We spend a lot of time talking about high-end wireless headphones like the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 and the Sony WH-1000XM3 — and for good reason, they’re incredible products — but nothing says you have to spend a lot just to get some good headphones for casual listening. Panasonic, Monoprice, COWIN, and even Google all make great wired and wireless headphones to fit almost any budget.
If you’re looking for great sound for a low price, the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x are unbeatable. In terms of sound quality, they sound very natural with a wide soundstage. Nothing fancy, just wired over-ear headphones that sound good, especially for the price.
For better or worse, most phones these days ship without a headphone jack, so USB-C earbuds are your best bet for portable wired audio. Google’s Pixel Earbuds support 24-bit digital audio, and features some great smart features tucked inside — you can access Google Assistant, Google Translate, and your latest notifications all from the inline media controls.
For phones that still tout the more traditional 3.5mm headphone jack, the Panasonic ErgoFit earbuds prioritize comfort, with a fit you can wear all day. Aesthetically, they’re nothing fancy, and sound quality for music and phone calls is decent at best, but you’ll hardly notice the ErgoFits in your ears, and they feature in-line controls that work with Android.
Monoprice’s Hi-Fi headphones are Bluetooth-compatible, held together by a short flexible cord, and they sound fantastic. Their “reflective” design points the drivers away from the ears so the sound reflects back, which keeps your ears from ringing and delivers far better sound than you’re paying for.
For this price, you can’t ask for much more from the Bullets Wireless earbuds. They sound fantastic, with great (but not overwhelming) bass and clear high end, they recharge with the same USB-C cable that likely charges your phone, and the neckband design keeps them from getting tangled or in your way.
Noise-canceling is usually a premium feature reserved only for expensive headphones, but COWIN’s E7 Pro headphones are an excellent exception to that rule. They’re bulky, but that makes room for their large 45mm drivers and well-cushioned earpads for a comfortable and great-sounding experience.
The JBL Endurance Sprint Wireless features a hook and bud mechanism that guarantees the ultimate earbud stability, and are ultralight for those long workout sessions. On top of that, you have IPX7 water resistance which means you won’t have to worry about sweat, puddles, rain, or snow.
Open-back headphones don’t need to be expensive and the SHP9500 from Philips are a great example. Not only is the sound signature fantastic, but the SHP9500 also features excellent dynamic range and soundstage for an incredibly low price. To top it all off, you don’t need an amp to power them.
Aside from the slightly bizarre name, the Modern Retro from Monoprice offers excellent sound quality and comfort at a super low price. They’re designed with long listening sessions in mind, as well as production work.
Not only are these buds super comfortable, but the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air Truly Wireless feature a great, well-rounded sound. You’ll get up to five hours listening time, and the included charging case adds 15 hours, totaling 20 hours.
The Anker SoundBuds Curve Wireless features up to 13 hours of battery life on a single charge, an excellent bass-heavy sound signature, and ultra-portability. They are fairly basic and don’t feature anything special such as active noise cancelation or any special convenience features, but they get the job done.
The best of the bunch
When it comes to budget-friendly headphones, there are a surprising number of them available. And just because they’re inexpensive doesn’t automatically mean they won’t sound good. Personally, I’d go for the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x if you’re okay with over-ear headphones. For a set of over-ear headphones, they are surprisingly portable and comfortable, have excellent sound quality, and are wired so you don’t have to worry about re-charging them at all.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for earbuds, the JBL Endurance Sprint Wireless are an excellent choice. It’s a wireless earbud that features great, balanced sound, IPX7 water resistance, and 8 hours of battery life.
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