Best headphones under £100 Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best headphones you can buy under £100 in 2021.
Great headphones don't have to cost a fortune. While pricier models do generally sound and perform better, there are some brilliant cheap headphones under £100.
You don't have to sacrifice features, either. Wireless earbuds, standard wireless headphones and even noise-cancelling headphones are all available for less than £100. Which is pretty amazing when you think about it.
Sure, even the best headphones under £100 won't challenge models higher up the product chain, but they will do what they set out to do: be excellent headphones for those on a budget. And we should know – we've tested all the headphones listed below. So what's on offer?
True wireless buds are the ultimate in convenience – there are no wires whatsoever, they're literally two buds you pop in your ears. If you're looking for no tangles, or don't like the idea of a neckband slapping your nape while you run, you should consider a true wireless pair.
Wireless headphones come in on-ear and over-ear designs – the latter usually have a neckband or cable joining the two earbuds. Some people really don't mind this, so they're still worth considering. And they're usually cheaper than a true wireless pair. On-ear wireless headphones usually come with a cable so you can plug them in if you don't want to drain the battery (while listening at home, for example).
Noise-cancellers block out background noise, which is handy for getting some shut-eye on a long plane journey, or just drowning out the office hubbub. They come in both on-ear and in-ear versions. That's what to look out for. Now let's get to our pick of the best headphones under £100.
Looking a bit further ahead? Google is rumoured to launch the Google Pixel Buds A soon – a pair of true wireless earbuds which are rumoured to cost less than their forebears. Could they come in under £100? Fingers crossed.
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One listen to these wallet-friendly in-ears, and you'll struggle to believe that SoundMagic was only formed as recently as 2005. In that relatively short time, it's built a reputation for some of the best budget headphones around. And these are some of its best. Sound quality is excellent, while there's also an in-line remote and mic for taking hands-free calls. And all for around £50. Incredible.
Read the full SoundMagic E11C review
Panasonic isn't a brand that immediately springs to mind when you think of cheap wireless earbuds. But perhaps it should be. The RZ-S500W are the company's first foray into wireless noise-cancelling earbuds and they're sensational performers for less than £100.
Specs are thorough, with noise-cancelling tech, an Ambient Mode, twin mics for voice calls, and battery life that totals 19.5 hours (6.5hrs from the buds and 13hrs 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. A great buy, even if you're not trying to keep the cost below £100.
Read the full Panasonic RZ-S500W review
This Pro variant takes the standard – and excellent – Earfun Air and adds active noise cancelling (ANC), more mics and larger drivers. That all adds up to a better sonic performance as well as clearer voice calls – very handy if you're out and about in noisy environments.
And considering the spec sheet, the price remains jaw-droppingly low – a staple of Earfun's approach.
The headphones pair easily, and they're comfortable enough for even the longest of conference calls. The controls are a doddle to use, too. Two taps on the right bud pauses or resumes playback; three skips to the next track. Double tapping the left earpiece accesses Siri on your iPhone and also answers or ends a call. The crucial function you’ll want to practise is a triple-tap of that left earpiece, as this scrolls between the Earfun’s noise-cancelling, ‘normal’ and ‘ambient sound’ modes.
They're built to survive a downpour, too. All in all, it’s a lot of tech and durability for not a lot of money.
Read the full Earfun Air Pro review
The CX 400BT are more sonically gifted than most at this price (a price that fluctuates above and below £100, so do keep an eye out).
They're not water- or sweat-resistant but they do boast Bluetooth 5.1 support and a mobile app, neither of which is a given at this level. The former promises high-quality, far-reaching Bluetooth transmission, while the latter opens doors to EQ adjustment and control customisation.
The controls are simple for voice calls, too. Just tap the right earbud once to activate your phone’s voice assistant or accept incoming calls, twice to jump forward a track or rejects calls, or hold it down to increase volume. Battery life is seven hours, which is decent but can be bettered in this company.
Sound quality is where the Sennheisers excel, though. They produce a detailed and lively sound with bags of energy and enthusiasm. For the money, it's hugely appealing and earbuds of this standard aren't to be sniffed at.
Read the full Sennheiser CX 400BT review
From the spec sheet, the Earfun Air seem too good to be true. They have voice assistance, with two mics per earpiece, a wireless charging case that supports Qi wireless charging and Bluetooth 5.0 support. They're waterproof IPX7 rated, so they can be submerged in up to 1m of water for up to 30 minutes, and battery life is an impressive 35 hours. There are also touch controls and in-ear detection tech to pause playback when you remove them.
That kind of feature set usually commands a three-figure sum, but these cost around half that.
Thankfully, they deliver. They feel a lot more expensive than they are, they're a dream to use, and the Bluetooth connection remains stable. They even sound pretty great for the money, with a pleasant and spacious presentation and enthusiastic, energetic and accurate bass.
Until now, we’ve never awarded five stars to a set of true wireless headphones at this budget level – despite testing models from well-known and highly respected audio brands. This is the first. If you’re after something inexpensive that sound good without breaking the bank, the Earfun Air buds could just be the ideal proposition.
Read the full Earfun Air review
These launched at just over £100, but don't pay full price – they're now available for around £80. Which is fantastic value.
Why? Because they're a superb pair of headphones. They're slightly smaller than the previous and rather splendid Y500, but feel reassuringly familiar. Despite this familiarity, plenty about them has changed. There’s a 36mm driver in each earpiece, which is smaller than the 40mm drivers in the previous model. The closed-back circular earcups are smaller too, and very much on-ear – they rest on, but do not entirely cover, your shell-likes.
The earcups rotate to lie flat and fold up inside the headband for transport, making them even more portable than the older model. They are well-cushioned and, because the extension point is situated lower on the new, thinner headband, the clamping force on the Y400s isn’t too tight and is easy to adjust.
They have advanced features like Ambient Aware and Wearer Detection, and the wireless connection is always reliable. Despite the smaller drivers and earcups, they still deliver an open, layered and zealous presentation. A top wireless buy for those on a budget.
Read the full AKG Y400 review
Sporty? Like music? Don't want to spend a fortune on headphones you're going to sweat all over? The JBL Reflect Flow are for you. They're true wireless earbuds, so you won't get tangled up in cables while you work out, and there's plenty of bass to spur you on. The battery will last a healthy 10 hours too, or 30 with the carry case. That's long enough to do an Ironman.
Read the full JBL Reflect Flow review
These Byrds are cheep as anything (sorry), and a superb option if you're looking to upgrade your in-ears. They're easy to listen to, yet still manage to be captivating, which is quite something at this price. Highly recommended.
Read the full Beyerdynamic Soul Byrd review
Some cheap headphones look like they were plucked straight from the bargain bin. But these are way classier. Their red and black paint job is definitely eye catching, and they're full of little details that make them feel more premium. They fit securely without ever being uncomfortable, and the sound is as smooth and balanced as their more expensive stablemates. An excellent choice for those shopping at the cheaper end of the market.
Read the full Sennheiser Momentum M2 IEi review
Sony's top-end headphones are some of the best money can buy, but its budget models are also some of the finest of their kind. Though the WF-XB700 are the cheapest model in Sony’s true wireless stable, they aren’t simply a watered-down version of the Award-winning WF-1000XM3. Instead, they're part of Sony's Extra Bass range, and are tuned to emphasise low-frequency response. Their design is also aimed at fitness fanatics who value sweat-resistance and an ergonomic fit.
They really are very good indeed. There's no noise-cancelling, but the 18-hour battery life is very healthy, and the Bluetooth connection remains stable. And their IPX4 water resistance rating protects them against ‘water splashing’, so if you work up a sweat or get caught in a rain shower, the XB700 have you covered.
The Extra Bass label does as promised, lending tracks a hefty low end which is complemented by decent punch and pleasing tautness and agility. While bass-heavy performances can often overshadow mid and high frequencies, that isn’t the case here. Fitness fans on a budget, look no further.
Read the full Sony WF-XB700 review
The Beats Flex are a step up from Apple's bog-standard Lightning wired buds. They’re available in some fresh hues (including the Yuzu yellow sample before you), they charge via USB-C, have a 12-hour battery life, and courtesy of one-tap audio share you can split sounds with nearby Beats or AirPods headphones (provided you have an iPhone 8 or later running iOS 14). They're very affordable, too.
Four ear tip options gives a good chance of finding a decent fit, and the cable is flat, like a strand of tagliatelle. Magnets keep the earbuds together when not in use.
Pairing is a doddle (even more so using an Apple device). They don't support some iOS 14 features, including automatic switching to another device or hands-free Siri support. And there’s no noise-cancelling either. But with the correct seal you’ll still enjoy good levels of passive noise isolation.
Audio quality is good, but not great. There's just not the same impact that the best at this price manage to pull off. Still, the Flex offer a considered, smooth sound profile that’s preferable to one that is harsh or bright through the upper frequencies. A solid bet at this end of the market.
Read the full Beats Flex review
Final (sometimes called S’NEXT Final) is a Japanese audio firm founded in 2007, noted for its wide range of headphones. At just £20, the E500 wired in-ears are the cheapest pair of headphones in Final’s extensive arsenal of listening gear.
They're light, at just 15g, while the cable is a robust but basic affair. There’s no in-line mic or volume control and the 3.5mm headphone jack means you’ll need a dongle for use with an iOS device.
They fit well, and provide a decent level of sound isolation. Inside is the same driver as Final's models that cost 10 times as much. And it shows. Sound is bursting with energy and clarity, and there's plenty of separation between each musical note. They're a definite step up from many a smartphone-bundled pair of wired in-ears. And that's worth £20 of anyone's money.
Read the full Final E500 review
These in-ears are made for sports, though they're wired rather than wireless. They fit securely, stay put, and feel comfortable enough to forget about while you focus on your workout. They're waterproof enough to rinse under a tap after you're done exercising, and they sound good enough to listen to for hours. Money well spent.
Read the full JVC HA-ETR40 review
Home listening doesn't get more bargainous than this. The K72 offer an expansive soundscape, with plenty of width and scale, and enough bass to keep your head nodding without ever becoming overbearing. Altogether a more grown-up and detailed pair of headphones than most similarly-priced rivals.
Read the full AKG K72 review
If you like going a long time between recharging, this is the pair for you. The 700N last a marathon 35 hours before needing juicing up, which should last most people a week of commuting and still leave plenty for the weekend. The noise cancelling might not be as accomplished as in Sony's more expensive cans, but it's still a great addition at this price. And the Bluetooth connection is solid, providing a seamless wireless listening experience.
Read the full Sony WH-CH700N review
Just having wireless and noise cancelling at this price is a massive bonus, so the fact they work well is even more welcome. Pairing is simple, while the noise cancelling blocks out the vast majority of unwanted noise. Some models around this price range are all bright treble or booming bass, but these deliver a balanced sound that's easy on the ear. And for £80, you can't really ask for more.
Read the full Lindy BNX-60 review
SoundMagic has a reputation for producing good budget headphones and the TWS50 are worth investigating. They're the company's first pair of true wireless earbuds and they offer a comfy fit and full-bodied sound for the money.
Battery life is around six hours, while the charging case adds another four extra charges giving 30 hours in total. Touch-sensitive buttons on each bud control playback and volume through a series of taps.
Read the full SoundMagic TWS50 review
Skullcandy's headphones can be a little... divisive, with their bass-heavy sound and brash branding. But this wireless take on its Smokin' Buds 2 in-ears is a welcome change. The branding is nice and subtle, and the neckband is removable, so you can take it off if you don't like it. As you would expect at this price, there's little in the way of extras – no NFC, aptX Bluetooth or fast charging. A three-button remote and fastener for keeping the headphones together when not in use is about all you get. Still, they're solid performers, and very attractively priced indeed. Well worth a look.
Read the full Skullcandy Smokin' Buds 2 Wireless review
Proof noise-cancelling headphones need not cost the earth. These are comfortable, have a long (22-hour) battery life, and built-in volume and playback controls. They sound powerful and punchy, with lashings of bass and exciting dynamics. Problems? The bass can be a little too much at times, drowning out some detail in the recording, and the plastic scratches too easily. But if you can live with these minor quibbles, these will serve you well.
Read the full JBL Tune600BTNC review
Shure isn't known for its sub-£100 headphones, which makes these all the more noteworthy. They borrow features from the firm's pricier models, like a reinforced Kevlar cable, a vast array of bundled buds and the standard carry case. Sonically, they're warm and detailed, with an unexpected – but not unwelcome – weight and richness to the bass. You sacrifice some detail and excitement, but if it's a smooth, bassy delivery you're after, look no further.
Read the full Shure SE215 review