You’ll often hear audiophiles opining that you really mustn’t rely on the earphones that come bundled with your smartphone. We’d agree with that sentiment 100%, but with one important modifier.
That is: you really don’t have to spend all that much money on a new set of headphones. The right budget headphones these days will give you brilliant sound quality as well as features like wireless connectivity and active noise cancellation (ANC).
The following headphones come in all shapes and sizes, and also a variety of prices. After all, £75 might be considered quite a lot of money for a simple pair of in-ear ’buds, but it’s downright cheap for a set of noise-cancelling on-ear headphones. But they’re all firmly in the budget category.
Which of these cut-price headphones do you prefer? Be sure to vote below.
- Thinking about opening up your budget? Don't miss our best wireless headphones mega-test.
Best cheap headphones
1. AKG Y50
The AKG Y50 have been around for a number of years now, but they continue to win fans for the sheer quality of their build and sound quality at an ever-decreasing price. With aluminium ear cups, 40mm drivers, plush pads and an eye-catchingly colourful design, these on-ear headphones punch well above their weight. They’re also surprisingly portable, thanks to a clever fold-up mechanism, while a detachable cable is an unexpected bonus at the price.
2. Anker SoundBuds Slim
You might associate Anker with its extensive range of portable chargers and cables, but it has far more going on besides that. The company has a very respectable headphones business for one thing, and the Anker SoundBuds Slim show exactly what it has to offer. These earphones are great for workouts thanks to their IPX7 waterproof rating, Bluetooth connectivity and stabilising ear-hooks on each earbud. And at around £20, you won’t mind them getting knocked around a little.
3. Creative Sound Blaster Jam
The Creative Sound Blaster Jam are a very cheap (just £40) and very cheerful set of wireless on-ear headphones that sit about as heavily on your head as they do your bank account. Besides being super-light, the Sound Blaster Jam boast decent sound quality and a strong 12 hours of battery life. At the price, there’s really very little to dislike here. Yes, they look like they were ripped from an ’80s Walkman but… did we mention the price?
4. Panasonic ErgoFit RP-TCM125
The Panasonic ErgoFit RP-TCM125 are easily the cheapest set of headphones on this list, so you should probably temper those expectations of transformative sound. What you get, however, is a comfortable in-ear fit, a one-button mic for taking calls, and solid distortion-free sound quality. They’ll be an improvement (albeit not a seismic one) over many stock smartphone provisions, at the very least, and they’ll do so under the strictest of budgets.
5. SoundMagic E11
It’s often the little extras that add to the final price tag when it comes to headphones. The SoundMagic E11 cut through all of that in an admirably no-nonsense manner. They’re simply very well built, great-sounding wired earphones with 10mm dynamic drivers, high grade machined aluminium housings and a tangle-resistant silver-plated copper cable. If you want a mic so that you can talk to people on your phone, check out the SoundMagic E11C. Need wireless? You want the SoundMagic E11BT. The basic pair is all about great sound at a low price.
6. JBL Tune 600BTNC
Active noise cancellation, or ANC, is a feature you would commonly associate with high-end headphones costing hundreds of pounds. The JBL Tune 600BTNC provide said noise cancellation technology along with wireless Bluetooth connectivity, strong bass-forward sound, and a tidy travel-friendly design for a price surprisingly far south of the £100 mark. You also get 12 hours of battery life and a solid, unassuming design for your money. What’s not to like?
7. Jabra Move Style Edition
The Jabra Move Wireless made quite a name for themselves in the headphones industry by offering dependable wireless connectivity and solid sound quality for well under £100. And this was at a time when many more expensive sets simply couldn’t get the basics right. The Jabra Move Style Edition offer a relatively light refresh to this most rock solid of lines, with the main benefit over the hardy originals being increased 14-hour battery life.
8. OnePlus Bullets V2
OnePlus is best known as the upstart manufacturer of thoughtfully specced, competitively priced smartphones. In recent years it has applied this disruptive philosophy to several sets of earphones that can be bought to accompany its phones. The latest OnePlus Bullets are smart, decent-sounding, and cost a scarcely believable £16. You can also select a USB-C connector if your phone lacks a 3.5mm jack, as is increasingly common, and you won’t have to pay a penny more for the privilege.