Best budget headphones 2019: cheap wireless and wired earphones

You can spend hundreds on a new pair of headphones, and in some cases that’s entirely justifiable. But you can still get truly great results from affordable headphones. And sometimes – for quick commutes or for slinging into a bag or even as an ever-reliable back-up option – budgets pairs are just the ticket.

From in-ear to over-ear, Bluetooth and wireless headphones, the budget earphones we have below get out performance-per-pound alarm ringing, delivering superb sound for not a lot of money.

Here are a selection of the best cheap headphones that will do a fine job without breaking the bank. And with Black Friday around the corner, it’s a good time to be keeping an eye out for bargains…

(Image credit: SoundMagic)

1. SoundMagic E11C

A great pair of affordable in-ear headphones, complete with remote and mic.

SPECIFICATIONS

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

Reasons to Buy

Entertaining sound

Remote and mic

Easy to drive

Reasons to Avoid

Timing isn’t perfect

The SoundMagic E11C headphones are the latest addition to a range that represents one of the more surprising success stories of recent years. The E10 set the marker for sub-£50 excellence for a number of years, and following an E10C in-line mic and remote control upgrade, the E11C equivalent is new for 2018. And we’re happy to report, they’re still pretty magic.

While not quite as special as the pricier Beyerdynamics that top this list, they’re a steal at this price.

Read the full review: SoundMagic E11C

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 headphones 2019

(Image credit: Klipsch)

3. Klipsch TM5 Wired

An affordable and talented pair of earbuds.

SPECIFICATIONS

Connector: 3.5mm | In-line remote and mic: Yes | OS support: Android/iOS | Bluetooth: No

Reasons to Buy

Impressive, comfortable fit

Detailed, dynamic sound

Even tonal balance

Reasons to Avoid

Can generate cable noise

No volume control

Hammering 2018’s Product of the Year into second place are these simple but stupendous buds, fresh from their success at the 2019 What Hi-Fi? Awards.

Klipsch’s oval silicone tips are some of the most comfortable out there. Underneath them, the TM5’s 5mm dynamic drivers kick out powerful and punchy bass with exquisite precision. They give a good sense of space no matter whether you’re using them for streaming Spotify or watching Netflix and their dynamically quality reveals a host of sonic subtleties.

Anyone looking to upgrade their in-ear headphones need to give these great musical performers a try.

Read the full review: Klipsch TM5 Wired review

(Image credit: Beyerdynamic)

4. Beyerdynamic Soul Byrd

Chirpy-sounding and relatively cheap, these budget earphones are real high-flyers.

SPECIFICATIONS

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

Reasons to Buy

Nicely balanced sound

Clear, detailed delivery

Impressive rhythmically

Reasons to Avoid

Nothing at this price

The Beyerdynamic Soul Byrds (no, that’s not a slip of the keyboard) are a talented pair of sub-£100 in-ear headphones. If you want an affordable upgrade for a pair of ageing Apple EarPods, these headphones deserve to be on your hitlist. They’re so good, we’ll even forgive the spelling.

This is a superb pair of in-ear headphones – such an easy listen, but interesting and captivating too. It’s a brilliant feat for a pair of in-ears at this price.

Read the full review: Beyerdynamic Soul Byrd

5. 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

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

6. Cambridge Audio Melomania 1

These truly wireless buds deliver one of the most detailed sound performances we’ve heard at this price point.

SPECIFICATIONS

Connector: N/A | Cable length: N/A | In-line remote and mic: N/A | OS support: Android/iOS | Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: No | Battery life: 9 hours (45 hours with charging case)

Reasons to Buy

Detailed and insightful sound

Reliable Bluetooth

Long battery life

Reasons to Avoid

Some may find the fit difficult

Not the most stylish design

With the Melomania 1s, Cambridge Audio has made good on its promise to save us from bad sound experiences. These budget-conscious in-ears offer a cohesive, expansive and rhythmically driven sound, but also an intuitive, playful soundstage that few wireless earbuds can achieve at the price.

With nine hours battery life from the buds themselves, plus four additional charges from the case, that means an impressive 45 hours of continuous use from this little set-up, too.

Read the full review: Cambridge Audio Melomania 1

7. Sony WF-1000X

A pair of five-star, truly wireless in-ears we can really get behind

SPECIFICATIONS

Connector: N/A | Cable length: N/A | In-line remote and mic: N/A | OS support: Android/iOS | Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 3 hours (9 hours with charging case)

Reasons to Buy

Excellent with timing and dynamics

Truly wireless

Decent noise-cancelling

Reasons to Avoid

Occasional wireless dropout

These Sonys offer the added benefit of noise-cancellation, and are also one of the best-sounding pairs of true wireless buds we’ve tested. Now that their successors, the Sony WF-1000XM3s, have arrived, these old-timers are now welcomley discounted too.

You get truly great sound quality, with punchy drums and fantastic detail, both Google Assistant and Apple Siri voice assistants, and nine hours of battery. Aside from occasional dropouts, they come highly recommended.

Read the full review: Sony WF-1000X

(Image credit: JBL)

8. JBL Reflect Flow

If you’re after sports in-ears, these are some of the best around

SPECIFICATIONS

Connector: N/A | Cable length: N/A | In-line remote and mic: N/A | OS support: Android/iOS | Bluetooth: Yes | Noise-cancelling: No | Battery life: 10 hours (30 hours with charging case)

Reasons to Buy

Good detail

Strong bass depth

Long battery life

Reasons to Avoid

Can be beaten for dynamics

Carrying case is a bit big

JBL is a heavy hitter when it comes to true wireless sports earphones – and with the Under Armour Flash as its predecessor, the JBL Reflect Flow is a hotly anticipated entrant to the flourishing, albeit rather niche, true-wireless-for-sports market.

In their niche category, though, the JBL Reflect Flow headphones are very good indeed, especially if you want a bass-heavy sound for the gym without resorting to cans – and the 10-hour battery (or 30 with the case) will outlast a seriously long run.

Read the full review: JBL Reflect Flow

Best budget headphones 2019

9. 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

10. 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

11. Shure SE215

Like bass? You’ll like these earphones

SPECIFICATIONS

Type: In-ear | Features: Soft flex sleeves, foam sleeves | Cable: 3.5mm detachable cable

Reasons to Buy

Pro build and features

Rich, weighty sound

Good mid/bass detail

Reasons to Avoid

Slight lack of excitement

Shure normally concerns itself with higher-end earphones and some of that premium technology has trickled down to these under £100 earphones. There’s a reinforced Kevlar cable, a vast array of bundled buds and the standard carry case. Sonically, these sound warm and detailed. There’s a weight and richness to bass we didn’t particularly expect from Shure, with vocals given a rich, full-bodied flavour. You sacrifice some detail and excitement but if it’s a smooth, bassy delivery you’re after, look no further.

Read the full review: Shure SE215