Most people don’t want to spend several hundred dollars on a pair of high-end headphones, but audiophiles are willing to do so. Even audiophiles agree that low-cost headphones have gone a long way in recent years.
Technical criteria like frequency response and premium features like noise-cancelling or wireless charging should be avoided in the budget-friendly range; these are more of a concern with high-end gear. At lower price tiers, durability and sound quality should be your top priorities: Your headphones should be durable enough to survive repeated usage and have acceptable sound quality for casual listening.
We’ve chosen the best inexpensive headphones available right now based on these factors. Our top options include over-ear, on-ear, wireless earbuds, and gaming headphones in a variety of styles. Learn why you can rely on our technical experts to make the finest product recommendations.
Here is our choice of the best budget headphones:
The wireless Mpow 059 offers a surprising level of comfort and sound quality at an unbelievable price point.
Pros: Folding design, astonishing sound quality for a pair of wireless headphones, wired connection, good value
Cons: Wireless sound isn’t as rich or detailed as a cable connection, and the microphone is only available in Bluetooth mode.
Bluetooth headphones are one of the most popular Bluetooth applications. Wireless headphones have been hit or miss in the past, but today’s Bluetooth headphones, such as the top-rated Mpow 059, are miles ahead of their predecessors.
The Mpow 059 does not reinvent the wheel in terms of design. Two 40mm neodymium magnet drivers are featured, as well as a full-size over-ear design with rotating padded ear cups and an adjustable cushioned headband. When connected to your phone, the 059 also has a handy built-in mic for hands-free calling, and the earpieces fold inwards for increased portability.
What distinguishes the Mpow 059 from other low-cost headphones is that they excel at what they do, providing good wireless sound, a sleek design, and a robust build. The provided cord allows you to use the Mpow 059 as wired headphones, which is a great touch. When used wirelessly, the Mpow 059 is powered by a built-in 420mAh battery that lasts for around 13 hours.
Given their sonic quality, outstanding design, and wireless simplicity, the Mpow 059 headphones are an exceptional bargain in this price range. They’re usually on sale for less than their suggested retail price, and Black Friday and Cyber Monday could bring even greater savings.
The JLab Audio JBuds Air are the best-kept secret in wireless earbuds for exceptional value, with sound quality that exceeds their price.
Pros: Well-designed, excellent sound, and low cost
Cons: Some connectivity issues, and buttons can be tricky.
True wireless earbuds are all the rage right now, and for good reason: they’re small, portable, and can sound fantastic if you find the correct pair. Quality wireless earbuds that match the performance of larger full-size headphones are normally more expensive, but the Jlabs Jbuds Air defy this trend.
The Jbuds Air do really sound fantastic. This level of audio would be expected from wireless earphones costing $100 or more. They have three built-in equalizer (EQ) presets, including Jlab’s trademark EQ, which offers a powerful, energetic sound while also adding bass boost and clarity to quieter songs.
Noise cancellation isn’t available, but that’s fine because it’s not expected at this price point. The earplug design that fits in your ear canal still provides some noise isolation. The Jbuds Air come with three sizes of ear tips to ensure a perfect fit.
The built-in microphone may be used to make phone calls, and touch sensors on each bud can be used to control volume, track change, pick up phone calls, and even activate Siri or Google Assistant.
Although the battery life is typical of most wireless earbuds, we appreciate the built-in USB-A charging cable. It’s a touch short, but it keeps everything tidy.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x are a well-made pair of entry-level headphones with excellent sound quality.
Pros: Solid 3.5mm cable with 6.3mm adapter, well-made, comfy, amazing sound for the price.
Cons: In comparison to more expensive models, the bass response is lackluster.
Audio-Technica is a household name when it comes to studio-quality headphones. The business produces a variety of inexpensive options, such the ATH-M20x over-ear headphones, as well as a large portfolio of professional-grade cans that cost hundreds of dollars.
The ATH-M20x studio headphones are designed to be an entry-level set with a full-sized over-ear design and 40mm drivers.
They function well with phones, but the ATH-M20x really shines when connected to a computer or television. When connected to your electronics, they give outstanding sound quality in the high and mid frequencies, with enough impedance to minimize unwanted interference (such as subtle buzzing). The sound is clean, clear, and accurate, but don’t anticipate deep bass.
The leatherette-covered padded ear cups and cushioned headband are pleasant to use for long periods of time, and the cups also provide superb noise isolation, filtering out the bulk of ambient sounds and not bothering anyone around you unless you’re really cranking up the volume.
The ATH-M20x may be considered the little brother of Audio-ATH Technica’s series, as these are effectively a less expensive version of the M40x and M50x, which are both highly praised but cost more. The ATH-M20x, on the other hand, is a fantastic value at nearly half the price of the M40x.
If you’re seeking to replace your earphones with something more substantial but yet portable, the Koss PortaPro is the way to go.
Pros: Excellent sound quality for its size, lightweight and comfy, and foldable design.
Cons: The on-ear design does not provide noise isolation.
One pair of portable on-ear headphones stands out above the rest: the legendary Koss PortaPro. The PortaPro has been around for decades and has garnered a legendary status among head-fi enthusiasts. This is due to their high productivity in comparison to their small size and low cost. The PortaPro may not have the same depth of sound as a pair of over-ear studio headphones, but they nevertheless perform admirably in the audio category.
A thin, flexible metal headband connects the on-ear cushions. The plastic ear pieces fold inwards for transportation, and the headband has an easy slide adjustment. The PortaPros’ lightweight design may take some getting used to, but they are surprisingly robust.
The PortaPro also excels in terms of audio quality. Lows, mids, and highs all have a snappy and responsive quality to them. Just keep in mind that on-ear headphones won’t be as noise-isolating as over-ear headphones. Others will hear you if you prefer to crank up the volume.
The Koss PortaPro could be the ideal pair of travel headphones, and they’re a great deal. You can even get a version with Bluetooth capability for wireless listening if you’re prepared to pay a little more.
The HyperX Cloud Stinger from Kingston has everything you need for long gaming sessions without sacrificing quality.
Pros: Outperforms similarly priced headsets, has a comfortable design, good audio and microphone quality, and is compatible with all modern gaming systems.
Cons: The microphone can be folded but not removed.
The audiophile community has a negative perception of gaming headsets. However, in recent years, these headsets have improved significantly, with firms such as Kingston launching remarkable versions such as the superb HyperX Cloud series.
The Cloud Stinger, Kingston’s budget-friendly HyperX variant, is our pick. One of the reasons audiophiles frown on gaming headsets is that the built-in microphone forces manufacturers to cram more circuitry into the housing, potentially lowering sound quality. The Cloud Stinger, on the other hand, doesn’t scrimp on hardware, with massive 50mm directional speakers that pump out enormous sound.
Large rotating memory foam ear cups house the drivers and are comfy enough for hours of gaming. While the rest of the headphone housing is made of polymer, it feels sturdy without being overly weighty.
The drivers are huge, but they’re rather basic, and the sound quality is adequate but not spectacular. If you want super-detailed studio-quality sound, you’ll just have to pay a lot more money. The directional drivers help you pick up on in-game environmental details and effectively separate noise.
The microphone is fairly durable, but it cannot be removed when using the Stinger as regular headphones. It effortlessly folds away when not in use. The HyperX Cloud Stinger, on the other hand, is difficult to blame for the price.
For the price, the iFrogz Impulse Duo headphones provide good sound quality.
Pros: Great design, reasonable price, Bluetooth connection
Cons: The sound quality isn’t as good as some of the other selections on this list.
Apart from sounding well for the price, the iFrogz Impulse Duo earphones were chosen over all the other budget earbuds we tested because of their design.
The dual driver design provides these earbuds an aural advantage over their competitors. However, these earphones generally succeed where most Bluetooth models fail: iFrogz integrated all of their technology onto a magnetic clip rather than an awkward dongle that hangs off the cable connecting both buds.
You can now listen to music by clipping the dongle to your clothes and inserting the headphones. You shouldn’t expect an audiophile-quality experience at this price point, but you shouldn’t expect a bad one either. These are an improved version of the iFrogz earbuds that were previously published, and while the design remains the same, time was spent increasing the sound quality.
This is how I’ll put it to you: Between reviews, I use these headphones because they’re so simple to use. Coiling them up and slipping them into my pocket after a commute is just so convenient. — Ranj, Brandt
The Panasonic ErgoFit earphones are about as basic as wired earbuds headphones get, but they deliver remarkable sound quality.
Pros: Great bargain, comfortable fit, built-in microphone, and call control
Cons: Some build quality flaws; audio performance is adequate for the price but not comparable to more expensive earphones.
If you don’t mind a totally wired design, Panasonic’s ErgoFit earbuds offer a lot of value. Sure, you won’t get Bluetooth playback and you’ll have to deal with wires running down your ears, but few in-ear headphones in this price range can match the ErgoFit’s overall quality.
Each earbud has a 9mm neodymium magnet driver, which produces a very solid sound for the price. To be honest, you won’t get audiophile-level sound, but Tom’s Guide and Reviewed both praise the ErgoFit’s powerful bass performance. Although the overall clarity is merely adequate, the earphones provide a lot for a small price.
The ErgoFit earbuds don’t have a lot of extra functions, but they do have an integrated microphone and call control for easy use with smartphones. The mic is a good addition, but you won’t have the ease of a Bluetooth wireless connection.
The overall build quality isn’t particularly impressive, but that’s to be expected from such a low-cost headphone model. If you want to save even more money, Panasonic offers an ErgoFit without the microphone and remote for even less money.