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

Priced at $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-the-ear cans to truly wireless models that don't even have a cable connecting the two earpieces.

To be fair, you give up some audio performance with headphones under $50. 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.

1

JLab Audio JBuds Air
JLab Audio JBuds Air

    JLab Audio JBuds Air

    The JLab Audio JBuds Air delivers impressive sound quality, beating some competitors in the true wireless category that cost more than twice as much. The JBuds Air has an advertised 3.5-hour battery life—fairly typical for a true wireless model—and comes 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.

    2

    Monoprice BT-300ANC
    Monoprice BT-300ANC

      Monoprice BT-300ANC

      This over-ear wireless model from Monoprice is available for about $40, an outstanding value given its superb noise-canceling performance and above-average 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 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.

      3

      Scosche SportFlex 3
      Scosche SportFlex 3

        Scosche SportFlex 3

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

        The SportFlex 3 has ergonomic, adjustable earclips 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.

        4

        Skullcandy Grind
        Skullcandy Grind

          Skullcandy Grind

          The Skullcandy Grind headphones, available for about $40, 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.

          5

          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 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 has 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.

            6

            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.

              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).