The best cheap headphones for 2024: top budget cans and earbuds

Best cheap headphones: Sony WF-C700N in lavender on green and blue TR background
(Image credit: Sony)

Which are the best cheap headphones? It's a question we get asked a lot. And cheap listening gear is ideal given the current climate, right? So anyone who wants a pair of budget headphones or earbuds that sound great and are well-built, read on. Gone are the days when you have to pay a lot to get a great-sounding pair of cans or buds. There are now many affordable options that are worth checking out.

Of course, for headphones to be this cheap, compromises are common. Many high-end alternatives tend to be fantastic all-rounders with beautifully balanced sound and a stunning design. However, cheap headphones have their merits as well. Many are packed with extra features, like Bluetooth and active noise cancellation, as well as deliver great audio in a robust, comfortable design. 

It's actually quite difficult to buy a bad pair of headphones now. As you'll see from this guide, even very inexpensive headphones can deliver surprisingly good sound, and technology that until recently came with a three-figure price tag has made its way into budget headphones that cost a fraction of the price. The only really hard bit is deciding which ones to choose, which is why we put this guide together for you.

If affordability isn’t your top priority or if you've got a little bit of wiggle room in your budget, check out our best headphones guide and best earbuds guide for our pick of the top audio tech around right now. Some of those headphones are included here, but there are plenty of other really great options out there too. Here, we'll only focus on the headphones that'll make your wallet as happy as they make your ears. These are our favourite cheap headphones you can buy today. 

The Quick List

If you want to get right to it with our easy-to-browse list of the best cheap headphones for different needs, take a look at this quick guide. You can then click to instantly jump to more of a full write-up of each model.

Recent updates

June 12, 2024
Reordered and added new products in a conversion of this guide. Added Earfun Wave Pro, Sony WH-CH520, Sony WF-C700N, JLab Go Air Pop, Skullcandy Set USB-C and Final VR500.

The best cheap headphones of 2024

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The best cheap headphones overall

The Earfun Wave Pro on a wooden backdrop.

(Image credit: Future)
The best headphones overall

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 268g
Frequency response: Up to 40kHz
Drivers: 40mm
Battery life (on-board): 80 hours (55 w/ANC)

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible battery life
+
Solid build quality
+
Admirable sound for price

Reasons to avoid

-
Takes a little too long to turn off
-
Fiddly ANC control
-
Only one color option

The best cheap headphones you can buy today are the Earfun Wave Pro. They tick all of the boxes, they sound good, have an outstanding battery life and a solid build quality. Unless you're adamant on getting a pair of in-ear buds, you can't go wrong with the Earfun Wave Pro.

These Earfun over-ears are some of the best-sounding headphones we've ever reviewed for the price. In our review we wrote that they're not going to compare with high-end headphones, but no cheap headphones will. Instead, they offer solid, well-balanced sound with an impressive maximum volume.

Another major pro of these headphones is their longevity. They boast a battery life of up to 80 hours and with ANC that'll drop, but to 55 hours, which is still impressive. There's also a decent Earfun app, which isn't essential but does let you tweak the sound and ANC settings. 

When we were testing the Earfun Wave Pro we said we were pleasantly surprised by their build quality. They might be a simple-looking pair of over-ears, but they're practical, folding down to make them easy to carry in their accompanying sturdy case. The fact the headband and cups are adjustable is great news for comfort, too. There are also soft memory foam cups and a total weight of 268g, which in our review we said makes them "easy-breezy to wear".

Read our full Earfun Wave Pro review

The best cheap on-ear cans

Sony WH-CH520 headphones on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
The best cheap on-ear cans

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 137g
Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz
Drivers: 30mm
Battery life (on-board): 50 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Very well-balanced sound
+
Audio customization in the app works great
+
Bluetooth multi-point pairing
+
50-hour battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
On-ear design isn't for everyone
-
Noise isolation isn't the best
-
No 3.5mm jack

The Sony WH-CH520 are super cheap, on-ear wireless headphones from Sony, coming in at only $60 / £60 / AU$99. These headphones are on-ear rather than in-ear or over-ear, which means you won't get active noise cancellation or Hi-Res Audio support (but you wouldn't expect to at this price), but they deliver quality, well-balanced sound (as well as a few useful tricks), making them fantastic value and our favorite pair of cheap on-ears.

The bass adds depth but sounds controlled and fun with electronic or dance music. Mids let vocals stretch their legs, which gives denser instrumental mixes a chance to shine – although you'll obviously lose more detail here than you would with higher-end models. Trebles tend to elevate out of the mid-range well enough, giving them space to breathe. 

The Sony CH520 replace the Sony CH510 in Sony's line-up and they're a worthy upgrade, adding in some notable improvements, like more cushioning, which is essential for a good pair of on-ear headphones where the earpads sit directly on your ears. The only thing these headphones are missing at this great value price is a 3.5mm jack, but with good app support, multi-point pairing and an impressive 50 hours of battery we really can't complain and they're our top pick if you want over-ears that won't break the bank.

Read our full Sony WH-CH520 review

The best cheap ANC earbuds

Sony WF-C700N earbuds in their case, on white background

(Image credit: Future)
The best cheap ANC earbuds

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 4.6g per earbud
Frequency response: 20Hz - 20kHz
Drivers: 5mm
Battery life (on-board): 7.5 hours

Reasons to buy

+
The most detailed, immersive audio for this money
+
Very comfortable, compact and secure
+
Great app support plus 360 Reality Audio 

Reasons to avoid

-
No on-ear volume control
-
No LDAC support

In our best wireless earbuds guide, we recommend the Nothing Ear (a) as the best mid-range buds. And we want to clarify our reasoning here: the Ear (a) are an excellent pair of earbuds that are slightly superior to the Sony WF-C700N we've included here, and it was a closely-run race. But considering this is a cheap headphones guide, the Sonys are, well, just that bit cheaper. So when it comes to sheer bang for your buck for less, the Sony have the edge, which is why they're our top cheap ANC choice in this guide. But please read our Sony WF-C700N vs Nothing Ear (a) feature if you really want to get into it. 

And just because they can be beaten by the slightly pricier Nothing Ear (a), doesn't mean there isn't a lot to love about the 2023-issue Sony WF-C700N. They offer effective ANC alongside zealous and fun audio, plus Sony's proprietary 360 Reality Audio, so those with a Tidal, Amazon Music or Deezer account are in for a treat. And if you don't have a subscription to those services, Sony's standard DSEE audio 'upscaling' engine means even Spotify tracks will sound much better. Other features you rarely see at this price point include handy multi-point connectivity and adaptive sound control.

As if that wasn't enough, these are some of the most secure and comfortable, compact and bijou buds we've tested (particularly for smaller ears) with a rock-solid Sony build – they're 37% lighter and 38% smaller than Sony's top-tier WF-1000XM4 buds, too. At this sub-$100/£100 price point it's hard to find fault. 

Read our full Sony WF-C700N review

The best super-cheap buds

JLab Go Air Pop on green grassy background

(Image credit: TechRadar)
The best super cheap true wireless earbuds

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 3.7g per earpiece
Frequency response: 20HZ-20kHZ
Drivers: 6mm drivers
Battery life (on-board): 8 hours from buds

Reasons to buy

+
Light design with small, comfortable earpieces
+
Reliable on-ear controls
+
Sounds better than anything else at this price

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the last word in sonic brilliance generally
-
Odd fitted charging cable

Let's cut to the chase. What's thrilling about the JLab Go Air Pop is that since February 2022 it's been possible to buy this new set of known-brand true wireless earbuds for $20 / $20, a fee that even three years ago was unimaginable. And they're actually good

Regular readers will know that TechRadar penned initial thoughts about the remarkably affordable new JLab Go Air Pop soon after their release, but even then, we weren't sure earbuds this budget-conscious could actually do a job. Well, we're sure now. 

What you need to know is that JLab Go Air Pop are good generally — and emphatically unbeatable for this money. Although it's important to note that there's little out there to challenge them at this level. If this is where your budget maxes out for non-essentials, like true wireless earbuds, you will find a reliable product here.

During our testing, we  found that these earbuds belie their lowly price-point. They are not junk. They sound far better than is reasonable. In our review of the JLab Go Air Pop we concluded: "In terms of build, battery life and feature set, JLab is irrefutably top of the class for value — but remember, it is a very small class." Although sonically they can certainly be beaten, you'll obviously have to pay more.

Read our full JLab Go Air Pop review

The best super-cheap USB-C buds

Skullcandy Set USB-C earbuds on grey surface

(Image credit: Future)
The best super-cheap USB-C buds

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 15g
Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz
Drivers: 9mm dynamic
Battery life (on-board): N/A

Reasons to buy

+
Decent sound quality for the price
+
Comfortable listening for long sessions
+
Sleek design

Reasons to avoid

-
No volume buttons on controller
-
Cable noise a tad disruptive
-
Doesn’t deliver the most full-sounding audio

If you want a cheap pair of wired buds with a USB-C connection, the Skullcandy Set USB-C are our top choice. They're a stylish and affordable pair of headphones that stack up well against some of the best wired headphones when it comes to value. 

As you might expect for a cheap pair of wired earbuds, you won't get best-in-class sound here. In our review we wrote that they lacked depth and bass sounded a bit feeble at times. But considering the $31.99 / £29.99 (about AU$50) price tag, these earbuds sound decently. There's certainly none of the tinny audio we've experienced from other budget buds. Instead, the Skullcandy Set offer good all-round sound. As we wrote in our review: "it's just a bit thin on detail and dynamism."

The earbuds come with a few different sizes of in-ear gels, these provide some noise-isolation, which won't cancel out all ambient sounds but do keep them in place and ensure you're tuned into your music. They also look good. During tested we wrote that we like their sleek, curved design and come in several different colorways.

Read our full Skullcandy Set USB-C review

The best super-cheap wired buds

Final VR500 on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
The best super-cheap wired buds

Specifications

Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 15g
Frequency response: Not specified
Drivers: 6.4mm dynamic
Battery life (on-board): N/A

Reasons to buy

+
Built and specified like more expensive earbuds
+
Enjoyable sonic performance
+
Very affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Could sound punchier

The Final Audio VR500 are among the most affordable headphones from Japanese tech company Final Audio, and a great choice if you're looking for a pair of wired headphones with a 3.5mm jack that are cheap and sound great. 

As we commented in our review, just because they're cheap "doesn't mean they’ve missed out on the customary Final Audio attention to detail." They're a fantastic option for gamers and music-lovers with good specs, a solid build quality that weighs only 12g for maximum comfort, and a 1.2m cable that's tangle-resistant and should be long enough for most situations. 

There are better-sounding buds and in our review we said that some listeners might crave more punch. But in terms of spaciousness, detail retrieval, fidelity and precision, the Final Audio outperform their budget asking price. We wrote: "By the standards of profoundly affordable wired in-ear headphones, the VR500 are basically as good as it currently gets."

Read our full Final VR500 review

How to choose the best cheap headphones for you

Choosing the best cheap headphones for you comes down to your budget, personal preference, and specific needs. 

The first consideration for anyone looking for a pair of cheap headphones is price. In this guide we've included only the cheapest true wireless earbuds and over-ear headphones. But our definition of 'cheap' varies, from the super-cheap JLab Go Air Pop at only $25 / £25 / AU$49 through to the Sony WF-C700N at $119 / £99 / AU$199. This should give everyone with a cheaper budget several options. 

But we haven't just included headphones because they're cheap. We highly recommend all of the devices in our guide above. Even if they don't all offer sonic sound performance, they all represent excellent value for money. 

Another key consideration is the design. There's a mixture of in-ear and over-ear designs in the guide above, and the one you choose will be mostly down to personal preference. If you can't decide, consider what you'll be using them for. For example, if you want the best ANC for travel, you might get a better experience with over-ears.  If you want flexible buds for walking and popping in and out easily, true wireless options might work better.

When considering cheap headphones it's also worth remembering that to be affordable many of these headphones may have had to make a trade-off. So if there's something that is very important to you, like top comfort, style or ANC, it's worth prioritizing that and accepting that other features might not be quite so strong. 

Overall, there's no going wrong with any of the headphones in this guide. They're all affordable, great value and offer some top features and decent sound. But it is worth taking the time to consider what's important to you – just because headphones are cheap doesn't always mean they're worth it.

Which are the cheapest headphones?

You'll find lots of cheap headphones online, especially if you hunt on Amazon. There are some true wireless and wired earbuds there that are incredibly cheap. 

But even if you're on a tight budget, we'd urge you to look at our top recommended cheapest headphones, rather than just the cheapest you can find. Even if they don't cost much, buying a cheap pair that aren't any good will still feel like a waste of cash.

The cheapest headphones in this guide are the JLab Go Air Pop, which retail for $20 / £20 / AU$49.95. They're not a perfect pair of true wireless earbuds, but deliver good audio and a comfy design considering their price. 

Do cheap headphones sound good?

The cheap headphones in this guide all sound good and pack in enough audio tech to deliver your music in a way that's balanced, loud enough and bassy. 

Of course, what sounds good and what doesn't is subjective. For some of the budget prices above, you won't be getting the high-end audio that you'd expect from some of the best headphones and best earbuds you can buy today. 

But we've tested each pair of the best cheap headphones we've included in this guide and although none of them provide a stellar, premium audio experience, they sound good enough for accompanying you on a workout, blocking out some sounds as you travel or providing you with a good backup if you need a reliable second pair of buds.

Why do cheap headphones have so much bass?

When it comes to the best cheap headphones you'll often find there's a trade off to make them so cheap. They might have fantastic battery life but a plasticky design or they might have a comfy fit but the sound is only mediocre.

Something that you might notice if you try cheap headphones is that they have a bit too much bass. This is sometimes intentional and headphone makers are trying to create a product with mass appeal. Other times it could simply be that the headphones aren't great quality. 

Finally, many cheap headphones don't come with many customization options, so by default they might have a lot of bass but, unlike premium headphones, you don't have an option to tweak their settings. 

Are cheap headphones worth it?

We think all the budget headphones in this guide are worth considering - but if you're ever unsure about buying a pair of cheap headphones, be sure to look into their specs. 

These days, you don't need to settle for poor sound if you're on a budget, so look for large drivers that can displace lots of air and give you a powerful sound. Support for hi-res audio codecs might not be on the cards for cheaper models, but wireless headphones should have good connectivity and will ideally use the latest Bluetooth 5 standard. 

Wireless headphones should also offer a decent battery life - if not class-leading, budget wireless headphones should at least be able to get you through a few commutes or workouts. 

Build quality probably won't be as good as more expensive headphones, but they should still be comfortable to wear.

What about extras? While you can get cheap headphones with extra features like noise cancellation, pricier headphones will probably perform better when it comes to these quality-of-life extras. 

What are the best cheap headphones brands?

It may surprise you to know that lots of big brands offer cheaper versions of their flagships headphones. Sony have several budget-friendly models in our guide that are worth checking out. 

As for less well-known brands? We wouldn't recommend taking a risk on a totally unknown headphones brand on Amazon, but there are a few out there that are worth checking out. These include EarFun, Skullcandy, Jlab, 1More, Jabra, and more.

How we test the best cheap headphones

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It's obvious that a pair of cheap earbuds won't sound as good as high-end ones. That's why we're judging the best budget earbuds in this guide against competition at the same kind of price.

When we're testing a pair of the best headphones, we're very precise about what we need to hear from the audio. We need to be sure we're getting clear, rich sound that does justice to every genre. 

But when it comes to the best cheaper headphones, we need to hear that the sound is clear, offers some detail and performs well enough to not give us that horrible tinny sound that's so common with budget headphones. 

We look at both wired and wireless cans and earbuds, naturally, as there are appealing options from both types, testing sound quality and overall performance. These are noted as we listen to music across a wide range of genres over several days. 

Where applicable, we also look at other features, such as ANC, battery life, usability, and extra perks offered by any companion apps. Again, if we were testing the best earbuds and headphones we'd ensure they perform well in all of these categories. Because these are our best cheap headphones, we'll take each on its own merit and assess how well the included features work.

Design, aesthetic, and ergonomics are considered as well. We also comment on how comfortable and practical their designs are so you can weigh up which style will work best for you.

Once we have all the information, we compare them against the price tag to ensure that, no matter how cheap, they represent good value for money.

Right now, we're busy implementing a new system for testing headphones. It will enable us to add more information to all of our buying guides about how we rate the devices in different categories. Once this new process is complete, we will re-test the headphones in this guide with the new system, and we'll use it for new headphone reviews too. This way reviews and guides will be fairer and easier for you to navigate. Read our how we test earbuds article to find out more. 

Latest updates to the best cheap headphones guide

June 12, 2024
Reordered and added new products in a conversion of this guide. Added Earfun Wave Pro, Sony WH-CH520, Sony WF-C700N, JLab Go Air Pop, Skullcandy Set USB-C and Final VR500. 

Becky Scarrott
Audio Editor

Becky became Audio Editor at TechRadar in 2024, but joined the team in 2022 as Senior Staff Writer, focusing on all things hi-fi. Before this, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.