Whoever you're buying for this Christmas, you can rarely go wrong with a shiny new pair of headphones – but it can be tricky to find pairs with a decent level of audio quality when you're on a budget.
That's why we've put together this guide of the best headphones under £30, perfect for filling up your kids' stocking or gifting to a friend or loved one.
It's worth noting that the headphones and earphones on this list probably won't appeal to hardcore audio nerds as the sound quality won't match more high-spec models. So, if you're purchasing a gift for the discerning music lover in your life, check out our Christmas gift guide for audiophiles.
For casual listeners however, any one of the headphones on this list will make a wonderful surprise come December 25.
While wired headphones may be going the way of the dodo as headphone jacks continue to disappear from phones, there are still plenty of reasons to go wired. Two of the biggest: sound quality and price. While there are cheap wireless headphones out there, they sound much worse than wired headphones for the same price.
Budget in-ear headphones typically 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.
- Read our RHAmMA390 review
Another offering from the budget brand – at first glance, these Skullcandy in-ears look as cheap as their price tag. But closer inspection reveals good sound for such a lightweight and inexpensive pair of headphones. Plus, they come in seven different colors, so you'll easily be able to find a pair to suit everyone on your Christmas list.
While wired headphones can be great, being constantly tethered to your phone, MP3 Player or PC can be downright irritating. If you find yourself ready to tear the cord out of the jack once and for all, you need a pair of wireless cans.
For those looking to cut the cord on the cheap, the Creative Sound Blaster JAM is the way to go. It's lightweight, sounds great and is dirt cheap. What makes it on-ear headphones? Well, the foam earpads sit directly on top of your ears instead of encompassing them entirely, which some folks find more comfortable.
Our only real complaint about the Creative Sound Blaster JAM is that, because they're on-ear headphones, they let in ambient noise like nobody's business. This is totally fine for the dull roar of an office (and might even be helpful if someone needs to grab your attention real quick) but, for commuters or anyone who can't stand to hear the outside world while listening to their tunes, you're best served looking at one of the over-ear options coming up on the list.
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 don't want to spend a lot on a pair of wireless headphone, these Soundpeats earbuds offer an excellent value. Generally available for under £22, they have a decent sound for headphones at this price point and no glaring deficiencies. Plus, they're magnetized so you can wear them like a necklace when not using them.