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

Three of Consumer Reports' top picks for the best headphones under $50.
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You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a decent pair of headphones. Priced at about $50 and under, the following headphones are well-suited for casual listening, whether it's grooving to a Spotify Discover Weekly playlist at work or following an audiobook while you cook dinner. 

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

To be fair, if you want headphones under $50 you'll have to give up some audio performance. Models with truly outstanding sound quality or attractive features such as quick charging or a built-in step counter can cost several times as much. But the headphones listed here will outperform whatever came packaged with your smartphone.

At Consumer Reports, we buy and test about 50 pairs of headphones every year, evaluating them across a range of criteria, including comfort, fit, and sound quality.

JLab Audio JBuds Air
JLab Audio JBuds Air

    JLab Audio JBuds Air

    The JLab Audio JBuds Air deliver impressive sound quality, beating some competitors in the true wireless category that cost more than twice as much. The JBuds Air have an advertised 3.5-hour battery life—fairly typical for a true wireless model—and come with a charging/carrying case that will recharge the earphones for an additional two cycles.

    Additional features include support for various digital assistants, three switchable EQ modes to change the tonal balance of the sound, and, according to JLab, water resistance, a feature we don't test. Like many true wireless headphones, users with small ears may have trouble getting a secure fit. So before you buy a pair, you may want to try them on or check to make sure the retailer has a good return policy.

    Monoprice BT-300ANC
    Monoprice BT-300ANC

      Monoprice BT-300ANC

      These Monoprice noise-canceling wireless headphones are available for under $50. That's an outstanding value given their superb sound-blocking performance and above-average audio 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 8 hours between charges with both Bluetooth and noise-canceling turned on. You can keep the music going even longer by switching off Bluetooth and using the detachable audio cable, which is included.

      Scosche SportFlex 3
      Scosche SportFlex 3

        Scosche SportFlex 3

        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 in the same price range, the Panasonic RP-TCM125 are good alternative.

        SOL Republic Shadow Wireless
        SOL Republic Shadow Wireless

          SOL Republic Shadow Wireless

          If you pay four times as much, you can pick up portable Bluetooth headphones that sound better than the SOL Republic Shadow Wireless. Save with this model, however, and you'll still get audio quality that's well above average.

          The earphones hide most of their electronics in a relatively unobtrusive neck collar, which also houses the earphone's integrated controls for calls, volume, and playback. According to the manufacturer, they have a fairly standard battery life at up to 8 hours of playback time.

          If you don't like the collar idea or want something even cheaper, consider the JVC HA-FX9BT Gumy Wireless. They cost only about $20, though the audio quality isn't quite as good and their advertised battery life is a relatively short 5 hours.

          Monoprice Premium Hi-Fi DJ Style
          Monoprice Premium Hi-Fi DJ Style

            Monoprice Premium Hi-Fi DJ Style

            Monoprice HiFi DJ-Style Pro headphones sell for just $15, and you'll be hard-pressed to find better over-ear devices for the money. 

            This home/studio-style model is better suited for the couch than the 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 just want to let in the outside world for a second without taking off your headphones.

            JBL Endurance SPRINT
            JBL Endurance SPRINT

              JBL Endurance SPRINT

              JBL takes aim at runners with the Endurance Sprint. These wireless earphones deliver solid audio quality and have a claimed 8-hour battery life and integrated touch controls for volume, playback, and calling.

              According to JBL, they’re waterproof. That means they can take more than a splash or getting caught in the rain during your next run. You could even take them into a pool for a few laps.

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              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.