Best Cheap Headphones and Earbuds iMore 2020

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.

Best sound quality: Audio-Technica ATH-M40x

Staff pick

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.

Smartest headphones: Google Pixel USB-C Earbuds

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 feature some great smart features tucked inside — you can access Google Assistant, Google Translate, and your latest notifications all from the inline media controls.

$23 at Walmart

Most comfortable: Panasonic ErgoFit Earbuds

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.

Budget Bluetooth: Monoprice Hi-Fi Reflective Sound Earbuds

Monoprice's Hi-Fi headphones are Bluetooth-compatible and held together by a short flexible cord. Their "reflective" design points the drivers away from the ears so the sound reflects back, keeping your ears from ringing. They deliver far better sound than you're paying for.

Best Bluetooth headphones: OnePlus Bullets Wireless

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.

$69 at OnePlus

Best budget ANC: COWIN E7 Pro

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.

Best for workouts: JBL Endurance Sprint Wireless

The JBL Endurance Sprint Wireless feature a hook and bud mechanism that guarantees stability and are ultralight for 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.

Best Open-Back: Philips SHP9500

Open-back headphones don't need to be expensive and the SHP9500 from Philips are a great example. Not only do they sound fantastic, but they also feature excellent dynamic range and soundstage for an incredibly low price. To top it all off, you don't need an amp to power them.

Best Budget Sound: Monoprice Modern Retro

Aside from the slightly bizarre name, the Modern Retro from Monoprice offer excellent sound quality and comfort at a super low price. They're designed with long listening sessions in mind, as well as production work.

Best True Wireless: Anker SoundCore Liberty Air Truly Wireless

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 of listening time, and the included charging case adds another 15 hours, totaling 20 hours.

Best Buds: Anker SoundBuds Curve Wireless

The Anker SoundBuds Curve Wireless feature 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. 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 charging batteries or latency.

On the other hand, if you're looking for earbuds, the JBL Endurance Sprint Wireless are an excellent choice. They're a set of wireless earbuds that feature great, balanced sound, IPX7 water resistance, and 8 hours of battery life.

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