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Top five best cheap headphones for 2018

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.

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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.

Only logged-in members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Best headphones under £50

Lowest price (in stock) £49.30
Which? score 82%
Reviewed Jul 2015
Overall sound quality :
5 out of 55 out of 5
Features:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Comfort:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Durability:
5 out of 55 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive

These Best Buy wireless headphones sound like a premium pair, but cost a fraction of the price. Sound is well balanced and full of detail, and the battery life is pretty impressive, too – it can last for up to 30 hours. An absolute snip.

Lowest price (in stock) £34.99
Which? score 72%
Reviewed Mar 2015
Overall sound quality :
4 out of 54 out of 5
Features:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Comfort:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Durability:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive

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.

Lowest price (in stock) £29.99
Which? score 72%
Reviewed Nov 2014
Overall sound quality :
4 out of 54 out of 5
Features:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Comfort:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Durability:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive

These in-ear headphones produce a smooth, big sound with a strong, clear bass, and they're well designed and built to boot. They're very small, very light and easy to use, with accessible controls for volume, playback and taking calls.

Lowest price (in stock) £59.99
Which? score 71%
Reviewed Mar 2015
Overall sound quality :
4 out of 54 out of 5
Features:
5 out of 55 out of 5
Comfort:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Durability:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive

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.

Lowest price (in stock) £49.99
Which? score 70%
Reviewed Jul 2015
Overall sound quality :
4 out of 54 out of 5
Features:
5 out of 55 out of 5
Comfort:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Durability:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive

These wired in-ear headphones bring excellent sound quality at a low price. You won’t find better sports headphones for less than £40. With adjustable wing tips to keep them in place in your ear and a wired remote control, you’re not missing out on too many features either.

Not found the product for you? Browse all of our headphone reviews.

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

Lowest price (in stock) £44.00
Which? score 24%
Reviewed Mar 2015
Overall sound quality :
1 out of 51 out of 5
Features:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Comfort:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Durability:
4 out of 54 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive

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.

Lowest price (in stock) £32.07
Which? score 28%
Reviewed Nov 2016
Overall sound quality :
1 out of 51 out of 5
Features:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Comfort:
2 out of 52 out of 5
Durability:
5 out of 55 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive

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.

Lowest price (in stock) £19.89
Which? score 33%
Reviewed Mar 2018
Overall sound quality :
1 out of 51 out of 5
Features:
2 out of 52 out of 5
Comfort:
3 out of 53 out of 5
Durability:
5 out of 55 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Wireless:
Member exclusive

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 dull, 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. 

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