able to turn up your music to cover background noises without bothering people around you. Overall, if you want a pair of wireless earbuds and don't want to spend too much, these are a surprisingly decent option, especially given their price point.
If you prefer a wired connection, then get the TIN Audio T2. They're not as comfortable as the Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019 and their fit might not be for everyone, but if you can get a good seal, they deliver decent sound. Their foam tips provide great isolation and they leak very little sound, so you won’t bug others around you with your music. Unfortunately, their fit can be troublesome for those with smaller ears. They also don't have a line-in remote, so you can't take calls on them with your phone, but they're well-built with a detachable cable that you can replace if ever it breaks.
Get the Anker if you prefer the versatility of wireless earbuds and want something more comfortable, but if you need a low-latency connection, then you'll want the TIN Audio headphones.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best headphones under $50 to buy for most people. 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 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.
01/30/2020: Replaced "Best On-Ear Headphones Under $50" category with "Best Truly Wireless Headphones Under $50". Moved Samsung U Flex Wireless to Notable Mentions.
12/03/2019: Minor text and structure changes; no change in recommendations.