If you’re looking for decent sound and some good isolation, you shouldn’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a new pair of headphones. Whether you’re looking for the headphones you can carry around every day without breaking the bank or shopping for a gift, these headphones under $50 are worth considering.
Editor’s note: this article was updated on May 4, 2019, to include the Skullcandy Hesh 2 and reflect pricing changes.
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The best headphones under $50 are the Monoprice 8323
Been following SoundGuys for a while now? Then it should come as no surprise that we featured the Monoprice 8323 headphones. Monoprice has a reputation for bringing more than is expected to affordable audio equipment.
Monoprice 8323Full Review
Though the build quality isn’t the greatest and they’re lacking a comprehensive feature-set, that can be forgiven when sound and comfort are taken into account. Monoprice makes the most of what its got with massive 50mm drivers that produce a full range of sound. The bass isn’t grossly forward but won’t be mistaken for neutral.
Monoprice has a reputation for bringing more than is expected to affordable audio equipment.
What’s more, they’re collapsible and great for transport thanks to the half-pound weight. That said, I wouldn’t classify these as durable even though these are technically DJ headphones. The ear cups flip up 90 degrees and are quite comfortable when hanging from the neck. However, removing them felt like lifting bare legs from a synthetic seat cushion on a southern summer day. On the whole, if you want headphones under $50, it’s hard to beat something as reliable as the 8323.
If you’re always on the go, pick up the Koss Porta Pro.
The only thing more classic than the Koss Porta Pro is rock ‘n’ roll. Released in 1984, these epitomize retro design and appear to be straight out of Back to the Future. The charming bare bones build is comprised of a layered strip of metal connecting hinged ear cups. They also clip at the bottom to maintain a condensed form factor, saving you precious real-estate.
Koss Porta ProFull Review
Plastic, swiveling ear cups make for a comfortable fit (which can be adjusted via sliders that migrate pressure to the temples) but are also points of weakness. Even light use made me nervous.
Surprisingly, the headphones played quite nicely with my unfortunately thick-rimmed glasses. Although the design says, “I’m travel-friendly,” the semi-open style isn’t conducive for commuters, unless you don’t mind that your neighbors can hear your music.
Look stylish while reducing your carbon footprint with the House of Marley Positive Vibration II
The company plants a tree for each product sold, including the Positive Vibration II. The signature favors mids before lows and highs. The former comes off as distant and flat while the latter leans toward the tinny end of the spectrum. Like merlot and gouda, the Vibration II pairs best with a library of acoustics.
House of Marley Positive Vibration II
A tangle-free braided cable extends from the base of the left ear cup to connect via L-plug into the media player of your choice. Inside the anodized aluminum ear cups (black, copper, silver or denim) are 50mm drivers. On the interior, you’ll find Forest Stewardship Council certified wood accents sporting the earthy House of Marley logo. For headphoens under $50, you can’t go wrong by saving the planet while enjoying tunes.
Interested in going wireless? Check out the Skullcandy Hesh 2
Finding a pair of good wireless headphones under $50 used to be difficult, but now there are plenty to choose from if you want to go that route. The Skullcandy Hesh 2 is a stylish affordable option with 15 hours of playback and synthetic ear pads.
Skullcandy Hesh 2
It takes 2.5 hours to complete a full charge cycle of the headphones, which is about average for wireless on-ears. As you might expect for a cheaper headphone, it charges via microUSB, which contributes to the more affordable pricing. If the battery unexpectedly dies on you, you can always resort back to the 3.5mm aux cable included with the Skullcandy Hesh 2.
Skullcandy outfits the headphones with onboard playback controls and an integrated microphone for hands-free calls. The build quality may feel a bit cheap since it’s predominantly plastic, save for the headband reinforcement, but the three available colorways (silver, black, and blue) dress the headphones up a bit.
As far as build quality goes, the best headphones under $50 are the Polk Audio Hinge
Today, more people may be familiar with the company Polk Audio, producer of the Polk Audio Hinge headphones, than former U.S. President James K. Polk. Either way, back in 2014, the Hinge cost well over $100 but are now a great pair of headphones under $50.
Polk Audio HingeFull Review
Pivoting ear cups, adjustable headband, dense ear pads and Polk Optimized Electro-acoustic Tuning (POET) means that these guys can really isolate you from your surroundings. Polk asserts that POET helps to refine the drivers to improve dynamic response and provide a more natural sound. This isn’t exceptionally accurate as lows have ample boom behind them while mids also experience exaggeration.
Examining the build of the headphone reveals the effort that Polk put into the Hinge headphones. The stitched leather headband is a nice contrast to the brushed metal hinges and extenders. For a comfortable fit, the ear cups pivot without any frustrating creaks. Unfortunately the three-button remote is only compatible with iOS devices, but you can still pause/play tracks and answer calls on an Android device.
- Creative Soundblaster Jam: If you want a pair of Bluetooth headphones that are light, portable, inexpensive, and don’t sound half bad, then check out these.
- Samson SR850: The Samson SR850 is a strong contender because of its semi-open design, which gives it a pretty good soundstage.
- Audio-Technica ATH-M20x: The younger sibling to the internet’s favorite pair of headphones comes in at just under $50, and should be on your shortlist.
- Edifier H840: Edifier is known for their high-end audio equipment, but the H840 closed-back headphones take some of that knowledge and put it into a friendly price point.
- Skullcandy Grind: While these on-ear headphones may not isolate well, they’re affordable and include an easy-to-replace detachable cable. The best part is that you can snag them for under $40.
Who should buy headphones under $50?
- Listeners on a budget. No matter what headphone you pick from this list, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better product in each category for headphones under $50, and if you do, please share with us.
- Anyone looking for backup cans. Frequent travelers may just want a cheap pair of headphones they can knock around in their bags. If that’s the case, this list is great for you.
- General consumers. Look, we get it, not everyone is as headphone-obsessed as we are: most people would only buy headphones under $50, hence why this list is so important.
What you should know before you buy
- Proper isolation can make or break sound quality. If you plan on using these at home, go ahead and test out some open-back cans, but if you want to enter the public sphere, you’ll need closed headphones.
- Bluetooth quality varies depending on what source you’re using; yes even with cheap headphones under $50. For instance, iPhone users should stick to AAC while Android listeners should opt for aptX. Ultimately though, discerning between streaming quality is hard to do if you’re in your third decade. If you want, you can put your hearing to the test.
- When it comes to headphones under $50, audio quality isn’t the best. This may tempt you to increase the volume to an inane level: don’t do that as it could put you at risk for noise-induced hearing loss.
See: Best iPhone earbuds
How we picked the best headphones under $50
We’ve reviewed a ton of products here at SoundGuys, but not all of them. Naturally, it’s hard to make lists based solely on the products we’ve reviewed. Besides, every review can be a little biased, we’re only human (for now). Aside from products that we test directly, we do tons of research like read other reviews and visit forums before including a product on a list. If it made it here, it has to be good.
In short, we put every candidate set of headphones through the wringer, and only models that were able to keep up even got a shot at this list. While the list itself may not be a complete cross-section of all good headphones under $50.
Why you should trust us
Working at SoundGuys is each of our respective nine-to-fives and this job has allowed each of us to get exclusive hands-on time with a wide array of audio products. When it comes down to it, we can quickly discern the gold from the gimmicks, but we don’t just rely on our ears. No, we have objective testing that we subject review units to.
All we want is for each reader to exit out of the SoundGuys page feeling confident in her future purchase decision, or at least more educated about audio in general. None of our writers benefit from advocating for one product over another, and if you feel so compelled, please read our ethics policy.
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