The headphone you really want probably cost a few hundred pounds, but the bank balance doesn't always facilitate. Luckily, you can get decent budget headphones giving you great sound on the go.
We've reviewed the best cheap headphones you can buy, all under £100 with many under £50, with a range of style styles and types for you to choose from. Scroll past the list for some buying advice on choosing the right pair.
Best cheap headphones 2020
1. Soundmagic E11BT
While the Soundmagic E11C headphones were top of our charts for quite some time, the updated wireless E11BT earphones now take the crown.
The neckbuds are incredibly light at 25g, comes with three pairs of eartips to find the perfect fit and offer advanced features like Bluetooth 5.0 and AAC support, but it's the incredible battery life that stands out. You get around 40-60 hours per charge depending on usage, and charges up in only two hours.
The company hasn't forgotten about the audio though, with the E11BTs sporting a built-in 24bit DAC that helps provide clear, crisp audio with prominent - but not overpowering - bass. They may be more expensive than the E11Cs, but we think the E11BTs are worth the extra.
Read our full Soundmagic E11BT review
2. Xiaomi Redmi AirDots
Xiaomi has proven that you don't need to spend hundreds of pounds to get decent wireless earbuds. The Redmi AirDots are astonishing for the the price considering how many pairs you could buy for the same cost as Apple's AirPods.
There's no immitation dangly design here and they provide excellent sound quality along with strong battery life. It's also simple enough to pair them and use the controls.
No volume control and a lack of any waterproofing are minor complaints, and are acceptable considering the low asking price here. If you need very cheap wireless earbuds, these are the ones.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi AirDots review
3. SoundMagic E11C
SoundMagic has come up trumps with the E11C headphones, setting a high standard for what to expect from a budget pair of cans.
They're stylish, comfortable and have excellent features like an in-line control that works with both iOS and Android. We'd like more tips in the box, but it's not the end of the world, especially considering how good they sound.
Subtle tweaks in the audio profile, mean these headphones punch above their weight in sound quality. Powerful, yet balanced and considered tuning make them very versatile indeed.
Read our full SoundMagic E11C review
4. Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2
If you want great-quality sound at an affordable price, the Alfa Genus V2 should be on your shortlist.
They're excellent in-ear headphones for under £50 providing good build quality but more importantly, great sound quality. This is largely due to the interchangeable filters.
It might sound like a gimmick but they mean you can change the audio profile depending on your personal taste and/or what you're using them for at any given moment.
Read our full Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2 review
5. OnePlus Type-C Bullets
There’s not a lot to say apart from these are the best USB-C headphones at the time of writing. They cost under £20/$20 and sound far better than that price suggests.
If you have a phone with USB-C and want some headphones we can recommend the OnePlus Type-C Bullets because they worked on every USB-C phone we tested them on as well as MacBooks and Windows laptops.
Read our full OnePlus Type-C Bullets review
6. RHA MA650 Wireless
For under £100, the RHA MA650 earphones are impressive; though some may be put off by the neckband design, we think there are enough benefits (improved battery life, earbud security, etc) to make it worth inclusion. The range of eartips included shows that RHA goes the extra mile, and should cater to all ear shapes and sizes.
But it’s in the audio department that the MA650s really shine; audio is crisp, clear with a decent bass response, and the passive noise cancellation works impressively well too.
Read our full RHA MA650 Wireless review
7. Tribit QuietPlus ANC
Though the active noise-cancelling on the Tribit QuietPlus ANC isn't as powerful as flagship rivals, it's still quite effective, considering the headset's price of £89.99.
On top of that, you also get a well-balanced audio quality, a 30-hour battery life, USB-C charging, a comfortable wear and a reliable Bluetooth connection.
There aren't any customisable options when it comes to audio, and they don't match the luxury style that other headphones boast. Nonetheless, they still give you a lot for your money.
Read our full Tribit QuietPlus ANC review
8. OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2
At £99 these aren't quite the slam-dunk easy sell that the first generation headphones were, but there have been enough improvements in design, battery life, and audio quality to justify that jump. Competition at this price point is tougher, but the Bullets Wireless 2 still hold their own, and are a great buy whether you use a OnePlus phone or not.
Read our full OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 review
9. Audio-Technica ATH-AR3BT
Audio-Technica's ATH-AR3BT headphones deliver a balanced soundscape and solid build at a reasonable price. With a mid-range price and a jack-of-all-trades listening experience, these should be a good fit for anyone with a broad range of music in mind.
Read our full Audio-Technica ATH-AR3BT review
10. Hër On-Ear Bluetooth Stereo Headphones
German brand Hër’s on-ear Bluetooth stereo headphones packs clear and fairly lush sound in a compact and elegant design. They're decidedly marketed to women, with soft colours and minimalist design. Some profits go to the German Committee for UN Women.
They offer a fairly balanced bass and treble range, making them ideal for daily commuters and casual listeners. And while battery life is strong wireless performance could be improved with more range and fewer drop outs.
Read our full Hër On-Ear Bluetooth Stereo Headphones review
Your buying guide for the best cheap headphones in 2020
Mobile music lovers have never had it so good - although some modern smartphones no longer have a headphone jack, the standard headphones you get with smartphones are at an all-time high in terms of quality.
This does tend to be flagship phones though and cheaper ones might not even come with some in the box. Either way, spending a little to upgrade your headphones is one of the best ways to get the most from a smartphone, or any other portable music player.
The instant lift in audio quality needs to be heard to be believed – better, more impactful bass, crisper, more detailed treble and better isolation from the outside world are all worth the investment. Choosing headphones isn’t just about improved audio quality, though – there are plenty of things to consider to make sure you end up with something that suits you perfectly. We also have a chart just for the best wireless headphones.
It's highly inlikely that cheap headphones will have noise cancelling but we have a dedicated round-up for the best noise cancelling headphones which you can browse.
Types of cheap headphones
In general, there are three types of headphones to choose from: in-ear, on-ear and over-ear. They do as you would expect although often have different names and within each category you can get various styles.
Most buyers will be looking for the first two, as over-ear headphones are big and heavy so are more suited for static use at home or at your desk.
The cheapest are in-ear, or earbuds, as they are the most basic but getting on-ear headphones might improve both comfort and sound quality.
Look out for extra features like an in-line control, microphone and comfortable foam tips.
Find out how we test audio.