Best headphones under £100

Best headphones under £100 Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best headphones you can buy under £100 in 2022.

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. All styles of headphones (including wireless, noise-cancelling and over-ear) 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 – in lesser pairs, the usual problems persist, including poor sound quality, a iffy wireless connection that drops out frequently, poor fit, and shoddy build quality. But the best of the bunch do exactly what they set out to: be excellent headphones for those on a budget. And we should know – we've tested all the headphones listed below, and were bowled over by them all. So what's on offer?

How to choose the best headphones under £100 for you

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

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.

Best headphones under £100: SoundMagic E11C

On the hunt for cheap and extremely cheerful in-ear headphones? The E11C fit the bill perfectly. (Image credit: SoundMagic)
What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winner. A great pair of cheap in-ear headphones for less than £100.

Specifications

Type: In-ear
Bluetooth version: N/A
Noise-cancelling: No
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Connector: 3.5mm
Waterproofing: No
Battery life: N/A
Weight: 12g

Reasons to buy

+
Entertaining sound
+
Remote and mic
+
Easy to drive

Reasons to avoid

-
Timing isn't perfect

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 headphones under £100. And these are some of its best, notching up a What Hi-Fi? Award in both 2021 and 2022. No mean feat.

They launched all the way back in 2018 – an age in headphone terms – but faced with the best modern competition at the price, they still come out tops. Sound quality is excellent, with on-point timing, lovely depth and warmth and standout clarity.

They're wired, so of course you'll need an adapter to use with most modern smartphones and tablets. But they have an in-line remote and mic for taking hands-free calls. And all for around £50. Incredible.

Read the full SoundMagic E11C review

Best headphones under £100: Sony WF-C500

The WF-C500 don't cut many corners to offer Sony style and substance in a more affordable package. (Image credit: Sony)
What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winner. Genuine contenders that don't cut too many corners.

Specifications

Type: In-ear
Bluetooth version: 5.0
Noise-cancelling: No
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Connector: N/A
Waterproofing: IPX4
Battery life: 20hrs (buds: 10hrs; case: 10hrs)
Weight: 5.4g each

Reasons to buy

+
Compact and comfortable design
+
Spirited, well-balanced sound
+
Fine control app

Reasons to avoid

-
Ordinary battery life
-
Slightly small-scale sound
-
Numerous serious rivals

When it comes to wireless earbuds, 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?

These won a 2022 What Hi-Fi? Award, so the answer is yes 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 earbuds 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 one for the shortlist.

Read the full Sony WF-C500 review

Best headphones under £100: Austrian Audio Hi-X15

Entertaining and insightful wired over-ear headphones that don't cost the earth. (Image credit: Austrian Audio)
What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winner. Talented and affordable wired headphones for the home.

Specifications

Type: Over-ear
Bluetooth version: N/A
Noise-cancelling: No
Built-in mic and controls: No
Connector: 3.5mm
Waterproofing: No
Battery life: N/A
Weight: 255g

Reasons to buy

+
Clear, open presentation
+
Dig out plenty of detail
+
Impressive sense of timing

Reasons to avoid

-
Need plenty of running in
-
Require partnering with suitable electronics

Austrian Audio, born out of ex-AKG employees, has hit the ground running with its first-ever range of wired headphones, Hi-X. The wallet-friendly Hi-X15 won a 2022 What Hi-Fi? Award.

We’d consider them analytical headphones, but they still manage to make music entertaining with it – they extract bags of detail but keep the soul of your music intact. Throughout the frequency range, these headphones deliver consistently high detail levels and fantastic dynamics. There isn’t an ounce of fat on any track played through the Austrian Audio Hi-X15 headphones. But at the same time there’s enough weight and substance to low frequencies that you don’t feel as though you’re missing out. 

We wouldn't insist on you partnering them with a suitable DAC/headphone amplifier, but do so and you’ll be rewarded with a mature-sounding pair of headphones that go above and beyond at the money.

Read the full Austrian Audio Hi-X15 review

Best headphones under £100: Sennheiser HD 250BT

These aren't the flashiest looking pair of headphones, but they've got it where it counts. (Image credit: Sennheiser )
What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winner. Sennheiser succeeds in the supremely affordable wireless headphones market.

Specifications

Type: On-ear
Bluetooth version: 5.0
Noise-cancelling: No
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Connector: N/A
Waterproofing: No
Battery life: 25hrs
Weight: 125g

Reasons to buy

+
Open, detailed presentation
+
In-app EQ optimisation
+
Rock-solid budget build

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing at this price

Sennheiser doesn't tend to release too many pairs of wireless headphones at this more affordable end of the market so we're happy to report that these Bluetooth headphones are excellent value for money. So excellent, we gave them a 2022 What Hi-Fi? Award.

The appearance might be functional, but these are far from basic. There's a Smart Control app for one, which brings with it an equaliser and EQ settings, plus battery life notifications and firmware updates.

Sonically, Sennheiser’s ultra-affordable and durable headphones do not disappoint for the price. The HD 250BT sound a good deal more musically detailed, agile and rhythmically gifted across the frequencies than you might expect.

Read the full Sennheiser HD 250BT review

Best headphones under £100: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus

A momentous 45 hours of battery life make these the buds of choice for many. (Image credit: Cambridge Audio)
A new, lower price makes these some of the best headphones under £100.

Specifications

Type: In-ear
Bluetooth version: 5.0
Noise-cancelling: No
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Connector: N/A
Waterproofing: IPX5
Battery life: 45hrs (buds: 9hrs; case: 36hrs)
Weight: 5.6g each

Reasons to buy

+
Extra dynamic expression
+
Great clarity
+
Slick app support

Reasons to avoid

-
No noise cancelling

Cambridge’s compact, fuss-free and affordable design in its original Melomania 1 true wireless earbuds was a hit with us the first time around in 2019. The addition of a slicker paint-job, app support for EQ customisation and the step-up in sonic detail and refinement – without the anticipated price hike – only makes us want to heap extra praise upon the new Melomania 1 Plus.

They recently had their price slashed to under £100, which qualifies them for this list.

While the original Melomania 1 can now be had for a significant discount – where available, as they have been discontinued – we’d still point you towards this updated model. There’s no noise-cancelling onboard, but those who don’t need it shouldn't hesitate to add these latest Melomanias to their shortlist. If nothing else, for the battery life alone – they last an astonishing 45 hours (including the carry case) before needing juicing up.

For that, and for an engaging, detailed, expansive listen, the Melomania 1 Plus are very much in the running for the best at this level.

Read the full Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus review

Best headphones under £100: Panasonic RZ-S500W

Panasonic's first pair of true wireless earbuds are a stunner. Beginner's luck? Hardly. (Image credit: Panasonic)
A hugely talented and affordable pair of earbuds.

Specifications

Style: In-ear
Bluetooth version: 5.0
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Connector: N/A
Waterproofing: IPX4
Battery life: 19.5hrs (buds: 6.5hrs; case: 13hrs)
Weight: 60g including case

Reasons to buy

+
Expansive detailed presentation
+
Excellent noise cancelling
+
Superb touch controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Fit could be an issue for some

Panasonic doesn't immediately spring to mind when you think of the best headphones under £100. But perhaps it should. The 2021 Award-winning RZ-S500W are the company's first foray into wireless noise-cancelling earbuds and they're sensational performers for the price.

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

Best headphones under £100: Earfun Air Pro

The Pro variant adds noise-cancellation for not much more money than the original Air. (Image credit: EarFun)
Earfun adds noise-cancelling to its five-star wireless earbuds recipe and keeps the price under £100.

Specifications

Type: In-ear
Bluetooth version: 5.0
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Connector: N/A
Waterproofing: IPX5
Battery life: 25hrs (buds: 7hrs; case: 18hrs)
Weight: 53g including case

Reasons to buy

+
Solid, accurate bass weight
+
Effective noise cancelling
+
Classy build and finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Harsh upper midrange

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, especially for headphones under £100.

Read the full Earfun Air Pro review

Best headphones under £100: Sennheiser CX 400BT

Bluetooth 5.1? Mobile app support for EQ adjustments? These offer both, neither of which we expect at the money. (Image credit: Sennheiser)
Sennheiser throws its hat in the ring with these excellent headphones under £100.

Specifications

Type: In-ear
Bluetooth version: 5.1
Noise-cancelling: No
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Connector: N/A
Waterproofing: No
Battery life: 20hrs (buds: 7hrs; case: 13hrs)
Weight: 6g each

Reasons to buy

+
Lively, detailed sound
+
Lightweight fit
+
Excellent value for money

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life below the best
-
Not waterproof

The CX 400BT are more sonically gifted than most at this price (which 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

Best headphones under £100: Earfun Air

These were the first budget true wireless earbuds to earn a five-star review from us.  (Image credit: EarFun)
Comfortable. Feature-packed. What more could you want from headphones under £100?

Specifications

Type: In-ear
Bluetooth version: 5.0
Noise-cancelling: No
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Connector: N/A
Waterproofing: IPX7
Battery life: 35hrs (buds: 7hrs; case: 28hrs)
Weight: 5.35g each

Reasons to buy

+
Punchy, expansive sound
+
Great feature set
+
Classy build and finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Treble needs more refinement

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.

And they deliver in terms of performance. 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 true wireless model 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

Best headphones under £100: Google Pixel Buds A-Series

Google's true wireless earbuds are an excellent option for Android users. (Image credit: Google)
Google's buds deliver impressive sound for under £100.

Specifications

Type: In-ear
Bluetooth version: 5.0
Noise-cancelling: No
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Connector: N/A
Waterproofing: IPX4
Battery life: 25hrs (buds: 5hrs; case: 20hrs)
Weight: 5.06g each

Reasons to buy

+
Well-rounded, clean sound
+
Comfortable
+
Reliable connection

Reasons to avoid

-
No volume touch control on buds
-
No noise-cancelling

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 headphones to be launched by the search giant and their 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 true wireless earbuds at this level. They're well-rounded performers and available at a great price.

Read the full Google Pixel Buds A-Series review

Best headphones under £100: Final E500

£20?! That's crazily cheap for such an accomplished pair of headphones. (Image credit: Final)
The price may be small, but the sound certainly isn’t.

Specifications

Type: In-ear
Bluetooth version: N/A
Noise-cancelling: No
Built-in mic and controls: No
Connector: 3.5mm
Waterproofing: No
Battery life: N/A
Weight: 15g

Reasons to buy

+
Clear and insightful
+
Agility through mids and treble
+
Light and comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Bass needs more control
-
Cable is basic

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

Best headphones under £100: AKG K72

If home listening is your bag, but you don't want to spend a fortune, the AKG K72 are for you. (Image credit: AKG)
Affordable over-ears for the home with a big, bold and balanced sound.

Specifications

Type: Over-ear
Bluetooth version: N/A
Noise-cancelling: No
Built-in mic and controls: No
Connector: 3.5mm
Waterproofing: No
Battery life: N/A
Weight: 540g

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value
+
Very comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Coloured, boxy mids

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

Best headphones under £100: Lindy BNX-60

The BNX-60 are comfortable enough for all-day wear, and much better value than their pricier siblings. (Image credit: Lindy)
Bluetooth, noise cancelling, very acceptable audio, and all for under £100.

Specifications

Type: On-ear
Bluetooth version: 4.1
Noise-cancelling: Yes
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Connector: 3.5mm, 6.3mm
Waterproofing: No
Battery life: 15hrs
Weight: 600g

Reasons to buy

+
Great value
+
Detailed, solid sound
+
Noise-cancelling and wireless functionality

Reasons to avoid

-
Treble a little muffled in standard mode

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.

Want to step up without breaking the bank? Check out the slightly upgraded Lindy BNX-80, which cost about £90, so still under £100.

Read the full Lindy BNX-60 review

Best headphones under £100: Skullcandy Smokin' Buds 2 Wireless

Performance is solid, and the branding nicely understated in these Skullcandy buds. (Image credit: Skullcandy)
Solid sound and a comfortable fit make these great headphones under £100.

Specifications

Type: In-ear
Bluetooth version: 5.0
Noise-cancelling: No
Built-in mic and controls: Yes
Connector: N/A
Waterproofing: No
Battery life: 6hrs
Weight: 30g

Reasons to buy

+
Fun
+
Full sound

Reasons to avoid

-
No aptX Bluetooth
-
No NFC

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

How we test headphones

We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door.

Of course, testing headphones don't often require such facilities (though we do often try audiophile headphones in our reference hi-fi system). What is important in our headphones reviewing process is that 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 for reviews and What Hi-Fi? Awards judging. 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.

We are always impartial and do our best to make sure we're hearing every product at their very best, so we'll try plenty of different types of music and give them plenty of listening time (and time to run in), while the wired headphones that might warrant being used with a DAC are tested with a suitable one. It's not just about sound quality, of course. If a pair has active noise cancellation – increasingly the case these days – we'll ensure part of our testing involves using them in different environments. 

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.

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.