You can easily spend three figures on a new pair of wireless headphones, but that doesn't mean you have to – plenty of more affordable models do exist. But, just because they're cheap doesn't mean they're no good. We've tested many that offer decent sound quality and feature sets that rival more expensive pairs.
Below we've rounded up the best cheap wireless headphones money can buy. All are five-star products that we've tested and all offer superb all-around performance for the money. If you're on a budget, you won't be disappointed.
How to choose the best cheap wireless headphones
Cheap wireless headphones come in all shapes and sizes. You can get some pretty decent wireless over-ears and in-ears for not much money at all. Some models also boast the added bonus of noise-cancelling, too.
Healthy battery life should be a priority for any wireless headphones – anything around 20 hours and above for over-ear headphones and over 6 hours for earbuds and above is good.
If you're a fitness fiend who wants a secure fit and waterproofing, you're better off going for a pair of sport headphones with sweat- and water-resistance. Look out for an IP rating of at least IPX4, meaning they'll survive basic splashing but not a dunk in the drink.
You also might want to consider which version of Bluetooth they're running. We're currently on Bluetooth 5 (5.3 to be precise). Newer versions can offer improvements in performance over older versions when it comes to things like wireless range, so it could pay to do a bit of extra digging through the specs of any pairs you're considering.
You'll also want to consider comfort, especially if they're going to be sat in or on your ears for any length of time. Finally, you definitely want decent sound quality for the money and all of the below have come out of our testing labs with flying colours.
The HD 250BT might not feature any luxury flourishes, but they're a good-sounding, durable and truly likeable set of on-ears, and among the best cheap wireless headphones you can buy.
Features include Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX Low Latency, a 25-hour battery life, app support and Sennheiser’s beloved-of-DJs transducer tech.
The build is a black plastic affair, but it is functional and solid and features the firm’s traditional S-in-a-rectangle white branding on each ear cup. Said ear cups are nicely padded, although the headband is not.
When it comes to sound, the HD 250BT sound a good deal more musically detailed, agile and rhythmically gifted across the frequencies than one might expect given the eye-popping price tag.
All in all, the HD 250BT are a superb budget buy – and a great way to experience what Sennheiser is capable of, without breaking the bank.
Read the full Sennheiser HD 250BT review
If you have a bigger budget and prioritise a superior sound, there are models that will better suit you. But before the Earfun Air, we had never awarded five stars to a set of proper wire-free headphones at this budget level – despite testing models from well-known and highly respected audio brands.
This little-known company has produced a comfortable, nicely built set of headphones that also boast excellent battery life, wireless charging support and a pleasant and spacious presentation. Fans of a grippy, energetic listen to get you through a workout will find much to enjoy here.
The Earfun Air buds have a waterproof IPX7 rating, so they can be submerged in water up to a depth of one metre for up to 30 minutes, and an impressively long battery life of 35 hours. There are also touch controls and in-ear detection tech to pause playback when you remove them.
If you’re after some of the best cheap wireless headphones that’ll sound good on the treadmill, the Earfun Air could just be the ideal proposition.
Read the full Earfun Air review
JBL is a heavy hitter when it comes to wireless sports headphones, and the JBL Reflect Flow are a value-packed effort.
The Reflect Flow are very good indeed, especially if you desire a bass-heavy sound for the gym – without resorting to on-ear or over-ear headphones. You get 10 hours of battery in the buds plus an extra 20 hours from the case, and JBL promises a quick 10-minute charge will provide an hour's playback.
With the right tip and fin combination, they produce a stable fit that holds them securely in place when tackling all manner athletic pursuits, while that extra helping of deep but accurate bass should see you over the finish line.
One notable feature is the ambient mode: press the left bud and the volume decreases, allowing you to hold a conversation without removing the buds. It's worth comparing these to the sporty five-star Jaybird Vistas, but for fit and sound, we think the JBL Reflect Flow have the edge.
Read the full JBL Reflect Flow review
When it comes to wireless headphones, Sony has sewn up the high end with the WF-1000XM4. But can it do the same at the budget end of the market with the WF-C500?
Not quite, but it does give it a very good try indeed. The C500 handle the basics very well, with Bluetooth 5.0, and compatibility with SBC and AAC codecs. Battery life is a healthy 10 hours from the headphones themselves, and another 10 from the charging case, making a total of 20.
They pair with Sony's consummate Headphones Connect app for sublime controls, and numerous extra features (like the Digital Sound Enhancement Engine, which upscales audio files to something approaching ‘hi-res’ quality). Voice controls come via Google Assistant and Siri, and the IPX4 rating means they're resistant to water splashes.
Sonically, they're even-handed and nicely balanced, with well-shaped bass notes. In short, they offer a lot of what makes Sony's high-end buds so compelling, without cutting too many corners. Definitely some of the best cheap wireless headphones around.
Read the full Sony WF-C500 review
Earfun builds on the success of its Earfun Air (above) by cramming even more features into the ‘Pro’ variant, the main addition being active noise cancellation. There is now a 10mm driver and three mics per earpiece, too. But, considering the claims on the spec sheet, the price remains jaw-droppingly low.
They're a solid proposition for the money: they fit securely, connect easily, have reliable controls and feature basic but effective noise-cancelling profiles – for just a small premium on the Air model.
There’s also USB-C charging and wearer detection, plus the sound is pretty decent for the money – well-balanced, relatively transparent, taut and full through the bass, and musically pleasing overall. Nothing at this level can match these for features or performance.
Read the full Earfun Air Pro review
Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of the best cheap wireless headphones. But perhaps it should be. The 2021 Award-winning RZ-S500W are the company's first foray into wireless noise-cancelling earbuds and they're sensational performers for their outlay.
Specs are thorough, with noise-cancelling tech, an Ambient Mode, twin mics for voice calls, and a battery life that totals 19.5 hours (6.5 hours from the buds and 13 hours from the charging case). A 15-minute USB-C quick-charge can deliver 70 minutes of playback. The touch controls on each bud are responsive and intuitive, allowing you to control your music and switch between noise-cancelling modes with zero fuss.
You also get five sizes of ear tips to help with fit. We found this a little hit and miss, so we'd definitely experiment and consider mixing the sizes if it means getting a more secure fit.
Both noise cancelling and sound quality are excellent. There's plenty of agility through the low end and loads of texture across frequencies. Music sounds clear and there's a great deal of refinement on show, which is to be welcomed at this price level. To sum up, these Panasonic earbuds are superb for the money.
Read the full Panasonic RZ-S500W review
The Melomania 1 Plus have some big shoes to fill given the popularity of the originals. But we're glad to say that these cheap wireless headphones hit the spot.
They boast app support, customisable EQ settings and the British audio firm's innovative High-Performance Audio Mode. Your colour options are white and black.
Like the originals, the real selling point is battery life. The 1 Plus provide a whopping nine hours from one charge, and you get an additional four charges from the carry case. That makes 45 hours of total run time. The fact there's no noise-cancelling onboard helps to explain the marathon battery life, as the tech can be a real drain.
The Melomanias deliver an impactful and expansive musical performance. They sound clear and more dynamic than their predecessors and there's a smidgen more detail too. If you want an affordable and accomplished pair of earbuds, the Cambridge definitely warrant a closer look.
Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review
iPhone users have got multiple models of AirPods to consider, but what about Android smartphone owners? We'd point them in the direction of the Pixel Buds A-Series, the latest wireless model to be launched by the search giant – they are its best effort to date.
They're light and comfortable, and while noise cancelling is off the menu, they do a good job of isolating you. Your colour choices are either white or 'Dark Olive' and the earbuds also boast IPX4 water resistance so you can use them for general exercise and running.
The five-hour battery life isn't exactly class-leading but should be enough for most people. You also get another 20 or so from the carry case. Pairing Pixel Buds A-Series is extremely simple, especially if you're using an Android smartphone or tablet that boasts the Fast Pair feature.
Come music time, there's a lot to like about the Pixel Buds thanks to their approachable, balanced sound. It doesn't favour any part of the sonic spectrum which can't always be said for earbuds at this level. They're well-rounded performers and available at a great price.
Read the full Google Pixel Buds A-Series review
Yes, some true wireless earbuds deliver a bit more detail and dynamic subtlety. The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 and Sony WF-1000XM3 are two such pairs. But, unlike these JBLs, they won’t have the honed ergonomics or ruggedness to be hailed as ideal fitness buddies. They're also much pricier than the Reflect Flow Pro.
Within the context of earbuds for exercise, the Reflect Flow Pro are like champion heptathletes – strong in all areas. They're waterproof, lightweight, comfortable and with multiple ear tip fin options, and sound very decent for the money. And for that they are extremely easy to recommend.
Read the full JBL Reflect Flow Pro review
How we test the best cheap wireless headphones
In order to put these headphones through their paces, we use them in real-world conditions. That means we run them down from full to empty to gauge battery life, and use them outdoors in both built-up areas and open space to test how stable the wireless connection remains to the music source.
Using them outdoors also lets us check their noise isolating properties, and active noise-cancellation (ANC) if they have it. We try them with both a smartphone and computer, to see how well they stand up in different use cases. And if they're a sporty pair, we'll take them out for a jog or to the gym to check how well they stay in our ears while exercising.
Each pair is compared to the best in its price and style class – whether that's one standout pair or a few we favour the highest among the 100+ pairs we listen to each year. What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, and we keep class-leading products in our stockrooms so we can always compare new products to ones we know and love.
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible, too. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.