Best cheap headphones 2022: The best budget earphones, earbuds, on-ear and over-ear headphones

Andy White
25 Jan 2022

Decent headphones don’t have to cost a fortune. Here’s our pick of the best cheap headphones you can buy

The best cheap headphones may not be able to compete with their premium counterparts when it comes to sound quality, but they do put a significantly smaller dent in your bank balance.

With so many brands producing different styles of headphones, trying to find the best cheap headphones to meet your needs can be overwhelming. This article is intended to help those that aren’t overly concerned about exceptional sound quality or advanced features but are instead after affordable headphones that won’t let them down.

We’ve tested a wide range of cheap headphones, and below you’ll find bitesize reviews of those we deem the best across three separate categories: earphones, on- and over-ear headphones and true wireless earbuds. They’re all available for under £70, which is a small price to pay for enjoyable audio at home and on the go.

Before we jump into the list of entries, you’ll find a summary of our top picks followed by a buying guide detailing the various things to consider before picking up a pair of cheap headphones. If budget isn’t an issue, head on over to our best headphones page, which details the finest headphones across a range of popular categories.

Best cheap headphones: At a glance

How to choose the best cheap headphones for you

When shopping for cheap headphones, the first thing you’re going to be looking for is an attractive price. But there are a number of other factors worth considering before you part with any money, regardless of how small the sum may be.

What style of cheap headphones should I buy?

Cheap headphones come in all shapes and sizes but typically fall into one of four categories: earphones, true wireless earbuds, over-ear headphones and on-ear headphones.

Earphones and true wireless earbuds both feature earpieces that fit inside your ears. The former style sees the earpieces linked by a length of wire, while true wireless earbuds are completely free of cabling. Both are great choices for exercise as they’re lightweight and portable. For more information about true wireless earbuds, check out our roundups of the best wireless earbuds and best cheap wireless earbuds on the market.

The best over-ear headphones feature earcups that completely cover your ears and are most effective at blocking out sound from the world around you. They’re the bulkiest style but many can be folded for easier transportation. On-ear headphones are typically smaller than their over-ear counterparts and rest on your ears rather than over them. They let in more sound because of this but some people welcome the additional environmental awareness they offer.

Should I buy wired or wireless cheap headphones?

Bluetooth (wireless) headphones are the popular choice these days as they remove pesky audio cables from the equation – not having to untangle wires every time you take your headphones out of your pocket really is a godsend.

However, wired headphones have two distinct advantages over those that operate via Bluetooth: audio quality tends to be marginally better, and they don’t ever need to be charged as they don’t rely on internal batteries.

If you’re going for wired headphones, make sure that the connection they use is compatible with your device. A 3.5mm jack is the most common connector but many smartphones no longer house a 3.5mm port, which is one of the reasons why wired headphones are declining in popularity.

What features should I look for when buying cheap headphones?

Water resistance: This primarily applies to earphones and earbuds but some level of water resistance is preferable no matter what style of headphones you buy. Look for a certified IP rating – anything IPX4 or above will be well equipped to withstand trips to the gym or being caught out in a rainstorm.

Touch controls: These are becoming an increasingly common inclusion on modern headphones and offer a way to control your audio without needing to take your phone out of your pocket. Comprehensive controls are appealing (particularly those that allow you to adjust the volume) but bear in mind, the more controls on offer, the harder it is to remember what each of them does.

Voice assistant support: If you’re a fan of Siri, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, you’ll want to ensure you buy headphones that support your voice assistant of choice.

Noise cancellation: Active noise cancellation (ANC) is a rare inclusion in cheap headphones but we are starting to see more affordable options coming to market. ANC helps reduce the impact of external sound on your listening experience and is wonderful if done well. Cheap ANC headphones don’t tend to make too big a dent in ambient sound, however, so consider it an added bonus rather than a must-have feature. If you're after ANC earbuds, check out our list of the best noise-cancelling headphones.

The best cheap earphones

1. Beats Flex: Best cheap wireless earphones

Price: £49 | Buy now from Amazon

The Beats Flex are a distinct departure from the company’s premium headphone offerings, but there’s no denying their quality. Audio is well balanced and they’re more detailed than most headphones you’ll find in their price range.

As you’d expect from an Apple product, the Flex pair seamlessly with iPhones. iOS users can also take advantage of the Audio Sharing feature, which allows you to listen to the same music as someone else, as long as they’re using a recent pair of Beats headphones or AirPods.

The Flex offer a secure fit, too, and are simple to operate using the in-line controls on the neckband. Their lack of an IP rating is slightly disappointing and means you won’t want to use them in the rain or at the gym, but that issue aside, the Beats Flex tick all the right boxes.

Read our Beats Flex review for more details

Key specs – Type: In-ear; Connections: Bluetooth; Weight: 18.6g; Cable length: N/A

2. SoundMagic E11: Best cheap wired earphones

Price: £40 | Buy now from Amazon

The SoundMagic E11 follow on from the success of their supremely popular predecessors the E10. They might be dearer, but they're definitely worth the extra outlay as SoundMagic has improved on almost every aspect of the originals. The E11 have a better soundstage, superior treble and less boomy bass.

As for the design of the E11, they're quite classy and stand out from the rest of the crowd thanks to their silver-plated copper cable. As a total wired, in-ear package, the E11 are an incredible set of headphones.

Read our SoundMagic E11 review for more details

Key specs – Type: In-ear; Connections: 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: Unknown; Cable length: 1.2m

3. Creative Outlier One V2: Best cheap earphones for exercise

Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon

If you're looking for cheap Bluetooth earphones that look as good as they sound, the Creative Outlier One V2 are among the best you can find. Their IPX4-certified sweatproof design means they're perfect for runs or trips to the gym.

There's very little to dislike about these earphones: they have a surprisingly textured bass response, an energetic treble and a wide, deep and engaging soundstage. The package also includes three sets of silicone tips and two ear-hooks, with which you can secure the Outlier One V2 in your ears.

Key specsType: In-ear; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 15g; Cable length: N/A

4. Sennheiser CX 300S: Best cheap earphones from an audiophile brand

Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon

Sennheiser's reputation for producing high-quality audio products proceeds it but many of its offerings are eye-wateringly expensive. Not so the CX 300S, the latest iteration of its popular CX line that dates back to 2008.

These wired earphones come with four sizes of eartips so getting a good fit won't be an issue, while there's an in-line remote and microphone that lets you play/pause music and take calls. The 1.2m cable is designed to be tangle-free, which is a nice touch, and you also get a handy carrying pouch as part of the package.

Key specsType: In-ear; Connections: 3.5mm; Weight: 12g; Cable length: 1.2m

5. Apple EarPods: Cheap earphones for iPhone users

Price: £29 | Buy now from Amazon

There was once a time when Apple bundled EarPods with its iPhones, but alas, it stopped doing so ahead of the launch of the iPhone 12. That’s not stopped the EarPods from remaining immensely popular with Apple users though and there’s no denying their mass appeal.

The lightweight earpieces are extremely comfortable to wear, with the absence of silicone eartips leaving your ear canals blissfully clear. The design does mean more external sound makes its way into your ears than it does with the other earphones on this list, but that can be beneficial in certain situations, as it enables you to be more aware of your surroundings.

We’ve linked to the version featuring a Lightning connector, but there’s also a version with a 3.5mm connector available, which you can buy here.

Key specs – Type: In-ear; Connections: Lightning or 3.5mm; Weight: 27g; Cable length: 1m

The best cheap on- and over-ear headphones

6. Sony MDR-ZX310: Best cheap wired headphones

Price: £16 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re looking for a pair of headphones to wear on the commute, you’ll want something portable and not too pricey. The Sony MDR-ZX310 fit the bill perfectly: they’re ultraportable headphones that come in a variety of colours and can be folded to be easily carried around.

The sound isn’t jaw-dropping, but for this little, there’s not much to complain about. Bass is a touch flabby and undefined, and there’s not much snap or clarity to the mid-range and treble frequencies. If value for money and portability are both at the top of your shopping list, the MDR-ZX310s are a top choice.

Key specsType: On-ear headphones; Connections: 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 127g; Cable length: 1.2m

7. SuperEQ S1: Best cheap noise-cancelling headphones

Price: £70 | Buy now from Amazon

We're slowly starting to see more cheap headphones incorporate noise-cancelling technology and the S1 do a decent job at reducing the impact of both low-end and mid-range frequencies. In addition to ANC, the S1 have a transparency mode that boosts ambient sounds in your environment, which while not particularly strong, is useful when you need to be slightly more aware of what's going on around you.

Audio quality is solid for the money – the S1 don't distort at high volumes and vocals are delivered with clarity. Bass frequencies possess a pleasing thump too, though we did find they muddied the mid-range at times.

The S1 would undoubtedly benefit from a bit of extra padding on the headband and those with large ears should approach them with caution as their earpads are on the small side. But with IPX5 certification and up to 40 hours of audio playback in addition to ANC, they're a fine choice for those wanting over-ear noise cancellation on a budget.

Key specs – Type: Over-ear headphones; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0, 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 283g; Cable length: 1.2m (optional)

8. Groov-e Ultra: Best cheap headphones with wireless charging

Price: £27 | Buy now from Amazon

This pair of cheap headphones' big selling point is their incorporation of wireless charging. Simply place the left earcup on a Qi charging pad and you can top up the Ultra's 30-hour battery without needing a cable. The left earcup also functions as the Ultra's control centre, with a multi-function button for activating your voice assistant, accepting and rejecting calls and playing and pausing audio in addition to buttons for adjusting volume and track skipping.

At 170g, the Groov-e Ultra are lightweight and their padded earcups and headband do a good job in ensuring they're comfortable to wear for long periods. But when it comes to audio quality, the Groov-e Ultra are a bit of a mixed bag. They go loud and deliver vocals crisply but bass reproduction is handled less adeptly, with certain frequencies sounding rather bloated.

Those that predominantly listen to bass-heavy genres will want to give them a miss but for everyone else in search of cheap headphones with wireless charging capabilities, the Groov-e Ultra are a solid purchase.

Key specsType: Over-ear headphones; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0, 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 170g; Cable length: 1.5m (optional)

9. Sennheiser HD206: Best cheap reference headphones

Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon

Sennheiser is a standout name in audio and its extensive HD range caters for just about every budget. The HD206 are the cheapest entry in the series but deliver unexaggerated bass, crisp midrange and smooth highs, making them ideal for budget-conscious DJs craving studio accuracy.

The cable attached to the HD206 is a whopping 3m long, which is great if you’re wearing them at home but does mean you’ll have a lot of excess wiring to stash away if you’re using them on the go. That minor issue aside, the HD206 are an excellent pair of budget reference headphones.

Key specsType: Over-ear headphones; Connections: 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 165g; Cable length: 3m

10. Groov-e Kidz: Best cheap headphones for kids

Price: £10 | Buy now from Amazon

The Groov-e Kidz are the perfect first pair of headphones for children. They’re built with durability in mind and are nigh-on unbreakable; no amount of throwing, stretching or twisting could damage them.

Sound quality isn’t great, with a narrow soundstage, overpowering bass slam and recessed mids, but unless your child is already on their way to becoming a music critic, it’s unlikely to affect their enjoyment. Available in six distinct and fun colour schemes, the Groov-e Kidz are the best place to kickstart your children’s musical journey.

If you're interested in seeing our pick of the best headphones for kids no matter your budget, head on over to our best kids' headphones page.

Key specsType: On-ear headphones; Connections: 3.5mm jack plug; Weight: 250g; Cable length: 1.2m

The best cheap true wireless earbuds

11. 1MORE PistonBuds: Best cheap wireless earbuds

Price: £28 | Buy now from Amazon

The PistonBuds are among the best-sounding buds on this list and are also some of the most comfortable and best for call clarity. There's a touch of the Apple AirPods Pro about their design, with short tails extending from the buds, which house touch-sensitive control panels. The controls work consistently but are limited to playing/pausing audio, hailing your voice assistant and answering/hanging up calls.

Audio comes courtesy of 7mm dynamic drivers and they deliver a particularly potent bass response coupled with decently-defined mids and treble. Vocals can be overwhelmed by the weighty low-end on bass-heavy tracks but the overall sound quality is better than you'd expect for a pair of earbuds at this price. The PistonBuds come with IPX4 certification so are both sweat and water-resistant, and they sport commendable battery life of around 24 hours when listening to audio at 50% volume.

Key specsType: True wireless earbuds; Connections: Bluetooth 5; Weight: 4.2g per earbud, 36g charging case; Cable length: N/A

Buy now from Amazon

12. EarFun Free Pro: Best cheap noise-cancelling earbuds

Price: £50 | Buy now from Amazon

The EarFun Free Pro are the only earbuds on this list to offer active noise cancellation. The ANC isn't going to win any awards for its attenuation of external sound but does dampen the impact of low-end frequencies and the ambient mode works well.

Touch controls are comprehensive and responsive, the earbuds fit very comfortably and IPX5 certification makes them a good choice for gym use. Battery life is ample at up to 27 hours (including the charging case) with ANC turned on and when the case runs dry it can be topped up wirelessly, a rare inclusion for affordable earbuds.

Audio quality is solid for the money - we were impressed by the amount of bass on offer and the Free Pro delivered a surprising amount of detail too, though treble had a habit of becoming rather piercing at higher volumes.

Key specsType: True wireless earbuds; Connections: Bluetooth 5; Weight: 4.2g per earbud, 36g charging case; Cable length: N/A

13. Skullcandy Dime: Best-sounding earbuds under £30

Price: £30 | Buy now from Amazon

These ultra-compact earbuds deliver sonic performance that belies both their size and price tag. Available in three distinctive colourways in addition to black, the Dime’s sound signature is warm yet well balanced – bass never becomes overbearing in the audio mix. They manage to pack in a decent amount of detail, too, with vocals, mids and treble all communicated clearly.

The Dime’s implementation of touch controls leaves a fair bit to be desired, however. They cover a wide range of actions, which is commendable, but memorising them all is no mean feat. And having to grip the buds’ small stems to get the purchase required to push in the Skullcandy logo that executes commands is rather fiddly.

Total battery life clocks in at a mere 12 hours but with impressive sound quality, a supremely comfortable fit, IPX4 water resistance and a lanyard to attach the case to your keyring, the Dime are well worth their asking price.

Key specs – Type: True wireless earbuds; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 4g per earbud, 25g charging case; Cable length: N/A

14. Tronsmart Onyx Ace: Best cheap AirPods alternative

Price: £28 | Buy now from Amazon

The Onyx Ace offer excellent value for money and are a budget alternative for those that can't afford to splash out for AirPods. The sound profile is bass-heavy and vocals and instrument separation suffer because of it, particularly when there’s a lot of prominent low-end. But the lacklustre audio is easy to overlook when you consider everything else you get for the money. There’s IPX5 waterproofing, total battery life in excess of 20 hours, comprehensive and responsive touch controls, support for the aptX Bluetooth codec, voice assistant support and an impressively clear microphone.

They may not be quite the complete budget earbuds package, but the Tronsmart Onyx Ace aren’t far off.

Key specs – Type: True wireless earbuds; Connections: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 3.5g per earbud, 37g charging case; Cable length: N/A

15. Urbanista Lisbon: Best compact true wireless earbuds

Price: £50 | Buy now from Urbanista

If you’re after a budget pair of true wireless earbuds that people won’t even realise you’re wearing, these are the buds for you. Imagine Apple's AirPods with the stems cut off and you’ve got something similar to the Urbanista Lisbon. They’re tiny, lightweight and can be worn with or without the silicone wingtips included in the box.

Their open-ear fit means they do let some external sound in but also has the benefit of ensuring you remain aware of your surroundings. Battery life is impressive for such a small pair of buds, clocking in at up to nine hours, with the charging case providing a further two full charges. Touch controls are simple and effectively implemented and the in-built mic allows you to make and take phone calls as well as hail your voice assistant.

This functionality combined with their ultra-compact design makes the Lisbon a great choice for anyone in search of a truly discreet in-ear audio solution.

Key specs – Type: True wireless earbuds; Connections: Bluetooth 5.2; Weight: 4g per earbud, 32g charging case; Cable length: N/A

16. Groov-e Sport Buds: Best cheap earbuds for exercise

Price: £31 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re after a pair of budget earbuds you can rely on to stay put in your ears when exercising, look no further than the Groov-e Sport Buds. Flexible rubber hooks loop over your ears to successfully keep the buds secure when running or pumping iron and the tips fit comfortably in your ears, too. Audio quality is reasonable, with a decent bass kick and plenty of volume, though treble is reproduced a little harshly at higher volumes.

The Sport Buds offer a pleasing number of features given their affordable price. They are IPX4 sweat- and water-resistant – mandatory for buds designed for physical activity – and there's voice assistant support as well. The outer surfaces of the earpieces can be pressed to control a number of basic operations. Battery life on the buds clocks in at around four hours, which is slightly below average, but the chunky charging case offers an impressive six full charges. Furthermore, the case houses a USB-A port and can be used as a power bank for charging other devices. It’s rare to see earbuds offer this extremely useful functionality, especially at such a competitive price.

There may be other budget earbuds better suited to casual listening, but the Groov-e Sport Buds are our go-to choice for trips to the gym and running in the park.

Key specs – Type: True wireless earbuds; Connection: Bluetooth 5.0; Weight: 7g per earbud, 96g charging case; Cable length: N/A

Read more

Best Buys