In this list of the top 10 best headphones under $50, we want to show you that it’s easier than ever to get great-sounding headphones on a budget. While it’s true that there are also a lot of cheap headphones out there you want to avoid; there are also some excellent options that offer tremendous value and can compete with far more expensive models without damaging effects on your wallet. In this buyer’s guide, I want to list only products that I would consider if I was looking to spend under $50 in 2019.
The top 10 Best Headphones under $50 2020
Status Audio CB-1 – Best Closed Back Headphone Under $50
- Noise Isolating
- Premium Sound
The Status Audio CB-1 won our budget headphone of the year back in 2019 and it’s still every bit as good as every in 2021. Its closed-back design blocks out lots of noise while the headband and earpads are extremely comfortable. We also like the understated design with no flashy logos and a tastefully done color scheme.
The sound is very detailed and comes with a neutral tuning. It works well with almost every genre providing you a taste of what more expensive headphones sound like. The best thing about them? They cost almost half the price they did when they were first released so check out the link below to see if there are any deals going on.
Superlux HD681 Evo – Best Sounding Cheap Open-Back Headphones
- Excellent sound
- Open Back
- Very Comfortable with velour pads
We discovered the budget brilliance that is the Superlux HD681 Evo a few years ago. Since then, they have been one of the most highly recommended headphones for people who are looking for a taste of audiophile sound without the horrendous expense.
The Evo is incredible value for money and, in my opinion, the best-sounding headphone on this list. Detailed and balanced with an insane amount of space and soundstage for a sub $50 headphone
They are insanely comfy, come with 2 pad options (Pleather and Velour) and have a decent build quality.
The cables are replaceable with aftermarket options, and if you look around on online audio forums, you will find extensive options for modifying Superlux headphones to your own needs.
Koss Porta Pro – Best Cheap Portable Headphones
- Legendary Design
- One of the best sounding headphones under $50
The Koss Porta Pro is a legendary headphone. They have been around for over 25 years, yet they still manage to be one of the best-selling headphones on the planet.
Compact form factor and next to indestructible design are one thing, but the sound is the star of the show. You get a lovely balanced sound with lots of detail and a crisp clarity you don’t get from earphones under $50.
If you are feeling adventurous, there are many mods for the Koss, which can elevate them to an even higher level for zero extra cost.
The retro style is also a top reason that these headphones sell well. Instantly recognizable for those in the know, and they look unlike anything else currently on the market.
Audio Technica M20x – Best Studio Monitors Under $50
- Excellent build quality
- Good for Isolation
The M20x is the little brother of the massively popular ATH-M50x. So much of the DNA of the more expensive model spills into this budget headphone that they really are quite hard to beat as a set of all-rounders.
Build quality is exceptional for this price, and the sound is clean and tight with a good solid punch to the low end. They are designed to be used primarily as a set of budget studio monitors, and as such, they are made to last.
Style-wise these are on point, and whilst they are quite big, the low profile does mean that they are suitable for portable use at a push.
Shure SRH-145 – A fun portable headphone
- Ultra Portable
- Built in Mic with good sound quality
If you are looking for a solid set of headphones for travel or simply just a fan of the smaller footprint of an on-ear headphone, then the Shure SRH145 is a great option.
A nice sturdy headband that folds up to make the headphones positively tiny is paired with a set of deceptively plush earpads. A great option for people on the go who don’t want to deal with carrying around some of the bulkier options on this list.
Note that these are on-ear headphones, so they sit directly on top of your outer ear. I would suggest you are either familiar with the style or try them out before purchasing as some people struggle with comfort over long listening sessions with this headphone style.
Monoprice 8323 – Super Cheap Studio Headphone
- Excellent budget headphones for monitoring
- Flat sound presentation
If you are just looking for very inexpensive headphones that sound good and you won’t be devastated if they get damaged the 8323 is a solid unit. There’s nothing remarkable about the build or the sound quality but when considering they cost just half the budget we set for this article then they start to look pretty tasty.
Anker Soundcore Life Q20 – Best Noise Canceling Headphones
- A lot of tech for the money
- Working noise canceling
- Good build quality
The Anker Soundcore Life Q20 is the heaviest hitting headphones on the list. Packed full of tech and yet all good quality this is the headphone you want to buy if you want wireless functionality and noise cancelation.
The headphones have a fun bassy sound to them and they work well with most genres. Not the most detailed but I love the fact I can turn the ANC on and block out most of the ambient noise around me.
The build quality is also surprisingly good as is comfort. Battery life is big at over 40 hours from a single charge and a mind-melting 60 hours in normal wireless mode. Outstanding headphones for the price.
- Simple cheap headphones with good analytical sound for the price.
While the 840 are not going to win any prizes for the best-looking set of headphones on our list, they sound so good they are worthy of attention.
These would make a great set of headphones for the office due to the closed-back design offering above-average isolation from external noise. They are very well made, and the comfort also won us over, thanks to the generous padding.
The sound is smooth and refreshingly crisp; the H840 offers more than most headphones in pushing forward the clarity of the midrange and extending into the top notes. This makes them very clear and accurate sounding headphones for the price. One that is devoid of too much additional coloration of the sound.
JBL Quantum 100 – Best Cheap Gaming Headset
- Gaming Headset with built in mic
- Well made
The only gaming headset on our list of best headphones under $50 and they are really good value for money. If you don’t have a lot of money for gaming spending less money on headphones and more on your computer and peripherals will give you a better experience. With the Quantum 100 you really aren’t missing out much other than materials and design.
This headset does the basics very well with clear and flat sound and a built in mic that sounded pretty decent. We also found they were very comfortable to wear over long sessions due to the large well padded earpads.
House of Marley Rebel
- Fashion forward on ear headphones
- Strong bluetooth reception
- Very well built.
Usually, I wouldn’t go for a set of fashionable headphones. I always prioritize sound first and then styling, so what about finding something that sounds good, looks good and doesn’t cost the world.
The House of Marley wireless fit the bill for me with heir inclusion of Bluetooth connectivity, simple, clean lines, and a warm yet fun sound signature.
You get 10 hours of playback from a single charge, and despite being all plastic, they feel remarkably well put together.
The only thing we didn’t like during the testing process was the inability to fold the headphones due to the single-piece construction of the headband.
- Extremely impressive balanced sound
- Cheap mods can take them to the next level
The Samson SR850 is one of the first headphones I ever reviewed, and today, they still stand the test of time for budget audiophiles.
The beautifully clear and detailed sound they are competitors to the Superlux headphones adorned this list’s top.
They are open back, so the sound is also spacious, and you also have the option to do a few simple mods to tune them to your own taste.
Studio monitor styling is great, and they are also super comfortable to wear over the course of a long listening session.
Monoprice BT 300anc
- Bluetooth and ANC
- Great for travel
- Bassy fun sound
These Monoprice headphones are big full-size cans designed for travel. The big size comes with one huge advantage in the huge driver lurking inside.
The BT 300ANC works well for various musical genres but really comes into its own on EDM and other electronic styles with big bass.
It’s an unashamed budget bass monster of a headphone, but there exists enough sparkle in the top notes to keep pace and blend the sound.
They also have noise-canceling tech and quick control buttons built-in.
- A long lasting dependable headphone
- Classic Design
- Neatral sound works well for monitoring and music production
The Sennheiser HD206 is a design that has been around for years and is a staple entry-level headphone to the Sennheiser Brand. This is another headphone that is designed as a workhorse. Its meant to be a cheap option for students, musicians, and studios who put a lot of wear and tear on their headphones.
The sound is flat and neutral and the comfort is acceptable. There is also a running joke that when the world ends all that will be left is cockroaches and Sennheiser HD206’s so I guess that’s testament to their long-term durability.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING HEADPHONES UNDER $50
As I mentioned above, there are many options for headphones in the sub $50 category. It seems to be the price that most people are comfortable with paying, but that doesn’t mean they should settle for whatever is cheap. Price at this market point is not reflective of sound quality or build quality.
Some headphone manufacturers can sell their headphones cheap because of the economies of scale. For example, Sony and JVC move many headphones in this price range, so production costs are less because of the competition due to large batch orders at the factories. On the other hand, small companies that grow through word of mouth and have no marketing budget that raises the price can also be competitive.
Finally, it’s tough to ignore the rise of the Chinese HiFi market. We talk about this a lot here at Audiophile. In the past decade, generic brand Chinese companies have moved from producing low-quality tat to some outstanding value audio products such as headphones, earphones, and DAPs (Digital Audio Players).
With production and design costs being so low in China, they have become a real threat to the big brand audio companies and can offer cheap headphones that compete with those many times their price.
AVOID BUYING CHEAP HEADPHONES PURELY FOR FASHION
The biggest mistake I see when buying cheap headphones is purchasing the one that looks the best. I agree this is important as the style of the headphones can match your style. There is, after all, a reason why the Beats headphones come in so many different colors.
However, if these are something you will use daily, there are three other areas to consider when purchasing new headphones. Comfort, Build Quality, and Sound Quality. At under $50, you will have to make sacrifices in each area, but it tends to work out best in the long run if you consider what you want from your headphones in terms of performance and how you are most likely to use them.
YOU DON’T ALWAYS NEED TO SHOP FOR KNOWN BRANDS
As mentioned above, one of the most amazing things in audio advancement over the past few years is what’s known as the “ChiFi” revolution (Chinese Hifi). Before, if you want quality, you would be looking for brands such as Sony, Bose, JVC, etc. Things have changed, and many companies have come out of China and are offering bang for your buck. Budget headphones are better than ever.
These Chinese companies are putting out incredible sounding headphones at prices we could only dream of just a few years ago. Therefore, people in the know who are immersed in the audiophile headphone world have hunted high and low to find the best options for you under $50.
In some cases, a sub $50 headphone from a relatively unknown headphone company can sound better than a set of $200+ headphones from established brand names.
OVER-EAR HEADPHONES VS ON-EAR HEADPHONES
In this category, we will cover both on-ear headphones and over-ear headphones for under $50. The reason to choose one over the other comes down to user preference. For example, if you want to use your headphones exclusively at home or in the office, then maybe you will be better with the added comfort of over-ear full-size headphones. However, if you are someone who travels a lot or is limited for space when doing so, you may prefer the more compact design of an on-ear headphone.
We have found that both headphones’ styles can sound very good during our testing over the past few years. As a result, we would generally advise you to once again look at how you intend to use your headphones and choose the one that best suits your needs.
Advantage: Over-ear Headphones
- Usually more comfortable with less pressure on the outer ear
- The larger size means the ability to house larger drivers
- Tend to isolate better from environmental noise
Advantages: On-Ear Headphones
- Usually more compact
- Lighter due to less material used in construction
- Less susceptible to the build-up of heat around the ears.
Closed-Back headphones vs. Open Back Headphones
Again you will see both types of headphones listed above, and yet again, it is important to consider how you use your headphones before deciding what is best. A closed-back headphone is great for commuting or traveling as it allows you to block out a lot more external noise than with an open-back design. An open back has some really unique acoustic properties and can sound very airy and spacious when done right.