Do a quick search and you'll soon discover that the best headphones under £100 come in a variety of shapes and sizes. But if you're worried that some headphones and earbuds at this price point simply won't be up to the job, we have good news as we've selected out some of the best around that'll deliver great audio at an affordable price.
While you might want something a bit more substantial for using in your living room such as something from our best audiophile headphones or best headphones for music guides, don't rule out some of these models as they deliver far more than you might expect for the price.
Best headphones under £100: The Louder Choice
Our selection of the best headphones under £100 proves that you really don’t need to break the bank to get great sound on the move. From Bluetooth models with fabulous battery life, to general purpose head-fi that knows how to rock, we’ve found some badass bargains for less than a ton.
However, if you want to cut straight to the chase and find out what our budget headliner is, it's from the team at Lindy and their cheap as chips NC-60 noise cancelling headphones. For the price, these wired cans are exceptional value for money and the sound they pump out is on point and they're a joy to wear.
If you fancy no fuss over-ears that can handle the best riffs in rock and metal, then JBL's Tune 700BT should be considered a top choice. They’re enormous fun to listen to, and for the price, they represent excellent value for money. And let's not forget the brilliant Anker Soundcore Life Q20 which offer top sound and noise cancelling tech that's hard to beat for the price.
Best headphones under £100: Product guide
Based on its wireless BNX-60 model, Lindy’s NC-60 noise cancelling cans are a cracking option if you’re on a tight budget. Wired for sound, they’re ideal if you're rocking a mobile with a 3.5mm stereo audio jack. A couple of AAAs will keep you entertained for around 72 hours.
Noise cancelling at this price point clearly isn’t going to be market leading (Lindy ambitiously claims an 85% reduction in ambient noise), but it is beneficial. A blue LED flashes when NC is turned on; they can be used without NC engaged, obviously.
Inside, 40mm drivers offer clarity, and spatial imaging is good (a benefit of traditional wired headphones). They also boast soft, comfortable earpads with simple on-body controls.
Shipping with a flight adapter and a hard shell carry case, for just sixty quid, they’re worth buying for travel use alone.
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When it comes to cheap but brilliant headphones, the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 really are hard to beat. These cans are enhanced with noise cancelling tech that some of the bigger and more expensive brands would be hard pressed to match – especially at these prices.
These wireless headphones boast 40mm drivers to bring out the best in your music collection, while the in-build BassUp feature does exactly what it says on the tin. Battery life is thoroughly decent too, with 30 hours of perfect playback with ANC on or a whopping 60 hours when switched off.
Seriously, if you’re after a cracking set of headphones for less than the price of a AAA video game, then the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 are definitely worth a closer look.
Read our Anker Soundcore Life Q20 review
These smart looking JBL Bluetooth over-ears also come with an optional 3.5mm audio lead, to conserve power or use when travelling.
Available in orange or white, they may lack noise cancelling (for that you’ll need to step up to the Tune 750BTNC) but they will work with Siri and Google voice assistants. A multi-point connection also allows you to share a Bluetooth connection with two devices.
The biggest value add is the stupendous battery life. 27 hours wireless playback in fact. A five minute recharge is all you need to get two additional hours of playback.
The presentation is unapologetically punchy, thanks to a pair of 40mm drivers, and weighing in at 220g, they feel pleasingly lightweight. The right-hand cup houses the usual control buttons.
Consider them good all-purpose headphones, suitable for music, gaming and late night TV binging.
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The awesome SoundMagic E11C are the latest in the audio firm's affordable earbuds – and let's not beat around the bush: at this price point, you'll be hard-pressed to find anything better.
The SoundMagic E11C boast excellent sound, with the balance beautifully pitched: There's no heavy bass trying to take over, while the treble notes aren't too high either. There's something fun about these earbuds and when you take everything into consideration, it's hard to be too critical.
Away from the audio, the SoundMagic E11C have a silver-plated copper cable which has been introduced to reduce tangles – the Achilles heel of most wired buds – and there's a three-button remote and mic. We still can't believe they're as cheap as they are.
The sheer pose value of these Sennheiser’s is off the chart. While they sell for sensible money. The look is cool, and they sound good too.
Bluetooth is of the highly efficient v5.0 persuasion, with support for AAC, higher-quality AptX and AptX low latency. There’s a dedicated Voice Assistant button, for speedy interaction with Siri or Google Assistant. They also boast USB-C fast charging.
There’s no noise cancelling, unsurprising given the price, but significantly there’s no option for wired 3.5mm connectivity either, which could prove a limitation for some.
Performance wise, the 350BT’s tread a careful middle ground. Sennheiser keeps everything on a tight rein, guaranteeing a smooth performance, but they’re probably not the best fit if you have a predilection for Cradle Of Filth.
We rate the over-the-ear design as comfortable, although they are a little on the small side, and some extra headband padding would have been nice.
Read our Sennheiser HD 350BT review
Ultra light at just 12g, this Bluetooth neckband offers much the same wireless functionality as their over-ear siblings, the HD350BT – they support aptX Low Latency and AAC, courtesy of Bluetooth 5.0, helping them achieve a healthy 10 hours of playtime.
The four-button on-band remote control offers simple volume and pairing, plus calls and access to Siri or Google voice assistants. Multi-point connection also allows them to be paired with two devices simultaneously.
The idea of a necklet may seem a little quaint, given the charge to True Wireless, but it makes for a better sports experience (so you don’t feel you’re going to lose an ear bud).
And Sennheiser certainly knows how to deliver a big soundstage, from tiny drivers. They’re remarkably lucid and musical.
Additional features come via the brand’s Smart Control app, which allows for sound customisation via an equaliser. This includes a speech orientated podcast mode (give it a whirl with Wind Of Change – did the CIA really write the world’s most famous power ballad?)
If you’re looking for headphones in something other than regular black or white, Sony has an offer for you. Its MDR-XB650BT over ears also come in raunchy red or a metallic blue. The XB650BT’s are part of its Extra Bass line, and boast distinctive swivel ear cups which makes them easy to wear off-ear.
The cups themselves house a 30mm neodymium driver coupled to Sony Bass Booster technology; the headband has been optimised to reduce vibration, while the cushioned ear pads are designed to sit tight. NFC allows easy pairing with an NFC mobile.
Ergonomics are good. If you get a call, there’s a built-in button and mic on the headband itself. However, there’s no wired jack option, which will limit their appeal.
Not very metal, admittedly, but when the glam rock revival starts, these should be first on your list.
If you want to show your love for the likes of Arcturus and Kvelertak, then these on-ears from Norwegian audio specialist X by Kygo are well worth a shufty.
Kygo, FYI, is a Norwegian DJ, and record producer who has worked with the likes of U and Imagine Dragons. But we won’t hold that against him.
Fashionable looks and a lightweight design belie the entry-level price tag, making them an intriguing alternative choice to some of the more recognisable Hi-Fi brands.
Bluetooth is basic v4.2, but that 23 hour battery life isn’t to be sniffed at.
A foldable design makes for easy storage in the supplied carry pouch, and the ear cups use forgiving memory foam cushions. Available in white, black or grey finishes, the A3/600 ship with an audio cable colour matched to the headphones. Attention to detail is everything.
Best headphones under £100: Buying advice
Looking to pick up some bargain cans? Here’s some helpful buying advice to sort the wheat from the chaff.
What features should I prioritise?
When working to a budget, you’ll inevitably have to cherry-pick when it comes to feature niceties. Increasingly, you’ll find headphones with Active Noise Cancelling on budget models that sell for £100 or less. If you’re planning to commute with your cans, this is a feature well worth having.
Look for a level of water resistance, IPX5 or similar. This means you’ll be able to wear your headphones out and about without anxiety when the heavens open.
Battery life is also important, so prioritise the flavour of Bluetooth offered. Bluetooth v5.0 is the most efficient version of the codec yet, and so headphones offering this will most likely have longer playtime.
Which brands make the best budget headphones?
There are a number of obscure brands specialising in the budget market, and rarely offer anything priced to rival the bigger players, like Beats and Bose. However, you will find top names at affordable prices, such as Sony, JVC and JBL. Check out our reviews for the current best buys.
Generally avoid those companies that you’ve never heard of, that seem to offer everything for not much… unless you can try them for yourself.
What's better: wired or wireless?
For pure convenience, you can't get better than wireless headphones or earbuds. However, there’s a case to be made for wired (if your smartphone has a smartphone jack and you have one of the best phones music). For one thing, you’ll not need to constantly recharge passive wired headphones, as they’re always good to go.
Generally, the best case scenario are wireless Bluetooth headphones that offer a wired 3.5mm connection option. This is particularly useful when travelling.
While wireless headphones top most people’s wants list these days, if you’re planning to take your headphones on holiday, check that they come with a 3.5mm cable, so you can plug them into any in-flight entertainment system.
Should I choose over-ear or in-ear headphones?
This very much depends on how you want to listen to music, be it on the move or at home. ln-ear buds will take up less space in your pocket or bag when out and about, and offer better sonic isolation if you get a good fit. However on-ears will boast a higher level of comfort, allowing for longer listening periods. On-ears will also, in all probability, offer better bass performance, because they’ll use larger dynamic drivers.
That said, comfort isn’t always a given at the cheaper end of the market. If you’re buying on or over-ear headphones take a good look at the headphone band itself. Is it padded? Lightweight? You’ll want to listen to hard rock, not wear one.
Can I get noise cancelling for under £100?
While noise cancelling isn’t a given when you’re buying at the more affordable end of the market, canny shoppers will find good models that offer the feature.
Often just referred to as ANC, Active Noise Cancelling can be found on True Wireless buds, as well as on-ear and over-ears, and it works in much the same way across the board.
How does noise cancelling work?
Tiny microphones are located on the outside of the headphones, monitoring external noise. You may be concentrating on Trivium’s tenth magnum opus, but these mics are more interested in the level of chatter and hubbub in the world around. The headphones then sum this noise together and generate an exact match inside your cans, which cancels the extraneous noise out.
Listen carefully and you’ll hear the headphones take a few moments to make the calculation and generate their noise, before the unwanted background noise melts away.
More expensive headphones are able to deploy more monitoring microphones and have greater processing power, but even inexpensive offerings can be quite effective.
It’s worth remembering that noise cancelling doesn’t totally mute the outside world. There will still be an element of cacophony breaking though – look for brands that quote a high percentage efficiency for their ANC.
Do noise cancelling headphones sound better?
Not necessarily. You don’t actually need noise cancelling headphones for a great listening experience. If your earbuds sit snugly, or those over-ears seal off your lugholes, then isolation does most of the work, dampening down any exterior interruptions.
The trick is to ensure you get maximum isolation from ambient noise from the buds themselves. Experiment with the memory foam and silicon tips supplied, in order to find the best fit.
Fit, comfort and materials used for ear cups also have a huge impact.
The most obvious advantage of not having or using noise cancelling is that there’s less drain on the headphone’s battery life, so your wireless cans will last longer.