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, 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?
How to choose the best headphones under £100 for you
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.
Klipsch's budget buds picked up What Hi-Fi? Awards in 2019, 2020 and 2021. And their advancing years haven't dulled their appeal one bit.
Their oval silicone tips are some of the most comfortable out there. Underneath them, the 5mm dynamic drivers kick out powerful and punchy bass with exquisite precision. They give a good sense of space whether you're using them for streaming Spotify or watching Netflix and their dynamic quality reveals a host of sonic subtleties you wouldn't expect from such budget headphones.
Even the cable is a little bit special, with Klipsch's trademark specks of copper embedded within it. They're sweat- and water-resistant too, so should bear up fine during most workouts. Though remember they're not specifically a sports pair of headphones – if you're running an Ironman, you'll want something built for the task.
But anyone looking to upgrade their headphones without breaking the bank needs to give these great musical performers a try. They are quite simply the best headphones under £100.
Read the full Klipsch T5 M Wired review
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?
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 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
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. 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
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 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award.
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 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
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.
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
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
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
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 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
These launched at just over £100, but don't pay full price – they're now available for around £80. Which is fantastic value, especially for winners of a 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award.
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 Y400 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
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
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 wireless, 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 for headphones under £100. 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 give 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
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 of juice 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.
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
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.