Your buying guide for the best cheap headphones in 2017
Mobile music lovers have never had it so good - although the iPhone 7 doesn't have a headphone jack, the standard headphones you get with smartphones are at an all-time high in terms of quality.
Still, spending a little to upgrade your earphones is one of the best ways to get the most from a smartphone, or any other portable player. Here are the best cheap headphones under £100 with most under £50.
The instant lift in audio quality needs to be heard to be believed – better, more impactful bass, crisper, more detailed treble and better isolation from the outside world are all worth the investment.
Here, we’ve rounded up nineteen different pairs, from traditional studio-style cans to tiny in-ear offerings, and given them an extensive listen to see where your money is best spent. Also read: How to stop earphone cables getting tangled or twisted
Choosing headphones isn’t just about improved audio quality, though – there are plenty of things to consider to make sure you end up with something that suits you perfectly.
In-line remotes and microphones
Once you’ve had headphones with an inline remote and microphone you’ll never go back. These allow you to answer calls, shuffle tracks and change the volume on audio playback, while the integrated microphone means you can carry on a conversation – and use voice activated software – without pulling your phone from your pocket. It's a very useful addition to look out for.
Circumaural is another way of saying that a pair of headphones totally enclose the ears they’re worn over. The advantage to this is lots of bass and good isolation from outside noise. And, because the speakers are effectively sealed against the wearer’s head, there’s minimal sound leakage.
The drawback is always size: circumaural headsets are very big and very heavy, and are always worth trying on before committing to.
These are a different kind of headphones, although like circumaural headsets they still involve a headband. Supra-aural sets sit over the ears and press inwards to provide enough volume and to stop sound leaking out.
The benefit is size and weight: these can be smaller than studio-style headsets, but the trade-off is often comfort.
These are arguably the most common type you’ll see, and it’s obvious why. In-ear headphones are small, very portable, and don’t weigh very much.
Most of the in-ear headphones mentioned below are canal headphones, which means they have rubber grommets on the end which are pushed slightly (and carefully) into the ear canal. This produces excellent audio quality, thumping bass and lots of noise isolation.
Blocking out the outside world is an important job of a decent pair of headphones. Cancelling a rowdy office or the hum of the engines on a long flight can make life much more pleasant. At its most basic, noise isolation simply forms a seal around or inside the ear, preventing unwanted sound waves entering.
In-ear headphones, particularly canal-style headphones, are excellent at this. Otherwise, circumaural headsets are the next best way to go. Pay more than £50 and you’ll find models with active noise cancellation, where headphones play an imperceptible sound that cancels out constant background thrums such as engine noise. See also: Best audio phone 2017.
You don't often find decent wireless headphones for under £50 but there are some to choose from in our list - handy for the likes of the iPhone 7.
- Reviewed on: 5 October 15
- RRP: £43.90
If you want great-quality sound at an affordable price, the Alfa Genus V2 should be on your shortlist.
Read our Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2 review.
- Reviewed on: 14 December 16
- RRP: £15.99, US$19.95
Often you have to shell out a good few notes in order to get decent sounding headphones. However, OnePlus has proved that cheap headphones can sound great, look good and include extra features. If you're budget for in-ear headphones is £20 then look no further than the OnePlus Bullets V2.
Read our OnePlus Bullets V2 review.
- Reviewed on: 22 June 16
- RRP: £27.95
If you're looking for earphones that have sound, style, an in-line mic and can be found for under £28, then the Verbatim 44400 earphones should be on your wish list.
Read our Verbatim 44400 earphone review.
4. RHA S500i
- Reviewed on: 5 February 16
- RRP: £39.95
The RHA S500i earphones provide excellent value for money, and they're affordable to most people. With its mid-centric sound and minimalist design we were impressed by the overall package. This small set of earphones easily make their way on our recommended budget headphone list.
Read our RHA S500i review.
5. RHA MA450i
- Reviewed on: 31 July 14
- RRP: £40
The MA450i isn't the cheapest pair of headphones you can buy, but you get indisputable benefits for the extra money. Good design, plenty of features and great quality – all without breaking the bank.
Read our RHA MA450i review.
- Reviewed on: 7 August 14
- RRP: £45
You admittedly pay quite a bit more for a fairly small improvement in sound quality, and from a purely aural standpoint, the extra cash isn’t terribly well spent. However, the Sennheiser HD 429 budget over-ear headphones are smaller than the AKG K77s, thanks to the lack of a large frame over the head strap, feel a little more solid on the head, as well as combining high-end looks with a budget price.
Read our Sennheiser HD 429 review.
- Reviewed on: 17 March 16
- RRP: £17.99
Given its very cheap price of £18, the Inateck Aries is an affordable and terrific-sounding earphone. To add to its competencies the earphones have an in-line mic, which works across all mobile devices, and an elegant wooden design.
Read our Inateck Aries review.
- Reviewed on: 24 June 16
- RRP: £23.95, US$29.95
At under £24 it's hard to fault the Rock Jaw Clarito earphones attempt to break into the crowded audio market. The British company has produced a fantastic budget earphones that will prove to be a fantastic upgrade for most who are still using stock earphones.
Read our Rock Jaw Clarito review.
- Reviewed on: 9 February 16
- RRP: £27.99
The Skullcandy Grind provide a fantastic value-for-money sound, which coupled with its removable cable design, one-button remote, comfortable pads and their funky looking design make them a good value buy at £28.
Read our Skullcandy Grind review.
10. OnePlus Icons
- Reviewed on: 24 August 16
- RRP: £39, US$49.99
The OnePlus Icons are impressive headphones for a number of reasons. For under £40 they offer above average design and build quality which is a good start. They also sound better than you might expect for the price but aren't all-rounders for every music type so won't suit every listener.
Read our OnePlus Icons review.
11. Yamaha EPH-M200
- Reviewed on: 8 March 17
- RRP: £99, US$149
While we find the design and build a bit too plasticky, the Yamaha EPH-M200 in-ear headphones are comfortable and offer impressive bass and mid-range. Not everyone will want to spend this much considering some of the options at around half the price, though.
Read our Yamaha EPH-M200 review.
- Reviewed on: 15 August 16
- RRP: £19, 28
These are not the headphones to beat all others. But the Brainwavz Jive Noise are a great bargain. Build quality is good, and audio quality would not look out of place at twice the price or more. For a general earphone that should last, you can't do better at this price.
Read our Brainwavz Jive Noise review.
13. SoundPeats A1
- Reviewed on: 14 August 15
- RRP: £25
The SoundPeats A1 are a pleasure to our ears. For less than £30 you can get great sound quality and soft cushioned earcups that make the SoundPeats A1 perfect for listening to music on your way to work or watching a movie.
Read our SoundPeats A1 review.
- Reviewed on: 19 May 15
- RRP: £39.99
The Creative Sound Blaster JAM Bluetooth headphones offer fantastic value for money as they outperform expectations on both audio quality and comfort. Super lightweight you’ll hardly notice you’re wearing them, and while they don’t fold for ultra portability they are small enough to fit in a coat pocket.
15. SoundPeats QY7
- Reviewed on: 14 August 15
- RRP: £14
Perfect for your gym session, the SoundPeats QY7 give you comfort, great audio quality and wireless technology at a bargain price.
Read our SoundPeats QY7 review.
16. Brainwavz S0
- Reviewed on: 24 November 15
- RRP: £29
Well made, decent-sounding and very good value. We are big fans of the Brainwavz S0. If you want an in-ear monitor for £30 or less, you can do a lot worse.
Read our Brainwavz S0 review.
- Reviewed on: 19 August 15
- RRP: £45.99
The Audiomax HB-8A Bluetooth Headphones are a high-quality product, yet comes at an affordable price. You get all the features you would look for in a pair of headphones: great sound performance, comfort, long battery life and a stylish design.
18. UMI Voix
- Reviewed on: 5 November 15
- RRP: £8.49
At this price you can't go wrong: and Umi certainly doesn't. If you can find them, at £8 to £14 the Umi Voix offers style, audio quality and excellent build quality at a staggeringly low price. Recommended.
Read our UMI Voix review.