1. The list in brief
2. Best budget cans
3. Best for no-fuss use
4. Best budget in-ears
5. Best value AirPods
6. Best budget Sony headphones
7. Best for comfort
8. Best for full sound
9. Best for quick charging
10. Best for waterproofing
11. Expert buying advice
12. How we test the budget wireless headphones
Louder's guide to the best budget wireless headphones proves you really don’t need to spend a massive amount of money to get your hands on a set of headphones that not only sound fantastic, but also look the part. Some of the giants of the audio world such as Sony, Beats, Apple, Jabra and AKG have released some brilliant cheap wireless headphones over the last few years and this is great to see, especially when we're all looking after our money a little bit more these days.
Personally, I've had the misfortune to encounter some cheap wireless headphones which, quite frankly, were a waste of my time and money due to their horrible tinny sound. Luckily, you won't find any such throwaway nonsense in this Louder guide, as I've picked out a range that deliver great comfort and clear audio.
While some of them cut corners when it comes to extra features to keep the prices affordable, I discovered that others punch well above their weight and deliver remarkable audio. I've also included buying advice to make some of your decisions a little easier.
Tom Parsons is a music and film fan who's been testing audio kit of all varieties for around 15 years - from turntables and headphones, to speakers and TVs - most of those at What Hi-Fi? He also loves rock and metal and is a particularly big fan of Coheed and Cambria.
Scott has spent more than 30 years in journalism covering everything from audio tech and video games, to travel, sport and news. He's written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog and reviews headphones, speakers, books and more.
Best budget wireless headphones: Quick list
Best budget cans
Our top pick in our list of the best budget wireless headphones are the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 which offer brilliant performance at a great price. They boast an impressive 30-hour battery life with Active Noise Cancellation engaged and that jumps to 60 hours without it, making these headphones ideal for long journeys.
Easiest cans to use
Not all headphones need noise cancelling to deliver a crystal clear sound - and the over-ear Sennheiser HD350BT prove that point perfectly. They're a great choice for travelling as they fold down and will give you a tasty 30-hours of music. They also have Google and Siri voice activation installed so you won't even have to use your hands for changing music.
Best budget in-ears
The in-ear headphone market might currently be dominated by the likes of Apple and Sony, but the brilliant Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ are a superb alternative and shouldn't be overlooked - and they cost far less. There's no noise cancelling, but their High Performance Audio mode is the way to go if you pick up a set. Bass is great and they're a top fit for rock fans.
Best value AirPods
This particular model may have been superseded by more recent options, but if you're an Apple fan looking for a low budget way of listening to Apple Music on the go, then these are a recommended pick-up. Battery life might suffer a bit compared to more up-to-date models, but a three-hour charge will net you three hours of sounds. They sound great and are comfy.
Best budget Sony cans
Sony are known and well-respected for their wide range of awesome headphones, such as the neat Sony WH1000XM5 but, as you would expect, many come with a fairly hefty price tag - not so the Sony WH-CH700N. Performance is very good for this price point and you also get decent noise cancelling thrown into the bargain. Good battery life too, with 35 hours' kickback from a full charge.
Best for comfort
The Lindy BNX-60 make the list because not only do they offer top-quality, balanced sound and comfort for long listening sessions, but they also have noise cancelling for a fantastic price. OK, so battery with a battery life at 15-hours there are better choices elsewhere, but that's still a decent amount of playback - and when you consider the added extras, the Lindy BNX-60 are an excellent option.
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Best for full sound
I've got to say that I really like the Skullcandy Smokin' Buds 2 in-ear headphones and they perform remarkably well considering the basement budget retail price. OK, so they might not have the cool looks of some of the other models in this guide, but it's hard to argue with the fun sound that bounces around once in my ears. A great option to throw in your gym bag or trips out and about.
Best for quick charge
The Beats Flex are a brilliant pair of in-ear headphones if you want to tune into your favourite sounds on the fly. They're easy to pair with your phone and are durable enough to chuck into your gym bag without fear of damage. Battery life is decent, but what we really like is that a swift five-minute charge will give you up to two hours of sounds. Perfect if you're in a rush.
Keeping with the in-ear theme, we really enjoyed our time with the SoundMagic E11BT Wireless earbuds. They secure around your neck while not in use - and they are IPX4 certified so you can get out and about with them in the rain without any cause for panic. No noise cancelling here, but for the price you can pick these up for, we're not complaining.
The best budget wireless headphones in 2023
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Below you'll find full and detailed write-ups for each of the best budget wireless headphones in our list. We've tested each one extensively, so you can be sure that our recommendations can be trusted.
Best budget cans
Making quite a noise for themselves in the cheap wireless headphone area, Soundcore offers active noise cancelling at a seriously low price that few audio brands can match. Impressively, its flagship Anker Soundcore Life Q20 cans are high-res audio enabled too. That's unreal considering how cheap these wireless headphones are.
40mm drivers boast an extended frequency response, and there’s proprietary BassUp technology for extra slam. They don't skimp on battery life either. In fact, it rivals the best at 30 hours with Active Noise Cancellation engaged. Switch noise cancelling off and the Life Q20 jumps to 60 hours of listening time per charge. Even better, there’s a quick charge mode when you need to juice up and dash.
From a style perspective they’re clearly aiming to woo fans of the Sony WH-1000XM3, and at a quarter of the price the spec sure looks tempting too. Tribute band or the real deal? You decide, but these are the best budget wireless headphones you'll find right now.
Read our Anker Soundcore Life review
Easiest to use
These cut-price Sennheiser over-ear headphones aren’t just big on value, they’re feature rich too. The Bluetooth implementation is leading edge, at 5.0 with support for AAC, AptX and AptX low latency codecs (the latter giving better sync when watching videos on your smartphone), and there’s a dedicated Voice Assistant button for use with Siri or Google.
The Sennheiser HD 350BT's battery life is impressive too, with around 30 hours per full charge – there’s USB-C fast charging when you get low on juice. The over-the-ear design is comfortable for sure, but there’s definitely been some skimping on the headband padding. Performance wise, I found the 350BT’s were smooth and measured, which is surprising considering how cheap they are.
Unsurprisingly, there’s no noise cancelling on these budget wireless headphones, but there’s no option for wired 3.5mm connectivity either. Hmm. This means you won’t be able to use them with onboard in-flight entertainment systems, but then if you’re not planning to fly anytime soon, that won’t be an issue.
Read our Sennheiser HD 350BT review
Best budget in-ears
Cambridge Audio weren’t messing around when they upgraded their popular Melomania 1 model – packing the Plus version with more than enough audio goodness to keep users grinning.
True, they don’t feature any noice cancelling tech, but don’t write these earbuds off too quickly. You’ll get a tasty seven hours of charge when using the Melomania Plus’ High Performance Audio mode and another couple of hours on top of that without. You can even fine tune the settlings through the Cambridge Audio Melomania app, and that includes EQ levels, firmware updates, battery checks and more.
The Melomania 1 Plus' audio is wonderful with High Performance Audio mode and is definitely the way to go if you pick up a set. The audio filling your head is spacious without trickling away into the ether and the bass is top drawer – just the right amount for rock and metal.
They might look a little like earplugs, but that's a very minor quibble for what you’re getting out of the box and the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus come highly recommended.
Best value AirPods
There’s no getting around it: Apple AirPods are the world’s most iconic earbuds, so pretty much everyone will either own a pair or be thinking about getting some. Depending on the time of year, you can often nab them for a little cheaper than the regular price too, thanks to the best AirPods deals.
Apple AirPods are incredibly simple to set up and use, and they’re always connected, so you literally take them out of the case, stick ’em in your ears and they’re ready to rock. If someone starts speaking to you, take one of the AirPods out of your ear and the music automatically pauses. Slick.
Admittedly, the battery life isn’t great compared to some other budget wireless headphones in this list, and the sound is bettered by the AKGs and Cambridge Audio Melomania 1’s, but there’s plenty else to like here. For example, they’re lightweight in the ear and fast to charge - just 15 minutes’ charge gives you three hours of listening.
The built-in microphones are responsive and will pick up your voice loud and clear if you’re using your AirPods to make and take voice calls. The music playback control is fiddly - you need to use Siri voice command to skip or replay tracks - but of course you can also sort that via your phone.
Read our Apple AirPods review
Best budget Sony cans
Sony’s clearly the dominant force in noise cancelling headphones these days, and if you want a taste of what the company can do but don’t have nearly £300 to buy the WH-1000XM3, the more entry-level WH-CH700N could be the best budget noise-cancelling headphones for you.
Naturally, the sound quality isn’t as accomplished and the noise cancellation is a little less effective, but for the money this is a really accomplished set of headphones. There’s a slight skewing towards the bassy end of the tonal spectrum, but not in a bad way. The overall balance is natural, there’s plenty of detail, and everything ticks along at a good lick.
On top of all that, this is a really comfortable pair of headphones to wear, and the battery life is amazing at roughly 35 hours. If £100 is your upper limit, you could do a heck of a lot worse.
Read the full Sony WH-CH700N review
Best for comfort
The BNX-60s were perhaps the first to prove that it really is possible to get both noise-cancelling and Bluetooth technology for a low price – and all without sacrificing sound quality.
These Lindy cans make my best budget noise-cancelling headphones list because they offer a comfortable and snug fit. They sport a volume control, on/off switch for active noise-cancellation (ANC), and a blue light that indicates when the ANC feature is in use on one ear.
There’s also a USB input for charging, pause/play/skip track controls, a Bluetooth connection light, and a standard wired headphone output on the other ear. A full charge gives you about 15 hours of wireless music playback, or a little less when the active noise-cancelling / noise cancellation is switched on.
Cheaper headphones often fall into the trap of producing loads of low-quality bass or overly sharp treble, but these Lindy headphones are surprisingly balanced and grown-up in their delivery. They’ve got a real groove and clarity to them, making them particularly well-suited to rock.
Read the full Lindy BNX-60 review
Best for full sound
Get past the cringeworthy name and the bargain Skullcandy Smokin' Buds 2 in-ears are some of the best budget wireless headphones for anyone looking to rock out on a limited budget. A fairly hefty neckband helps to keep them in place while you wear them, but you can quickly ditch it if you think it’s too chunky.
That leaves behind a fairly lightweight pair of earbuds tethered together by a thin cable that includes a remote and microphone. Sound quality is also good, particularly for the money, and while the battery life and wireless signal aren’t the best, you can’t have the moon on a stick when you’re only paying this much.
Best quick charging
Beats Powerbeats Pro are a cracking pair of true wireless earbuds, but if you don't have the budget for those premium wireless earphones, give the Beats Flex a whirl instead. They offer eight hours battery life and, thanks to an Apple W1 chip, they offer a fast charge function too.
Basically, the Fast Fuel charge fives you up to two hours playback from only a five-minute mega charge. That's ace if you're traveling to work and have forgotten to charge your headphones overnight.
While I found the Siri-enabled RemoteTalk function to be a little hit and miss, the sound is decent considering the Beats falls into the cheap wireless headphones price category quite nicely.
Compact they may be, and a little AOR in design, but these low profile buds are a cut above the budget wireless headphone crowd. Their largely aluminium housing inspires confidence, and the flat neckband is an easy win. They’re also shower-proof IPX4 certified, which makes them a good choice for your daily jog… to the pub.
The E11BT buds magnetise so you can blithely wear them around your neck when supping that pint, and a simple in-line remote offers handy volume and track control; they’re not as fiddly to use as true wireless alternatives.
Wireless connectivity is Bluetooth 5.0. There’s no aptX support – but then we wouldn’t really expect it given the price. Obviously there’s no noise cancelling either, but get a good fit (a trio of tips are provided) and you can be sure of reasonable isolation.
Battery life is an impressive 20 hours. You’ll easily go a few days without needing to recharge. When you do, the in-line remote offers up a micro-USB port.
Read our SoundMAGIC E11C earbuds review
Best budget wireless headphones: Buying advice
How to spot the best budget wireless headphones
You may assume that a limited budget means limited options when it comes to the best cheap wireless headphones, but $100/£80 will get you a decent pair of cheap wireless headphones: from sizeable on-ear noise-cancellers, through to in-ear run-friendly headphones.
There's so much choice now that it’s easy to become crippled by the options available to you. The trick when it comes to choosing is to think about when and where you’ll be doing most of your listening. If your enjoyment of Tool is severely hampered by the inane ramblings of the tools you call ‘colleagues’, definitely consider a pair of budget cans.
If a mess of cables is holding you back during a run or workout, then a pair of cheap wireless headphones that are fitness-specific (ie, sweat- and water-resistant, with a stay-put shape) will be just the ticket.
Getting the right fit for your earholes matters too, particularly when it comes to in-ear headphones. Our ears come in all shapes and sizes, and failing to ensure your chosen headphones fit yours correctly could mean they fall out, or worse still they simply won’t sound good.
When selecting from among the best budget wireless headphones, make sure to consider the battery life being offered and which version of Bluetooth is being used. The later the version – we’ve now moved up to 5.0 – the more battery-friendly and potentially better sounding it is. AptX Bluetooth, meanwhile, is specifically for audio and suggests that sound quality has been prioritised – at least to an extent.
How good are the best cheap wireless headphones?
In a nutshell, yes. Of course, cheap wireless headphones do need to cut some corners in order to get the overall price down to a palatable figure, but many of them are still very impressive in terms of sound, features and performance.
The overall quality of the best budget wireless headphones here means you will get far more joy out of listening to your music, podcasts or audiobooks when you're on the go. We've deliberately chosen cans that sound good when playing most genres of music, but especially rock and metal – hey, what can we say? We love rock and metal!
Overall, don't think that because these cheap wireless headphones may cost way less than the premium wireless cans they must sound way worse, because that's simply not true. We love the versatility of the Beats by Dre Beats X, and use them for commuting, working out and blasting tunes at home, while the AKG Y50BT will blow you away with such impressively detailed sound.
How we test the best budget wireless headphones
While their price tags may be low, our expectations at Louder are still high for budget headphones. We’re no less demanding when it comes to testing their ability to rock, and there are other criteria we assess too, including battery life and feature count.
Battery life is obviously a big deal as the last thing we want are headphones that will let us down midway through Lynyrd Skynyrd's Freebird. Thankfully, budget wireless headphones usually offer stonking playtime, because they often don’t have the drain of Active Noise Cancelling.
We consider the flavour of Bluetooth important too, as this can have a material impact on both sound quality and battery life. Generally we favour Bluetooth 5.0 or higher, as this iteration is more economical when it comes to energy (which translates to longer playtimes) and stable, so you won’t drop out when wind-milling your air guitar.
Ultimately though, audio performance remains the big clincher. For our tests, we listen to a barrage of cuts, from tried and tested classic rock favourites, through more tonally complex prog rock, and then full-on bangers. As budget headphones tend to have smaller drivers and cut-price electronics, we particularly want to hear how well they articulate guitar tones and aggressive drum fills.
Read more on how we test products and services at Louder.
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