The 9 Best Headphones for Under $50 in 2021

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

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The Rundown
Best Overall, Wired:
Audio-Technica ATH-M20x at Amazon
"If sound quality is your top priority, the ATH-M20x headphones from Audio-Technica will allow you to enjoy your music at its best quality"
Best Overall, Wireless:
Mpow Flame at Amazon
"Powered by Bluetooth 4.1 and able to last for nine hours on just a 1.5-hour charge."
Runner-Up, Best Wired:
Shure SRH145m+ at Amazon
"Featuring lots of sub-bass and reasonably powerful sound without distortion."
Best Aesthetics:
Skullcandy Uproar at Amazon
"Perfect if you feel like other headphones often don't have enough bass in the mix."
Best for Exercise:
Hussar Magicbuds at Amazon
"These will stay in your ears even during high-impact workouts and running."
Best for Sound Quality:
Edifier H840 at Amazon
"Delivering high-fidelity sound in a comfortable and classic design."
"The Sony MDRZX110 is the true commuter and traveler’s companion."
Best for Gaming:
Razer Kraken X at Amazon
"It’s still a budget headset, but it does a lot for this price point."
Best Lightweight:
Koss Porta Pro at Amazon
"The Porta Pro by Koss are budget headphones, but they have some features in common with more expensive models."

You can find great headphones without paying a ton of cash, and we’ve collected our favorite headphones available for less than $50 to help you find the best pair that suits your needs. While sound quality usually comes first with headphones, an increasing concern with the advent of wireless headphones is battery life. Some headphones can go 20 hours or longer on a single charge, while others will last less than half of that time before you need to find a charger. 

It’s also important to look at other factors like water resistance, comfort, and style. If you’re going to be using your headphones outdoors or while exercising, you’ll want to make sure they can withstand a little rain or sweat, and that they’ll fit your ears without falling off or becoming uncomfortable after long periods of wear.

We’ve examined dozens of cheap headphones, and our pick for the best pair of headphones under $50 is the Audio Technica ATH-M20x because they have great sound quality at an affordable price. If you’re looking for a wired option, something portable, or a lightweight pair of headphones, we’ve also included our picks for the best headphones under $50 in other categories.

Best Overall, Wired: Audio-Technica ATH-M20x

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x
What We Like
  • Clear, detailed audio

  • Good sound isolation

  • Decent build quality

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks active noise cancellation

The ATH-M20x headphones have exceptional sound quality and clarity, allowing you to enjoy your music at its best quality within this price range. They have a frequency response of 15Hz to 20KHz, and 40mm drivers with rare magnets and copper-clad aluminum voice coils.

These headphones are wired and don’t have Bluetooth capabilities, but they have a single-side 3.0mm cable and come with a ¼-inch adapter for enhanced versatility.

The around-the-ear design provides a close seal for good sound isolation, even without active noise cancellation. The ATH-M20x does lose some points for comfort because it’s not super adjustable. The ear cups swivel 15-degrees and the headband can be resized, but some users say they’re a bit tight. It seems like Audio-Technica cut some corners on the adjustments to produce headphones that would still sound great in this price range. If you like to listen to a lot of music — and especially if you’re planning to do any studio monitoring or mixing — then great sound quality is worth the trade-off.

Best Overall, Wireless: Mpow Flame

What We Like
  • Comfortable and well-designed

  • Multiple eartips for customization

  • IPX7 waterproof certified

What We Don't Like
  • Short battery life

  • Slow to charge

Mpow brings athletes and exercise enthusiasts a functional and exciting pair of workout headphones for less than $20. The wireless headphones are powered by Bluetooth 5.0 and last for up to nine hours on a two hour charge, meaning that they shouldn’t trip you up or run out of battery too soon.

Our testing revealed that 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. 

Sound quality isn’t too bad either, with 11mm dynamic drivers and built-in noise-canceling microphones. You can listen to music, make calls, or listen in on a zoom meeting in a crowded place, and you’ll still be able to hear your conversation. 

"The combination of the IPX7 water-resistant nano-coating and secure, ergonomic in-ear design makes the Mpow Flame a rare find for this price point." Tobey Grumet, Product Tester

Runner-Up, Best Wired: Shure SRH145m+

Shure SRH145m+
What We Like
  • Powerful performance

  • Comfortable

  • attractive aesthetics

What We Don't Like
  • Bass could be a bit stronger

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 better sound quality than its predecessor. 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. 

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 weigh less than six ounces, and the dual-side five-foot cord gives you increased mobility. The cord has a 3.5mm jack on the end, however, so you may need to use an adapter when connecting to some mobile devices.

To keep the price down there are no other accessories supplied, but SRH145m+ headphones are a great budget choice. These headphones are discontinued by the manufacturer, but you can still find them for sale at some retailers.

Best Aesthetics: Skullcandy Uproar

Uproar
What We Like
  • Powerful bass

  • Lightweight

  • Inexpensive

What We Don't Like
  • No 3.5mm audio cable

Skullcandy is known for its great budget headphones, and they offer one of the best sets under $50 in the Uproar. The battery life is 10 hours and they’re lightweight (at 123 grams). They come in several different vibrant colors, so you can find the design that matches your other devices or your personality. The Bluetooth headphones will work with your phone, laptop, and other Bluetooth enabled devices, and there’s a microphone for taking calls too.

The sound quality is pretty good, but there’s a slight amount of distortion on the loudest volume levels, especially when you travel any distance away from your device. The bass is boosted, so if you’re looking for reference sound then look elsewhere. This might be most noticeable in 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 might be for you.

Best for Exercise: Hussar Magicbuds

What We Like
  • Excellent sound quality

  • Built-in mic

  • Solid fit

What We Don't Like
  • Noise-cancellation could be better

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 not bad for a set of wireless earbuds. Sound-wise, Hussar says the earbuds will satisfy most bass-heads with 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. They also have a pretty decent wireless range of up to 33 feet. For the increased IPX7 rating, sound quality, and noise reduction, the Hussar Magicbuds gives you the basics on a budget.

Best for Sound Quality: Edifier H840

Edifier H840
What We Like
  • Low price

  • Lightweight

  • Solid bass

What We Don't Like
  • Feels a bit cheap

  • Not comfortable for long periods

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 Portable: Sony MDRZX110 ZX Series Stereo Headphones

What We Like
  • Folds flat

  • Lightweight and comfortable

  • Very affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Average audio quality

The Sony MDRZX110 is the true commuter and traveler’s companion. It’s about as basic as can be in terms of functionality, but it does a few things very well: it’s comfortable, folds down to almost nothing, and costs even less. Maybe you find earbuds uncomfortable. Maybe you don’t want to bring a pair of expensive headphones into work every day. And maybe you just need something that fits in your bag without weighing you down. The Sony MDRZX110 checks all the boxes, delivering decent but budget-quality sound in a compact and easy-to-wear package. For a sub-$20 pair of headphones, it has a surprisingly broad response range that’s suited to casual listening or video-watching. These headphones are wired, come with or without an in-line microphone, and are available in black, white, and pink.

Best for Gaming: Razer Kraken X

Razer BlackShark V2 Pro
What We Like
  • Wide system compatibility

  • 7.1 surround sound (PC only)

What We Don't Like
  • So-so audio quality

  • Mostly plastic build

In the sub-$50 price range, gaming headsets have a tall order to fill. They need to deliver immersive audio, include a decent microphone, wear comfortably, and work with your game system. For the most part, the Razer Kraken X delivers on all fronts. It’s still a budget headset, but it does a lot for this price point. 

One of the main selling points is its 7.1 surround sound. This is a software-enabled feature, so it has to be activated and is only available for PC gaming. But it delivers immersive, positional audio that makes you feel like you’re truly in the game. The Kraken X has a 3.5mm connection and is compatible with Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch. 

The all-plastic design looks somewhat flimsy but is otherwise neutral, and it makes for a super lightweight headset that’s comfortable to wear all day. The cardioid microphone is adjustable and “noise-canceling,” meaning it filters out background sound so your teammates can clearly hear your voice. Where the Kraken X falters is with audio quality — if you aren’t taking advantage of the surround sound feature, it sounds more like a budget set of headphones.

Best Lightweight: Koss Porta Pro

What We Like
  • Foldable and portable

  • Unique design

  • Includes carrying case

What We Don't Like
  • Connects with a 3.5mm plug

The Porta Pro by Koss are budget headphones, but they have some features in common with more expensive models. They have rigid mylar drivers and oxygen-free copper voice coils to help promote cleaner sound, along with NdFeB magnet structures to help get louder volume levels. The Port Pro phones have an impressive frequency response of 15Hz to 25 KHz, and a sensitivity of 101db. 

The design is really what makes these headphones stand out though. There’s an adjustable headband, which attaches to comfort zone pads that help reduce pressure on the ears. You can adjust the pressure between firm and light to make the headphones the most comfortable for you, and the foam ear pads sit on the ears without pushing too hard.  

You connect the Porta Pro to your device via a four foot long 3.5mm audio jack, so you may need an adapter if you want to connect these headphones to your mobile device. But, when you’re not using the headphones, you can completely collapse the Porta Pro flat and store them in the included carrying case.

Final Verdict

The Audio-Technica ATH-M20x headphones are our top choice for wired headphones because they sound fantastic and perform beyond their price range. For a wireless option under $50, look no further than the JBL Tune500BT headphones, which provide good sound, a portable design, and lengthy battery life.

About our Trusted Experts

Erika Rawes has been writing professionally for more than a decade, and she’s spent the last five years writing about consumer technology. Erika has reviewed roughly 125 gadgets, including computers, peripherals, games, A/V equipment, mobile devices, and smart home gadgets. 

Emmeline Kaser is a former editor of Lifewire’s product round-ups and reviews. She has several years of experience researching and writing about consumer tech. 

Tobey Grumet has been a writer and editor for 25 years. She spent eight years as the first female Technology Editor at Popular Mechanics. These days, she works as a full-time freelance writer. Her work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Forbes, Family Circle, Business Insider, Men's Journal, Sports Illustrated, and more.

What to Look for in Headphones Under $50

Sound quality - In some ways, sound quality is a personal factor, but there are specifications that can help determine whether or not a pair of headphones will sound good. You can 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. Also, look at specifications like what the driver is made of, what the voice coil is made of, frequency response, sensitivity, and impedance.

Design - Headphones come in all shapes and sizes: over-ear, on-ear, in-ear, or necklace style, for instance. 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 or necklace style is probably the way to go. They won’t serve up the best sound, but they will be the most comfortable. Also, consider factors like water resistance ratings, especially if you plan on using the headphones outdoors or while exercising.

Battery life - When you’re listening to a wireless pair, a dead battery is a real bummer. 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. Check the type of cable connection though, and make sure it will connect to your devices. A mismatched cable will require an adapter, and that can also affect your experience.

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