7 Great Bluetooth Headphones Under $50
With several top-tier phones ditching the headphone jack (including the iPhone 7, the Google Pixel and the Moto Z), now is the perfect time to pick up a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones. Even if your smartphone has a headphone jack, a Bluetooth headset means never getting tangled in your headphone wires again. While you can spend a lot of cash on headphones, you can get a perfectly good pair for under $50 — and one pair on our list is just under $20. That's some great tech at a great price.
Let's start off with a rundown of what features to look for when you're shopping for headphones.
What kind of headphones do you want?
The options are:
- Earbuds fit in your ear and can provide good sound isolation even without noise-cancelling features. They're also extremely portable. However, comfort and fit vary a great deal from earbud to earbud. Some come with sized earpiece inserts so you can find the right fit, and others use different methods to stay secure in your ears such as hooking over your ears. What you find comfortable may vary, so pay careful attention to the style and look for a pair you can customize to fit your ears. The biggest downside of earbuds is limited battery life due to their small size. Expect them to last five to eight hours per charge.
- On-ear headphones are probably what you think of first when you think of headphones. These are based on a band that goes over your head, with a plush earpiece on each side. Because on-ear headphones sit on your ear, you're likely to get a lot of external sound, and people near you are likely to hear your music if you have it turned up very loud. These headphones are much bulkier than earbuds — look for foldable headphones if you need to save space — but their larger size means battery life up to 40 hours.
- Over-ear headphones resemble on-ear headphones, except the ear cups fit over your ears. This isolates your ears from external sound and keeps people nearby from hearing whatever you're playing.
What features should you look for?
- Sound quality This is a priority for any headphones, and Bluetooth headphones are no different. While you won't get top-tier sound in the under $50 price range, you can certainly get perfectly acceptable sound. All our recommendations feature good sound quality.
- Battery life If you'll be listening a few hours a day while you're commuting, short battery life won't be a big deal. But if you intend to use your headphones to listen to music or take calls all day, you'll need a better battery.
- A cabled option Yes, one of the big advantages of Bluetooth headphones is the fact that they're wireless. But if your battery runs down and you want to keep listening, the ability to connect by wires (which doesn't require battery power) comes in handy. You'll find this feature on some sets of on-ear and over-ear headphones.
- Built-in controls Because your headphones are wireless and you don't need to have your phone nearby to use them, controls on your headphones are a big convenience.
- Sweat-proof If you'll be using your headphones for exercise, a sweat-proof set is a must.
- Built-in microphone To take calls as well as listen to music, you'll need a microphone.
- Noise cancellation Yes, even at under $50, you can find headphones with noise cancellation. Just don't expect it to be the very best, and expect lower battery life.
All the Features on a Budget: SoundPEATS QY7
For Bluetooth headphones that won't break the bank, you can't possibly do better than these SoundPEATS earbuds. For around $20, you get a pile of surprisingly high-end features including noise cancellation, three ear tips and two types of ear hooks to provide a comfortable fit, sweat resistance for workouts and a built-in microphone and controls. Noise cancellation is a feature we usually see only on higher-priced headphones, and while these don't have the best noise cancellation you can get, it's great to find the feature at such a low price.
Like most earbuds, these are small, weighing just over 3 ounces. They come with a carrying case, so you can toss them in your pocket or purse without tangling or losing them. A few color options are available. The earbuds themselves can be black or white with blue, green, red or yellow accents. None of them make a major fashion statement, but you do get a few options.
The biggest downside to these earbuds is their low battery life, lower than anything else on this list. They provide five to six hours of talk time and just four to five hours of music time. While that will certainly get you through a workout, it won't last an entire day. If all-day listening is what you're looking for, be prepared to charge these, or choose another pair.
Price: Starting at $19.89 at Amazon
Most Secure Fit: Photive PH-BTE70 Bluetooth Headphones
These Photive earbuds are a great match for intense workouts. Adjustable hooks slide behind your ears to keep them in place no matter what. While many earbuds offer hooks or catches to keep them snug in your ear, fit and comfort can vary. This simple design ensures your earbuds stay in place without any complicated mechanisms, whether you're out running or getting jostled in the subway on your way to work. They're also sweat-proof, which keeps them safe whether you're doing high-intensity training or getting caught in the rain.
A definite upgrade from the SoundPEATS headphones above, these Photives offer six hours of play time but don't have a microphone or controls. That's fine if you only intend to use them for workouts, but if you want a multipurpose headset, this probably isn't it. On top of that, Photives are only available in basic black, so you won't be making any fashion statements.
Price: $24.95 at Amazon
Best Earbud Battery Life: Anker SoundBuds
Earbud design doesn't leave much space for a battery, but these Anker SoundBuds pack eight hours of play time into a standard-sized earbud. Whether you want headphones that will last an entire work day or just don't want to worry about charging regularly, these represent a good improvement over the SoundPEATS or Photive earbuds.
Anker SoundBuds offer all the features you want beyond that, too. In the box you'll find ear tips and in-ear hooks in three sizes, so you can chose the one with just the right fit for secure, comfortable wear. Like the rest of the earbuds on this list, they're sweat-proof to keep them safe during workouts. An excellent range up to 33 feet lets you keep the music going even when you aren't right next to your phone. The built-in mic and controls means you don't have to stay close to your phone to use these earbuds, either. Crisp sound and CVC 6.0 noise cancellation lets you tune out the world or focus on your phone call when you want to.
These are a bit more expensive than budget pick SoundPEATS, but you get quality for the cost. In addition to the rest of the feature set, these Ankers have an 18-month warranty. That's more than any other headphones on this list and guarantees you won't have to turn around and replace these in a few months.
Price: $29.99 at Amazon
Budget-Friendly On-Ear Headphones: MEE Audio Runaway 4.0
While earbuds are budget-friendly and easily packable, not everyone likes the feel of earbuds. But that doesn't mean you're out of luck, because we found great on-ear and over-ear Bluetooth options under $50, too. The on-ear MEE Audio Runaways are the most economical of the lot, clocking in at just over $30. (Though the price varies depending on your color choice, they're all affordable.) While they're bulkier than earbuds, they fold up and include a pouch for easy travel.
An on-ear style won't get you the absolute best sound quality, but these MEEs still offer solid sound and some excellent features you won't find on earbuds. Let's start with battery life. These offer 15 hours, which makes them great for long work days or any time you need to go a few days without charging. When the battery runs dead, plug these headphones into your phone to keep listening. (This poses a problem for phones without headphone jacks; you'll need an adapter to use them, just like any other wired headset.) Control buttons on the headband are bigger and easier to find than they are on earbuds, and a built-in mic lets you take calls, too.
If you're looking for a workout headset, an on-ear or over-ear style probably won't suit you. These aren't sweat-proof and may not stay in place during an intense workout.
Price: Starting at $31.51 at Amazon
Plenty of Color Options: Skullcandy Uproar Headphones
These on-ear Skullcandy headphones have a well-rounded feature set and excellent sound at a reasonable price. They're comfy headphones, with plush ear pillows and a solid build that's backed by a one-year warranty. Their style is minimalistic, with clean lines, bright colors and Skullcandy's skull-shaped logo on each ear cup. You can get them in most solid colors (Amazon currently carries them in black, red, blue, orange, white and coral) and some patterns, with designs like stripes on the ear cup or pencil scribbles covering the whole headphone. (Different colors have slightly different prices, some of which go over our $50 limit.) Chunky buttons on the ear cup let you control your music on the go, and a built-in microphone lets you take calls. The 10-hour battery life of these headphones isn't the best on the list, but they'll still last through your workday and (probably) your commute.
These headphones do come with a couple of downsides. They don't have any kind of cable to plug into your phone if you run out of battery power, so you need to be sure to keep them charged. Perhaps more problematic is the fact that they don't fold for travel or storage. They're not the bulkiest headphones on this list, but they can be a bit unwieldy to pack, and you're on your own for finding a carrying case to keep them safe when they're jostling around in your bag.
If you don't want to bother with a cable and aren't worried about portability, these headphones will serve you well.
Price: Starting at $45.95 at Amazon
Best Headphones for Travel: Photive BTH3
There's no getting around it: headphones are bulky. As we mentioned when talking about the Skullcandy headphones above, this bulkiness makes them awkward to pack. Though these Photive headphones are larger than others on this list, they fold flat and come with a hard case to keep them safe during transport. Pack them with relative ease. The hard case keeps them in working order even if they fall to the bottom of your book bag.
These headphones also up the game for sound quality with over-ear cups and 40mm drivers that provide crisp, clear sound. Beyond that, these Photives include all the right features: a 12-hour battery life for all-day listening, built-in controls and microphone, and a cable so you can plug in if your battery dies. Even at the top of our price range, they're a good value.
Price: $49.95 at Amazon
Unbeatable Battery Life: Aventree Audition
This is the top of the line for Bluetooth headphones under $50. You get the best sound in this price range with over-ear cups, 40mm drivers like the Photives above and the aptX codec for clearer sound over Bluetooth. These headphones offer a solid set of features, the most notable of which is their astonishing 40-hour battery life — and if you need even more, they come with a cable to plug in to your phone. Depending on how much you use them, you could go a week or more between charges. These are one of the easiest headphones to pair with your phone, using NFC to connect with a single touch. It doesn't get easier than that.
These headphones do have a couple of fairly minor flaws, but you may be willing to overlook them depending on your needs. While they have a built-in microphone for taking calls, they don't have any controls, so you'll need to keep your phone close at hand. If you're travelling with them, these are the largest headphones on our list, and they don't fold or come with a carrying case. If those points aren't deal breakers, this is a great set of headphones at a very reasonable price.
Price: $49.99 at Amazon
[Image credit Anker, Avantree, Mee, Photive, Skullcandy, Soundpeats]