5 best cheap headphones for travel

Sennheiser Accentum headphones
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Sony WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones continue to be my go-to travel headphones when it comes to routine work commutes, business travel and vacations. I confess, though, that I've often felt slightly guilty about not opting for one of the newer best wireless headphones, but despite being several years old there are solid reasons for continuing to rate the older Sony's as my favorite headphones for travel. 

Firstly, they're foldable, which makes them so much more practical for sliding into my work or travel bag, and the protective case is a lot smaller too. And judging by the number of fellow travelers on my work commutes also sporting the older version of Sony's XM-series headphones on their head, I'm not alone.

What counts against them though is the high price, and despite the WH-1000XM5 being the current flagship of the series, the previous-gen XM4 headphones continue to be priced high at $349 / £249 / AU$438 — although they do regularly pop up on our best headphone deals pages, and can be found discounted via online retailers including AmazonBest Buy and Walmart

Luckily, the last 12 months has seen a market shift with increasingly more capable designs available at entry-level prices. With that in mind, here are 5 low-cost headphone recommendations starting at $99 that offer practical durability and long battery life to survive all kinds of trips.

Best cheap headphones for travel overall

Sennheiser Accentum held up against an abstract backdrop

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

1. Sennheiser Accentum

At $179 / £159 / AU$299 the Sennheiser Accentum headphones cost more than the rest of models in this roundup, but they come with plenty of flagship features based on the spectacular Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless. Probably the most outstanding thing about the mid-priced ANC headphones is the strong 50-hour battery life. What's more a 10-minute quick charge can net you up to 5 hours of playback.      

During my review, I found them comfortable to wear and the drivers mastered the company's signature sound with plenty of rich bass notes to give whatever I was listening to the right level of energy without over emphasizing low frequencies. Everything felt nicely proportioned and there was plenty of mid-range clarity.

ANC mode was very effective at reducing background sounds to a pool of silence, and Transparency mode was effective during my testing, too. The Accentum served as a practical solution for taking voice calls wherever I was, and the mics have a dedicated wind-reduction mode that proved useful when stood on windy train platforms.

A downside was that they're not supplied with a carry case, although a new Accentum Plus version announced at CES 2024 addresses that practical issue for just $20 more.

Best for weekend trips

The Cleer Enduro ANC placed on a desk

(Image credit: Future)

2. Cleer Enduro ANC

At $149 / £149, the Cleer Enduro ANC headphones are incredible value for money and a perfectly stowable design that's an easy travel companion. The battery life is rated for an amazing 60 hours. Combine that with an easy going fit aided by an easily adjustable headband and earcups that can both rotate and pivot in a foldable design, and these are an extremely practical solution for weekend trips or longer.   

During our tests with ANC enabled the battery life gave around 50 hours, which although not quite up to the maker's claim is still a match for the Sennheiser Accentum (above). The only downside is a lengthy empty-to-full recharging time of 3 hours, though you can get 2 hours of playback time from a quick 10-minute charge. 

Described as delivering a bass-heavy sound in our original review, it's not to the extent that the mids and trebles get rolled over. Overall, the result is a fun-sounding pair of headphones that belies the low price by creating a very satisfying sense of depth, and a solid companion for adventurers.

Best for business travel

Sony WH-CH720N with mobile streaming device

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3. Sony WH-CH720N

It's refreshing when a company introduces entry-level models for half the price, and at $149 / £99 the Sony WH-CH720N are aimed at budget-conscious buyers seeking practical noise cancelation tech. They're not foldable but they bring a big-brand experience via the awesome Sony Headphones Connect app for a totally attainable price. 

While it's true that they have plastic hinges and outer casing to the earcups, these headphones feel remarkably robust and business-like, and are nicely constructed around an expandable metal headband frame. The ear cushions are deep and the slim, padded headband is a nice touch and sat comfortably on top of my head without applying any undue pressure. 

One of the greatest strengths of these low-cost headphones is the amount of playback time they give between recharges. Battery life runs to 35 hours with noise canceling on, which is 5 hours longer than the flagship WH-1000XM5. Without noise canceling enabled, they'll give anything between 40 to 50 hours of playback time, depending on how you use them. A 3-minute quick charge will give up to 1 hour of playback.

Weighing in at just 6.8 ounces, these are one of the lightest pairs of headphones I've encountered. As such, they offered good comfort levels for longer listening periods on business trips, and Sony's dual noise sensor technology canceled out background noise remarkably well.

Best for vacations

Review listing image for Anker Soundcore Space One in blue

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4. Anker Soundcore Space One

Priced at $99 / £89 / AU$169, the popping sky blue colorway make these Soundcore Space One a great choice for vacations, although they're also available in latte cream and jet black color options should you prefer. All boast a variety of premium features, including adaptive active noise cancelation, Bluetooth 5.3 with LDAC codec support, customizable sound, multipoint technology, and some of the strongest quick charging out there. Lengthy playtimes, personalized listening modes, and safe volume settings add to the lengthy list of features. 

Build quality is sturdy, meaning you can toss the headphones around in your daypack and not worry about the hinges breaking. They provide nice comfort and won’t weigh you down after several hours of listening. 

Our reviewer found that the Space One's sound profile had balanced mids and highs, and that listening with ANC on upticks the low end. The have adaptive ANC that can be personalized and used in different ways. There is Adaptive Noise Canceling for adjusting performance to your surrounding noise levels or Customize Noise Canceling for setting noise neutralization to 1 of 5 levels. These are a great budget option and colorful accessory to add to any vacay travel bag. 

Best for work commutes

Anker Soundcore Space Q45 headphones placed on stone paving

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

5. Anker Soundcore Space Q45 

Like the Cleer Enduro ANC (above), Anker's Soundcore Space Q45 are quite the bargain at $149 / £139 / AU$219, and feature effective ANC performance and strong battery capacity for life on the road. A full charge gets you 50 hours with ANC on and up to 65 hours with ANC off, placing them in the same company as the Sennheiser Momentum 4 (60 hours). 

It's worth pointing out that high volume and features such as high-quality audio LDAC support brings battery life down to around between 37 to 45 hours. Anyone who uses the Space Q45 moderately can get about a month of use. Music lovers should get around two weeks of ANC listening before needing a recharge, making them an ideal if you're the kind of person like myself who forgets to take them out of their work bag and top them up.

If that’s not enough, Anker’s quick-charging technology helps get you 4 hours of listening time in 5 minutes, which is very impressive indeed. They feel lighter and comfier than most ANC models, and the soft, skin-friendly cushioning on the bottom headband doesn’t apply much pressure atop the skull, and the earcup padding is gentle on the ears. These are a great value travel companion and worthy of tracking down.

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Lee Dunkley
Audio Editor

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.