Are you looking for the best inexpensive headphones? We understand. You want something cheap, but you also want them to sound well, feel comfortable, and, ideally, have some extra functions like Bluetooth and noise cancellation. Headphones are often regarded as miniature works of art.
True connoisseurs may be able to spend a fortune on them and place a premium on high-end features and design. Budget models, on the other hand, function just as well for most individuals, and you might not notice much of a difference.
We’ve earned a reputation for covering all of the world’s newest, finest, and most expensive technology. But, after countless hours of testing high-end gear, we’ve discovered that we still like finding amazing products at a reasonable price – and there’s no shortage of options when it comes to the best inexpensive headphones.
You could only be able to buy a set of budget wireless earbuds, or you’re seeking for a second pair of inexpensive gym headphones. Whatever the case may be, we’ve got you covered with the finest headphones under $100 in every category.
1. 1More Triple Driver
If you’re looking for a pair of in-ear headphones for less than $100, you have a lot of options. There are many of earbuds that sound excellent, but many at that price point have a fatal defect, whether it’s poor build quality, device incompatibility, or they don’t fit your ears well enough to be comfortable. We’ve discovered that finding a pair of headphones that checks all the boxes without breaking the budget is difficult.
With the 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones, however, all of that changed. If you haven’t heard of 1MORE, pay attention because it is a firm that you should be aware of. The Triple Driver in-ear headphones from 1MORE stand out among the company’s over-ear and in-ear headphones.
We spent the last few weeks with them and were astounded by how much they had to give for the money. The earphones themselves are rose gold-colored aluminum machined earbuds. (And no, it’s not the pink tint that Apple is attempting to pass off as rose gold on the iPhone 7, but a true gold-copper color.)
The earphones are angled and provide a comfortable fit in the ear. They don’t sit flush with the wall and only protrude a few millimeters. While you won’t want to sleep with the Triple Drivers on, they do keep a low profile in your ears. When it came to the cable, 1MORE chose two alternative textures.
For durability, the wire from the Y-connector to the straight 3.5mm jack is encased in fabric, whereas the cables from the Y-connector to each earbud are rubber. Rubber cables aren’t our favorite because they grab on clothing or the wire itself. This is a flaw in the 1MORE Triple Drivers, but it’s not a deal breaker.
The headphones have a three-button remote that works with both Android and iOS, which is something that not every headset can do, which is why there are Android and iOS-specific headphones. The 1MORE Triple Driver stands out in terms of sound quality. While the balanced but slightly warm sound profile didn’t blow us away at first, we eventually learned to appreciate the Triple Drivers’ balance and detail.
The music is highly detailed and has a fantastic sense of spaciousness. Because the instruments are layered, complicated tunes don’t sound jumbled because each instrumental layer is apparent.
While more detailed in-ear headphones are available, you’ll have to pay a lot more for the marginal improvement in performance. The mids are luscious, and they help to bring out human voices. The 1MORE Triple Drivers have a small mid-bass bump that gives them a warmer tonal balance than the 1MORE Quad Drivers.
The Triple Drivers can’t compete with the Quad Drivers in terms of detail, spaciousness, or balance, but the variations between the siblings are so little that it’s difficult to criticize the less expensive Triple Driver. Choose the Quad Drivers if you desire more overall refinement, intricacy, and construction quality.
The bass is excellent, with a lot of extension and impact. The mid-bass bump contributes to the headphone’s overall warm sound without overpowering it.
Last but not least, the 1MORE Triple Drivers aid to seal out noise by creating a nice seal. Even though they don’t have active noise cancellation, passive noise isolation is more than adequate to shut out the rest of the world during your journey.
2. SoundMAGIC E11BT
The popular E11 line of in-ear headphones from SoundMagic has been replaced by the new E11BT. The E11BT connects to your device via Bluetooth and is connected via a robust neckband, which has a similar shape and feels to its predecessors. They are available for $90, but it appears that they are currently only accessible in Europe, with no information on when they will be available in other territories.
Here’s what we thought after trying out the new wireless buds. The E11BTs have a similar design as the wired E11Cs, with one major difference: the buds are now connected by a neckband and connect wirelessly to your device. The flat form of the neckband feels quite nice against your neck, and it seems very sturdy.
They’re more sporty than the E11Cs, with an IPX4 waterproof designation that indicates they’ll withstand light splashes and sweaty workouts, but you shouldn’t wear them in the shower after your run.
The bullet-shaped earbuds, like the rest of the E11 series, are exceptionally compact, lightweight, and elegantly designed, with an aluminum casing that carries the SoundMagic logo and model number on the left and right buds, respectively. The E11BT wireless earphones have a magnetic connection between the two earbuds, allowing you to keep them fastened around your neck when not in use.
The inline remote, which has volume buttons and a multifunction button, is about two inches down from the left earphone. You may use the multifunction button to control your music, pair your headphones with your device, and answer calls.
A micro-USB port is located on the side of the inline remote for charging the E11BTs; SoundMagic supplies a USB cable in the box. A small LED on the inline remote glows red during charging, and when the earphones are fully charged, the red light goes out and is replaced by blue light.
Overall, when it comes to cutting the cord, the E11BTs don’t sacrifice the exquisite design of prior models in the series; they look great and keep the tiny housing design that SoundMagic is known for.
The audio quality of the E11Bts is generally excellent, with a surprising amount of sonic power for such small earphones. Due to the comparatively huge amounts of air they displace when they vibrate, the vocals on Fleet Foxes’ ‘Blue Ridge Mountains’ sound clear and clean.
As dynamic drivers, they also deliver a significant quantity of bass. We put them to work on Kanye West’s ‘Flashing Lights,’ and the thundering bass and unctuous synth strings wowed us.
The treble frequencies are sharp and crystal-clear, with a good amount of attack – they can come across as a little harsh at times, so if you want a warmer sound staging, consider the genuine wireless Earin M-2s, which have similar-sized buds but use balanced armature drivers rather than dynamic drivers.
When using the E11BTs, it’s critical to use the correct-sized ear tips, as a good fit improves sound quality tenfold while also enhancing sound isolation — they come with three different ear tips, so you should be able to find a decent fit with a little trial and error.
For in-ear headphones, sound isolation is decent; if you’re listening to music, you’ll be well-insulated from distracting ambient noises. We also tried listening to podcasts with the E11BTs, and while the sound isolation was less noticeable when listening to dialogue, the noise from a noisy train carriage was decreased to the point where we could hear speech.
The internal remote worked well for controlling music, and we had no issues with connectivity when using the E11BTs; in fact, pairing them with our smartphone was a breeze.
If you’re considering purchasing these in-ears to use when exercising or running, you might be concerned about their security. They usually fit securely in your ear, but if you’re worried about the buds falling out in the middle of a run, look for a pair with wingtips that go into your ear’s conch for further stability.
The E11BTs are generally very pleasant to wear, even for extended periods. While this is unlikely to be at full volume, we had them on for about five hours and discovered that the battery was barely gone.
The SoundMagic E11BTs are a really capable pair of wireless in-ear earbuds and given their low price, it’s hard to criticize them – the audio quality is excellent, and they have a very nice design. They’re easy to wear thanks to ergonomically-designed ear tips and a flat neckband that won’t irritate you while you’re running or working out, and they’re sweat-resistant thanks to an IPX4 rating.
3. Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0
We were blown away when we initially examined the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 truly wireless earphones (formerly known as the Lypertek Tevi). We couldn’t believe that a pair of headphones that sounded as amazing as they did and had such a long battery life could be sold so cheaply and by a business, we’d never heard of. We named them our headphone product of the year because they were that fantastic.
Forward a few years, and we’re looking at the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 truly wireless earbuds, which are their predecessors. They’re fairly identical to the originals, but with a few major enhancements, and they’re still available for $99.
This adds wireless charging, a powerful new LDX Audio mode, improved app functionality, and a hear through ambient mode to everything we loved about the original PurePlay Z3 (detailed balanced sound, a whopping 80 hours total battery life from its petite USB-C charging case, and a comfortably fitting bud with physical buttons).
However, app connectivity is spotty at best, and the ambient hear-through mode is practically useless when compared to the noise-canceling WF-1000XM4 from Sony.
Despite this, they remain must-have earbuds, more than a match or headphones two or three times the price, with nothing to detract from the high standard the originals set out, with a few significant upgrades.
Get your hands on them. From the outside, the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 appears to be fairly similar to its 1.0 predecessors, which is reflective of the product as a whole in many ways — this is a refinement of the excellent original, rather than a revolutionary new approach.
The ovoid, stemless earphones are once again housed in a pill-shaped, fabric-covered container with a detachable carrying strap. The PurePlay Z3 2.0 is available in both white and black, with USB-C charging and four LED indication lights to show battery levels.
The earbuds are secured in the case with a magnetic snap, which begins charging them from the case’s internal battery. Removing them from the case initiates the Bluetooth pairing process, which you won’t have to repeat unless you want to pair additional devices with the headphones.
When it comes to delivering a clear, neutral sound, the original Lypertek Tevi, or PurePlay Z3, was unrivaled. They were revelatory when considering their price point, just shy of what we’d consider reference or audiophile quality. And that basic, out-of-the-box tuning is still present.
With 6mm graphene drivers, it has the same level of clarity as to the Z3 2.0, delivering an unbiased sound that favors studio goals rather than boosting specific frequencies. Despite being the favored mode of listening for audiophiles, it is not necessarily the best tuning for every situation. What if you’re at the gym and want something with a little more bass? Or do you want a punchier, more forceful sound, even if it means sacrificing balance?
It produces a more energetic, dynamic delivery that stands out from the stock tuning. They’re two very different sound profiles with their own merits – I found myself alternating between the two depending on the listening circumstances, preferring LDX Audio when I’m out and about and actively listening to songs and albums, and stock tuning when I’m at home and listening to music.
What neither lacks is clarity – the PurePlay Z3 2.0 does a good job of highlighting details and avoiding distortion even at high volumes. They’re just plain fun to listen to.
When it comes to new features, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. First, the good: as previously said, the LDX Audio mode is fantastic, and it’s complemented with an equally outstanding EQ choice in the app.
Some settings favor Bass or Treble response, as well as a variety of presets ranging from Rock to Jazz, Pop to R&B. There are also two custom spots where you can save your tunings. They have a noticeable influence and allow you to fine-tune the sound to your preferences.
Other features, on the other hand, aren’t quite as spectacular. A “Hear Through” option, which is supposed to enable you to hear more of your ambient surroundings via the earbud mics without stopping playback, is largely ineffective, failing to have anywhere near the impact required to make you more aware of what was going on around you.
A Find My Earbuds feature was similarly spotty, and the app itself had trouble identifying and connecting to the headphones at all — even when there were no nearby wireless devices to confuse things.
Despite several flaws, it’s difficult to be too harsh on the PurePlay Z3 2.0. They manage to bring more to the table (mainly in a favorable way) while maintaining the same pricing point, making them an overall improvement to an already remarkable product.
4. Sony WH-CH510
Sony has done exceptionally well for itself in the personal audio business. The WH-1000XM4 over-ear and WF-1000XM4 in-ear headphones are both top-of-the-line in terms of noise cancellation and sound quality, but how do the mammoth brand’s cheap audio goods stack up?
When you look at the Sony WH-CH510, it’s hard to believe that wireless headphones can be this affordable, let alone a pair with great sound, a USB-C connector, and 35 hours of battery life. So, when reading this evaluation, keep the pricing in mind (like we did) when spotting any flaws or deficiencies.
The first thing to note is that these are on-ear headphones rather than over-ear headphones, which means that the cups will rest on your ears rather than surround them. This makes them a lot more compact, but it also makes them a lot less comfortable (it also impacts the audio quality, but more on that later).
There isn’t much to say about these Sony cans in terms of aesthetics, but their understated and simple design helps to extend their appeal, which is important considering that the goal here is accessibility.
They come in a variety of colors, including black, white, and blue, and their profile is as near to a straight line with a circle on each end as you can get. Apart from the Sony logo on both cups, the only other decoration is a diamond grid texture that covers the majority of the exterior.
The structural quality of the WH-CH510 is perhaps the clearest and startling indication of its price point. The plastic headband, swivel joints, and ear cup housing don’t seem very tough, so we wouldn’t advise “chucking” them in your backpack or otherwise mistreating them.
The headband does appear to have some flex, suggesting that it may be more forgiving than we think, but we didn’t want to go too far with this notion. It doesn’t fold or collapse any further to create a more compact container (although the cups do swivel 90 degrees and flatten), but in this situation, the fewer hinges the better, as we anticipate that will be the first point of failure.
The WH-CH510 barely got approximately halfway stretched before sitting securely on both ears, even though this reviewer has an exceptionally large head and frequently pushes headphone bands to their limits. This should be especially good news for those of us with big heads, as well as those who like to wear hats and cans at the same time.
Of course, the result is that they’re extremely light, which, combined with their small size, makes them quite portable. Thankfully, the ear cups’ cushioning appears to be of a higher quality than the rest of the device, making them comfortable to use for long periods despite their on-ear design.
These cans offer a sparse control interface with three large buttons that are easy to locate, distinguish, and interact with. They control the normal play/pause, volume up/down, and skip forward/back functions, as well as allowing you to use your device’s voice assistant.
For this purpose and to take calls, there’s an embedded microphone next to these buttons, and while it’s functional, it’s not the clearest option available. The only port for USB-C charging is next to the controls and microphone (audio over USB isn’t supported from what we tested). We’re especially ecstatic to see a low-cost device use this future-proofed connector instead of micro USB.
We’re delighted with the 35-hour listening length of these Sony headphones, and if you’re in a hurry, you can get 90 minutes of battery life from just 10 minutes of charging from flat. If you run out of batteries on the road, you’ll be out of luck due to the lack of a 3.5mm headphone connector and audio over USB, but the amazing battery life and cost compensates.
The WH-lack CH510’s features is one of its benefits, which may seem counterintuitive. Costs have been cut on features that its target audience could do without to focus on more important aspects, such as battery life and audio quality (active noise-canceling prime among them).
The fact that these headphones are on-ear means you won’t get the same audio quality as over-ear competitors, as we’ve already said. This is largely owing to the smaller cups’ inability to form a solid seal and provide a reduced impression of space.
Having said that, despite their low price and limited design shape, these Sonys manage to sound solid. We thought the bass was clear and present, but not overpowering. The upper frequencies were a little more dominating than we wanted, and the mids were a little too muffled, but the overall profile was nice.
While they don’t offer the same level of clarity, balance, or sense of space as their WH-1000XM3 siblings, the sound produced by these on-ears defies their size and price. Most genres sound good here, while records with low mids and boosted treble may seem uncomfortably overdone. The Bluetooth 5.0 connection never dropped out during our tests, and we didn’t experience any interference or drop-out issues. We couldn’t identify an app companion, but given the unit’s inherent simplicity, we couldn’t see why there would be one.
You’re probably already willing to make some compromises if you’re shopping for headphones at this pricing bracket. Thankfully, the WH-concessions CH510’s haven’t been too significant — the elimination of analog input parallels the loss of the 3.5mm connector on most recent smartphones, while the lightweight, plastic design increases mobility and comfort.
If you’re looking for something more durable or with a 3.5mm connection, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a comparable wireless option at the same price point, much alone one with good battery life and sound.
What to look for in a pair of cheap headphones
We tested, listened to, and compared a large number of inexpensive headphones in every category, shape, and size in order to compile this guide. When we found a wonderful pair, we stacked them up against the rest to see if they still deserved to be called the “best cheap headphones.”
Perhaps you’re wondering what we were looking for during all of our extensive testing. Sound fidelity was certainly the most important consideration, but we also took into account comfort, design, and other factors.
We, like most others, appreciate music that is detailed and well-balanced. We can live with our music being a little warm, with a focus on the mids and highs, but we still want to feel the bass.
It’s also vital to seek headphones with long battery life if they’re wireless, a sturdy, durable build that can withstand the rigors of daily use, and soft padding to make long listening sessions more pleasant.
Keep in mind that testing headphones is, at least in part, subjective, and our preferences for tonal balance may differ from yours (neither will the size of our head or the shape of our ears). Nonetheless, we’ve done our best to exclude subjectivity from the equation and can now give, based on our knowledge, the best cheap headphones that won’t break the bank.
By their very nature, the headphones you prefer will come down to personal preference. However, because the headphone industry is so crowded, it might be difficult to figure out which headphones are perfect for your preferences. This is where we can help.
Please bear with us – we won’t recommend anything we haven’t tried ourselves because it’s impossible to get our hands on every reasonable set of headphones.
We assure you that if we missed your favorite pair of Beats headphones, it wasn’t on purpose. We went through a process with this guide, testing a large number of cheap headphones from all over the internet in every style imaginable. Everything from in-ear to over-ear to wireless is available.
We then took the findings of all of this thorough testing and compared each headset to the others until we were confident in selecting a handful to proudly wear the “best cheap headphones” label. So, even if we didn’t choose your favorite headphones, rest assured that there isn’t a single pair on our list that will let you down.