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

A person sitting on a couch wearing a pair of headphones
Photo: Delmaine Donson/iStock
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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 playlist at work or following an audiobook while you cook dinner. 

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.

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.

1MORE PistonBuds
1MORE PistonBuds

    1MORE PistonBuds

    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—about average 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.  

    Anker SoundCore Life Q20
    Anker SoundCore Life Q20

      Anker SoundCore Life Q20

      We're seeing more great, inexpensive noise-canceling headphones every year. Case in point is the Anker SoundCore Life Q20, which outperforms models that cost hundreds more.

       

      The Life Q20 has great sound quality and outstanding noise cancellation. Anker includes some appealing features, such as the ability to work over Bluetooth or through an audio cable, and a free app that adds options including a bass boost EQ setting. According to Anker, this model delivers a generous 40-hour battery life when Bluetooth and noise-canceling are both turned on.

       

      For an even cheaper alternative, consider the Monoprice BT-300ANC

       

      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 and don't mind paying a bit more, the Shure SE112 is a 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 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 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.

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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.