The headphone you really want probably cost a few hundred pounds, but the bank balance doesn't always match. 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.
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.
- Reviewed on: 24 July 2019
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 Soundmagic E11BT review.
- Reviewed on: 23 September 2019
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 Xiaomi Redmi AirDots review.
- Reviewed on: 21 January 2019
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 SoundMagic E11C review.
- Reviewed on: 5 October 2015
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 Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2 review.
- Reviewed on: 28 November 2018
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 OnePlus Type-C Bullets review.
- Reviewed on: 26 April 2018
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 RHA MA650 Wireless review.
- Reviewed on: 17 May 2019
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 OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 review.
- Reviewed on: 14 July 2017
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 Audio-Technica ATH-AR3BT review.
- Reviewed on: 3 July 2018
The Bullets Wireless are a decent option for neckbuds and OnePlus has done a good job with its first pair of wireless headphones.
They're lightweight and comfortable and offer some nifty features including automatic play/pause via the magnetic connection. Getting good battery life from just a 10 minute Dash Charge will be a boon, too.
These just don't sound mind blowing when it comes to sound quality but that's fine for the price. Bear in mind, they sound better with phones that have aptX and don't play too nicely with an iPhone.
Read our OnePlus Bullets Wireless review.
- Reviewed on: 14 December 2018
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.