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 post was updated on August 20, 2021, to include the Sony MDR-ZX110.
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The best headphones under $50 is the Monoprice 8323
If you’ve been following SoundGuys for a while now, it shouldn’t be surprising to find the Monoprice 8323 headphones on this list. Monoprice has a reputation for bringing more than expected to affordable audio equipment.
Monoprice 8323Full Review
Though the headphones’ build quality isn’t the greatest and it lacks a comprehensive feature set, that’s easy to forgive when taking sound and comfort into account. Monoprice makes the most of what it’s 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, this headset is collapsible and great for transport thanks to the half-pound weight. That said, I wouldn’t classify it as durable even though it’s technically a pair of 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, it epitomizes retro design and appears to be straight out of Back to the Future. The charming bare bones build features a layered strip of metal connecting hinged ear cups. It also clips 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 nearly shouts “travel-friendly,” the semi-open style isn’t conducive to commuting, unless you don’t mind your neighbors hearing your music.
Check out the Skullcandy Hesh 2 for comfort
Finding a pair of good comfortable 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 and affordable option with synthetic foam ear pads and a slick design.
Skullcandy Hesh 2
It connects via a 3.5mm cable with a built-in control module on the cable. You can control volume, skip between tracks, and there’s also a microphone for taking phone calls. Not bad at all for the price. The build quality may feel a bit cheap since it’s predominantly plastic, save for the headband reinforcement, but the minimal all-black colorway dresses the headphones up a bit.
Gamers on a budget should get the Razer Kraken X
The Razer Kraken X is a functional, attractive gaming headset with looks that punch above its price bracket. The integrated boom mic is forgiving with regards to placement, and the headset works with PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices.
Razer Kraken XFull Review
Razer provides a handful of accessories to pair with the Kraken X, among which is an audio splitter. If your desktop has separate audio and mic inputs, you’ll want to use this dedicated cable for the microphone to function properly.
For any vision-impaired gamers, the Kraken X is a miracle: its eyewear channels reduce pressure to the temple and ears. Wearing these with my glasses was actually enjoyable and, at worst, not painful. Of course, there are other useful features for all listeners like the onboard volume dial and mute button, both located on the left ear cup.
Sound quality and isolation are about what you’d expect for a pair of $50 gaming headphones. Bass frequencies receive a strong boost, which is typical for economical gaming headsets. This makes explosions more impactful but can also make it difficult to hear incoming footsteps due to auditory masking.
If you want to save around $10, the Razer Kraken X Lite is available. It features a lighter build and lacks the onboard controls of the Kraken X. Conversely, if you’re willing to stretch your wallet a little thinner, an extra $9 gets you the Razer BlackShark V2 X. It features significantly better isolation and sound quality than the Razer Kraken X, and offers an extremely comfortable design for extended gaming periods.
The Sony MDRZX110 will give you the best bang for your buck
For $20, this headset has decent audio quality. Its 3omm drivers produce a sound signature that should please the casual listener. The Sony MDRZX110 is very lightweight and has a gentle clamping force, so it can be worn for long periods. Even someone with lots of ear piercings shouldn’t find this on-ear headset to be too uncomfortable. The ear cups rotate to lay flat on your chest but the headband is not collapsable.
The Sony MDRZX110 doesn’t have a microphone or any volume controls, and this no-frills design is what makes it so cheap. It would also be nice if the 3.5mm cable was replaceable as it isn’t the most durable and may break after several months of use. But the headset is only $20, so you may as well replace the whole thing if this happens.
- 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 its high-end audio equipment, but the H840 closed-back headphones takes some of that knowledge and puts it into a friendly price point.
- Monoprice MP Bluetooth Headphones: For less than $50, this pair of Bluetooth headphones offers decent sound quality, aptX support, and 14 hours of playback time.
- Samson SR850: The Samson SR850 is a strong contender because of its semi-open design, which gives it a pretty good soundstage.
- Sennheiser HD 300: This lightweight, around-ear pair of cans delivers a smooth frequency response for casual listening on a low budget.
- Skullcandy Riff Wireless: This budget on-ear headset offers a colorful design, comfortable ear pads, and a sound signature geared towards bass enthusiasts—all for less than $40.
- Sony MDRZX110NC: With basic noise cancelling functionality, coupled with a clean sound signature, this pair of headphones is cheap, capable, and portable.
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.
- Some people might be more inclined to get earbuds, and specifically true wireless earbuds, in which case you should check out our list of the best true wireless earbuds under $50.
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. 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, it represents the best of our knowledge and experience. Be sure to take a look at type-specific lists if you didn’t see a type of headphones you like represented here. For true wireless earphones, be sure to check out our list of best true wireless earphones under 100 dollars.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
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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Frequently Asked Questions
In short, no. Studio headphones are designed to deliver the most accurate frequency response possible, and achieving this while also maintaining the overall quality of the sound costs manufacturers a bit of money. The cheapest studio headphones that we'll recommend are about $100: the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro or the Sony MDR-7506. These cheap studio headphones are actually quite good, too.
Indeed, there are! If you're someone who wants to really immerse yourself in your content, check out our list of the best noise cancelling headphones under $100!
While wireless headphones are the best when it comes to convenience, wired headphones deliver overall better sound quality. This is because at the moment, wireless audio connections are incapable of transmitting large amounts of data, such as lossless FLAC audio files.