Product Reviews

Welcome to Consumer Reports.

We’re so glad to have you as a member. You now have access to benefits that can help you choose right, be safe and stay informed.
Drawing of hands holding headphones, on a yellow background.

The 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

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a decent pair of headphones.

At $50 and under, the following headphones are well-suited for everyday listening for many consumers, from grooving through a Spotify Discover Weekly playlist at work to following an audiobook while you cook dinner.

To be fair, you give up some audio performance with headphones under $50: Truly outstanding sound quality, high-performing noise cancellation, or attractive features like 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 around 50 pairs of headphones every year, evaluating them across a range of criteria, including comfort, fit, and sound quality.

Monoprice True Wireless Earphones IPX4
Monoprice  True Wireless Earphones...

Monoprice  True Wireless Earphones...

True wireless headphones used to force consumers to choose between suboptimal performance and a price above $100. But that's changed with the Monoprice True Wireless Earphones IPX4, which deliver high-quality sound for just $50.

The IPX4 has a battery life that's fairly typical for true wireless models, at 2 to 4.5 hours of operating time. The carrying case can recharge the earpieces through four cycles when you're away from an outlet.

The earphones have call and playback controls, and they're water-resistant as well, according to Monoprice. Like a lot of true wireless earphones, this model may not fit people with smaller ears very well. It's useful to try them on before you buy, or check to make sure the retailer has a good return policy.

Skullcandy Grind
Skullcandy Grind

    Skullcandy Grind

    The Skullcandy Grind headphones, $45, come in a number of appealing color schemes and produce great sound. Another version of the Grind adds Bluetooth capability, but the cable that comes with this wired model brings down the price significantly. It has a closed-back design that won't let as much sound in or out as an open-back pair. That could be useful if you don't want to disturb the people around you.

    The Grind has a detachable audio cable with inline controls for calls and music playback designed to work with iPhones and many other devices.


    Scosche SportFlex 3
    Scosche SportFlex 3

      Scosche SportFlex 3

      The Scosche SportFlex 3 is a steal at $15. These earphones produce decent sound, and they’re a good choice for listeners looking for headphones on a budget.

      The SportFlex 3 has ergonomic, adjustable ear clips that hold the earpieces in place during a workout. This model comes with built-in call and audio-playback controls that work with iPhones and most Android devices. And the manufacturer claims they’re water-resistant.

      The earclips may not be comfortable for everyone. If you’re looking for other highly portable options in the same price range, the Panasonic RP-TCM125 is a good alternative.

      House of Marley Smile Jamaica BT
      House of Marley Smile Jamaica BT

        House of Marley Smile Jamaica BT

        Whether you're looking for sound or style, the House of Marley Smile Jamaica BT delivers. This Bluetooth model has dependable audio quality, comes in a few suave colors, and features real, FSC-certified wood accents, all with a price tag under $50.

        The earpieces are connected by a collar that sits comfortably around the neck and houses controls for volume, calls, and playback. This model has a fairly standard battery life for portable wireless headphones, at up to 8 hours of operating time.

        If you don't like the collar idea, you might want to consider the JVC HA-FX9BT Gumy Wireless, which have a cable connecting the two earpieces. These Bluetooth earphones score just as well in CR's tests, and they cost only $20. One drawback with the JVC is the battery life: a relatively short 5 hours.

        Monoprice HiFi DJ-Style Pro headphones
        Monoprice HiFi DJ-Style Pro...

          Monoprice HiFi DJ-Style Pro...

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

          Consumer Reports is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to helping consumers. We make it easy to buy the right product from a variety of retailers. Clicking a retailer link will take you to that retailer’s website to shop. When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission – 100% of the fees we collect are used to support our mission. Learn more. Our service is unbiased: retailers can’t influence placement. All prices are subject to change.
          Thomas Germain

          I want to live in a world where consumers take advantage of technology, not the other way around. 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 usually find me working my way through an ever-growing list of podcasts. Follow me on Twitter (@ThomasGermain).