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 April 7, 2020 to add information you should know.
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The best headphones under $50 are 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.
Though the headphones’ build quality isn’t the greatest and they lack a comprehensive feature set, that’s easy to forgive when taking sound and comfort 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 features 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.
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.
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 headphones 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 and 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 Micro-USB, which contributes to the more affordable pricing. If the battery unexpectedly dies on you, you can always resort back to the 3.5mm 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.
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 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.
- 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.
- Polk Audio Hinge: This well-designed and sturdy pair of headphones is sure to last through years of daily use. The stitching on the headband is a nice added detail which complements the brushed metal headband.
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. 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 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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