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Best cheap headphones: your guide to the top budget earbuds and cans in 2021

Included in this guide:

the best cheap headphones you can buy now
(Image credit: TechRadar)

On the hunt for the best cheap headphones? We get it. You want something affordable, but you also want them to sound good, feel comfortable and, hopefully, come with some added features, like Bluetooth and noise cancellation.

We like to think of headphones as small pieces of art. The real connoisseurs might be able to spend a fortune on them and prioritize high-end features and design over anything else. However, for most people, budget models work just as well and you might not even notice much of a difference. 

Here at TechRadar, we’ve built a reputation for covering all of the latest, greatest and priciest technology in the world. But hours and hours of testing high-end equipment has shown us that we still enjoy hunting down fantastic devices that are affordable – and there’s a good selection of choice when it comes to the best cheap headphones.

Maybe you can only afford a pair of budget wireless earbuds or you’re looking for a second pair of cheap running headphones for the gym. Whatever your reason, we’ve got you covered, with the best headphones in every category for under $100 / £100. 

Our top picks

What are the best cheap headphones?

The 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones in black and gold

(Image credit: 1More)

The best cheap earbuds you can buy in 2021

Specifications
Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: N/A
Frequency response: 20 - 40,000Hz
Drivers: Dynamic
Battery life: N/A
Reasons to buy
+Lush sound quality+Excellent build and design+Unmatched value
Reasons to avoid
-Plastic remote feels cheap

Not only are the 1More Triple Driver in-ear headphones the best cheap earbuds you can buy right now, they're also our favorite earbuds of 2021 overall. 

These wired headphones end in a 3.5mm jack, and for $100 / £100 / around AU$168 (and usually less now that they're a little older), it’s hard to think of a better sounding and built headphone than the 1MORE Triple Driver. That said, if you want just that little extra refinement and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Drivers are still a bargain at twice the price. 

There’s very little we can fault the Triple Drivers for. Their rubber cable is annoying and its remote control feels cheap but these are just nitpicks.For their price, it’s impossible to do better than 1MORE's Triple Driver in-ear headphones. 

Read more: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone review

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soundmagic e11bt budget wireless earbuds

(Image credit: SoundMagic)

The best cheap wireless earbuds you can buy

Specifications
Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 24.7g
Frequency response: 20 - 20,000Hz
Drivers: 10mm dynamic neodymium
Battery life: 20 hours
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic price+Elegant design+Comfortable
Reasons to avoid
-Treble tones can sound harsh

The SoundMagic E11BTs are an extremely capable pair of wireless in-ear earphones, and given their low price, it really is difficult to fault them – the audio quality is fantastic and they look very elegant. 

They're comfortable to wear thanks to ergonomically designed eartips and a flat neckband that won’t irritate you while running or working out – and with an IPX4 rating, they should withstand sweaty sessions. 

Read more: SoundMAGIC E11BT review 

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The Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 true wireless earbuds and charging case

(Image credit: Lypertek)

The best affordable true wireless headphones out there

Specifications
Acoustic design: : Closed
Weight: 0.15lbs
Frequency response: : 20Hz - 20kHz
Drivers:: Graphene, 6mm dynamic
Battery life: : 10 hours (earbuds) 70 hours (charging case)
Reasons to buy
+Excellent sound+Great price+Top-notch battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Ambient mode is poor

When we first reviewed the original Lypertek PurePlay Z3 true wireless earbuds (then known as the Lypertek Tevi), we were blown away. The Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 true wireless earbuds are their successors. They’re very similar to the originals, with a few key improvements, and yet still come in at the same affordable price point the originals did – $99 / £99.

This gets you everything we loved about the original PurePlay Z3 (detailed balanced sound, a whopping 80 hours total battery life from its petite USB-C charging case, and a comfortably fitting bud with physical buttons), and adds wireless charging, a powerful new LDX Audio mode, improved app functionality and a hear through ambient mode.

Our own issue is that app connectivity is patchy at best, and the ambient hear through mode is pretty much useless in comparison to the competition from the likes of Sony’s noise cancelling WF-1000XM4.

Yet, with the price still so low, and nothing to detract from the quality standard the originals set out, with a few notable improvements, they remain must-have earbuds, more than a match for headphones two or three times the price. 

Read more: Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 review

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The sony wh-ch510 on-ear headphones in black

(Image credit: Sony)

The best budget on-ear headphones

Specifications
Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 132g
Frequency response: 20Hz-20,000Hz
Drivers: 30mm dynamic
Battery life: 35 hours
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly affordable+Solid audio and battery life+Lightweight and compact
Reasons to avoid
-No 3.5mm jack or USB audio

Looking at the Sony WH-CH510, it’s mind-blowing that wireless on-ear headphones could cost this little, not to mention a pair that has decent sound, a USB-C port, and 35 hours of battery life.

If you’re looking for headphones at this price point, you’re likely already willing to make a few sacrifices. Thankfully, most of the compromises Sony has made with the WH-CH510 haven’t been too crucial – the lack of analog input mirrors the loss of the 3.5mm port on most modern smartphones while the lightweight, plastic construction improves their portability and comfort.

While they won’t have the superb clarity, balance, and sense of space that their WH-1000XM4 siblings boast, the sound these on-ear headphones produce definitely belies their size and price. You’ll find most genres perform well here, although tracks that already have low mids and bumped treble might get uncomfortably exaggerated.

It's also worth checking out the Grado SR60e, which are a little pricier, but offer impressive audio accuracy.

Read more: Sony WH-CH510 review

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The JBL tune 750btnc over-ear headphones in black

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The best budget over-ear headphones

Specifications
Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 220g
Frequency response: 20Hz - 20kHz
Drivers: 40mm
Battery life: 22 hours
Reasons to buy
+Good sound quality+Strong active noise cancelation
Reasons to avoid
-No waterproofing-Average battery life

JBL is a popular name in the world of headphones and Bluetooth speakers, and rightly so. Solidly dependable, consumers know what to expect from the brand – decent sound quality for a decent price. 

That's what we found with the JBL Live 650BTNC last year – and now, ready to take their place are the JBL Tune 750BTNC, a superior successor to the 650BTNC's as a high-spec and well-priced set of over-ear headphones.

The JBL Tune 750BTNC sound great, look great, and they fit well. Reliable and easy to use, you might miss waterproofing and a few minor features – but at this price, it feels foolish to complain too readily.

Read more: JBL Tune 750BTNC review

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The AKG N60NC noise cancelling headphones in black and silver

The best lossless headphones on a budget

Specifications
Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 198g
Frequency response: 10 - 20,000 Hz
Drivers: 40mm
Battery life: 15 hours
Reasons to buy
+15-30 hours' battery life+Lossless audio support+Superb sound
Reasons to avoid
-On-ear form can be uncomfortable

These headphones are award-winners, with a coveted 5-star rating from TechRadar. Now the price has fallen considerably they’re an even better buy. The noise cancellation is very good indeed, and like other AKG headphones there’s good, solid bass without overpowering the midrange and treble. They’re comfortable, too, which is an important consideration if you’re using them on your travels.

The battery is decent for cheap noise-cancelling headphones, with 15 hours of playback over Bluetooth. If you just want full noise cancellation, you’re good for a whopping 30 hours of peace and relative quiet before you need to find a charger. Note: these headphones are available in wired or wireless versions.

Read more: AKG N60NC review

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The Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro over-ear headphones in black

(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

The best cheap studio headphones

Specifications
Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 0.43lbs
Frequency response: 5Hz - 35,000Hz
Drivers: N/A
Battery life: N/A
Reasons to buy
+Crisp, balanced audio+Sturdy build
Reasons to avoid
-Only “over-ear” for smaller ears-Minimal noise isolation

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 more: Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO review

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the cambridge audio melomania 1 plus true wireless earbuds with their charging case

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

The best budget wireless earbuds for audiophiles

Specifications
Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 9.2g
Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz
Drivers: 5.8mm
Battery life (on-board): 9 hours (earbuds) 41 hours (charging case)
Reasons to buy
+Stunning audio performance+Great app+Easy controls
Reasons to avoid
-No ANC

Cambridge Audio may be best known for its high-end audio equipment, but the past couple of years has seen the British company branch out into the world of true wireless earbuds. 

Its first offering, the Melomania 1, are among the best wireless earbuds you can buy, thanks to their stellar sound quality, However, the new Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus are a worthy upgrade, putting many other earbuds in the shade for audio performance, battery life, and ease-of-use. 

While the design of the Melomania 1 Plus hasn’t deviated too far from its predecessors, there’s a clear step up in terms of audio performance, with levels of detail and clarity that could rival some of the best over-ear headphones

A helpful app, easy controls, and excellent connectivity just makes us love them even more. The only downside is that there’s no active noise cancellation. However, when these earbuds sound this good, we doubt you’ll miss it much. 

Read more: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review

[Update: The Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus have been given a permanent price cut.

They cost $139.95 / £119.95 at launch, but the audiophile-friendly earbuds have now been reduced to $99.95 / £99.95 – a fixed discount of $40 / £20.]

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the Earfun air pro budget wireless earbuds in black

(Image credit: Earfun)

The best cheap noise-cancelling earbuds

Specifications
Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 5.3g
Frequency response: N/A
Drivers: 10mm
Driver type: Composite dynamic
Sensitivity: N/A
Impedance: N/A
Battery life (on-board): 9 hours
Battery life (charging case): 23 hours
Wireless range: 10m / 33ft
NFC: No
Reasons to buy
+Pleasing audio balance+Effective noise cancellation
Reasons to avoid
-No app for EQ adjustments-Case is a little bulky

On their own merits, the Earfun Air Pro buds are accomplished, but against the competition at this price point they shine. Amid a sea of similarly priced efforts on Amazon, they stand out thanks to their superior design and excellent audio chops, and show a high level of competence in almost all other areas. If it weren’t for slightly fiddly gesture controls and – in our experience at least – a slightly uncomfortable fit, these would immediately earn our wholehearted recommendation.

As it stands, these wireless earbuds are an excellent choice for most, offering a blend of useful features and strong performance that should make them popular with commuters in particular.

Read more: Earfun Air Pro review

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the Sennheiser CX Sport wireless earphones

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

The best cheap running headphones

Specifications
Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 15g
Frequency response: 17Hz - 21kHz
Drivers: Dynamic
Battery life: 6 hours
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic audio quality+Sports-friendly design+Great price
Reasons to avoid
-Mids could be richer

If the most important aspect of in-ear headphones for you is the audio quality, these budget wireless earbuds from Sennheiser could be a fantastic choice. 

With a lively, bass-heavy presentation, and a comfortable fit, the Sennheiser CX Sport Bluetooth earbuds can really bolster your workout through sound quality alone. 

With runners in mind, the CX Sports have an IPX4 splash-proof rating. This means they should be able to withstand a sweaty workout session (but you probably shouldn't take them into the shower with you post-workout).  

They have a battery life of six hours, which means they'll last you all day, whether you're wearing them on your commute or taking them out for a jog – and their budget-friendly price won't break the bank.

Read more: Sennheiser CX Sport Wireless earphones review

What to look for

 What to look for in cheap headphones 

In order to create this guide, we’ve tested, listened to and compared lots of cheap 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.

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 headphones, there isn’t a single pair in this list that will disappoint.

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, JBL, and Beats all have budget-friendly models 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, Lypertek, 1More, Jabra, and more.

Cheap headphone deals

Nick Pino

Nick Pino is the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar and covers TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's written for TechRadar, GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.