We’d always advocate spending as much as you can reasonably afford on a pair of headphones - after all, on the move is probably where you do most of your listening - but what if you can’t afford that much? Or what if you’ve a penchant for leaving things on the bus? You want to explore a pair of the best budget wireless headphones, that’s what.
You could go with a wired pair of headphones, of course, and those are cheaper still, but wires are well on their way to extinction, with many a recent smartphone lacking even a headphone socket. That’s why it’s vital to go wireless, even if funds are tight.
You’ll find lots of choice within our £80 budget, but most cheap wireless headphones are as sonically appealing as Mumford & Sons played through a megaphone. So don’t buy any old budget wireless headphones, buy the best budget wireless headphones on this list.
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Budget wireless headphones: The Louder Choice
If it’s the very best budget wireless headphones you’re looking for, look no further than the AKG Y50BTs. This long-running pair of Bluetooth-powered on-ears is peerless at the price, thanks to the super-portable, foldable construction, great comfort and excellent all-round sound.
Yes, the design is a bit, umm, bold, but we reckon most people can get away with the black finish at least, even with the big, white logo adorning the earcups.
We genuinely think the AKG Y50BTs are the gem in this category, but perhaps you’d prefer in-ears, or maybe you want some noise-cancelling chucked in. You might feel, fairly legitimately, that £80 isn’t ‘budget’ enough. Fear not, for we’ve got you covered, too - just scroll down to find the perfect pair of budget wireless headphones for you.
Best budget wireless headphones: buying advice
You might well presume that a limited budget means limited options, but just £80 will get you almost any type of wireless headphones, from on-ear noise-cancellers to in-ear run-buddies - you can even now buy true wireless in-ear buds at this price.
There’s so much choice that it’s easy to become crippled by indecision. The trick is to think about when and where you’re going to be doing most of your listening and what specific requirements you have. If your enjoyment of Tool is severely hampered by the inane ramblings of the tools you call ‘colleagues’, you should definitely be looking at noise-cancelling headphones.
If cables are holding you back during your regular, rocking run, you want a pair of fitness-specific in-ears. Fans of sci-fi-style minimalism might find what they’re looking for in a pair of true wireless earbuds, and commute-soundtrackers should prioritise portability.
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Fit matters a huge amount, too, particularly in terms of in-ears. Our lug-holes are all different, you see, and failing to ensure that your chosen headphones fit yours correctly could result in them not only falling out, but also sub-standard sound. If possible, try before you buy, but also feel free to return a purchased pair if you don’t feel that you’re getting the fit or sound that you should.
Also consider the battery life being offered and which version of Bluetooth is being used. The later the version (we’re now on 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.
The best budget wireless headphones right now
1. AKG Y50BT
Simply the best sub-£100 wireless headphones you can buy
Launch price: £80/$97 | Type: On-ear | Noise-cancelling: No | Battery life: 20hr | Connector: MicroUSB
We’ve been fans of the wired AKG Y50s since they were first introduced back in 2014, but there was no guarantee that a wireless pair would be as good - losing the wires often reduces audio quality.
The Y50BTs sound just as good as the wired Y50s, though, which means they’re punchy, dynamic, detailed and downright fun to listen to. Whatever you chuck at them, from Soundgarden to Slipknot, sounds authentic and exciting, just as it should.
Add a lightweight and very portable design, good looks and excellent comfort, and you’ve got an unbeatable pair of cans for the cash.
2. Lindy BNX-60
Noise-cancelling and wireless for under £100? It can be done!
Launch price: £80/$97 | Type: On-ear | Noise-cancelling: Yes | Battery life: 15hr | Connector: MicroUSB
Noise-cancelling is a real quality of life enhancer. How else are you supposed to get through a flight surrounded by screaming children without it? Or even a day in the office surrounded by the nattering imbeciles you’re forced to work with? The problem is that noise-cancelling tends to add a pretty big extra wedge to the price of a pair of headphones. Not so the Lindy BNX-60s.
True, the noise-cancelling isn’t quite up to the standard of a more premium pair, but it’s still useful for keeping the hum of the outside world at bay, and the USB recharging means you don’t have to constantly find fresh batteries.
The sound is good, too - detailed, clear and rhythmic. There’s really nothing not to like here other than the boring looks, but what does that really matter?
3. Skullcandy Smokin' Buds 2 Wireless
Ignore the moronic name and these affordable in-ears work well
Launch price: £30/$36 | Type: In-ear (neckband) | Noise-cancelling: No | Battery life: 7hr | Connector: MicroUSB
Get past the cringeworthy name and these bargaintastic in-ears are some of the best budget wireless headphones for anyone with less than £50 to spend.
There’s a fairly hefty neckband that helps to keep them in place while you wear them, but it can be removed if you think it’s too chunky, leaving behind a fairly lightweight pair of buds that are tethered together by a thin cable that includes a remote and microphone.
Sound quality is 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 paying just £30.
4. JBL Tune600BTNC
The noise-cancelling option if you think the Lindy’s look dull
Type: On-ear | Noise-cancelling: No | Battery life: 12hr (Bluetooth and noise-cancelling) | Connector: MicroUSB
If you want a bit of budget noise-cancelling but the Lindys above look a bit boring for your tastes, you can’t go far wrong with the JBL Tune600BTNCs. The plastic ear cups get scuffed up quite easily, but the compact design is very portable and there are a number of colours to choose from.
Comfort levels are high, the 12-hour battery is more than good enough for most scenarios, the noise-cancelling is decent for the money, and the weighty, bassy delivery will be a real draw for many - although for others it might be a little overpowering.
Like a big bottom end? Then these JBLs are a strong option for the money.
5. Sennheiser CX Sport
A mighty fine pair of in-ears for fitness fanatics
Type: In-ear | Noise-cancelling: No | Battery life: 6hr | Connector: MicroUSB
If you’re after a pair of budget headphones to soundtrack your runs or gym sessions, the Sennheiser CX Sports are the way to go. Those rather garishly coloured fins do a great job of keeping the buds comfortably nestled in your ears regardless of how much you throw yourself into your exercise.
The cable between the two earphones runs around the back of the neck and includes a control unit and mic, as well as the six-hour battery. That might not be great longevity, but at least charging them up is quick - 10mins of juice-up time gets you a whole hour of music.
Audio is weighty, solid and punchy, perfect for delivering that extra bit of musical motivation.
6. SoundMAGIC E10BT
These SoundMagic’s sound great for the cash
Launch price: £70/$85 | Type: In-ear | Noise-cancelling: No | Battery life: 12hr | Connector: MicroUSB
Soundmagic’s E10 wired in-ears were the best budget wireless headphones for years and, while these Bluetooth versions don’t outperform their price tag to quite the same degree, their rock-solid wireless performance, excellent battery life and impressive all-round performance mean you’d be hard pushed to find a better pair for less.
This is no super-light pair of true wireless in-ears, though. Instead, the design is a bit old-school, with a battery module dangling behind the neck while a mic and control unit hangs from one ear.
Still, given the money being asked and the sound quality being offered, that relatively rudimentary design seems a more than satisfactory compromise.
7. Jabra Move Wireless
No-frills budget headphones with decent sound
Launch price: £65/$78 | Type: On-ear | Noise-cancelling: No | Battery life: 8hr | Connector: MicroUSB
While the more colourful versions tend to set you back at least a tenner more, the unassuming black paint job of Jabra’s very affordable wireless on-ears is probably the one most people would pick anyway.
As you might expect, the plastic on the cups feels a little on the cheap side and the 8-hour battery life could be better, but the wireless signal is solid and they sound more than good enough for day-to-day use.
8. Philips SHB4385 True Wireless Bass+
Didn’t think you could bag true wireless within budget? Think again
Launch price: £50/$60 | Type: In-ear (true wireless) | Noise-cancelling: No | Battery life: 6hr (+6hr from case) | Connector: MicroUSB
True wireless headphones are all the rage right now, but these miniature marvels of modern engineering tend to be rather expensive. Not so the Philips SHB4385s.
The full name gives you a strong hint at the sonic signature here: there’s lots of bass. That’s fine in some ways, but that heavy bottom end could definitely be a bit tighter. In fact, the whole delivery could do with a bit more pep.
That said, you’re getting some great technology, very decent battery life and plenty of comfort for very little money. These buds are certainly deserving of their place on this best budget wireless headphones list.
About the author
Tom Parsons is a music and film fan who's been testing audio kit of all varieties for around 13 years, most of those at What Hi-Fi? He also loves rock and metal and is a particularly big fan of Coheed and Cambria.