Active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones use an 'active' combination of hardware (microphones) and firmware to make external sounds or noises sound quieter when you’re listening to your favorite music or podcasts, say. Unlike passive noise isolation, which simply muffles those sounds by forming a seal with headphone ear cups or in-ear tips, active noise cancellation listens out for background sounds and uses clever audio trickery to “cancel” these potentially disruptive sounds out. For a more in-depth explanation see ANC explained.
The best cheap wireless headphones bring together the convenience of wireless Bluetooth connectivity at an affordable price tag. Whether you're working from home or commuting to the office, these budget headphones are ideal if you're not too bothered about the fully featured designs of the absolute best models that come at a premium.
That being said, just because you’re paying less doesn’t mean you have to skimp on quality. The headphones you’ll find below have all passed our stringent performance testing criteria, so you can be sure they sound great and some may even include handy features like active noise cancellation or extended battery life.
Don't forget, you'll find lots more info in our in-depth standalone reviews, covering design and comfort, features, ANC performance (where applicable), battery life, and sound quality across all kinds of media, as well as how well they handle calls. Read on to discover which are the best cheap wireless headphones, ranked and rated by the audio aficionados.
The best cheap wireless headphones you can buy right now
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The Cleer Enduro ANC is more "cheap for a pair of ANC over-ear headphones" than cheap in general, though there's no arguing against this being a fantastic bargain. ANC and especially the transparent ambient mode work well, and there are some handy bonus features like the built-in NFC tag for fast pairing.
The fit is decent, though you might want relief after a couple hours, and while the Bluetooth connection support aptX Adaptive you could alternatively use the included 3.5mm cable for full Hi-Res Audio support. Best of all is the battery life: we got over 50 hours of ANC-enabled playback, something no other pair of the best noise-cancelling headphones can currently match.
Read our full Cleer Enduro ANC review.
The PistonBuds Pro are a win for budget-conscious consumers who desire outstanding ANC and sound in a stylish, affordable package. Are they going to replace your AirPods Pro? No, but they are easily one of the best AirPods alternatives that can be had for a third of the price.
Okay, battery life isn’t anything to write home about, nor is call quality. But these shortcomings are forgivable when factoring in the audio and noise cancellation these buds deliver, and are enough to satisfy (especially at the $69 price) and give the Piston Buds Pro mass appeal.
Read our full 1More PistonBuds Pro review.
Like the Cleer Enduro ANC (above), Anker's Soundcore Space Q45 are quite the bargain with a remarkable set of features and effective ANC performance. They offer remarkable battery life, quality ANC, and superb sound powered by upmarket specs and special features. Sound quality has a liveliness that pulls listeners to the front row of the performance on whatever music you're listening to. The sonic soundstage is wide and immersive, and have a ramped up low end, rich mids and crisp highs.
Anker engineered the Space Q45 with a versatile Ambient Sound mode that features dual settings for both Noise Cancellation and Transparency settings. And they all work well when used in proper situations. These headphone are not without some flaws, but nevertheless they have compelling sound and noise neutralization for half the price of Bose and Sony’s flagship models and are worth tracking down.
Read the full Anker Soundcore Space Q45 review.
Sony's WF-C500 earbuds may not wow you with their looks, but arguably these are the best wireless earbuds under $100. Music sounds punchy and although their profile might not be as depth-filled as the Sony WF-1000XM4, you can expect powerful lows and crisp highs, along with under-emphasized mids. Should you want to tweak the sound, there’s the Equalizer feature in the Sony Headphones Connect app to manually adjust frequencies or select from nine presets that prioritize different sonic elements, depending on the music genre or content.
The WF-C500 isn’t perfect, though, with slightly impractical controls that can inflict some discomfort when attempting to activate, and mediocre capacity from the charging case. However, these are trivial complaints when factoring in the level of sound Sony has managed to engineer into these tiny buds, and they're a bargain-priced model that really shouldn't be overlooked.
Read our full Sony WF-C500 review.
The Edifier W240TN are a fine-looking and sounding pair of wireless earbuds. They're pretty well featured, although not everything works quite as well as we'd like. For an ANC model at the price, though, performance is strong and you get detailed sonics thanks to the dual dynamic drivers that deliver a wide and compelling sound, and effective noise cancellation.
We weren't sold on call quality or wind resistance when on the move, but these sorts of compromises are to be expected for wireless earbuds this affordable. Battery life is very respectable as is connectivity, and the overall comfort and craftsmanship make them well worth their asking price.
Read our full Edifier W240TN review.
At $39, the Nord Buds are too good to pass up, especially for OnePlus conformists and commuters who desire quality true wireless performance for less. These buds have a 4-mic array with AI noise reduction, 12.4mm titanium drivers, mobile app compatibility with personalization tools, and proprietary Flash Charge technology. OnePlus mobile users may receive special software perks, but the solid controls, strong audio performance, and sufficient battery life remain consistent across all platforms.
Sound is dynamic and bass heavy at times, but the ability to customize frequencies helps balance things out. The controls work without a hitch, comfort is pleasant, and Fast Charging is clutch for recharging in short time spans. The noise reduction on calls could be better, but the Nord Buds pros outweigh any cons to make it a must-own for budget-conscious earbud users everywhere.
Read our full OnePlus Nord Buds review.
The Buds Z2 aren’t as high-powered as the premium sibling, the OnePlus Buds Pro, but don’t think for one second that it is any less valuable. All three levels of active noise cancellation are effective for taming different frequencies, while the bass-forward sound profile gives music and movies a lively sonic presence. Those with a newer OnePlus device gain exclusive perks like Dolby Atmos support and Pro Gaming mode for lower latency when gaming. Where the Buds Z2 really flexes its muscle is charging. Features like Warp Charge technology gain you 5 hours of playtime in just 10 minutes. We’re also fond of the simple, sturdy design.
If you’re someone who constantly switches tracks or activates the digital assistant, be mindful that the controls can act finicky at times, which results in delays when trying to execute commands.
Read our full OnePlus Buds Z2 review.
Marked down from $300, the Master & Dynamic MW07 can be found for less than $99, and well worth the pickup if you value sound and style. The well-judged sound signature fills your ears with clean, immersive audio that complements all music genres. These buds create a tight and secure seal that prevents ambient noises from creeping into the soundscape, while keeping the buds locked in for a stable fit. Just as impressive is the premium design, highlighted by the acetate and stainless-steel construction. The combination of physical buttons, on-ear detection, and digital assistance form a sweet trifecta of functionality.
Our only legitimate complaint about the MW07 is its very short battery life, which is capped at 3.5 hours and much shorter than the average industry time set by the AirPods (5 hours).
Read our full Master & Dynamic MW07 review.
The Amazon Echo Buds 2 is already affordable by ANC earbuds standards, and is even cheaper if you don't opt for the wireless charging case model. And while there are cheap wireless headphones on this list that don't even come close to breaking 3 figures, Amazon's earbuds sport an enviable feature list that includes ANC and IPX4 water resistance.
It's also got one of the best digital assistant implementations we've seen on any pair of wireless headphones. All you need to do to summon Alexa is say its name; the microphones will pick you up and ready Alexa for further voice commands, so you don't even need to press a button or activate a touch sensor.
Read our full Amazon Echo Buds 2 review.
To see a pair of $20 wireless earbuds show up on any “best of” list is an accomplishment. The JLab Go Air Pop isn’t just one of the best cheap wireless headphones available – these are some of best wireless earbuds in general. We’re impressed by the level of sound these tiny, water-resistant buds reproduce, programmed with three EQs that enhance audio in different ways. You can enable Balance for a neutral listening experience, increase the low end with Bass Boost or get a bit of both with JLab Signature, which is our recommendation. Being able to use the buds for up to 8 hours on a single charge might be the Go Air Pop’s greatest strength, alongside its 32-hour charging case that’s super compact and comes with a built-in USB cable for charging on the go.
Had the buds worked well for phone calls or been compatible with the JLab app, this product would easily rank higher, but a 4-star rating suits it well.
Read our full JLab Go Air Pop review.
How to choose the best cheap wireless headphones for you
The market for cheap wireless headphones is massive, so to help narrow down the search, you’ll want to take several things into consideration. Let’s start with fit. Since there are several different types, including in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear, base your decision on what will feel comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
Going wireless means restricted playtimes, as Bluetooth products consume a lot of power and require recharging every few days. Get a pair of wireless headphones with at least 12 hours of battery life. If you're going with truly wireless earbuds, 5 hours should be the minimum.
Build quality is also huge, especially when investing in sports headphones. Those who are big on fitness will want a pair that offers sweat- or water-resistant protection. Otherwise, look for models with durable aesthetics (e.g. strong plastic, stainless steel).
Keep in mind that modern wireless headphones and earbuds are taking on more advanced features. Look around and you’ll find some that have active noise cancellation, wireless charging, and even sound customization via mobile apps.
How we test the best wireless cheap headphones
Tom’s Guide tests all headphones on the following criteria: design, comfort, features, performance, and value. Our reviewers employ a rigorous testing process that compares products with similar fit, features, and price to determine the best option for you.
Every pair of cheap wireless headphones we test is worn over the course of a week for 2 hours at a time. Comfort, ease of use, and sound quality are three main categories we assess. In terms of audio performance, we test each model across a number of genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical and R&B, while also evaluating volume, clarity, and fullness.
Find out how we test and try out demo tracks for yourself in our guide to getting the best headphone sound for you.
When it comes to features, we test the effectiveness of active noise cancelling, Bluetooth range and battery life. For sports headphones, we put them through intense workouts to determine how securely they fit during exercises and how well they handle ambient noise. We test every feature for app-enabled headphones too.
Star ratings explained:
We evaluate earbuds based on a five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). If a product hits nearly every mark, it’s awarded a coveted Recommended badge, while our Best Value award speaks for itself. Only products with truly exceptional performance across the board are awarded an Editor's Choice badge.
For more information, check out our how we test page for Tom's Guide.
Contributions from: Alex Bracetti
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