Best Headphones for Under $50

You don't have to spend a lot to get decent sound quality, whether you want earbuds or over-the-ear headphones

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woman on couch at home with headphones on Photo: Delmaine Donson/iStock

It's a great time to look for a new pair of headphones. There are more choices than ever before, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a decent set. We've combed through our ratings to find the best headphones for under $50 from our tests, and the following models are all great picks for casual listening, whether you're grooving to a playlist at the gym or catching a podcast while you do the dishes.

Our list includes a variety of styles, from over-ear cans to true wireless models that don't even have a cable connecting the two earpieces.

You will have to give up some audio performance to find headphones under $50. Models with truly outstanding sound quality or the latest features can cost several times as much. But the headphones listed here will probably outperform that old tangled pair you picked up on the way to the airport.

At Consumer Reports, we buy and test dozens of headphones every year, evaluating them across a range of criteria, including comfort, fit, and sound quality.

Here's a great option if you're looking for an inexpensive true wireless model. (They don't have a physical connection between the earpieces.) The 1MORE PistonBuds deliver great sound quality for the price, beating out competitors that cost far more. They have an advertised 3.5-hour battery life—fairly standard for a true wireless model—and come with a charging/carrying case that will recharge the earphones almost five times before it needs to be plugged in again.

The PistonBuds feature touch controls and support for digital assistants, and they boast an owner satisfaction rating of Excellent based on our CR member survey.

This over-ear wireless model from Monoprice is usually available for around $50. That's an incredible deal for its superb noise-canceling performance and dependable sound quality.

The BT-300ANC features integrated controls for calls, volume, and playback, and the ear cups fold in and swivel flat for easy storage and transport. According to Monoprice, the battery will run for 8 hours between charges with Bluetooth and noise cancellation turned on. (CR doesn't test headphones for battery life.) You can keep the music going even longer by switching off Bluetooth and using the detachable audio cable, which is included.

Shop around; we've seen the Scosche SportFlex 3 sell for about $15, a steal given their performance. The earphones produce decent sound, and they’re a good choice for listeners on a budget looking for headphones.

The SportFlex 3 have ergonomic, adjustable earclips that hold the earpieces in place during a workout. This model comes with built-in call and audio-playback controls, and the manufacturer claims they’re water-resistant.

The earclips may not be comfortable for everyone, though. If you’re looking for other highly portable options and don't mind paying a bit more, the Shure SE112 is a good alternative.

The Sennheiser CX 150BT is one of the best headphones you can find under $50 if you're looking for a portable Bluetooth model. Our tests show that this pair’s audio quality is above average, and better than some headphones that cost a lot more. There aren’t a ton of extra features, but Sennheiser boasts a 10-hour battery life, more than enough to get you through a gym session or a day’s commute.

Sennheiser also sells the similarly named CX 350BT, which gets the same score in our ratings but costs a bit more. Essentially, the only difference is compatibility with AptX, a digital audio format meant to improve the quality of your playback.

For something even cheaper, consider the JVC HA-FX9BT Gumy Wireless. The sound quality won’t blow you away, but it’s a CR Best Buy at $20.

To be fair, the Monoprice HiFi DJ-Style Pro doesn't have outstanding audio quality, but it sells for just $15, and you'll be hard-pressed to find better over-ear headphones for the money.


This larger home/studio-style model is better suited for listening while sitting on a couch than running on a treadmill. The model has an isolating close-back design that helps block some ambient noise.

The "DJ-style" moniker signifies that the ear cups rotate, a must-have for budding DJs who want the classic look, and a convenience if you want to let in the outside world for a second without taking off your headphones.


Headshot image of Electronics editor Thomas Germain

Thomas Germain

I want to live in a world where consumers take advantage of technology, not the other way around. Access to reliable information is the way to make that happen, and that's why I spend my time chasing it down. When I'm off the clock, you can find me working my way through an ever-growing list of podcasts. Got a tip? Drop me an email ( thomas.germain@consumer.org) or follow me on Twitter ( @ThomasGermain) for my contact info on Signal.