Best budget headphones 2019: in-ear, over-ear, noise-cancelling

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, wireless and Bluetooth, the budget earphones we're highlighting here deliver great sound for not a lot of money.

Starting at under £20, here are a selection of the best cheap headphones that will do a fine job without breaking the bank.

Best budget headphones 2019

1. Beyerdynamic Byron

With superb levels of detail, rhythmic precision and subtlety, these are among the best headphones that (not much) money can buy.

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: In-ear | Cable: 1.2m | Controls: In-line remote and mic | Compatible: Android/iOS | Connector: 3.5mm

Reasons to Buy
Excellent detail, weight and precision
Authoritative and subtle
Evenly balanced midrange and treble
Comfortable, sturdy build
Reasons to Avoid
Some might prefer a more upbeat presentation

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

Best budget headphones 2019

2. AKG Y50

You'll struggle to find a better pair of on-ears for anything like this money. Staggeringly good..

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: On-ear | Driver: 40mm | Finishes: 4 | Connector: 3.5mm | Controls: In-line remote and mic

Reasons to Buy
Rhythmic, clear and detailed
Dynamic and punchy
Portable
Reasons to Avoid
Sources might need to be turned up
Ears get warm after a while

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

Best budget headphones 2019

3. AKG K72

Your £40 gets you a big, bold sound that's smooth and nicely balanced, and doesn't sacrifice bass. Which is £40 well spent.

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: Closed-back | Headband: Self-adjusting | Cable: 3m

Reasons to Buy
Excellent value
Very comfortable
Reasons to Avoid
Coloured, boxy mids

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

Best budget headphones 2019

4. JVC HA-ETR40

An affordable sports in-ear that nails both comfort and sound - a fine proposition for any fitness guru.

SPECIFICATIONS

Cable length: 60-120cm | Features: Ambient ear plugs | Waterproof: IPX7 washable

Reasons to Buy
Balanced, detailed sound
Fast and punchy
Secure, comfortable fit
Reasons to Avoid
Rivals have more subtlety
No volume controls on mic
No case

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

Best budget headphones 2019

5. Lindy BNX-60

Bluetooth, noise-cancelling, very acceptable sonic performance, and all for under £80. Not too shabby.

SPECIFICATIONS

Connectivity: Bluetooth | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 15hr | Adapter: 6.3mm | Charging: USB

Reasons to Buy
Great value
Detailed, solid sound
Noise-cancelling and wireless functionality
Reasons to Avoid
Treble a little muffled in standard mode

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