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 was updated on May 15, 2020, to account for replace the AKG N60NC with the AKG N700NC over-ear headphones.
The best cheap Bluetooth headphones are the Sennheiser HD 4.50 Wireless
Sennheiser makes some of the best headphones in the market, even though it’s more affordable models like the Sennheiser HD 4.50 Wireless continue to impress consumers. This headset boasts fine noise cancelling technology with a portable design due to the folding hinges.
Sennheiser HD 4.5 Wireless
Sennheiser implemented its NoiseGuard technology into the HD 4.50 Wireless; this lets you cycle between three cancellation modes, depending on how loud your environment is. Thick earpads help to passively attenuate background noise, further emphasizing the impact of its ANC performance.
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 and playback controls. There’s also a 3.5mm input for when the battery dies, or for when you want to enjoy better quality audio than aptX affords. Listeners of all needs will get a lot of value from the HD 4.50 Bluetooth headphones.
Editor’s note: as of April 17, 2020, the Sennheiser HD 4.50 Wireless cost slightly more than $100, but remain an excellent option at a nominally higher cost.
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 AKG N700NC
The AKG N700NC has seen a significant price reduction due to its age and the advent of the AKG NC700NC M2. Despite the over ear structure, the headphones are rather portable as they can fold flat and the ear cups can collapse toward the headband. AKG provides a hardshell carrying case to protect the headset during transport.
AKG N700NCFull Review
Upon release at the end of 2018, the AKG N700NC retailed for $350 and its noise cancelling performanced rivaled that of the Sony WH-1000XM3. The fact remains that noise cancellation is excellent with these headphones, but they didn’t take off as well as AKG had hoped. Perhaps it was the outdated microUSB input that did the headset in, but more likely it was the lack of high-quality Bluetooth codec support. Only iPhone users truly benefit from consistent, optimal wireless audio as these are limited to AAC and SBC streaming whereas the Sony WH-1000XM3 support a host of high-quality codecs, including the ever popular aptX.
If you take a lot of hands-free calls, you’ll enjoy the AKG N700NC’s performance: it does a great job of transmitting clear audio while simultaneously rejecting background noise. In the audio sample below, I’m speaking as music is playing in the background, which is very hard to hear over my voice.
AKG N700 NC microphone demo:
The headset supports important features like ambient aware mode for when you take them out and about; plus, users benefit from firmware updates via the free AKG app. Comfort isn’t great here: there’s minimal padding on the headband, which creates hotspots at the crown of the head after just an hour or so of listening. That said, the earpads play kindly with glasses, so it really is just a weight distribution issue that the headset suffers from.
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 Vortex
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 Vortex is a gem as it supports aptX streaming, grants 20-plus hours of listening on a single charge, and has comfortable ear pads.
Anker Soundcore VortexFull Review
Aside from the affordable price, there’s not much inspiring about the Anker Soundcore Vortex headset: the all-plastic build feels right for the price, but the headband causes a hotspot at the crown of one’s head, something to be aware of for more sensitive noggins. Integrated controls are difficult to identify, and if you’re in a cold weather climate, good luck using them with gloves on.
These use Bluetooth 4.1 firmware and provide a 12-meter wireless range, which is two meters more than the standard. Although the ear pads are comfortable, they don’t do a great job of isolating you from your environment, but that’s to be expected for such cheap Bluetooth headphones. Sound quality is fine, but nothing to get excited about as harmonic distortion introduces itself when volume levels are at just 50%.
That said, the Anker Soundcore Vortex is one of the best values when it comes to cheap Bluetooth headphones and headphones at large. For those who are able to find the newer Anker Soundcore Life Q20, get those instead as they offer noise cancelling for just a few bucks more.
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.
- AKG N60NC: Not everyone likes or needs the bulk of over-ear headphones, if that’s you, then the N60NC are the best on-ear solution around. These cheap Bluetooth headphones may be affordable, but their noise cancelling and audio performance rivals more premium competitors.
- 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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