Looking for cheap headphones, but don't want to skimp on sound quality, comfort, and modern conveniences like noise cancellation and Bluetooth? You've come to the right place.
Headphones are like pieces of art: while the real connoisseurs can spend a fortune on them, for most folks, budget models work just as well. Just like art, there's a big difference between finger painting and Picasso – with a happy medium somewhere in between – and the same is true for headphones.
Here at TechRadar, we’ve sort of built a reputation for covering all of the latest, greatest and priciest technology in the world. However, even in the face of all of that high-end equipment, we still have a passion for finding great tech items that anyone can afford, and the best cheap headphones are a great place to start.
It’s this passion for affordability that inspired us to create this list of the best cheap headphones on the market in 2021.
Best cheap headphones
Cheap earphones: 1More Triple Driver in-ear headphones
Cheap wireless earphones: Optoma NuForce BE Sport 4
Cheap true wireless earbuds: Lypertek Tevi
Cheap on-ear headphones: Sony WH-CH510
Cheap over-ear headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-M20x
Cheap noise-cancelling headphones: JBL Tune 750BT
Cheap studio monitor headphones: Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro
Cheap open-back headphones: Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro
Not only are the 1More Triple Driver in-ear headphones the best cheap earbuds you can buy right now, they're also our favorite earbuds of 2021 overall.
These wired headphones end in a 3.5mm jack, and for $100 / £100 / around AU$168 (and usually less now that they're a little older), it’s hard to think of a better sounding and built headphone than the 1MORE Triple Driver. That said, if you want just that little extra refinement and luxury materials, the 1MORE Quad Drivers are still a bargain at twice the price.
There’s very little we can fault the Triple Drivers for. Their rubber cable is annoying and its remote control feels cheap but these are just nitpicks.For their price, it’s impossible to do better than 1MORE's Triple Driver in-ear headphones.
Read the full review: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphone review
The NuForce BE Sport4 wireless earbuds are that rare find: earbuds that are good for basically all situations. While they're specifically designed for use in the gym and on the track, the BE Sport4 do an awesome job isolating audio in a crowded city environment and are even good enough for home listening.
The BE Sport4 earbuds have claimed 10-hour battery life, which we found to be pretty close to the mark in our time with them, and from empty you can get two hours of use from just a 15-minute charge – ideal for those needing a quick top-up while they put on their trainers and pack a gym kit.
Consider this a warning shot fellow audio manufacturers: build and audio quality do not need to be sacrificed in order to keep earbuds affordable, and with discounts common on the BE Sport4, you can really bag yourself a bargain.
Read the full review: Optoma NuForce BE Sport4 review
The Sesh buds provide an excellent entry point for true wireless beginners, with a fairly comfortable and secure fit. Unlike most budget buds they feel quite robust like they could take a tumble. They sound decent at the price and come in a wide range of crazy colours with a reasonably pocketable carry case. Battery life is a meagre 3 hours although the case provides another 7 hours.
They're dust, sweat and splashproof to IP55 level, so they're usable for workouts. Sound quality is strongly skewed towards pop music with exaggerated highs and lows, but it's not an unpleasant mix for pop music lovers.
Looking at the Sony WH-CH510, it’s mind-blowing that wireless on-ear headphones could cost this little, not to mention a pair that has decent sound, a USB-C port, and 35 hours of battery life.
If you’re looking for headphones at this price point, you’re likely already willing to make a few sacrifices. Thankfully, most of the compromises Sony has made with the WH-CH510 haven’t been too crucial – the lack of analog input mirrors the loss of the 3.5mm port on most modern smartphones while the lightweight, plastic construction improves their portability and comfort.
While they won’t have the superb clarity, balance, and sense of space that their WH-1000XM4 siblings boast, the sound these on-ear headphones produce definitely belies their size and price. You’ll find most genres perform well here, although tracks that already have low mids and bumped treble might get uncomfortably exaggerated.
It's also worth checking out the Grado SR60e, which are a little pricier, but offer impressive audio accuracy.
Read more: Sony WH-CH510 review
It’s easy to spend an arm and a leg on good over-ear headphones. Barring the exception of noise-cancelling and planar magnetic cans, they are the top dogs of the audio world. Really good over-ears should be the most comfortable, most versatile headphones in your audio arsenal. They should be just as adept with Hi-Res Audio sources of 16-bit/44.1KHz as they are streaming from Spotify, and they should do so without sacrificing either end of the audio spectrum.
In our testing we found a half-dozen that can do the job (there are even a few uber-cheap ones from Monoprice that will get the job done) but, of them all, the original Audio-Technica ATH-M20x are the best of the best. For the price they sound outrageously clear, balanced and powerful, and give you best bang for your buck. There are other options, but pros will choose the M20x in a heartbeat.
Offering class-leading battery life, terrific style and plenty of personalization when it comes to sound profiles, the Elite 85h is easy to recommend – and they're easy on the bank balance.
When you consider that Jabra’s Elite 85h headphones are the company’s first attempt at premium wireless ANC headphones, the result is quite commendable. We can’t wait to see what the company’s next premium ANC headphones will accomplish.
If you want a cheap alternative to Sony's WH-1000XM4, these are a great pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
Read more: Jabra Elite 85H review
Beyerdynamic makes loads of equipment for both audiophiles and audio professionals, and some of it comes at a high price. But, the Beyerdynamic DT 240 Pro headphones find a sweet spot offering professional audio and a high standard in design for a lower price point.
The DT 240 Pro headphones cost $99 (£89, AU$139), making them more affordable than heaps of other studio monitor headphones. This price puts them in close competition with some of Audio-Technica’s cans, like the widely praised ATH-M40X or the wireless ATH-SR5BT, which can be found on sale in the same ballpark as the DT 240 Pro.
Beyerdynamic shines in performance with the DT 240 Pro. As studio monitor headphones, the sound produced is not very colorful, but that’s exactly as it should be. All the sound comes through clean and incredibly well balanced.
The bass is easy to pick up on without being thumpy, though with a subtle punch at higher volumes. From the bass on up to the high end, all the sounds mesh clearly, with the DT 240 Pros not boosting one register over the other.
They're neutral, perfect for recording and best of all, cheap.
Read the full review: Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO review
Most musicians will certainly want to opt for the studio headphones up above, but if you're just looking for the best possible critical-listening cans, the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro are them.
At under $200/£200, the DT990 are almost peerless, offering exceptional sound quality for the price. With a 250-ohm impedance rating they're not the easiest to drive and aren't the kind of thing you'd want to hook up to your phone's audio jack, but for folks with the equipment to drive them, the sound stage is great.
The sound quality is perfectly flat and a very wide frequency response (5 - 35.000 Hz) you'll find that your music sounds clear and concise without feeling bloated and confined. It's also worth mentioning that, because of their size, weight and sound leakage, these aren't something you should be wearing outside the house and are best used when listening to the latest record in your home office.
What to look for
What to look for in cheap headphones
In order to create this guide, we’ve tested, listened to and compared over 25 headphones in every category, shape and size. When we found a great pair, we then put it against the rest back-to-back-to-back to make sure they still really deserved the title of ‘best cheap headphones’.
You might be wondering what we were looking for through all this expansive testing? Sound fidelity was clearly the most essential detail – but we also made sure to consider comfort, design and other features also.
Like most people, we prefer our music detail-rich and well-balanced. We can live with our music sounding a bit warm with an emphasis on the mids and highs, but we still like to be able to feel the bass. Also, it’s important to look for headphones with reasonable battery life if they’re wireless, a robust, durable build that will stand up to the trials of everyday commute and comfortable padding to help make longer listening sittings nice and comfortable.
Keep in mind though, that testing headphones will be, at least on some level, subjective, and our taste in tonal balance might not match yours (neither will the size of our head or the shape of our ears). Still, we’ve done our best to take subjectivity out of the equation and can present, through our expertise, the best cheap headphones that won’t hurt your wallet.
By their very nature, the headphones you prefer will ultimately boil down to your own personal taste. However, seeing as the headphone market is extremely saturated, it is genuinely hard to figure out what the best headphones for your tastes actually are. That’s where we come in.
Now, bear with us – it’s impossible to get our hands on every affordable pair of headphones, but we won’t recommend anything we haven’t used ourselves. So if we missed your favorite pair of Beats headphones, it wasn’t on purpose, we assure you.
With this guide, we went through a process – exhaustively testing a huge amount of cheap headphones from all over the internet in every style under the sun. In-ear, over-ear, wireless – everything you can think of.
We then took the results of all of this exhaustive testing, and measured each headphone against each other until we could confidently pick a few to proudly wear the ‘best cheap headphones’ badge. So rest assured, even if we didn’t pick your favorite headphones, there isn’t a single pair in this list that will disappoint.
- Want the best-of-the-best, no expense spared? These are the best headphones of 2021