by Kris CarlonNovember 2, 2016

One of the biggest misconceptions in audio is that you can’t get good sound if you don’t pay for it. Though that may be true if you’re a professional, most of us aren’t going to be spending the majority of our days fine tuning movie soundtracks. Personally, I’ll be happy with a comfortable pair of headphones that have decent sound just for my commutes.

On top of that I’m not the best with headphones so if I can replace them without breaking my bank account, even better. It seems like we’re not the only one thinking this as a number of audio manufacturers have made headphones for just that purpose. If you’re like me and are relatively rough on your headphones, this list is for you. These are the best cheap headphones you can get that won’t break the bank.

Related: Best Earbuds under $50 / Best headphones under $100

Samson Z25

Another good pair of headphones that won’t break your bank are the Samson Z25s. These are the entry level version of the Z55 we reviewed earlier this year and share a fairly similar design for a third of the price. Of course, that means that sound quality will also take a hit too, but not as much as you would expect. If anything the one thing that does take a drastic hit is soundstage but hey, beggars can’t be choosers right? The Z25 ditch the premium lambskin leather for synthetic leather, but the plush padding is still there. These have a closed-back design so you can use them while on-the-go and can fold down to a compact travel size if you ever need to throw them in your bag. Design-wise they’re not the flashiest but if you enjoy the design of something like the ATH-M40 headphones by Audio-Technica, you might like these are they’re not too far off. The cable ends in a 3.5mm jack but they also come with a quarter inch adapter if you ever need to plug into something a little more professional. Of course, true studio headphones are way better for monitoring than these will be, but if you’re not looking to make that kind of investment just yet or just want something to work with while you’re on-the-go the Z25s are a great choice for their price. That mgiht be why they have a 4.7 out of 5 star rating on Amazon.
Microphone
No
Bluetooth
No
Noise Cancelling
No
Water-Resistance
No
Size
10 x 6 x 9 inches
Pros
FoldableSoundPrice
Cons
No mic/remoteLong cable

 

 

Monoprice 8323

If you’ve been following Sound Guys for a while, it should come as no surprise that the Monoprice 8323 headphones are first on this list. This isn’t the first list these have made it onto either, and it probably won’t be the last. Monoprice has a reputation for bringing more than is expected to the lower price points of audio equipment and the internet has been buzzing about the sound quality of the 8323s. Though the build quality isn’t the greatest and it’s lacking any futuristic “gotta-have-it” features, that can all be overlooked when you take sound into consideration. These have massive 50mm drivers in each ear cup that produce a full range of sound from 20Hz to 20kHz. On top of that, theyre collapsible so you can store them in a bag without a problem. That said, we wouldn’t classify these as durable so if you’re rough on headphones that’s something to keep in mind. As these are technically DJ headphones, the ear cups are able to swivel up to 90 degrees so they shouldn’t be uncomfortable when they’re hanging from your neck. The drivers can pump out sound up to 100dB as well, making it easy to hear your music in noisy environments which can be considered a feature all on its own if you’ve ever had to wait for your train in Penn Station during rush hour. You shouldn’t have a problem getting a good fit with these either as both ear cups have a good amount of padding and can be extended 1.5-inches on either side to accommodate most heads. Monoprice includes two audio cables of different lengths with the 8323s, giving you the option to choose which one best fits your needs. One of the cables is 50-inches long, ends in a 3.5mm plug, and is the one you should probably use if you intend to bring these with you while on the road. The alternative is an 11.5-foot long cable meant for studio use so you won’t drag thousands of dollars worth of equipment to the floor overtime you roll your chair around. This longer cable also ends in a 3.5mm jack but comes with a 1/4-inch adapter so you can plug into your audio equipment without a hitch. If you want to add some of your own personal flair to these, the ear pads pop right off and you can buy replacement pads in red, white, or gray for only $5. All together you can get a pair of these headphones and every color ear pad and still not pay even half the price of a $100 pair of headphones. The price of the 8323 DJ headphones is always fluctuating but can usually be found for under $40. With a 4.2 out of 5 star rating on Amazon, it’s hard not to make these a recommendation.
Microphone
No
Bluetooth
No
Noise Cancelling
No
Water-Resistance
No
Size
9.2 x 9.3 x 3.5 in
Pros
ComfortableGood bass
Cons
Build quality

Sony MDRZX110NC

What if you have a really annoying co-worker and are in desperate need of a pair of headphones that can block them out? Sure, that’s a very specific niche but I’m sure there are some of you out there. Either way Sony has you covered with their MDRZX110NC headphones (I’ll never understand the need for confusing model numbers). Though these aren’t the best noise cancelling headphones out there (you can find those here), they’re fairly good for the price. If you plan on wearing these while walking around big cities you’ll probably be very disappointed, but they’re good enough for office or home use. The closed-back nature of the headphones help to physically block out noise as well which helps you focus on whatever it is you’re listening to. These have 30mm drivers and a frequency range of 10Hz - 22kHz. When the noise cancelling feature is switched on, these have sensitivity of 115dB. Otherwise you’ll get a maximum sensitivity of 110dB which is still more than enough assuming you like your ears. The cord is of standard length measuring in at about 1.2m and the headphones weigh roughly 150g when you remove the batteries. Unfortunately, these are not powered by the love of music and do require AAA batteries if you want noise cancelling. Should they die you can still use them as regular headphones, but that shouldn’t occur too often as these can last you up to 80 hours when alkaline batteries are used. Just throw a spare pair of AAA in your bag and you’ll be good to go for a while. These come in two options: with a mic and without a mic. Since the audio cable isn’t removable in this model you’ll have to choose which one you want at the point of purchase. If you can live without the microphone you can save yourself around $15, but even with the mic the headphones total to only $50. If you plan on using these for travel you’ll be glad to know that they can fold easily for storage and even come with an airplane adapter so you can watch the included in-flight movie which for me always seems to be 27 Dresses for some reason. These have a 3.8 rating on Amazon with 40% of the reviews being 5 stars. For the price, you can’t go wrong if you want to block out the world.
Bluetooth
No
Noise Cancelling
Yes
Water-Resistance
No
Battery Life
80 hours
Size
7.4 x 5.8 x 2 inches
Pros
Noise CancellingPrice
Cons
Build & Design

 

Symphonized Wraith

Not a lot of cheap headphones actually have good sound, and even fewer look cool. That’s not the case with the Wraith 1.0 headphones by Symphonized. Getting both of these things together is like getting struck by lightning. We agree that looks aren’t everything, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give credit where credit is due. These are just a really nice looking pair of headphones. The headphones have an adjustable stainless steel headband with a soft plush padding on the inside for comfort. The ear cups share this padding and are also covered on the outside with genuine wood. Though this isn’t the first time we’ve seen wood used as a material in headphones, it’s one of those things that never gets old. Using wood has it’s advantages when it comes to sound. There’s a reason why so many instruments are still made of it. Electric guitars are amazing, but there’s something about the natural acoustics of a wooden guitar that has kept it from disappearing into the past. That sound is the basis for why Symphonized says that once you hear these headphones, “you’ll never go back to plastic.” Though theyre described as “Noise Cancelling” in the description on Amazon there really isn’t any active cancellation going on here especially since they don’t have any batteries. Noise isolating is a more accurate description. Using wood does have some useful side effects too, one of them being they do a good job at passively blocking outside noise from entering by simply being there. The Wraith 1.0 headphones come with two audio cables, one with a mic and one without. Both need to be plugged in to each ear cup and end in a 45-degree 3.5mm headphone jack. If you decide to use the one with the in-line mic you’ll find that it also has a one-button control with all of the basic functions like play/pause and skipping between tracks. It can even activate voice control from your device if you need to ask Siri for something. These are available in three different kinds of wood (cherry, maple, and walnut) so you can choose which one you want depending on your style or favorite kind of tree. At $49 they’re the most expensive on this list, but not so expensive that we couldn’t include them as the upper limit of the price range. Besides, with a 4.5 out of 5 star rating on Amazon they seems like they belong here.
Microphone
Yes
Bluetooth
No
Noise Cancelling
No
Water-Resistance
No
Pros
SoundDesignMic/remote
Cons
Strong bass

Koss PortaPro

One pair of headphones that have made their way into classic territory are the Koss PortaPros. These look as classic as they are with a retro design straight out of a Back to the Future movie, which is perfect since these were released in 1984. The headband is just a strap of metal and the two ear cups easily fold up for easy travel. On the side of the ear cups is a small switch that lets you adjust how firm or loose they are. At only 6.4 ounces, these are very light and it’s easy to see why. You won’t find any heavy headband or giant ear cups to weigh these down. To connect to your phone all you have to do is use the good ol’ 3.5mm headphone jack. The cord itself measures about 4 feet in length, which is a bit longer than the standard 1.2m cables but not too long that it’s an inconvenience. A few things that are worth mentioning is that even though these can fold for travel, they are open-back which won’t make for the most hassle-free travel usage. On top of that there is no inline mic or controls here so if that’s a must-have you might need to look elsewhere. Still, there’s a reason these have a 4.5 out of 5 star rating on Amazon and have stood the test of time. Sound is different to everyone but there are some universal truths in audio. These headphones seem to be some of those truths that everyone can agree on. In the future this area of consumer audio is sure to see a huge explosion, so well be sure to keep this updated with relevant information as it becomes available. If you have any headphones that you feel are deserving to be on this list, be sure to let us know.
Microphone
No
Bluetooth
No
Noise Cancelling
No
Water-Resistance
No
Pros
SoundPrice
Cons
Design not for everyoneComfort

 

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