Not all cheap headphones are created equal. That’s why we purchased 14 of Amazon’s best-selling headphones under $30 and listened … and listened … and listened some more, all while testing for comfort and useful features. Here are our rankings from best to worst.
Sentey B-Trek H9 Bluetooth Headphones
Bluetooth? Check. Great Audio? Check. Travel-friendly? Check. The Sentey B-Trek H9 Bluetooth headphones could give some premium cans a run for their money. The wireless headphones consistently delivered bright highs, full mids and rich lows, with a generous soundscape. Plus, you get up to 8 hours of battery life.
In addition, the foldable headphones come with a hard carrying case for travel and have easy-to-use integrated buttons for calls, volume and tracks. The thick, foam ear cups help keep ambient sound out and make for a comfortable wearing experience.
Sennheiser HD 202 11
The Sennheiser HD 202 11 headphones bring the company’s trademark audio quality to budget-conscious music lovers. Targeting DJs, the HD 202 cans offer deep, satisfying bass; boisterous highs; lush mids; and overall solid articulation. The headphones ship with a 1/4-millimeter jack for use with stereos, and have a 10-foot cable with a wind-up belt clip. The ear cups are detachable, so they can be replaced easily. Overall, these headphones are great whether you’re rocking the party or doing a silent rave.
Behringer HPS3000 Studio Headphones
The Behringer HPS3000 Studio Headphones deftly deliver light, airy vocals with sparkling strings, crisp percussion and booming lows, depending on the song. We found that on very-bass-heavy tracks, the low end could get a bit muddy, which overshadowed the rest of the instrumentals. Despite the bulky design, the headphones are surprisingly light and come with a 1/4-mm jack in case you want to plug them into a stereo system, mixing console or guitar amp.
AmazonBasics Lightweight On-Ear Headphones
The AmazonBasics Lightweight On-Ear Headphones are stylish yet functional. The ear cups swivel so that you can lay them flat, for easy storage. I just wish the fit were better, as the cups exerted uncomfortable pressure on the bottom of my earlobes. The audio’s sharp percussion, clear details, and smooth highs and lows almost made the ear pinching forgivable. But there were some songs where the bass was so overwhelming, it muddied up the rest of the track.
JVC HAS160B Flats
Named for their ability to fold flat, the JVC HAS160B Flats are glossy and easy to stow in an awaiting bag. However, I worry about the skinny frame snapping. The cans still managed to produce sharp percussion and clear strings. However, on some songs, the vocals sounded distant, with boomy, diffused bass.
Jarv Joggerz Pro
Made for fitness-focused listeners, the Jarv Joggerz Pro’s band wraps around the back of your neck for comfortable, unobtrusive usage when you’re exercising. To adjust the volume or pause or skip a track, you just press the controls built into the right ear cup. The headphones were no worse for wear after our workout, and delivered clean highs and mids throughout. However, the bass on some songs was a bit boomy, which overwhelmed the detail.
Sony MDRZX110AP ZX Series
Bass junkies, these headphones are for you! The Sony MDRZX110AP Series headphones are like a little subwoofer for your head, offering rich, pulsating lows. These cans do best on genres that are heavy on the low end, like hip-hop, house and EDM. But on country and rock tracks, the artificial lows added to the bass guitar submerged the rest of the audio. Also, 15 minutes into wearing these headphones, I felt noticeable pressure centering around the tops of my ears.
Because they use an open-ear design, the Koss KTXPRO1 headphones should probably be reserved for listening at home or in a quiet area. Despite a cramped soundstage on certain tracks, the Koss consistently produced clear mids and highs with warm, full bass and solid detail. Despite their rather cheap-looking appearance, I found the headphones quite comfortable, especially the stretchy silicone headband.
Ecandy Bluetooth Headphones
Ecandy has the Midas touch with its foldable, soft-touch, gold-colored headphones. The Bluetooth cans were easy to pair and can switch between FM radio and MP3s with the flip of a switch. Want to ditch your smartphone altogether? Just load up your favorite tunes on a microSD card and place it in the awaiting slot. While I appreciate all the bells and whistles, a listen test revealed that the Ecandy headphones typically delivered weak mids and subdued bass, though with surprisingly clear highs.
The LilGadgets Connect+ are made for kids, but they can pass as adult headphones in a pinch. Thanks to dual cable jacks, you can share your jams with a friend. Limited to a kid-friendly 93 decibels, audio on the headphones is congested, particularly on the bass. The mids and highs are also a bit cooler than I’d like, but they’ll do in a pinch.
Sound Intone CX-05
The Sound Intone CX-05 headphones are a mixed bag, producing strong, thumping bass on some songs and quiet, recessed audio on others. Also, details weren’t as clear as we would have liked. However, the fabric-and-metal design is a clear win, creating a sturdy set of cans that can stand up to constant use.
The ear cups on the Panasonic RP-HT21 are so small, they barely fit on my freakishly tiny ears. Even worse, I had to remove my relatively thin phone case to plug the cans into my headphone jack. They’re also so frail, I worry about placing them in a purse or bag. Despite the design’s shortcomings, the headphones produce clear highs, warm bass and clean vocals across genres.
Available in several colors, the Koss KPH7G headphones work as both headphones and a fashion statement. Just like a runway model, the cans are thin, and we were constantly worried about inadvertently breaking them. Despite their frail frame, the KPH7G headphones managed to deliver loud, though rather hollow, audio.
OldShark Bluetooth Headphones
The OldShark Bluetooth Headphones suffer from poor construction quality, as evidenced by the multifunction button that almost broke several times. Thanks to the very tight fit, there was constant pressure around the sides and bottoms of my ears. Even worse, the headphones delivered distant, hollow audio that forced me to crank up the volume for a passable experience.