We all want the best, but sometimes the top-tier choice is beyond what we budget. Thankfully, cheap Bluetooth headphones are easy to come by and with the rise of true wireless earbuds, premium headset prices have fallen dramatically. Although all of our picks are relatively affordable, none of them are inherently cheap. Whether you need active noise cancelling, a compact design, or long battery life, we’ve got something to scratch your audio itch.
Editor’s note: this list of the best Bluetooth headphones under $100 was updated on October 16, 2020, to include information regarding the Sennheiser HD 450BT.
The best cheap Bluetooth headphones are the Sennheiser HD 350BT
Sennheiser makes some of the best headphones in the market, even though it’s more affordable models like the Sennheiser HD 350BT continue to impress consumers. This headset boasts a wide range of high-quality Bluetooth codec support: AAC, aptX, and aptX Low Latency give the listener flexibility in how to listen and from what device to listen from.
Sennheiser HD 350BT
The large oblong ear cups are comfortable to wear for long periods of time, so long as you have average or smaller-sized ears. Those with large ears may realize these over-ears fit more like on-ears, which can be a literal pain. Buttons line the outer edge of the ear cup for volume adjustments, playback controls, and voice assistant access like Google and Siri. The headphones lack a 3.5mm input, so when the battery dies, you have to rely on the USB-C fast charging to get you through the rest of your listening session.
Bluetooth multipoint is supported, but users reported issues with stable connection strength when connected to two devices at a time. While this is a pain to deal with, it’s something that may easily be remedied in a future firmware update, which Sennheiser affords through its free app.
If you’re willing to venture beyond the $100 price cap, consider the step-up to the HD 350BT: the Sennheiser HD 450BT. It features many of the same features found on the HD 350BT, but includes active noise cancellation. Its ANC performance may not stack up to the likes of Sony or Bose, however it does a decent job at blocking out ambient noises—especially when you consider its $150 price tag.
What you should know about Bluetooth headphones under $100
High-quality Bluetooth codec support is rare
This support is typically reserved for a more premium class of headphones, so don’t be too disappointed if your favorite headset here lacks aptX or AAC support. That said, we’ve done our best to include some picks with at least aptX support, which yields high-quality audio streaming for Android devices. iPhone users, if it’s any consolation, many of us are unable to discern a difference between high-quality codecs because our ears are either too old or too damaged to observe it.
A proper fit matters even especially with cheap Bluetooth headphones
Whether you’re shopping for earbuds or headphones, finding a proper fit is key to optimizing audio quality. If you can’t create a total seal separating you from the environment, external noises will make it difficult to perceive detail in your music. This phenomenon is called auditory masking: loud noises cause relatively quiet noises hard to register. To avoid this altogether, take a few moments and make adjustments to the headband. If the yokes allow for it, you can also angle the ear cups. Not only does this create a more comfortable fit, but it effectively improves passive isolation, so you can focus more on the music and less on chatty neighbors.
Are noise cancelling headphones better than non-noise cancelling ones?
It depends on what you prioritize. If you’re really scrounging for the best bargain you can find, then ANC headsets may not be an option as they tend to be pricier. That said, noise cancelling headphones are better for you than those without ANC because they can help preserve your hearing by preventing noise-induced hearing loss.
This relates back to auditory masking: not only are we less able to register music playback, but many of us thoughtlessly increase volume when we’re on a crowded train car or noisy flight. It may not seem like the music is loud at the time—again, a consequence of auditory masking—but there’s a good chance we’re damaging our stereocilia, those tiny ear hairs, when we crank the volume. Noise cancelling headphones make us less prone to doing so because, the good models, nullify or lessen external noise.
Maintain realistic expectations
Although we’re presenting you with the best cheap Bluetooth headphones around, the fact remains that these are still cheap Bluetooth headphones. If you think corners have been cut, it’s because they have been. Unfortunately, you can’t have it all for less than $100 and one of the first things to go is construction quality. You’re unlikely to find a leather-wrapped headband with brushed aluminum accents on this list. However, once expectations are tempered, you’ll be amazed at how far $100 can take you when it comes to consumer audio.
Committed to on-ears? Get the JBL Live 400BT
JBL is a company known for making high-quality audio products that cater to both consumers and professionals. With the JBL Live 400 BT, the company is presenting consumers with a pair of on ears featuring good audio reproduction—all without breaking the bank.
JBL Live 400BT
The sound signature of the JBL Live 400BT is known for emphasizing lower frequencies, which is a typical characteristic of consumer headphones. However, unlike most cans on the market, the low-end emphasis does not lead to distorted mids and highs. JBL has also included support for these headphones within the JBL app, giving you access to a graphical EQ for full tonal control over your listening experience.
The one drawback with the JBL Live 400BT has to be its design, which sits on your ear and may feel uncomfortable after long periods—especially if you wear glasses. Moreover, the on-ear design of the ear cups means that isolation performance is quite lacking, allowing ambient noise to interrupt your listening experience. If you plan to use your headphones in environments that are often loud, you may want to forgo these on-ears for some over-the-ear headphones.
Listen endlessly with the Audio-Technica ATH-SR30BT
The Audio-Techncia ATH-SR30BT recently got a hefty price reduction from $99 to $69. These over-ear headphones boast an incredible 70-hour battery life, and a portable design despite their large footprint.
Just like the ATH-M40X, the ATH-SR30BT ear cups house 40mm drivers that reproduce a strong low-end response. Although they’re not noise cancelling headphones, the ATH-SR30BT effectively isolate you from your surroundings, in part due to the ear pads and headband pressure. Some users make note of small on-board controls, so if you have large hands, you may be frustrated by this. However, most people should be able to operate playback controls without issue.
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To my dismay, this headset doesn’t support aptX for high-quality streaming, but there is a headphone jack for those who want to get the absolute best audio quality. Plus, if you’re streaming hi-res FLAC files, wired listening is the way to go anyway. Although these cans aren’t anything groundbreaking, they’re a superb option for listeners who don’t want to worry about keeping their favorite cheap Bluetooth headphones charged up.
Look good with the Jabra Move Style
The Jabra Move Style Wireless headphones feature an attractive design that may trick passersby into thinking you paid a small fortune for them. The metal construction makes the Move Style seem impervious to damage, and even basic wear and tear.
Jabra Move StyleFull Review
The battery lasts just under 13 hours on a single charge and takes only 1.5 hours of charging via the included microUSB cable to get it back to full capacity. Just like the rest of the headsets listed today, Jabra’s on-ear headset uses an outdated Bluetooth 4.0 firmware version. To add insult to injury, these lack high-quality codec support. Fortunately, Jabra’s products typically have grade-A connection qualities, and the Move Style Wireless keeps in line with that trend. Plus, you can always fallback to wired listening.
Jabra’s DSP does a great job of reproducing a surprisingly neutral-leaning sound, but this is wholly dependent on finding a proper fit. Bass frequencies are about as loud as mids, so the headset bodes well for all genres of music. Listeners looking for something unobtrusive and stylish should pick up a pair of these, or save up for the Jabra Elite 45h.
Make every penny count with the Anker Soundcore Life Q20
Anker is lauded by budget shoppers for its reliable, low-cost products that give more expensive alternatives a run for their money. The Anker Soundcore Life Q20 is a gem as it features active noise cancelling, grants 40 hours of listening on a single charge, and has comfortable ear pads.
Anker Soundcore Life Q20
The Anker Soundcore Life Q20 is known for having significant improvements over its predecessor: the Anker Soundcore Vortex. This newer headset features plush memory foam padding, ensuring a comfortable listening experience during long periods. Moreover, the inclusion of a 40-hour battery means that these headphones will actually last during your daily commute or a transatlantic flight.
Sound wise, these headphones are just okay, equipped with drivers that tend to over-emphasize bass and treble frequencies. This is great for fans of bass-heavy electronic music, though the sound of guitars and other acoustic instruments may lack some clarity.
The active noise cancelling on the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 is just about what you’d expect for less than $100, attenuating midrange sounds where ambient noise typically lies. Low-frequency noises, such as the rumbling of a jet engine, are cancelled out—though not as well as some higher-end ANC headphones.
How we chose our favorite affordable Bluetooth headphones
We understand that shopping around for audio products can be an arduous and confusing task. Rather than sending readers off on a wild goose chase for information, we’ve chosen to consolidate the most pertinent things shoppers should know about cheap Bluetooth headphones and list out what we’re championing as the best picks around. Any headset we’ve reviewed has been subjected to a battery of objective tests to determine frequency response, isolation, microphone performance, battery life, and noise cancelling effectiveness.
Although we pride ourselves on making objective data easily accessible to our readers, we also value the subjective aspect of audio, and go to great lengths to use products as a normal consumer would. That way, we’re able to highlight the good and bad each headset, microphone, or speaker has to offer.
- Jabra Elite 65t: The Jabra Elite 65t may not be cheap Bluetooth headphones, but they are cheap true wireless earbuds thanks to the release of the Elite 75t. These were our favorite totally wireless earphones for months on end, and remain a great value pick for listeners who want something extremely portable and reliable.
- Plantronics BackBeat Fit 500: Athletes who prefer an on-ear fit should consider these headphones. The ear cups rotate and fold flat, making them easy to throw into a gym back. Plus, they have a water-resistant nano-coating, so you can break a sweat without damaging them.
- Plantronics BackBeat Fit 600: Athletes searching for workout headphones that work just as well in the office as they do in the gym should get the Fit 600. Listeners can adjust the headband tension, and benefit from a comfortable over-ear fit. Sound quality and microphone quality are generally very pleasing with these IPX5 headphones.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Although both products share a similar price and sound profile, the Sennheiser HD 350BT includes a few modern additions over the HD 4.40BT, including USB-C for charging and Bluetooth 5.0 support.
Technically you can, but it doesn't necessarily mean you should. If you want to use your headphones during your workout, consider buying a pair that are rated for water resistance, to make sure that your investment lasts as long as possible.
The biggest difference between the two is that the HD450BT features active noise cancelling, while the HD350BT does not. Sound wise, the HD450BT claims to have a fuller, more detailed sound, though at a higher price point than the HD350BT.