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. 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. We’ve combed through our ratings to find the best headphones for under $50, and the following models are all great picks for casual listening, whether you need a last-minute stocking stuffer or a new pair to get you through some holiday travel.

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.

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 Excellent owner satisfaction rating. Those ratings are based on surveys of CR members.

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 decent 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.

Bluetooth headphones get all the attention, but there are still plenty of people out there who preferred a wired pair. If you’re one of them, the Shure SE112 is worth a look.

These headphones get solid ratings in our sound quality tests, and they feature a design that some users might find more appealing than your typical earbuds. The SE112 have a thick, heavy cable that gives them a sturdy feel, and they’re built for you to wrap that cable around your ear instead of letting it dangle, which can help keep the earbuds in place. Match all that up with a $50 price tag, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

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.

The JBL Tune 510BT is a no-brainer. This Bluetooth model delivers pretty good sound quality, it has a 40-hour advertised battery life, and we’ve seen it selling for as little as $30. The 510BT sits on the ears, which some people find more comfortable than being engulfed by the more common over-ear style. As an extra perk, you can also use them with a cable if you forget to charge them.


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.