Best Budget Headphones Reviewed:
Let's talk headphones. A boom in the market and the constant arrival of new competition means that not only is there a huge variety to choose from, but how much you spend on a brand spanking new pair of headphones is totally up to you. We all like to treat ourselves every now and then but sometimes you just need to go for the cheaper option, something that just does the trick. Whether you prefer to have a cheap pair at the bottom of your gym bag or you want to invest in a spare pair to take to the beach, we're here to help. With such a wide variety on the market, choosing the right pair can be overwhelming so we decided to compile a list of headphones that at under $50, won't even slightly dent your bank account.
Overall Winner: Sennheiser HD 201 Lightweight Over Ear Headphones
Despite the price tag, the Sennheiser HD 201 headphones are far from basic. These headphones are lightweight at just 165 grams and come with a gold plated 1/4 inch adaptor which fits nicely into a 1/8 inch plug. They won't drain your battery due to the 24-ohm impedance level and are compatible with iPods, smart phones and MP3 players. Furthermore, the black, padded ear cups are comfortable and are designed to tip 20 degrees in each direction so that one cup can stay in place when the other side is off the ear. The black, plastic headband is adjustable too which further enhances comfort. They look sleek and the outside of the cups have a silver and black finish, allowing them to resemble a more high-end product. In terms of sound, they provide a clean bass however some reviewers claimed that vocals sometimes got slightly lost. In addition, they're not the best noise blockers on the market which is a shame if the primary use for your headphones is to pass the time on a noisy commute. In addition, testers didn’t like how long the cable was. It makes them more inconvenient to carry as they don't come with a carry case. The Sennheiser HD 201 headphones are actually one of the more expensive headphones that we tested which is reflected in the quality. This, combined with the fact that they come with a two-year warranty, is probably why they came out on top for us. The balanced sound and their comfortable fit won us over which is why we recommend investing in these over the ear beauties, especially to at-home listener.
Best For Exercise: Anker SoundBuds NB10
Anker are a relatively new brand that have made quite an impression on audio enthusiasts and we love that they've considered those of us that are crazy for cardio and want a product that can help pass the time on the treadmill. On purchase, you'll receive the headphones, a USB charging cable, two extra pairs of ear tips and a breathable black carrying pouch which is great for slinging in your gym bag after a good workout. Like with a lot of the headphones we tested for this article, to cut on cost, the manufacturers use plastic as the main material. Here, it helps make them the best choice for a workout. Not only are they light but at under $40, these wireless in ear headphones are superb value for money. They are IPX5 sweatproof and in addition, testers found them to stay comfortably in your ear no matter the intensity of your workout. The top right bud has three buttons for playback, and there is a small microphone and UBV port on the bottom. Connectivity is good and pairing is simple however there is no way to return to the previous song using the controls on these headphones which can be annoying. They are over the ear hook design which isn’t everyone's first choice but almost all testers quickly got used to the fit. The battery life is between 5-6 hours which isn’t particularly high so don’t forget to charge them after every few uses. On the whole, noise isolation isn’t the best but they are extremely comfortable and perfect for working out which is why they receive a thumbs up from us.
Best Over the Ear Headphones: Mpow Bluetooth Over-Ear Headphones
The Mpow Bluetooth Over-Ear headphones come with a 3.5 mm audio cable, USB charging cable and a travel bag. We loved how great these headphones are for drowning out background noise. If you're working from a coffee shop and need to focus or just want to enjoy uninterrupted music on the morning commute then these headphones are for you. Not only do the red and black design give them a fashionable edge, the ear cushions are lightweight and thick which help with the sound blocking. The cups are oval and although they are narrow, the foam padding makes them comfortable and the earpieces are adjustable so it's easy to make sure they fit right. The 4.1 Bluetooth means that they easily connect to your smart phone too. On the right ear pad, there are play, pause and skip buttons as well as a microphone and an in-line jack. Beware that the buttons are slightly fiddly and don’t light up which can be annoying for some. The quality feels far from cheap, however the sound isn't one of the best that we tested and unfortunately, we would love to have seen more base. In addition, it's nice that Mpow have given us the option to connect a cable and use them as wired headphones however it's disappointing that the microphone only works in the hands-free mode. Nevertheless, they fold and store really well so they're great for on the go, they only take four hours to charge fully and have a battery life of 12-13 hours. They could do with some work but for the price, we would definitely recommend them to freelancers and music fans alike.
Best Noise Cancelling: Sony MDR-ZX110NC
These on the ear headphones are good for cancelling out surrounding sound without leaking music and disturbing people in your vicinity. The noise cancelation isn’t the best we've ever seen but for the price it's pretty impressive. You have the option to turn the sound canceling feature off, and when done so, the low-end sound is improved and the base appears stronger. It is no surprise that Sony have created a subtle yet stylish pair of headphones however the durability is slightly less than we would have liked. They are made predominantly from plastic and feel slightly unstable when you pop them on your head. They are by no means a tight fit which makes them more comfortable however some testers claimed that this meant they slipped easily off their ears even from the slightest of movements. On the plus side, these headphones are super easy to transport. Thanks to the design, they easily fold up and can be carried in a bag and even some larger coat pockets. They don't come with a case so you may want to treat yourself to one as although they're far from fragile, they're not the most durable headphones that we tried. What's more, a single AAA battery is all you need to get them playing up to 80 hours of music. On the whole, we enjoyed using the Sony MDR ZX110NC headphones. We would like to see more work on improving the sound quality when noise blocking is switched on but maybe this will come with future models. Despite this, for the price, we would recommend these to those looking for noise cancellation at under $30.
Cheapest: JVC Gummy Plus in-ear Headphones
We have tested headphones with $500 price tags so at around just $7 we were excited to see what the JVC Gummy Plus headphones had to offer us. First of all, they are extremely light weight, fit well and are comfortable enough. They're part ear bud and part soft bud meaning that you can insert them deeply inside your ear for maximized base and sound isolation. In general, the sound is good. None of the sound aspects are particularly mind blowing however the base and treble are both pleasant and vocals are nice to listen to as well. The plug is straight as opposed to L shaped like most headphones these days. It's easier to fit straight plugs into smartphone cases however they're not as durable as L shaped plugs. An added plus is that the JVC Gummy Plus headphones come in a variety of colors and they're cheap enough for you to buy different colors depending on your mood! What's more, surprisingly these headphones were the least likely to tangle compared to all the headphones that we tested. Unfortunately, these headphones come without a microphone and at $7 we weren’t too surprised. It means they are fine if you want some casual listening but for those that are listening from a smart phone and need to pick up a call this could be frustrating. All in all, it's hard to find unexpected fault with the JVC Gummy Plus headphones. The price is laughable and the product is impressive so why not buy them even if they're to use as your emergency, emergency pair!
The truth is that price tag should no longer hold you back from owning quality headphones. Due to developments and changes in the market, the quality you could get from headphones on a budget is substantially higher than what you would have got between 5-10 years ago. Each pair of headphones we tested were priced at under $50 and when the same product is available for 10x the price, it would be silly to presume you wouldn't be sacrificing on certain features which are available on a bigger budget. In addition, it's important to note that the ratings we gave are all relative to the fact that the headphones we tested are low budget items. We loved the Sennheiser HD 201 lightweight over ear headphones because they delivered good sound, offer great battery life and were comfortable and stylish too!
These guys aren't enough for you? Read our wireless headphone article here!