Looking for cheap headphones, but don't want to skimp on sound quality, comfort, and modern conveniences like noise cancelation and Bluetooth? You've come to the right place.
Headphones are like pieces of art: while the real connoisseurs can spend a fortune on them, for most folks, budget models work just as well. Just like art, there's a big difference between finger painting and Picasso – with a happy medium somewhere in between – and the same is true for headphones.
Here at TechRadar, we’ve sort of built a reputation for covering all of the latest, greatest and priciest technology in the world. However, even in the face of all of that high-end equipment, we still have a passion for finding great tech items that anyone can afford, and the best cheap headphones are a great place to start.
It’s this passion for affordability that inspired us to create this list of the best cheap headphones on the market in 2020 – we’ve put our bargain-hunting prowess to great use and found a great deal of cheap headphones that you can buy without thinking twice about it.
By their very nature, the headphones you prefer will ultimately boil down to your own personal taste. However, seeing as the headphone market is extremely saturated, it is genuinely hard to figure out what the best headphones for your tastes actually are. That’s where we come in.
Now, bear with us – it’s impossible to get our hands on every affordable pair of headphones, but we won’t recommend anything we haven’t used ourselves. So if we missed your favorite pair of Beats headphones, it wasn’t on purpose, we assure you.
With this guide, we went through a process – exhaustively testing a huge amount of cheap headphones from all over the internet in every style under the sun. In-ear, over-ear, wireless – everything you can think of.
We then took the results of all of this exhaustive testing, and measured each headphone against each other until we could confidently pick a few to proudly wear the ‘best cheap headphones’ badge. So rest assured, even if we didn’t pick your favorite headphone, there isn’t a single pair in this list that will disappoint.
- Update: If you're looking for a premium noise-cancelling headphone and don't want to shell out for the flagship models from Bose and Sony, check out the JBL Live 650BTNC - it's available right now for $199 on Amazon!
Best cheap headphones at a glance
Cheap earphones: RHA MA390
Cheap wireless earphones: OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2
Cheap on-ear headphones: Grado SR60e
Cheap on-ear wireless headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT
Cheap over-ear headphones: Monoprice 8323 Hi-FI DJ Style Headphones
Cheap noise-canceling headphones: Taotronics TT-BH040
Cheap studio monitor headphones: Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro
What are the best cheap headphones?
Everyone's talking about true wireless, but there are still plenty of reasons to go wired. Two of the biggest reasons is sound quality and price. While there are cheap wireless headphones out there, they usually sound much worse than wired headphones for the same price.
In the budget in-ear headphone category, you usually sacrifice sound and build quality for price. However, there are rare gems that are affordable, sound great, and are built well. The RHA MA390 is one of those headphones.
While the RHA MA390 is the cheapest headphone the company makes, it doesn’t sacrifice on build quality, design, or sound: These headphones are beautifully crafted out of aluminum, feature a braided cable, and a universal remote that works with Android and iOS. While not perfect, the RHA M390 are an excellent value in the budget in-ear category.
If these don't take you fancy, check out our roundup of the best earbuds for every budget.
Read the full review: RHA MA390 in-ear headphones review
OnePlus is most known for its “flagship killer” phones like the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro,, but the company also makes headphones – the best example of which are the company’s excellent Bullets Wireless 2, which offer an incredible value in the neck-bud headphone category.
In terms of audio quality, they boast a lively sonic presentation and an accurate-feeling soundstage, although bass-heads may want to look elsewhere for headphones that pack a bassier punch.
They may be $30 more expensive than their predecessors, but the improved battery life and sound quality makes up for that; it also makes it worth upgrading if you have the originals and are due a new pair of wireless earbuds.
Read the full review: OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 review
For your money, you can't do any better than Grado's SR60e. The third-generation of the Brooklyn, NY-based company's Prestige Series is its best and most refined yet.
The SR60e in particular is a smart choice if you're looking for an entry-level set of headphones that sounds like it should cost you way more than it does.
Their open-backed ear cup design makes them a more breathable experience than what most on-ear headphones can deliver, although this does mean that they're not ideal for use in loud environments where sound can 'leak' in and disrupt your listening.
That said, in terms of pure sound quality, they're our gold-standard when it comes to on-ears.
Read the full review: Grado SR60i review (our review is for the SR60i, but the newer SR60e headphones are largely similar in design and performance).
You, like everyone else, probably wants a set of headphones that nails the tricky blend of design, useful features and incredible sound. You might think that you need to flush your savings to enjoy such a pair of cans. Protip: you don't.
The Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT are a well-built, great-sounding, long-lasting pair of headphones. Their features constantly outweigh their modest price and we can’t get enough of that 40-hour battery life. While technological advancements usually mean a premium price, that's just not the case with the Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT.
Read the full review: Audio-Technica ATH-S200BT review
It’s easy to spend an arm and a leg on good over-ear headphones. Barring the exception of noise-cancelling and planar magnetic cans, they are the top dogs of the audio world. Really good over-ears should be the most comfortable, most versatile headphones in your audio arsenal. They should be just as adept with Hi-Def audio sources of 16-bit/44.1KHz as they are streaming from Spotify, and they should do so without sacrificing either end of the audio spectrum.
In our testing we found a half-dozen that can do the job (the Status Audio CB-1 come to mind, as do the Sennheiser HD201 and Audio-Technica ATH-M20X) but, of them all, the Monoprice 8323 Hi-FI DJ Style Headphones are the cream of the crop. They’re a bit cheaper constructed than the others, but for their price they sound outrageously clear. Balanced and powerful, the Monoprice 8323 is the epitome of what the best cheap headphones should be.
If you’re not wedded to the idea of owning full-size headphones, there’s quite a lot of competition worth considering around this price. However, you can’t argue with the Taotronics TT-BH040s' value: while not packed with character, they carry themselves with a premium look above the affordable price tag, with aluminum touches and a generally pleasant design.
From a distance, and even close up, few would guess they are so affordable ... just don’t buy them expecting the same performance as the most desirable pairs from Beats, Sennheiser or Bose.
Beyerdynamic makes loads of equipment for both audiophiles and audio professionals, and some of it comes at a high price. But, the Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro headphones find a sweet spot offering professional audio and a high standard in design for a lower price point.
The DT 240 Pro headphones cost $99 (£89, AU$139), making them more affordable than heaps of other studio monitor headphones. This price puts them in close competition with some of Audio-Technica’s cans, like the widely praised ATH-M40X or the wireless ATH-SR5BT, which can be found on sale in the same ballpark as the DT 240 Pro.
Beyerdynamic shines in performance with the DT 240 Pro. As studio monitor headphones, the sound produced is not very colorful, but that’s exactly as it should be. All the sound comes through clean and incredibly well balanced.
The bass is easy to pick up on without being thumpy, though with a subtle punch at higher volumes. From the bass on up to the high end, all the sounds mesh clearly, with the DT 240 Pros not boosting one register over the other.
They're neutral, perfect for recording and best of all, cheap.
Read the full review: Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO review
What to look for in cheap headphones
In order to create this guide, we’ve tested, listened to and compared over 25 headphones in every category, shape and size. When we found a great pair, we then put it against the rest back-to-back-to-back to make sure they still really deserved the title of ‘best cheap headphones’.
You might be wondering what we were looking for through all this expansive testing? Sound fidelity was clearly the most essential detail – but we also made sure to consider comfort, design and other features also.
Like most people, we prefer our music detail-rich and well-balanced. We can live with our music sounding a bit warm with an emphasis on the mids and highs, but we still like to be able to feel the bass. Also, it’s important to look for headphones with reasonable battery life if they’re wireless, a robust, durable build that will stand up to the trials of everyday commute and comfortable padding to help make longer listening sittings nice and comfortable.
Keep in mind though, that testing headphones will be, at least on some level, subjective, and our taste in tonal balance might not match yours (neither will the size of our head or the shape of our ears). Still, we’ve done our best to take subjectivity out of the equation and can present, through our expertise, the best cheap headphones that won’t hurt your wallet.
- Want the best-of-the-best, no expense spared? These are the best headphones of 2020
Source: TechRadar - All the latest technology news
By: Nick Pino,Olivia Tambini