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Best budget headphones in 2022

Published Feb 4th, 2022 5:07AM EST
Image: Tribit

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When it comes to finding the best budget headphones, there are a lot of things to take into account. Sure, there are a number of cheap headphone options out there, but that doesn’t necessarily make them all that good. While the definition of budget-friendly can change, depending on who is looking at the price, for the purpose of this article, we’ll be sticking with headphone options that fall under $120.

Instead of simply buying the cheapest pair of headphones from the local store, we recommend looking for something that fits the style you want. Do you prefer on-ear, over-the-ear, or in-ear designs? Do you want something with great build quality or great audio quality? Oftentimes you’ll need to choose one over the other when looking at budget headphone options. It’s also important to determine whether you want more advanced features like noise-canceling, too.

As we said, there’s a lot to take into account when determining which budget headphones you should go with. Luckily, though, we’ve put together this handy list, which should give you a great starting point for finding your next pair of wallet-friendly headphones. If budget isn’t a problem, check out our guide to the best headphones available right now.

Best budget headphones overall: Audio-Technica ATH-M20x

Audio-Technica ATH-M20X Professional Studio Monitor HeadphonesImage source: Audio-Technica / Amazon

Pros: Great clarity and audio quality, fantastic sound isolation

Cons: Build quality

When you’re looking into the best headphones you can buy, it’s important to purchase a pair that fits all your needs and falls within your budget. That’s part of what makes the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x such a great bargain, especially for under $50. The included 40-millimeter drivers deliver exceptional sound quality and clarity, making them perfect for listening to music, streaming game noises, or even monitoring your own audio with professional equipment.

The overall design also allows for easy one-ear use for those who need to hear things going on around them. Audio-Technica had to cut costs somewhere, though, and that really shows in the overall build quality of the product. The included audio drivers might be great, but the overall feel and look of the headphones come off as cheap. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing given the price range, but it would have been nice to see a bit more of that premium Audio-Technica look in these budget cans.

Despite the plastic-feeling build, these headphones deliver hours of comfort. This makes it easy to dig into your favorite music, games, or videos without having to worry about any kind of discomfort. If you want a great pair of headphones that aren’t going to cost you an arm and a leg, then Audio-Technica’s ATH-M20x comes out as a clear winner.

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Best budget in-ear headphones: JLab Go Air Pop

JLab Go Air PopImage source: JLab / Amazon

Pros: Sweat and water-resistant, good battery life

Cons: Call quality isn’t great, no companion app for management

The options available for in-ear headphones continues to grow and expand, especially when you start looking for budget-friendly options. When it comes to great in-ear headphones, though, one company continues to deliver fantastic quality and battery life, all packaged up nicely with some amazing audio clarity. JLab continues to push the bar with the JLab Go Air Pop, which blends portability, audio quality, and balanced sound together quite well.

There’s a lot to love about the Go Air Pop, including its true wireless capability and 32 hours of battery life—when combining each bud and the charging case’s overall capacity. This means you’ll rarely have to worry about running out of juice when you’re in the midst of jamming to your favorite beats.

Like a lot of cheaper wireless in-ear headphones, though, the microphone quality does leave a bit to be desired. It’s not a deal-breaker, but those who rely on talking into their buds a bit more may want to go with a more expensive offering like the Sony WF-1000XM4. You can also check out some other great wireless earbuds for more options.

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Best budget headphones with noise-canceling: AKG N60NC

AKG Noise Cancelling Headphones N60NC Wireless BluetoothImage source: AKG / Amazon

Pros: Noise-canceling, compact design, solid battery life

Cons: Confusing controls, on-ear design can get uncomfortable after a while

The next pair of budget headphones on our list falls a bit higher on the spectrum, with some locations retailing this set for upwards of $120. You can often find them on Amazon for $89.99, though, and even at full price, they’re well worth the price you’ll pay, especially if you want something with noise-canceling.

Part of what makes budget headphones so affordable is the sacrificing of some more advanced features. With its N60NC headphones, AKG hasn’t sacrificed features for affordability. Built-in noise-canceling allows you to focus on your audio, all while offering a solid build quality and up to 30 hours of battery life. The sound quality is exceptional, as well, which made this pair a close runner-up for our best overall.

Unfortunately, the on-ear design can lead to some discomfort, especially after long hours of use. The controls are also a tad confusing and have been known to act up when you’re first getting things set up. These are small issues, but they were frustrating enough to push this set of cans out of our best overall spot. Still, if you don’t mind spending closer to the higher end of the budget spectrum, and you care about noise-canceling, it’s hard to beat what AKG offers with the N60NC.

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Best on-ear budget headphones: Sony WH-CH510

Sony Wireless Headphones WH-CH510Image source: Sony

Pros: Lightweight, small design, great battery life

Cons: No way to connect 3.5mm or USB cable

Sony is a common name that comes up when looking into new headphones because of the company’s dedication to quality. The $50 WH-CH510 are no exception to the rule, either, delivering fantastic battery life in a small, compact design. Most on-ear headphones get uncomfortable after hours of use. With the WH-CH510, Sony has delivered a lightweight design that makes it easy to listen to music for hours, without your ears ever starting to hurt.

The wireless design also means you can pair these easily with your smartphone or Bluetooth-enabled computer. There aren’t any cable connections, though, which means you’ll need to rely solely on the wireless connections that it supports. This isn’t a huge deal for a lot of users, though, as most of your modern devices support Bluetooth in one form or another.

The lightweight design does bring some problems of its own, though. Because more premium materials often weigh more, the WH-CH510 foregoes that heftier feeling to make this pair of headphones weigh as little as possible. That means relying on cheaper materials that don’t bring as much weight to the equation. This leads to a somewhat flimsy construction, something that many headphones of this nature tend to struggle with. If you’re rough on headphones, we suggest looking into some more rugged options with our guide to the best on-ear headphones.

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Best budget headphones for battery life: Tribit XFree Go

Tribit XFree Go Bluetooth HeadphonesImage source: Tribit / Amazon

Pros: Amazing battery life, deep and rich sound profile

Cons: Controls can be wonky, wired mode doesn’t always work correctly

Wireless headphones have become a huge hit over the years, doing away with all those annoying cables that we used to rely on. Oftentimes this portability comes at a cost, though, and we end up having to recharge our headphones quite a lot. The Tribit XFree Go looks to solve that problem by packing these headphones with amazing 60-hour battery life.

The battery isn’t the only thing worth praising here, though. The sound quality is rich and deep, which means your music and videos are going to sound absolutely fantastic through these cans. The setup is also seamless, making it easy to connect them with your various devices. Some users did note issues with the controls when first connecting to new devices, but that’s an issue you can sort out if you run into it.

The biggest downside here is the wired mode. While it’s nice to have, it doesn’t always work correctly. This makes relying on the wired connection a bit of a gamble. Ultimately, though, the battery life in this pair of headphones is what really helps them stand out above some of the other options out there.

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Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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