The headphones you really want probably cost a few hundred pounds, but the bank balance doesn't always facilitate. Luckily, you can get decent budget headphones giving you great sound on the go.
We've reviewed the best cheap headphones you can buy, all under £100 with many under £50, with a range of style styles and types for you to choose from. We've got budget wireless earbuds, neckbuds, USB-C and more.
Scroll past the list for some more detailed buying advice on choosing the right pair.
Best cheap headphones 2021
Soundmagic E11BT - Best Overall
While the Soundmagic E11C headphones were top of our charts for quite some time, the updated wireless E11BT earphones now take the crown.
The neckbuds are incredibly light at 25g, comes with three pairs of eartips to find the perfect fit and offer advanced features like Bluetooth 5.0 and AAC support, but it's the incredible battery life that stands out. You get around 40-60 hours per charge depending on usage, and charges up in only two hours.
The company hasn't forgotten about the audio though, with the E11BTs sporting a built-in 24bit DAC that helps provide clear, crisp audio with prominent - but not overpowering - bass. They may be more expensive than the E11Cs, but we think the E11BTs are worth the extra.
Read our full Soundmagic E11BT review
Enacfire A9 - Best Wireless Earbuds
The Enacfire A9 are the best budget wireless earbuds with active noise cancelling (ANC) we've tested to date.
Coming in at a very affordable price, not having ANC would be understandable and it's not just there but very good indeed, even if the Ambient mode is fairly average.
The earbuds get a lot else right too with a comfortable fit, useful touch controls, solid battery life and decent sound quality. Perhaps the main downside is that they only come in black.
Read our full Enacfire A9 Wireless Earbuds review
TaoTronic SoundLiberty 79 - Long Lasting Earbuds
You might not have heard of TaoTronics but the SoundLibert 79 are a very well-rounded pair of wireless earbuds if you don't need noise cancelling.
It makes them extremely affordable and yet they don't suffer in the areas that are common. They sound great for starters and that's the main thing, but have a lot more to offer.
They're comfortable, have an IPX7 waterproof rating, feature long battery life, Bluetooth 5.0 and are also good for phone calls. really the only minor fault is slightly temperamental touch controls.
Read our full TaoTronic SoundLiberty 79 review
SoundMagic E11C - Best Wired Earbuds
SoundMagic has come up trumps with the E11C headphones, setting a high standard for what to expect from a budget pair of cans.
They're stylish, comfortable and have excellent features like an in-line control that works with both iOS and Android. We'd like more tips in the box, but it's not the end of the world, especially considering how good they sound.
Subtle tweaks in the audio profile, mean these headphones punch above their weight in sound quality. Powerful, yet balanced and considered tuning make them very versatile indeed.
Read our full SoundMagic E11C review
Xiaomi Redmi AirDots - Best Value Wireless Earbuds
Xiaomi has proven that you don't need to spend hundreds of pounds to get decent wireless earbuds. The Redmi AirDots are astonishing for the price considering how many pairs you could buy for the same cost as Apple's AirPods.
There's no imitation dangly design here and they provide excellent sound quality along with strong battery life. It's also simple enough to pair them and use the controls.
No volume control and a lack of any waterproofing are minor complaints and are acceptable considering the low asking price here. If you need very cheap wireless earbuds, these are the ones.
Read our full Xiaomi Redmi AirDots review
Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 - Best Sounding Wireless Earbuds
Now readily available for under £100, the Melomania 1s are the best wireless earbuds you can get if your budget allows.
They're compact and lightweight earbuds with push buttons for those not wanting touch-sensitive controls. They also sound great, with Cambridge Audio's reliable tuning.
Battery life is also strong at a total of 45 hours and both aptX and AAC make them suitable for a wide range of devices.
Read our full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 review
OnePlus Type-C Bullets - Best for USB-C
There’s not a lot to say apart from these are the best value for money USB-C headphones you can get - handy if your phone or other gadgets no longer has a headphone jack. It's an increasingly common problem.
The Type-C Bullets because worked on every USB-C phone we tested them on as well as MacBooks and Windows laptops.
They sound good, offer decent build quality and have a very reasonable price tag.
Read our full OnePlus Type-C Bullets review
Huawei FreeBuds 3i - Best for Huawei Users
Noise cancelling is rare even at higher prices, so it's impressive that Huawei is offering ANC in a pair of wireless earbuds that are so affordable. You'll struggle to find a cheaper pair that match this quality.
A closed design was the right choice and results in a better seal and therefore a much-improved noise-cancelling experience. They also have smart pairing if you own a Huawei phone.
Overall, they're a very good value purchase if you can't afford flagship wireless earbuds. It's a shame that battery life isn't better, though.
Read our full Huawei FreeBuds 3i review
Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2 - Best for Custom Sound
If you want great-quality sound at an affordable price, the Alfa Genus V2 should be on your shortlist.
They're excellent in-ear headphones for under £50 providing good build quality but more importantly, great sound quality. This is largely due to the interchangeable filters.
It might sound like a gimmick but they mean you can change the audio profile depending on your personal taste and/or what you're using them for at any given moment.
Read our full Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2 review
Adidas RPD-01 - Best for Running
Those looking for affordable headphones to use while running or other exercises should look no further.
The Adidas RPD-01 are not only cheap, but offer a secure fit thanks to different sizes of tips and wings. Neckbuds are perfect for fitness users thanks to longer battery life and the fact you can't lose them.
They don't have the best controls but they're usable and the sound quality is excellent. The RPD-01 also have an IPX4 rating to combat sweat and rain.
Read our full Adidas RPD-01 review
Your buying guide for the best cheap headphones in 2021
Mobile music lovers have never had it so good - although some modern smartphones no longer have a headphone jack, the standard headphones you get with smartphones are at an all-time high in terms of quality.
This does tend to be flagship phones though and cheaper ones might not even come with some in the box. Either way, spending a little to upgrade your headphones is one of the best ways to get the most from a smartphone, or any other portable music player.
The instant lift in audio quality needs to be heard to be believed – better, more impactful bass, crisper, more detailed treble and better isolation from the outside world are all worth the investment. Choosing headphones isn’t just about improved audio quality, though – there are plenty of things to consider to make sure you end up with something that suits you perfectly.
For a long time, it was unfeasible to get cheap headphones with active noise cancelling (or ANC) but things have changed, although the feature is still going to add money to the price tag compared to those without. We have a dedicated round-up for the best noise cancelling headphones which you can browse, too.
Types of cheap headphones
In general, there are three types of headphones to choose from: in-ear, on-ear and over-ear. They do as you would expect although often have different names and within each category, you can get various styles.
Following the launch of the Apple AirPods wireless earbuds are all-the-rage. Check out our chart of the best true wireless earbuds as well as the best cheap true wireless earbuds if you're on a tight budget - some of which will appear here.
Most buyers will be looking for the first two, as over-ear headphones are big and heavy so are more suited for static use at home or at your desk.
The cheapest are in-ear, or earbuds, as they are the most basic but getting on-ear headphones might improve both comfort and sound quality. Look out for extra features like an in-line control, microphone and comfortable foam tips.
Find out how we test audio.