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You can easily spend a mint on a great pair of Bluetooth headphones, but you don’t have to. Today’s best cheap Bluetooth headphones feel more like the premium cans of yesteryear, sporting tons of tech, good sound, and boosted battery life that lets you stream music to your heart’s content. Whether you’re looking for a gift for your teen or college student or simply want to upgrade your life without downgrading your bank account, the best cheap Bluetooth headphones have the skills to pay the bills—while assuring you have enough cash left over that you can always pay yours.
- Best overall: 1More SonoFlow
- Best in-ears: soundcore by Anker Liberty 4 NC
- Best for Android: Sony CH520
- Best sound quality: Sennheiser HD 250BT
- Best noise-canceling: soundcore by Anker Life Q30
- Best budget: JLab Go Air Pop
How we chose the best cheap Bluetooth headphones
We chose the best cheap Bluetooth headphones through a mixture of hands-on testing by the headphone connoisseurs on the PopSci staff, critical and user reviews, and personal experience. We analyzed the best premium and budget brands equally in an attempt to quantify high-value performance and design while keeping a tight eye on budgeting.
The best cheap Bluetooth headphones: Reviews & Recommendations
After weighing the top traits across multiple headphones, we chose the most balanced models we could find for each category. Each pair on our list provides a variety of key factors, including top features at their price point, but also less tangible virtues like ease of use and ergonomic controls. We also weighed sound quality and comfort, of course, as well as battery life—after all, what good are Bluetooth headphones if they’re always charging? With all that in mind, we’re confident each pair on this list offers stellar value for each and every dollar you spend.
Best overall: 1More SonoFlow
- Battery Life: 50 hours with ANC (70 hours without)
- Weight: 8.8 ounces
- Price: $99.99 (or less)
- Excellent features
- Incredibly long battery life
- Clear and balanced sound
- Great noise canceling
- Controls are just OK
1More has been a popular budget brand for years, and for good reason. The 1More SonoFlow headphones have it all: great noise-canceling, clear and accessible sound, and battery life for days, quite literally. Their ability to play for 50 hours while using active noise cancellation (ANC) and a full 70 hours max without it makes them among the top in the category. That all adds up to some of the very best Bluetooth headphones you can get for your money.
The SonoFlow set looks more like premium headphones than a budget set. Their design is foldable for a compact package that easily slips into their durable carrying case. The SonoFlow’s sound quality is admired for its clarity and good balance between registers—aided by 40mm DLC dynamic drivers, frequency response that can reach up to 40kHz, and the inclusion of the LDAC Bluetooth codec—a higher-resolution protocol that can benefit music lovers with flagship Android smartphones and dedicated digital audio players that support it (sorry, iPhone users, but at least you get native AAC). This gives them the best wireless and best Bluetooth connection of our picks, even if it’s only strongest with certain handsets. And the QuietMax noise-canceling ranks among the very best you’ll find at this price and even above. They also offer transparency mode, of course, which lets you stay aware of your environment to keep you safe in multiple scenarios.
The one minor issue we’ll take with the headphones is that the controls aren’t exactly intuitive, but we think most users will get used to them over time. Thanks to a loaded mobile app, you’ll be able to dig into the features and settings, with options like multiple EQ modes and soundscapes to let you get meditative on that daily commute.
The SonoFlow’s multi-point pairing lets you connect to two sources at once, like a phone and a laptop, for convenient multitasking. There’s even the option to use a 3.5mm cable, too, if you’re the hardwired type. If you’re on a budget and still want it all, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat the 1More SonoFlow Bluetooth headphones.
Best in-ears: soundcore by Anker Liberty 4 NC
- Battery Life: Up to 8 hours with ANC (four charges in the case)
- Weight: .175 ounces (5 grams) per earbud
- Price: $99.99
- Very good noise-canceling
- Clear and detailed sound
- Loads of extras
- Premium look and feel
- Controls can be hit or miss
- EQ is necessary for best sound
The soundcore by Anker Liberty 4 NC’s standout feature is right there in the name: noise canceling, which fully exceeds what you’d expect at this price. It’s not just good, it’s great, competing with much pricier earbuds and even flagship options from a few years back. And that’s just part of what makes these earbuds great.
The Liberty 4 NC earbuds are loaded to the hilt with features. You’ll get a Qi wireless charging case, autopause sensors in the earbuds themselves, multi-point pairing, and much more. You can customize the sound thanks to soundcore’s loaded app with a multi-band EQ, or use the built-in Hear ID Sound system to tune it to your individual hearing. Either way, discerning listeners will probably want to tune the sound to some degree; it’s quite good, but it can serve up too much bass and a bit of extra snap in the treble with some music.
The earbuds offer a comfy and stylish design to go with even more options like wind buffering to keep your ears from getting blown out when using the transparency mode and even a sound limiter to keep loud music in check. You can even fully customize the controls to get the perfect mix of playback options.
Speaking of the controls, they’re not always the most accurate, which is one of the few knocks against these buds. We also noticed that some features, like the 3D spatial audio, don’t really seem to change the sound quality much compared to the implementation by Apple in the AirPods Pro (2nd generation). Still, at this price, it’s hard to make much of a dust-up from any of these minor drawbacks.
With a design that feels more premium than budget, loads of extras, and excellent performance all around, these noise-canceling pros are a fabulous option at a very manageable price point.
Best for Android: Sony CH520
- Battery Life: 50 hours
- Weight: 5.19 ounces (147 grams)
- Price: $59.99
- Full and balanced sound
- Multi-point pairing and Google Fast Pair
- Concise yet stylish design
- Fantastic battery life
- Adjustable with Sony app
- Not the best for commuting
If you’ve been eyeing Sony headphones but can’t quite commit to the priciest models, the WH-CH520 could be your perfect entry point. These headphones offer a rich and powerful sound profile, extremely generous battery life, and a professional-looking design that’s comfortable, all for well below $100.
The CH520’s battery playback may be their most notable asset. Without energy-draining features like active noise canceling, these budget cans sport hours of listening time to the point where you’ll probably forget you have to charge them for the first few weeks. Unless you’re on some sort of long-haul music-listening trial, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a way to drain these headphones in a week or more.
Thanks to Sony’s long-tenured sound expertise, the CH520 also sound clear and well-balanced, letting you explore all your favorite genres without the need to ramp down the bass or ramp up the treble. If you do want to play with the sound, it’s easy to do with Sony’s headphones app for mobile phones.
If you’ve got an Android phone, you’ll be happy to see these headphones offer Google Fast Pair, making them incredibly easy to get going right from the jump. And, in a surprise at a pair of headphones at this level, the CH520 also offer multi-point pairing so you can jump between your phone and laptop with ease during a busy workday.
One point to note is that, unsurprisingly at this price, there’s no active noise canceling (ANC) or transparency mode, nor do the on-ear pads provide much passive noise cancellation. That means these aren’t going to be a go-to pair for those who work in loud offices or deal with noisy commutes. Still, the CH520 headphones are a great way to get into Sony’s particular brand of wireless headphone alchemy without the need to spend hundreds of dollars.
Best sound quality: Sennheiser HD 250BT
- Battery Life: 25 hours
- Weight: 4.4 ounces (125 grams)
- Price: $69.95
- Fantastic sound quality
- aptX and AAC support for stable, higher-bitrate streaming
- Solid battery life
- App for EQ customization
- Budget build quality
- No padding on the headband
Sennheiser’s HD 250BT are no-nonsense, budget Bluetooth headphones with one trait you won’t often find at their price point: fabulous sound quality. You might expect nothing less from Sennheiser, but considering how affordable these headphones are, it’s impressive to see the band didn’t skimp on its notorious penchant for clear, balanced, and detailed sound that punches well above its weight.
Like the Sony WH-CH520, the Sennheiser HD 250BT skip fancy extras like active noise canceling, but also, like the Sony, they support a mobile app that lets you customize the sound and a few other features. They also offer the aptX codec for quality Bluetooth streaming with supported source devices.
When it comes to the build quality, the headphones look stylish enough (if a bit bland), but they feel a little budget and don’t offer as much padding along the top of the band as we’d like. That may make long listening sessions more of a challenge than more premium offerings.
Bass heads can ramp up the low end in EQ to get that extra groove in hip-hop and electronic tracks, because these are a cousin of DJ headphones, and they can take a beat and a beating. Sennheiser has cooked up some fabulous sound quality in the HD 250BT, which makes them a great choice for discerning listeners and/or the budding audiophile on your gift list.
Best noise canceling: soundcore by Anker Life Q30
- Battery Life: 40 hours with ANC (60 hours without)
- Weight: 9.3 ounces (264 grams)
- Price: $79.99
- Excellent noise canceling
- Long battery life
- Customizable with the soundcore app
- Comfortable, compact design
- Rather heavy
- Bass needs some EQ
Anker’s soundcore headphones have built a reputation for fabulous noise cancellation for the money, and the Life Q30 Wireless headphones are a prime example. These headphones offer seriously impressive noise canceling, good sound, and fabulous battery life for a price that would have been unheard of in the early days of ANC.
Their big battery life is especially notable, considering noise canceling is notorious for draining the life out of Bluetooth headphones. With up to 40 hours on reserve with ANC and up to 60 hours without noise canceling, you won’t have to think twice about leaving the house with the Q30.
Speaking of leaving the house, the headphones are easy to take along thanks to a foldable design and a solid carrying case. They’re a little bit heavy for headphones in this class, but extra padding to makes them relatively comfortable for long listening sessions. Anker’s mobile app for iOS and Android lets you customize features and sound quality, including an adjustable EQ to tweak the profile to your liking. That’s a good thing because the bass response can sometimes be a little overzealous on particularly heavy tracks.
The Q30’s noise canceling is the star of the show, of course, offering pleasant solace from frustrating exterior noise, especially low-frequency rumbles and drone sounds. Thanks to a firm fit, they also have effective passive noise canceling, making them a great noise-canceling commuting option. The Q30 headphones also offer some handy extras, like sleep modes and the ability to activate transparency mode by holding your hand on the right earcup.
It’s hard to beat what the Q30 headphones cook up at well below $100, making them an excellent choice when you need to quiet the world around you on a tight budget.
Best budget: JLab Go Air Pop
- Battery Life: 8 hours (32 hours with the case)
- Weight: .138 ounces (3.9 grams) per bud
- Price: $25
- Solid, accessible sound
- Compact and light design
- Great battery life
- Multiple EQ modes
- Baseline performance
- No app
When we first tried the Go Air Pop, it was with great trepidation. How could any earbuds be decent at a price less than what you’ll pay for a decent meal at most local restaurants? To our surprise, these JLab buds offer perfectly serviceable sound, a relatively comfy fit, and fantastic battery life.
You won’t get fancy extras here like noise canceling or multi-point pairing, but you will get solid controls, and even some style points, thanks to a variety of fun colors to peruse. If you’re into maximizing your fashion sense, JLab also offers a clear version of the Go Air Pop for a $10 upgrade.
There are some distinctive features here, too. The charging case, which bolsters the earbuds’ playback time with three extra charges, includes a built-in USB connector to make it easier to plug it in on the go. The headphones don’t have a mobile app to adjust settings, but they allow you to cycle through a few different EQ modes to customize the sound. You’ll also get some handy convenience features like the ability to use one earbud at a time.
While you can certainly get more extras and improved performance from plenty of other earbuds, the Air Go Pop earbuds cost a tenth the price of premium earbuds like Apple’s AirPods Pro. That makes them a fabulous stocking stuffer, a great way to dip your own toes into wireless buds, and a serious dollop of value in a world where virtually everything else seems to keep getting pricier.
What to consider before buying cheap Bluetooth headphones
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best pair of cheap Bluetooth headphones for you. Below, you’ll find the ones we found most important while conducting research for this guide.
Wireless headphones vs. Bluetooth headphones
The vast majority of wireless headphones transmit audio via Bluetooth, so the words are essentially synonymous. There are some wireless headphones, including many gaming headsets, that send wireless audio over a 2.4GHz or 5GHz signal, but all portable wireless headphones support Bluetooth.
It’s worth noting that, in general, newer Bluetooth versions are often more stable and can offer higher bandwidth. Different Bluetooth codecs, such as AAC for Apple devices or aptX/HD/Adaptive and LDAC for select Android devices, can offer improved sound quality over the more basic SBC codec. All of these factors can lead to a better wireless audio experience. That said, most modern Bluetooth headphones are free from the issues that plagued earlier generations, like instability and cutouts or notably poor audio resolution.
Active Noise Cancellation
Active noise cancellation is a very popular feature for its ability to help suppress ambient sound in multiple environments. ANC uses small microphones (often three or more per earcup or earbud) to capture the sound around you, analyze it digitally, and create an inverse waveform that reverses the signal to silence the sound. Active noise canceling requires a lot of computing power, which is why it puts a drain on battery life, and it cannot silence all sounds. However, it can be very useful, especially for heavy commuters and those who work in noisy offices.
You can think of transparency mode as the opposite of active noise canceling. Instead of suppressing ambient audio, transparency mode (also called passthrough or hear-through mode) is designed to filter exterior audio into your headphone speakers so you can be more aware of the world around you. This can be especially important for those who use headphones while working out in high-traffic areas or for any situations where you need to stay aware of your environment.
Q. Do cheap headphones sound good?
They certainly can! Especially now that headphone makers have become extremely competitive, you’ll find an increasing assortment of cheap or budget headphones that offer clear, balanced, and articulate sound. You’ll almost always get better sound for your money with wired headphones, but wireless headphones can also sound quite good. Top brands to watch for include big names like Sony, JBL, and Sennheiser, but also more budget-conscious brands like Anker Soundcore, 1More, JLab, and others.
Q. Can you sleep with noise-canceling headphones?
Noise-canceling headphones offer suppression of ambient audio, which could potentially aid with sleep as long as you can find a comfortable position that isn’t forcing the headphones or earbuds around or into your ears in an awkward position. There are also earbuds that are specifically made for sleeping, such as Bose’s now discontinued Sleepbuds, though these use different technology than active noise canceling to mask sounds.
Q. What should I look for when buying a Bluetooth headset?
When looking specifically for Bluetooth headphones, we suggest looking for features like long battery life, active noise cancellation and transparency mode, and for audio quality, codecs like AAC for iPhone or aptX HD/Adaptive and LDAC for supported Android devices. Other features to consider include a mobile app and customizable EQ to tailor the settings and sound, and comprehensive controls. You may also want to consider the microphone quality and features like ambient sound suppression for the microphones themselves, which can aid in call quality.
Q. Are in-ear or over-ear headphones better for the gym?
In the majority of cases, in-ear headphones are the preferred model type for workouts. They’re lighter and usually offer more rugged designs to let them combat sweat and dirt. If you’re looking for earbuds that withstand strenuous physical activity, you may also want to look for earbuds with interior fins or exterior hooks, which can help them stay in your ears with better stability.
Final thoughts on the best cheap noise-canceling headphones
- Best overall: 1More SonoFlow
- Best in-ears: soundcore by Anker Liberty 4 NC
- Best for Android: Sony CH520
- Best sound quality: Sennheiser HD 250BT
- Best noise canceling: Anker Soundcore Life Q30
- Best budget: JLab Go Air Pop
You truly don’t have to spend an arm and a leg for a great pair of Bluetooth headphones anymore. Thanks to rapidly advancing technology, even cheap headphones have become surprisingly good, offering quality audio reproduction, major features like active noise canceling, and extended battery life. There may be a lot of bad news out there these days, but when it comes to cheap Bluetooth headphones, the world has never looked brighter.
Why trust us
Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.
Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.