Top five best cheap headphones for 2019
By Oliver Trebilcock
We round up the best headphones to buy for less than £50 based on expert reviews with ratings for sound quality, comfort, durability and features.
Top-end headphones can be very expensive, but there are plenty of pairs for less than £50 that do the job just as well. Below, we list the top-scoring headphones that are available for less than £50 - regardless of whether they are in-ear, on-ear or over-ear models.
They may not all be Best Buys, but they certainly give some of the premium models a run for their money. Importantly, all these headphones deliver good sound quality - the cheaper cost usually reflects a lack of features, such as wireless Bluetooth connection, noise cancelling and microphones.
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Best headphones under £50
These in-ear headphones are incredibly impressive for the sub-£20 price. They produce a warm, large sound with a strong, clear bass and are well-built and deigned as well. They’re particularly impressive with speech, so they’re ideal for audiobooks or for a portable radio. Log in to find out what we thought of the sound isolation and features of these headphones as well.
These circa £50 well-priced headphones produce a clear, bright sound that performs well across a wide range of musical genres. They come with a hard travel case as well to keep them protected and help them last. Log in to see how they compare to other excellent-sounding headphones, and what our expert listening panel thought of the noise isolation and comfort of these superb in-ear headphones.
These wired headphones prove it's possible to deliver superb sound at an affordable price. Music and speech sound great through these headphones, with punchy pop and clear vocals. They also keep sound leakage to a minimum, so you shouldn't get too many disapproving looks on your morning commute.
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And here are three cheap headphones to avoid
A bad pair of headphones aren't really worth having at all. They'll be so uncomfortable for your ears that you won't want to listen for long and your music will sound terrible, with a lack of detail and boomy bass. To help you avoid making a costly mistake on your next purchase, we've rounded up three of the worst models we've seen in our testing.
Cheap headphones to avoid
You'll want to steer well clear of these headphones. They're actually meant for use in the home, so you can listen to your hi-fi or TV late at night without disturbing others. Unfortunately though, you're the one that will end up being disturbed if you buy these headphones. The sound is rotten - a distracting hiss swamps everything you listen to.
On paper these headphones look pretty decent. They’re wireless and have small hooks designed to keep them secure in your ears when you’re out for a jog. However, the bass is overpowering and the worst crime of all is that they’re uncomfortable, so you won’t be able to get the most out of your workout.
These budget over-ear wireless Bluetooth headphones are a shining example of ‘too good to be true’. At a rock-bottom price, they’re barely more expensive that some of the cheapest in-ear wired headphones. They seem to have all the useful features, including a mic and controls to answer and control calls, as well as volume and music controls, and the earcups swivel flat for easy storage. However, sound quality is appalling. Bass is boomy, but also thick and dull; sound is muffled and lifeless, lacking articulation and excitement, and highs are tinny and harsh.
Cheap and cheerful
A low-cost pair of headphones doesn't have to be rubbish. In fact, while more money will get you fancy features, such as noise cancelling or wireless Bluetooth connection, it often won't get you better sound quality. The ingredients for a good-sounding pair of headphones are actually very simple. One of our Best Buy on-ear pairs uses a design that's essentially been unchanged for 50 years, but for around £30 you can get your hands on a product that will sound as good as many that cost hundreds.
Having said that, there are some things that you should watch out for with cheaper pairs. The main thing is build quality. Flimsy plastic and thin cables will be more likely to break when you accidentally yank the cable out or drop your headphones. We rate the durability of all the headphones we test, so you can be sure you're getting a pair that are built to last, rather than a cheap rush job.