If you want good sound, you’d better be prepared to dish out heaps of cash right? Not necessarily. Sure there’s some amazing high end headphones out there but that doesn’t mean that all good headphones are expensive. One of the most fun aspects of audio is finding products that sound great for their price. And nowadays there seems to be a ton of options out there to choose from. In this list we’ve gathered the best headphones under $50 in a few different categories based on what most people will probably be looking for.
Whether you don’t want to spend too much because these are your first pair of real headphones, a gift for someone, or just a secondary option to supplement your favorite audiophile cans, getting a pair of inexpensive headphones isn’t a bad idea. You don’t have to worry about spending too much to replace them should they break or get lost.
Things to Know
Shopping for headphones can be a daunting task. It’s not hard to fall deep down the rabbit hole learning about the intricacies of how sound reproduction works or the unique sound signatures associated with different headphones. You’ll often that the best tip someone can give when you’re buying a new pair of headphones is to try them for yourself, which is true. But if you don’t have the time to pick up a new hobby or just aren’t looking to invest that much energy in a new pair of headphones then there’s really only a few things that you should know:
- Sound isolation is often overlooked, but it’s one of the biggest factors that affect the sound quality of your headphones. If you’re sitting in a construction yard with open-back headphones, your music is going to sound like garbage regardless of how much money you spent. You can read the in-depth feature here but the short version is this: closed-back headphones block outside sound and open-back headphones don’t.
- The quality of audio streamed over Bluetooth has come a long way since its inception, but it’s still not for everyone. Whether or not you should you invest in a pair of Bluetooth headphones really depends on how you plan to use them. They both come with their pros and cons, but the big thing to think about is whether you mind plugging in your headphones every now and then to charge.
- Make sure you know what comfort level you’re okay with. This is true of headphones at any price point, but especially true when it comes to headphones under $50. Manufacturers know they’re not going to sell a product that sounds like garbage, so one of the first things to get the ax in favor of better sound are build materials.
How We Choose
We’ve reviewed a ton of products here at SoundGuys, but not all of them. So it’s hard to make lists based solely on products we’ve reviewed. Besides every review can be a little biased, we’re only human. So besides products that we’ve reviewed we also do tons of research like read other reviews, visit forums and discussions, have internal debates (and of course plenty of Googling) before we include a product on a list. If it made it here, you know it has to be good.
Shure make great sounding headphones and the SRH145m+ are no different. The sound quality here is really good for a pair of cans this cheap and they’re really light and comfortable to wear for long stretches of time. They’re great for long trips because they’re wired, so theres no battery life to worry about, they’re super comfy and fold up easily for when you arrive at your destination.
On the downside they do suffer a little from sound leakage, so be mindful of how loud you’re playing your music because people around you will be able to hear. The SRH145m+ are a closed back pair of headphones with an in-line remote by default, but you can also get a semi-open version of the SRH145 that don’t have the in-line remote. Speaking of which the remote was made for iOS devices so if you’re rocking an Android device you’ll only be able to play/pause your music, no volume controls.
While they’re super light at just a third of a pound or 150 grams they do feel a little flimsy, which might be a concern for anyone that typically handles their headphones rough, but with a little care these should last you a good long while. That point aside, the Shure SRH145m+ are a great sounding pair of super comfy headphones for anyone that likes really good sound at a low price.
Creative SoundBlaster JamFull Review
Sometimes in the effort to drop the price of a pair of headphones, you end up with a bulky, ugly and heavy pair. That’s not the case with the Creative SoundBlaster Jam headphones, which not only look good with their retro design but are also made of super lightweight materials for all-day wearing.
They’re not foldable, which is a bummer for any commuters but at least they’re super light and don’t have any wires to get in the way. There’s some basic playback buttons on the earpiece for play/pause, volume control, and boosting the bass but don’t expect anything too fancy. The ear cushioning could be a little thicker and there’s no padding on the head band, but the lack of weight makes these super comfortable anyway.
With exceptional battery life for up to 12 hours of Bluetooth 4.1 playback, these are an obvious choice for anyone after sub-$50 wireless headphones.
If you’ve been following Sound Guys for a while, it should come as no surprise that the Monoprice 8323 headphones are on this list. 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, they’re 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.
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.
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. Though these aren’t the best noise cancelling headphones out there, 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. 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.
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.
Koss PortaProFull Review
One pair of headphones that are considered classics 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. that said, they aren’t the most durable so you’re going to want to keep them in the included traveling case when you’re on-the-go.
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 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.
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