Sure, those people walking around rocking the Beats By Dr. Dre headphones might look cool, but do you have to drop roughly $300 to get the same kind of sound?
We say otherwise. Unless you’re mixing audio for a professional record label (and odds are, if you’re reading this, that’s probably not the case), there’s often little noticeable difference between the right pair of budget headphones and their pricier counterparts.
That’s not to say that cheap headphones never sound cheap – lots of them do. But if you shop wisely and buy the right pair, you’d be surprised at the high fidelity audio you can achieve. So how do you know what to pick?
Try our budget headphone guide – these headphones sound like a seriously good idea. If you find yourself with a pair of great headphones but a broken headphone jack, we'd be happy to fix it for you.
What are you looking for?
There are many different types of headphones, including in-ear earbuds, over-ear headphones, wireless, and noise cancelling – and these are just the broadest descriptions of these categories. For our purposes, we’ve chosen to examine the three most commonly needed groups.
These earbuds are very different from the cheap earphones covered in flimsy foam. While those just sit outside your ear canal, these earbuds nestle comfortably inside, creating a slight seal and producing infinitely better sound quality.
Earbuds are best for on-the-go use, whether it’s exercising, riding the bus, or just heading out for a stroll. They’re lightweight, easily wrapped up, and take up very little space in a pocket or bag. From least expensive to medium-priced, our favorites are:
Panasonic RP HJE120
These Panasonic RP HJE120 earbuds are top-rated on Amazon with over 53,000 reviews. They deliver surprisingly robust sound for their super light sub-$10 price. With such a good deal on a pair of headphones, you seriously can’t go wrong.
For less than $50, these SoundMAGIC E10 noise-isolating in-ear headphones are a sure bet. Made from durable metal construction and with an anti-tangle cable, these earbuds are every bit worthy of the awards they’ve received.
They feature powerful bass balance, with superb musical detail and a frequency range from 15Hz~22KHz, and a Dynamics 10mm Neodymium driver. This is really high-fidelity audio, which means that while the bass is fully satisfactory, it’s not over the top like some people prefer. That is to say, these earbuds are true to life. If you want to go extra heavy on the bass, this pair might not be for you.
These headphones themselves are categorized into two separate groups – the ones that go completely over and around your ears, and those that don’t cover your ear completely. They are both capable of producing great sound, it’s just a matter of what’s most comfortable for you.
The entry-level priced Behringer HPS3000 over ear studio headphones deliver anything but entry-level sound. Behringer touts them as extra-durably constructed – a major plus for someone who likes to take their headphones out and about.
Ultra high definition bass and super transparent highs will have you belting out your favorite tunes in spite of yourself – and with the solid, over-ear construction, you might not even notice if anyone’s looking.
Samson SR850 Semi-Open-Back Studio Headphones
Samson really breaks the mold with the beautiful SR850 Semi-open-back studio headphones. These things sound great enough to use professionally, with 50mm drivers for exceptional reproduction and wide dynamic range, and a 10Hz-30kHz frequency response. They also feature a self-adjusting headband for a secure, comfortable fit – something not to be sneezed at, as this helps the ‘phones achieve their superior noise isolation.
Anker SoundBuds Slim
At a mere $25.99, the Anker SoundBuds Slim are about as good as it gets when it comes to affordable bluetooth headphones. They offer precision engineered 6mm drivers, fed via Bluetooth 4.1, and in addition to being water resistant and covered in a sweatproof coating, these babies can run for 7 hours on a single charge.
Creative Sound Blaster Jam
For a fantastic over-ear bluetooth option, the Creative Sound Blaster Jam are fantastically-priced at just $37.99, and offer sound comparable to many more expensive models. With a lightweight, ergonomic design, a 12-hour battery life, and one-tap bass enhancement that allows you to pump up the bass with a single tap of the finger, you might want to buy more than one pair.