You could spend hundreds on a new pair of headphones, and in some cases it's entirely justifiable. But you can still get great results from affordable headphones.
From in-ear to over-ear, Bluetooth and wireless headphones, the budget earphones we're highlighting here deliver great sound for not a lot of money.
Here are a selection of the best cheap headphones that will do a fine job without breaking the bank.
Beyerdynamic has made a spectacular return to the budget earphone market – these Byron in-ears are now setting the standard at this price.
The firm’s long-standing expertise with headphones makes its mark on the Byrons – there’s a level of heft and control to the sound that you don’t tend to hear with budget in-ears. After a day or two's running in there’s a smoothness to the Byrons that make them easy to listen to over long periods.
The amount of authority, rhythmic precision and subtlety they deliver at this price is superb – and, more than a year and two What Hi-Fi? Awards later, the Byrons remain the budget in-ears to beat.
Read the full review: Beyerdynamic Byron
The fact that the AKG Y50s have been Award winners for five years on the trot tells you everything you need to know. They excel in sound and style, and can now be picked up for under £50.
These are exceptionally well made headphones. Their aluminium ear cups – which house 40mm drivers – have a smooth, glossy feel and feature fine cosmetic detail. And they're easy to fold up when not in use.
The Y50s don’t fall into the self-destructive trap of style over substance, sounding as cheery as they look with upbeat tunes and delivering scale and power when required. They can be a little on the quiet side, but otherwise we love everything about these stylish cans.
Read the full review: AKG Y50
OK, we admit you are unlikely to wear these when you're out and about. They are quite large. But if you need a decent pair of over-ear headphones for home listening at a bargain price, look no further.
The AKG K72s are large circumaural headphones with pads large enough to engulf all but the most gigantic of ears. They help to make comfort among the best you’ll find at the price.
As for sound quality, it’s expansive, with width and scale just not heard in the kind of headphones found on the high street at £40. There’s enough bass to make them a fun listen and they’re an altogether more grown-up and detailed pair of headphones than most similarly-priced rivals. A great buy.
Read the full review: AKG K72
These are, quite simply, the best true wireless earbuds we've tested. And while they're not cheap, they're about as cheap as wireless earbuds get. You get truly great sound quality, with punchy drums and fantastic detail, they also pack noise-cancelling tech and both Google Assistant and Apple Siri voice assistants. Nine hours of battery is hard to argue with, and the selection of six ear tips should fit pretty much any wearer. Aside from occasional dropouts, they come highly recommended.
Read the full review: Sony WF-1000X
Are you the sporty type, looking for a durable pair of in-ears that will survive the rough and tumble of a gym workout or outdoor run? Then these are for you.
No matter the price, sport headphones need to do two things: fit securely and comfortably, and sound decent. These JVCs get it in one. Despite being eminently affordable, they are the flagship model in the company’s new in-ear sport range, and fully committed to the fitness cause. They aren’t just water-resistant, but washable to IPX7 standards, so you can give them a thorough clean under the tap after use. Handy.
Cheap headphones often suffer from thinness and brightness. Not here. The JVCs have decent weight and are beautifully balanced. OK, they don’t have the full dose of insight or subtlety of pricier pairs, but their presentation is one you could happily listen to for hours on end without any discomfort.
Read the full review: JVC HA-ETR40
Kill two birds with one stone in fine style with these affordable, feature-packed headphones: they're wireless and noise-cancelling, all for less than £100.
Fit is comfortable and snug, and connecting to a phone or tablet over Bluetooth is simple; press and hold the power button to make the headphones visible and then select the headphones on your device.
Noise-cancelling can be turned on or off, and with it on these do a solid job of blocking out external noise. At this price we'd often expect bright treble or booming bass, but instead the Lindy BNX-60 headphones deliver a balanced sound that’s easy to listen to. The Lindy BNX-60s aren't for the discerning audiophile, but as a great value pair of noise-cancelling headphones with the added bonus of wireless Bluetooth, we can’t quibble with what’s on offer here.
Read the full review: Lindy BNX-60
Shure normally concerns itself with higher-end earphones and some of that premium technology has trickled down to these under £100 earphones. There's a reinforced Kevlar cable, a vast array of bundled buds and the standard carry case. Sonically, these sound warm and detailed. There’s a weight and richness to bass we didn't particularly expect from Shure, with vocals given a rich, full-bodied flavour. You sacrifice some detail and excitement but if it's a smooth, bassy delivery you're after, look no further.
Read the full review: Shure SE215