Girl wearing headphones

The Best Cheap Headphones of 2021

By Jordan Nottrodt SoundNo Comments

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We’ve covered a variety of different headphones in the past, mostly focusing on quality. High-end models often come with a steep price tag, though, and not only may $300 headphones not be in your budget, they also might not be necessary depending on how you plan to use them. 

Unless you’re an audiophile or sound engineer, you might not notice the difference between premium headphones and those that cost a lot less. If you’re a Spotify user, for example, you’re likely used to listening to lossy audio formats like MP3 rather than lossless formats that preserve the original audio quality. 

If you have no idea what we’re talking about, an investment in headphones that cost hundreds of dollars might not be a luxury you really need. That said, if sound quality is paramount, we covered music streaming services that share your passion (for a price.)  

If you travel a lot, there’s also a risk that comes with endlessly packing, unpacking, and using expensive headphones. The more you do it, the more likely something could go wrong, from the risk of theft to the chance they’ll be crushed in your bag, not to mention the general wear and tear that comes from being on the move all the time. 

You don’t need to completely sacrifice quality to get a decent pair of headphones at a fraction of the price. We’ve compiled a list of the best cheap headphones of 2021, so you can spend your hard-earned cash on something more important. The options we’ve reviewed below typically won’t run you more than about $60, and most cost noticeably less.

Best Cheap Noise-Canceling Headphones: Anker Soundcore Life Q20
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Bluetooth: 5.0
  • Battery Life: 40 hours with noise cancelling, 60 hours without
  • Weight: 263g (9.3oz)
  • Active Noise Cancellation?: Yes

Best Cheap Wireless Headphones: BLARO Bluetooth Headphones
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Bluetooth: 5.0
  • Battery Life: Up to 72 hours
  • Weight: 386g (13.6oz)
  • Active Noise Cancelation?: No

Best Cheap Headphones for Gaming: BlueFire Stereo Gaming Headset
  • Type: Over-ear
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery Life: n/a
  • Weight: 318g (11.2oz)
  • Active Noise Cancelation?: No

Best Cheap Headphones for Sleeping: Lavince Sleep Headband
  • Type: Headband
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Battery Life: 10-12 hours
  • Weight: 82g (2.9oz)
  • Active Noise Cancelation?: No

Best Cheap Noise-Canceling Headphones: Anker Soundcore Life Q20

Anker Soundcore Life Q20 Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Headphones, Wireless Over Ear Bluetooth Headphones, 40H Playtime, Hi-Res Audio, Deep Bass, Memory Foam Ear Cups, for Travel, Home Office

Anker’s entry-level Soundcore Life Q20 Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones are some of the cheapest on the market from a reputable company. They offer 40 hours of wireless playtime (around 600 songs) with active noise-cancelation enabled, and 60 hours without. The headphones are lightweight (9.3oz), with a comfortable headband and memory foam earcups. 

For the price, the sound quality is excellent, whether you’re listening to solo piano or pop music with strong bass (although we definitely don’t recommend using the bass booster setting.) The noise-cancelation is quite effective for whenever you don’t want to hear anyone or anything, and is ideal for airplanes, noisy coffee shops, or tuning out your family while working from home.

While higher-end headphones deliver a richer listening experience, if this is your first foray into Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones, you won’t find better quality or noise-cancelation for the price. 

Although these headphones come with a built-in microphone for use as a headset, we don’t recommend using it. The audio quality is no better than what you’ll get from your laptop, which won’t be pleasant for the person on the other end of the call.

We recently put Anker’s affordable Life Q20 headphones to the test, wearing them day-in, day-out for three months, and were pleasantly surprised by the quality on all fronts except for use as a headset. As a result, we rate them as some of the best cheap over-ear headphones we’ve come across. 

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Best Cheap Wireless Headphones: BLARO Bluetooth Headphones

BLARO Bluetooth Headphones Over Ear, Hi-Fi Deep Bass Wireless and Wired Headsets, 72 Hours Playtime, Soft Memory Protein Earmuffs, Foldable Headphones with CVC6.0 Mic-red

The BLARO Bluetooth headphones provide an impressive amount of battery life at a surprisingly low price. You’ll get up to 72 hours of use from a single charge, which is about 35 movies, 140 television episodes, 1000+ songs, or seven long-haul flights. 

If you’re someone who hates having to charge devices, or frequently end up with an flat battery on your devices, these wireless headphones will suit you well. Check the battery percentage on your connected phone or tablet to see when you need to recharge.

Connect the headphones via Bluetooth 5 to a mobile device or use a Bluetooth transmitter (sold separately) to wirelessly connect to a TV or PC. You can also connect directly to any device using the included 3.5mm headphone cable.

Audio quality is good, especially for what you’re paying, but don’t expect details to be as crisp as on higher-end offerings. It has plenty of bass, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your personal preference.

The built-in mic isn’t bad for the price, but may not be good enough for work calls. While you’ll hear calls clearly, enough the other person on the line may complain that your voice sounds muffled or distorted. It’s fine for chatting with the parents, but not quite professional enough for clients. 

Fortunately, if you’re not happy with the built-in microphone, the 3.5mm cable also has an inline mic that tends to provide higher audio quality at the other end. Just plug in the cable and you’re good to go.

The headphones can reduce outside noise, but since there’s no active noise cancelation, they won’t cancel it completely. Lightweight, adjustable for a range of head sizes, and foldable for easier transport, these headphones are available in six different colors.

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Best Cheap Headphones for Gaming: BlueFire Stereo Gaming Headset

BlueFire Stereo Gaming Headset for Playstation 4 PS4 Over-Ear Headphones with Mic and LED Lights for Xbox One, PC, Laptop(Green)

The BlueFire stereo gaming headset has a lot to offer for its low price. It’s ideal for anyone on a budget, those new to gaming, or anyone prone to throwing their headphones against the wall after getting pwned yet again.

The headphones work on all main gaming platforms, including PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. The plush ear cushions and reinforced headband ensure comfort and durability during long gaming sessions, while inline controls on the cable let you quickly adjust the volume or mute your mic. An extra-long two-meter cable lets you put some space between yourself and the television.

The sound quality lacks some detail but is great for the price, and the headphones do an effective job of noise-cancelation. The built-in microphone is adjustable through 120 degrees for optimum placement. It lets you chat with friends or communicate on group missions. The mic can also be removed when you’re not using it, so it won’t get in the way when watching movies or listening to music. 

One thing to note: the default microphone volume can sometimes be a little low. If your fellow gamers complain that your voice is too quiet, the problem may be solved through adjusting the audio settings on your gaming system.

One thing these headphones do lack, however, is subtlety. They’re only available in three bright colors: green, red, and blue, with bright LED lights on the sides to make them stand out even more. Don’t expect to blend into the background when you’re wearing them!

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Best Cheap Headphones for Sleeping: Lavince Bluetooth Sleep Headband

Lavince Sleep Headphones Bluetooth Sports Headband, Wireless Sports Headband Headphones with Ultra-Thin HD Stereo Speakers Perfect for Workout,Jogging,Yoga,Insomnia,Side Sleepers,Air Travel,Meditation

Headband-style headphones are ideal for those who sleep a full night with headphones on. Lavince’s Bluetooth Sleep Headband is completely wireless, so you’ll never end up tangled in cords as you sleep.

Two hours of charging gives these Bluetooth headphones over ten hours of play time, which is longer than many similar models. It’s enough for a full night’s sleep or a long-haul flight, and the headband doubles as an eye mask as well.

That said, the stretchy, moisture-wicking material is quite thin, so you may still be able to see a little light through them in particularly bright locations. If so, you may want to use a dedicated eye mask instead.

The band is completely washable after the thin speakers are removed, so sweat isn’t an issue. When you’re not sleeping, use it for walking, running, yoga, or other outdoor exercise, especially if you need a little extra warmth on colder days.

All of the usual controls, like volume, play, pause, and skipping forward are handled via a small panel on the front of the headband. There’s also a microphone built into that panel, so you can take calls with the headband if you really want to.

The headband design will stay in place even when you’re on the move or tossing and turning in your sleep. The lightweight material doesn’t do much to cancel out noise, though: that’s not much help in loud rooms, but an asset when it comes to hearing an approaching car outdoors.

Don’t expect deep bass or anything spectacular from the sound, but the quality is fine for listening to background music or podcasts as you drift off to sleep.

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🛏 If you’re happy to spend more and aren’t set on a headband design, we’ve got a bunch of recommendations for the best earbuds for sleeping as well.

Investing in expensive brand name headphones is a big step for some people, and may not be in your budget this year. If you only listen to podcasts and music from standard streaming services, and sound quality isn’t the most important factor for you, save a bunch of money and go for a cheaper set of headphones instead.

That said, one consistent issue with cheaper headphones is the quality of the microphone. If you need to make frequent work calls and plan to use your headphones as a headset, we recommend investing in more expensive headphones better suited to the task, or grabbing an external USB or Bluetooth microphone as well.

🎧 If you’re prepared to spend a little more on headphones, you’ll find more options in our roundups on the best headsets for working from home, the best USB headsets, and the best noise-canceling headphones.

Main image via Jiradet Inrungruang, product images via Amazon

About the Author
Jordan Nottrodt

Jordan Nottrodt

Jordan works remotely, from home or abroad, to help businesses conquer their online messaging. When she's not working or relaxing outside, she's watching movies and shows to contribute to her goal of creating the largest database of online drinking games. Spark an immediate and detailed conversation by mentioning Mad Men or Game of Thrones.

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