SoundGuys

Best Headphones under $50: Cheap headphones doesn’t mean bad

The Monoprice can be worn for hours and with glasses without irritating head pain.

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 November 8, 2018 to reflect pricing changes and include new notable mentions.

You might also like: Best earbuds under $20

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 8323

Full 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 Pro

Full 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.

Need better isolation? Go with the Photive BTH3

Seeing as headphone jacks are going the way of bellbottoms and Silly Bandz, it seems fitting to throw a second pair of Bluetooth headphones into the ring. The Photive BTH3 have a 12-hour battery life and include a hard traveling case. Noise isolating ability and superior comfort make this one of the best.

Photive BTH3

Full Review

Functional design keeps costs down resulting in a classy pair of cans. A plethora of controls to adjust volume and skip/play/pause tracks can be found on both ear cups. And the Photive’s housing sheaths 40mm drivers that reproduce a rich, balanced sound. If you miss that tethered feeling, there’s an included 3.5mm stereo cord.

Bass-heads be warned, these aren’t going to rattle your bones, since the low-end response is a little sloppy. They will, however, give you clean, crisp highs accompanied by clear mids that are hard to beat at such an economical price.

Related: Best Noise Cancelling Headphones under $100

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 Hinge

Full 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.

Notable mentions

Who should buy headphones under $50?

For commuting to school or elsewhere, noise canceling headphones are a great choice for young people’s auditory health.

What you should know before you buy

Flickr user: reynermedia Don’t blow your cash when you don’t have to.

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 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

Lily trying out a new pair of headphones.

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.


Still looking? Check out some of these other lists:

Disclosure: We may receive affiliate compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page. Even though we may receive compensation, we always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on each product. See our ethics policy for more details.