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The best cheap headphones in 2020

Best cheap headphones
(Image credit: JLAB)

One thing we’ve learned while testing for the best cheap headphones is that cheap doesn't necessarily mean bad. Sure, the market for headphones priced $35 (and under) is oversaturated with plenty of duds, and the odds of finding a true champion are about 1 in 100. However, if you look hard enough, you may discover some hidden gems out there designed to fill your ears with pleasant sounds, while also saving you time and lots of money.

Lucky for you, we have done all of the legwork and tested numerous models to help narrow down your selections. This includes headphones from industry giants like Sony, JBL, and Audio-Technica, along with newcomers like JLab and MPOW. We didn’t forget about cheap headphone staples like Behringer and Koss either, two brands that have dominated the category for decades.

Tom’s Guide has evaluated and ranked the best cheap headphones based on sound quality, design, comfort, purpose, and style. You will also discover some great cheap wireless headphones here that exceed their value. Let’s jump into our current favorite picks.

What are the best cheap headphones?

Based on our testing, the Behringer BH 470 Compact Studio Monitoring Headphones are the best cheap headphones right now, blending spacious sound and chic aesthetics into a pseudo-luxe (and modifiable) design. Music sounds refined with a bass-forward profile that leaves room for mids and highs to breathe. Even at its super-low cost of $25, the BH 470 surprisingly matches the premium construction featured in many of the market’s best headphones

Coming in second place is the JBL Tune 500 On-Ear Headphones, which is also available in wireless form and shares similar audio performance. These headphones don’t skimp on the low end, thanks to JBL’s powerful Pure Bass technology that ramps up the bass levels to make rock and hip-hop music sonically enticing. The cushioned padding on both the ear cups and headband affords listeners great comfort too.

Representing our pick for the best cheap wireless headphones is the JLAB Audio Studio Wireless On-Ear Headphones. These $30 cordless cans are the most feature-laden of the batch, boasting 30 hours of playtime, Bluetooth 5.0, and multiple EQ modes to match one’s personal sound preference. Not far behind are the DJ-inspired OneOdio Studio Monitor Headphones, an Amazon darling praised for its impressive soundstage, compatibility with professional audio devices, and Shareport function to daisy-chain headphones together and hear playback from the same source simultaneously.

There are plenty of more options that we have selected to represent our expert picks. Take a look at our full list of the best cheap headphones you can purchase right now.

The best cheap headphones you can buy today

Best cheap headphones: Behringer BH 470 Compact Studio Monitoring Headphones

(Image credit: Behringer)

1. Behringer BH 470 Compact Studio Monitoring Headphones

Best cheap headphones overall

Size: 6.69 x 3.15 x 7.87 inches | Weight: 9 ounces | Control Module: No | Microphone: No | Digital Assistant Support: No

In-depth sound
Striking craftsmanship
Padding looks and feels plush
Can be modified
Three-year warranty
Very heavy
No protection case

A handsome design combined with great comfort and some of the best sound arrangement we’ve heard on a pair of inexpensive wired cans, the Behringer BH 470 stands out as the best cheap headphones in its price class. Behringer somehow managed to construct these from solid metal materials, even adding a matte finish and brown faux leather into the mix for a more upscale look. Small details like the 9-notch adjustable headband track and screwed components show the Swiss audio engineer values build quality.

The only thing it values more is audio performance, which the BH 470 excels at. Bass dominates the soundstage without compromising the mids or highs. Stereo imaging is even more impressive, making Jazz songs and live recordings more immersive to hear instruments distinctly. What’s really cool about these headphones is that they can be modified at the user’s discretion. If you want to swap out the cables or mess around with the sound output by toying with the circuitry inside, go ahead.

Best cheap headphones: JBL Tune 500 On-Ear Headphones

(Image credit: JBL)

2. JBL Tune 500 On-Ear Headphones

Rich sound for a small price

Size: 8.07 x 1.89 x 8.78 inches | Weight: 5.2 ounces | Control Module: Yes | Microphone: Yes | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Warm, boomy profile
Very comfortable
Convenient foldable design
Works with Google Assistant and Siri
No volume controls
Lots of sound leakage

JBL is responsible for some of the best cheap headphones below the $100 mark and the Tune 500 is one of its finest options. Hidden underneath the flexible, sturdy plastic frame are JBL’s patented Pure Bass drivers that pump out serious lows; the bass response is thunderous at high volume. JBL’s profile leans towards the warm end, which is good news for music lovers who want more thump in their sound. The soft-padded ear cushions and headband add comfort to the equation, allowing users to enjoy music for long stretches.

Sadly, the headphones (like many wired models) don’t come with volume controls, so you’ll have to do so manually on your smartphone or MP3 player. Thankfully, the sound doesn’t distort or become unbearable when listening at high volumes, though others around you will notice sound bleeding from the cans.

Best cheap headphones: Plantronics BackBeat 500

(Image credit: Plantronics)

3. Plantronics BackBeat 500

Best cheap wireless headphones

Size: 7.1 x 5.5 x 3.9 inches | Weight: 10.56 ounces | Control Module: Yes | Microphone: Yes | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Remarkable battery life
Lightweight, flexible design
Enjoyable bass response
Decent noise isolation
Supports Siri, Google Assistant, and Cortana
Feels uncomfortable after an hour of use
Lack of noise isolation

 The Plantronics BackBeat 500 is an excellent pickup for the price. Battery life is its biggest selling point, generating 18 hours of playtime on a single charge and featuring a Deep Sleep mode that can keep the headphones on standby for six months. You’re also getting some surprisingly good sound out of these on-ears that rivals models in the sub-luxury range ($150 and up). Bass is emphasized to give listeners a warm and energetic presence on hip-hop and rock tracks.

The athletic-inspired design is light and durable, but the headphones don’t provide the greatest comfort after 60 minutes of wear. It also lacks the sweatproof aesthetics of the BackBeat 500 Fit, which isn’t a huge deal unless you plan on working out with these on your head. They could also benefit from better isolation, as external sounds make their way into the ear canal.

Best cheap headphones: JLAB Studio Wireless Studio Wireless

(Image credit: JLAB)

4. JLAB Studio Wireless Studio Wireless

Budget wireless cans with versatile performance

Size: 3.7 x 3.3 x 1.4 inches | Weight: 5.0 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 30 hours | Bluetooth Range: 30 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Lengthy battery life
Comfy and flexible
Built-in EQs
Modern features
Exposed wires
Micro-USB charging

Equipped with 30 hours of playtime, Bluetooth 5.0, and three built-in EQs that you can cycle through at will, the JLab Studio Wireless offers plenty of versatility at such a low cost. Audio isn’t anything to rave about, but each of the programmed modes –Signature, Balanced, and Bass Boost – slightly enhance sound quality when paired with the right music genre. Bass Boost will give EDM and hip-hop songs more oomph. Being able to use Google Assistant or Siri to perform voice commands is a cool feature to have as well. 

As much as we would have loved USB-C charging here, micro-USB isn’t the end of the world, especially when a full charge gets you about a month of moderate playtime. The one concern we do have with these headphones is the exposed wires, which can rip if caught on something. You’ll want to be careful taking these out of your bag. When you do so, successfully, you’ll see why these are a worthy investment.

Best cheap headphones: Koss Porta Pro

(Image credit: Koss)

5. Koss Porta Pro

Best on-ear cheap headphones

Size: 6 x 3 x 2 inches | Weight: 2.0 ounces | Control Module: NO | Microphone: No | Digital Assistant Support: No

Excellent audio quality
Distinct, retro design
Pleasantly comfortable
Awesome value
Poor noise isolation
Fixed cable

These old-school cans deliver amazing sound that is tough to beat for the price, producing transparent mids and highs with warm, full bass and solid detail. The only thing more pleasant than the sound is the comfort, as the foam earpads and lightweight frame rest gently on the head without applying any unwanted pressure. And how could you not love the nostalgic design that calls back to the days of cassette and CD players?

Since they feature an open-ear design, the Porta Pro bleeds out sound a high level, making the headphones best reserved for listening at home or in isolated areas. The slim, built-in cables also present an issue, as they can easily be ripped out and render the headphones useless. Those who are careful with the Porta Pro will find this on-ear solution to be a noteworthy pickup.

Best cheap headphones: Behringer HPS3000 Studio Headphones

(Image credit: Behringer)

6. Behringer HPS3000 Studio Headphones

No-frills studio cans with range

Size: 8.07 x 6.89 x 3.70 inches | Weight: TBD | Control Module: No | Microphone: No | Digital Assistant Support: No

Well-balanced sound
Extremely light and comfy
Bundled with useful accessories
Cumbersome design
Weak noise isolation

The Behringer HPS3000 Studio Headphones deftly deliver light, airy vocals with sparkling strings, crisp percussion and booming lows, depending on the song. This makes them a great option for monitoring bass when mixing at home or in the studio. We found that on very-bass-heavy tracks, the low end could get a bit muddy when listening at max volume. It’s also nice to see that they come with extra accessories like an 1/4-inch jack and 1/8-inch connector, so you can plug them into other devices like a stereo system, mixing console or guitar amp. 

Little can be made about the unattractive, bulky design, as it doesn’t make sporting these headphones fashionable or convenient. The HSP3000 wasn’t made for noise isolation either, as ambient sounds creep into the soundstage and affect clarity when hearing music in rowdy environments.

best cheap headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-AVC200 SonicPro

(Image credit: Audio-Technica)

7. Audio-Technica ATH-AVC200 SonicPro

Professional sound in a bare package

Size: 11 x 4 x 9 inches | Weight: 7.4 ounces | Control Module: No | Microphone: Yes | Digital Assistant Support: No

Exceptional sound
Stabilized fit
Very thin earpads
Bland design

Audio-Technica’s historical resume is all the convincing one needs to chance it on these low-priced studio monitors. What the ATH-AVC200 SonicPro lacks in features and style, it definitely makes up for in sound. Bass hits hard and blends smoothly with vocals for crisp and consonant audio. Drums sound accurate, while instrumental separation is superb on orchestral-heavy recordings; hi-hats and cow bells won’t go unnoticed. Despite their large frame, these headphones feel very light and the weight proportion is superb, keeping them stabilized atop the head and preventing slippage.

We’re not too fond of the thin ear pads, which fail to provide the quality comfort and padding of other models. If your interest in these headphones is really high, we recommend looking into third-party ear pads that are compatible with the ATH-AVC200 SonicPro to gain the best experience.

Best cheap headphones: MPOW H7

(Image credit: MPOW)

8. MPOW H7 Bluetooth Over-Ear Headphones

Big bass, minimalist design

Size: 6 x 9 x 6 inches | Weight: 6.0 ounces | Battery Life (Rated): 18 hours | Bluetooth Range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Punchy lows
Strong battery life
Multipoint connectivity
Sound distorts at high volume
Mediocre build quality

If you’ve scoured Amazon for some of the best cheap headphones, there is a strong chance you’ve stumbled upon MPOW. The H7 is arguably the company’s best creation, backed by long battery life (18 hours on a full charge) and emphatic lows that will rattle your skull. These over-ear cans come equipped with 40mm drivers that cater mostly to bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip hop; drums and guitars have substance. The comfy earpads also create a strong seal to prevent sound from leaking out. The H7 supports multipoint technology to pair the headphones with two devices at the same. 

Unfortunately, distortion becomes a problem when listening at max volume. And while big on audio, the H7 isn’t big on build quality, as the cheap plastic construction feels too flimsy for large headphones. Flaws aside, the H7 still offers a lot value for its low cost.

Best cheap headphones: Sony MDRZX110 Series Stereo Headphones

(Image credit: Sony)

9. Sony MDRZX110 Series Stereo Headphones

Sony bass at a killer price

Size: 5.9 x 1.8 x 7.9 inches | Weight: 4.2 ounces | Control Module: Yes | Microphone: Yes (Optional) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Monstrous bass response
Durable aesthetics
Perfect price point
Cables aren’t detachable
Not very comfortable

The only time you don’t question a headphone’s craftsmanship and sound quality is when the name Sony is branded across it. Just look at the MDRZX1000 for instance. Not only are these tiny wired cans sturdy, but they don’t hold back on bass. They’re like having a little subwoofer for your head that produces rich, pulsating lows. We felt the headphones did best with genres that are heavy on the low end, such as hip hop, house, and EDM. 

However, on country and rock tracks, some of the lows sounded artificial. Also, 15 minutes into wearing these headphones, I felt noticeable pressure around the tips of my ears. Sony sells two versions of MDRZX1000, with and without a mic, but the latter proves to be worth the extra $5 to answer phone calls on the go.

Best cheap headphones: TCL MTRO200BT Wireless On-Ear Headphones

(Image credit: TCL)

10. TCL MTRO200BT Wireless On-Ear Headphones

Terrific noise isolation for cheap

Size: 1.89 x 7.68 x 8.86 inches | Weight: 9.4 ounces | Battery Life: 20 hours | Bluetooth range: 33 feet (10 meters) | Digital Assistant Support: Yes

Block ambient sound incredibly well
Decent sound
Lengthy battery life with fast charging
Mostly suited for children
No volume controls

TCL isn’t a brand you think of when shopping for headphones, let alone the best cheap headphones. That doesn’t mean you can’t get some great value out of these bulky cans. The on-ear design, which gets a bad rap for having poor isolation, is surprisingly effective and keeps external sounds to a minimum. This allows for fuller sound to be enjoyed; bass is punchy and doesn’t diminish vocal clarity. The 20-hour battery life, along with quick 15-minute charging for 3 hours of playtime, isn’t something you will find on most $30 wireless headphones either.

Unfortunately, TCL made some compromises here, which are clearly evident in the design. It’s large, heavy, and the plastic construction is flimsy. The ear cups are also very small, so listeners with large ears may experience discomfort and look silly sporting them. 

How to choose the best cheap headphones for you

Just because you’re spending less doesn’t mean you’re settling for less. You want to get the most bang for your buck when shopping for the best cheap headphones, and the one way to ensure this is by checking off a few essentials from the list.

Audio takes precedence over all other features. You want headphones that produce clean, balanced sound and solid bass. Some models might even offer built-in equalizer options (e.g. JLab) to personalize the soundstage based on your hearing.

Design comes second, which includes build quality, along with comfort and fit. Look for headphones that are durable and pliable; you want to know these things can survive whatever daily abuse you put them through. They should also feel cozy and pleasant on the skull when worn for long stretches, while creating a seal around the ears to keep out external noises.

Keep in mind that headphones around the $35 mark are often wired, though if you’re looking for a cord-free experience, there are plenty of wireless headphones available as well. Just make sure they come with at least 15 hours of playtime on a full charge and Bluetooth 4.0.

How we test the best cheap headphones

As with most of our headphone roundups, we based our list of the best cheap headphones not only on price, but also design, sound, and ease of use. Available features such as controls, mics, and digital assistant support are tested as well.

Our reviewers wear each pair of headphones for 2 hours at a time throughout the testing phase. From there, they evaluate how comfy and securely they fit, along with how well they isolate noise. 

For sound quality, we evaluate volume, clarity, and fullness by listening to many songs across different music genres. This includes hip hop, rock, jazz, classical, and electronica just to name a few. Movies, podcasts, and video games are considered, when necessary. Our reviewers make phone calls to assess call quality and microphone performance too.

After testing is completed, our reviewers rate the best cheap headphones on Tom’s Guide five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Products that hit nearly every mark receive an Editors' Choice badge.