The 10 Best Headphones to Buy in 2018 for Under $50

Find the best wireless, sound quality and exercise headphones for less than $50

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Mpow Bluetooth Headphones Waterproof IPX7

4.3

Mpow brings athletes and exercise enthusiasts a functional and exciting pair of workout headphones on the cheap. The wireless headphones are powered by Bluetooth 4.1 and last for nine hours on just a 1.5-hour charge, meaning that they will never trip you up or run out of battery too soon, even if you are training for a marathon. They are IPX7 water-resistant with a nano-coating that blocks out sweat and rain, staying snugly in your ears whether you are out in the elements or in a yoga studio. The CSR chip and memory-foam ear tips deliver a rich bass experience that stays contained in your ears. 

Check out our other reviews of the best exercise headphones available on the market today.

Best Noise-Canceling: TaoTronics Active Noise Canceling Headphones

TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
Courtesy of Amazon.com
5

Noise canceling technology has come a long way since the first systems were created for pilots in the 1950s. Nowadays, anyone can buy a great pair of noise-canceling headphones, even on a tight budget. Our pick for noise-canceling earbuds under $50 are the TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling Headphones. These headphones are crafted with aluminum alloy that gives it a premium look, and they can reduce background sounds up to 30dB, which can make it much easier to listen to music or podcasts while you’re traveling or working. The 140 mAh battery onboard gives you 15 hours of continuous play on a single charge, so you’ll be fine if you charge them every few days. And for control, there’s a three-button in-line remote on the 55-inch-long cord that lets you select tracks and change the volume. Keep in mind that these aren’t going to cancel noise as well as high-end noise-canceling headphones, but they will do a better-than-average job and cost you a lot less dough.

Check out our other reviews of the best noise-canceling headphones available on the market today.

Best Wireless: Skullcandy Uproar

Skullcandy Uproar
Courtesy of Amazon.com
4.7

Skullcandy is known for its budget headphones, and they offer the best set under $50. The battery life is 10 hours and at 10.6 oz., they’re pretty trim. And they come in seven different colors.

The sound quality is good, but not entirely accurate. The bass is boosted, so if you’re looking for reference sound then look elsewhere. This might be most noticeable on classical music. However, the bass doesn’t overpower the mids and the highs are well balanced. Basically, if you feel like other headphones often don’t have enough bass in the mix the Uproars are for you.

Check out our other reviews of the best wireless headphones available on the market today.

Runner-Up, Best Wireless: Creative Sound Blaster Jam

Creative Sound Blaster Jam
Courtesy of Amazon.com
4

For just $35, you’ll get the wireless Creative Sound Blaster Jams, which are lighter at 8.8 oz. and will give you up to 12 hours of battery life. Sound quality can’t match the Skullcandy Uproars. If you don't switch on the bass boost, the bass is too weak, and with it engaged the sound can get distorted at higher volumes. The design, too, can’t match the Uproars; the earpads are not as comfortable and the headphones can’t be folded. However, overall they are a worthy choice if Skullcandy Uproars are too flashy for your taste.

Best for Exercise: Hussar Magicbuds

Hussar’s Magicbuds check all the right boxes for a solid pair of workout headphones. They’re wireless, which is far more convenient for exercising and unrestricted movement. With silicone ear hooks and different-sized ear tips (including a memory foam option), you’ll get a comfortable fit. They will stay in your ears even during high-impact workouts and running.

These headphones are IPX7 rated, which means they can be immersed in up to one meter of water for up to 30 minutes, meaning they can withstand even the sweatiest of workouts. On a full charge, you can get up to nine hours of battery life, which is pretty great for a set of wireless earbuds. Sound-wise, Hussar says the earbuds will satisfy most bass-heads with a deep bass and a clear treble. While they don’t have active noise cancelation, the earbuds come with the added perk of Qualcomm’s CVC 6.0 noise reduction. For the increased IPX7 rating, sound quality, and noise reduction, the Hussar Magicbuds gives you the basics on a budget.

Best for Sound Quality: Ausdom Wireless Headphones

Ausdom Lightweight Stereo
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Name-brand audio companies like Bose and Sennheiser have spent a lot of marketing dollars to make sure consumers associate their brand with high fidelity sound quality. And while these companies do make impressive products, the price is usually passed on at checkout. But with imports available to U.S. consumers via online marketplaces, obscure companies like Ausdom are offering High Fidelity headphones for a fraction of the price of established competitors.

This over-ear headphone from Ausdom works either wireless with Bluetooth 4.0 technology or can be connected via 3.5mm audio cable. They have 3D surround sound, powerful deep bass, incredibly clear treble and a frequency response of 20Hz-20KHz. The volume will go as loud (and probably louder) than your ears can handle, all while maintaining clear and balanced sound quality.

In addition to the excellent sound quality, these headphones also have a battery life of over 20 hours, impressive long range in bluetooth mode, control for phone calls, and comfortable design with artificial protein leather that feels great on the ears. The Ausdom headphone proves you can get a top-shelf listening experience without paying name-brand price. 

Best Wired: Shure SRH145m+

Shure SRH145m+
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Shure has been making huge waves with its range of affordable headphones, and the SRH145m+ set is the cream of the crop. Plus, it has better features (an inline remote and microphone) and sound quality than its predecessor (SRH144).

Test the SRK145m+ headphones on a track with lots of sub-bass and you’ll get a reasonably powerful sound without distortion. The mid- and high- tones are pleasantly accurate, forgoing the current trend for over-intensity (read: Beats headphones). It has 100 dB SPL/mW with a frequency range of 25 Hz to 18 kHz, as well as an impedance of 34 Ohms.

The design is neat – instead of an adjustable headband, the earcups can slide up and down the inside of it, and hinges allow them to be folded for easy storage. The headphones are only .36 pounds and the dual-side five-foot cord gives you increased mobility.

To keep the price down there are no other accessories supplied, but SRH145m+ headphones are a great budget choice.

Runner Up, Best for Sound Quality: Edifier H840

Edifier H840
Courtesy of Amazon.com

These wired over-ear headphones from Edifier deliver high fidelity sound in a comfortable and classic design. The headphones are engineered to deliver life-like audio quality at an entry-level price and do their job well. They include a powerful 40mm driver and have a frequency response of 20Hz-20Khz with an impedance of 32Ohm. The comfortable over-ear design provides a fair amount of noise isolation to support the sound. Volume could stand to be a bit louder, but the range and bass provides an impressive sound even at lower volume sound. 

Best Gaming: Sades SA-901 USB HiFi 7.1 Surround Pro Gaming Headphones

The HyperX Cloud Stinger is the creme de la creme of gaming headsets and accordingly, you'll find it topping nearly everyone's best lists. With an unprecedented level of comfort in the sub-$50 category, and weighing only 9.7 ounces in total, they can easily be left on for marathon gaming sessions sans any fatigue. The steel slider on top makes resizing easy while signature memory foam earpads up the device's comfort level, putting them on par with far more expensive rivals.

Comfort isn’t the only place the HyperX shines, either. The headphone's measly price tag belies its audio performance as inside each ear cup are 50mm directional drivers that are parallel to each ear. This directs music directly into the ear for more immersive sound. Controlling the volume is handled on the bottom of the right earcup for quick access.

If a gamer needs to quickly mute the microphone, sliding it up does so automatically. And with noise cancellation for reducing ambient background sound, this headset is an easy gaming favorite. 

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best gaming headsets

Best for Kids: JLab JBuddies Studio Wired Headphones

JLab JBuddies Studio Wired Headphone
Courtesy of Target.com

Send your kids off to school with these stylish and durable headphones. Available in two-tone blue or purple, they add a dimension of style and flair without the big-name price tag. Whether they need quiet in the library or want to zone out during a long bus ride, they can expect comfort from the feather-light build and padded ear cups and band. The max sound is 85db, loud enough to rock out but not so noisy that they risk damaging their hearing. The durable product is a great introductory pair of headphones that ditches the blah look of other budget picks.

Need some more help finding what you're looking for? Read through our best headphones for kids article.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 78 hours testing five of the most popular pairs of headphones under $50. To get the most thorough results, they tried them while working out, commuting, relaxing at home, and at the office. We asked them to consider the most important features when using these headphones and we've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in Headphones Under $50

Sound quality - Sound quality is a pretty personal factor. Some headphones deliver heavier bass while others have a more balanced sound; some headphones even let you adjust the sound profile via an app. You can also look at driver size to determine the sound quality: It’s widely believed that the larger the driver, the louder the sound it’s capable of producing. That’s not always true, but as a rule of thumb, go for earphone drivers that measure between 8mm and 15mm and headphone drivers fall between 20mm and 50mm.

Design - Headphones come in all shapes and sizes: over-ear, in-ear, necklace style and true wireless. They all serve different purposes, but over-ear models tend to deliver a better listening experience. If you want a pair for working out, on the other hand, earbuds are probably the way to go. They won’t serve up the best sound, but they will be the most comfortable.

Battery life - When you’re listening to a wireless pair, a dead battery is really a buzzkill. A solid battery life will give you 10 to 20 hours of listening, but if you spring for a pair that has a wired option, you can simply plug in the cable to continue listening if the battery dies.

Test Results: Mpow Bluetooth Headphones Waterproof IPX7 (Best Overall)

4.3

What We Like

  • Comfortable and stay in place

  • Great noise-cancelation

  • Waterproof

What We Don’t Like

  • Ear hooks are not adjustable

  • Poor microphone quality

Fit is always a concern if you haven’t actually tried on a pair of headphones, but Lifewire reviewers say the memory foam on these earbuds make them extra comfortable and the earhooks guarantee that they stay in place. They also live up to their promises of being waterproof: “I was able to test these headphones out during a few rainy commutes with no issues at all,” one tester said. “Being able to keep them on during a downpour situation really proved that they were designed to be functional in all weather.” One tester did mention that she sounded a bit “fuzzy” on phone calls, so she tried to avoid them.

Test Results: TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling Headphones (Best Noise-Canceling)

5

What We Like

  • Comfortable fit

  • Excellent sound quality

  • Great battery life

  • Amazing noise-cancelation

What We Don’t Like

  • No carrying case

These earbuds win where it counts most: sound quality and comfort. “Compared to other earbuds I've had in the past, the sound quality is much better,” one tester said. “And the fact that they fit comfortably in my ears is a plus!” You can customize the fit with interchangeable earbuds and hooks. This pair also earned their five-star rating because of the impressive battery life: Our reviewers confirm that it lasts at least the promised 15 hours.

Test Results: Skullcandy Uproar (Best Wireless)

4.7

What We Like

  • Fast Bluetooth pairing

  • Comfortable for long-term wear

  • Good sound quality

What We Don’t Like

  • No noise-cancelation

Though these headphones provided more bass than expected (which could be a good or bad thing), one tester said, “The sound quality was slightly better than anticipated.” Reviewers also found it easy to pair these headphones with a Bluetooth-enabled device. “Despite working in a major city, I had no issue maintaining that connection — which is an issue I've had with more expensive models,” one reviewer noted. The only complaint is that this pair does not block out much external noise.

Runner Up, Best Wireless: Creative Sound Blaster Jam

4

What We Like

  • Light and portable

  • Dependable battery life

  • Good sound quality

What We Don’t Like

  • Don’t feel sturdy

One tester wished these headphones had a sturdier build, but he still said, “These are definitely better than most of the budget headphones I've used in terms of sound quality.” Lifewire reviewers also got a better battery life than promised. “I can use it two full days of eight-hour listening before charging,” one person remarked. Overall, our testers though the Sound Blaster Jam was the perfect lightweight option to take on the go.