Finding a headphone jack on a phone now is rare. Chances are, your phone doesn’t have one — leaving you to go the wireless route to keep the music playing. If your need coincides with a tight budget, the COWIN E7 is your best starting point to get a set of great, all-around Bluetooth headphones. Here are some of our top choices for the best Bluetooth headphones under $50.
Best overall: COWIN E7
For something at this price range, the COWIN E7 offers dependable sound quality that is, not surprisingly, centered around the bass. It’s a boosted sound that may not be for everyone, partly because the thump and rumble seem purposely tuned to be a little over the top. Don’t worry, though, COWIN did the same with the mid-range, which is one reason why these feel loud out of the box. Treble holds its presence, but it’s playing a support role in the deeper parts of the audio spectrum.
That they support active noise cancelation (ANC) is somewhat surprising at this budget-conscious price, but it’s here. It naturally won’t match the efficiency of what premium ANC headphones can do, but still a value-added feature by any stretch.
What’s crazier is that the E7 can stay on for up to 30 hours on a single charge. Some headphones costing a lot more don’t even come close. Playing audio with that kind of time on your side, you can go for days without worrying about the battery dying out. Even with ANC on, the battery holds up well. It is a shame they charge via Micro-USB—annoying when your phone has moved onto USB-C, but the good battery life does help mitigate how often you charge. Otherwise, you’ll need to bring the cable with you.
The E7 are a bit on the heavier side, but aren’t necessarily uncomfortable. They’ll sit on your head nicely, reducing any fatigue, though your overall mileage may vary based on their weight.
- Good ANC performance for the price
- Long battery life
- Great comfort
- Affordable price
- Treble is subdued
- Heavier than most over-ears
From $50 at Amazon $60 at Newegg
Excellent battery life at a low price
If battery life and cost savings are your primary concern, the E7 from COWIN is your best bet.
Best true wireless: JLab JBuds Air
True wireless earbuds can truly feel liberating, and JLab did a fine job relaying that notion with the JBuds Air. They come with many of the trappings you’d expect from a true wireless pair, like auto on/off and play/pause, and independent earbud audio playback. That means you can just use one earbud for phone calls or to keep an ear open for outside noise. With IP55 dust and water-resistance, the JBuds Air can go on a run or long workout session, even if it starts raining.
Sound quality doesn’t offer anything particularly surprising. The sound profile skews toward a boosted bass and treble, except the bass is extremely dependent on a tight seal with the earbud to stand out by utilizing the different-sized ear tips and ear hooks in the box. The treble doesn’t pierce through a whole lot, either. Still, it all comes through with a solid dynamic range, even if the soundstage isn’t as wide as other true wireless earbuds.
On their own, the earbuds will last up to four hours on a single charge, while the charging case adds 14 hours. In keeping with JLab’s style, the case has an integrated charging cable, so would have to be careful handling it, but even if it’s damaged for any reason, you can replace the case entirely for just $10.
- Bluetooth 5.0
- IP55 dust and water-resistant
- True wireless
- Fun bass and treble boosted sound
- Ear tips and ear hooks
- Non-detachable cable
- Short battery life
Best true wireless
JLab JBuds Air
$40 at Best Buy $49 at Walmart
Cutting off all cables for less
The JBuds Air are cheaper true wireless earbuds offering stellar sound quality, a great seal, and superb comfort.
Best active noise-canceling: TaoTronics SoundSurge 90
Taotronics likes to play in the budget arena, and the SoundSurge 90 are very much in play that way. The main feature is the ANC support, which is reliable in a very bang-for-your-buck kind of way. It won’t match the performance of more premium cans capable of canceling outside noise, but the effect is certainly still there. It does well with consistent low-frequency droning sounds, like an engine or fan, but struggles more with higher-pitched tones.
They have a sound signature that veers toward the bass, though it’s immediately obvious that the treble is equally boosted to balance things out. That’s one reason why they may be a bit loud out of the box, but also why the mids aren’t as pronounced here. You will get a warm sound with some sharpness, depending on the genre you’re listening to. All told, however, these headphones sound better than their price would indicate.
Battery life is off the charts, netting you up to 35 hours of battery life on a single charge, or 30 hours with ANC turned on. Fast charging support gives you up to two hours of playback with only a five-minute charge. It takes only 45 minutes to go from empty to full. That’s courtesy of USB-C, adding to the convenience of using the same cable your phone does.
- Great sound quality
- Long battery life
- Solid ANC performance
- Foldable design
- USB-C charging
- Treble sometimes oversharpens
- A little fragile
Best acctive noise-canceling
TaoTronics SoundSurge 90
$50 at Amazon
Getting ANC at this price is hard enough, but it only sounds sweeter with great sound quality, battery life, and portability.
Best over-ear: Anker Soundcore Life Q20
Anker has become quite the value brand of late, and one of the headphone pairs that set the tone are the Soundcore Life Q20. These affordable cans have ANC built-in, and while not as good as their successors, the Soundcore Life Q30, they are solid value at this price.
A lot of that has to do with the excellent battery life, which goes up to 40 hours per charge with ANC on, and 60 hours with it off. Fast charging them for five minutes will get you up to four hours of playback, so in the rare time you run out of juice, you can get back to listening in short order. The build quality isn’t quite as good as the newer Q30, but the fit is snug and the lightweight body shouldn’t feel cumbersome to wear.
Audio quality is basically what you hear is what you get. Unlike other Anker headphones, the Q20 doesn’t work with the company’s excellent app to customize the sound. Still, if you’re looking for good bass and a nice balance with the mids and highs, these headphones will be perfectly fine for what they cost. The ANC isn’t the best you’ll find, but again, it works as well as you might expect for a budget pair of cans.
- Good soundstage
- ANC support
- Really long battery Life
- Foldable, portable design
- Fast charging
- No app support
- Plastic build
Anker Soundcore Life Q20
$50 at Amazon
Covering your ears
The Mpow H17 feels comfortable and lasts up to 45 hours per charge, with great sound and a few color options.
Best on-ear: Skullcandy Riff
On-ear headphones are something of a compromise in that they don’t fully block outside noise, nor do pinch the ears like over-ears might do. The Skullcandy Riff have the comfort part down, given that you can probably wear these for hours and not complain about it. The price is on par with the build quality, which is a mix of metal and plastic that doesn’t feel premium at all.
You will get good sound out of the Riff, courtesy of slightly boosted bass that reveals itself most in quieter confines. The highs and mids are more pronounced, which is hardly surprising because of the lack of passive noise isolation. Ambient sound filters consistently, making these fine to wear if you want to know your surroundings, but not so much if you really want to dive into the music. The Bluetooth connection is solid, except it’s also your only option. There is no wired playback here.
Battery life is a respectable 12 hours, and you can get two hours of playback with just a 10-minute quick charge. The only downside is that you’d be charging over Micro-USB, not USB-C.
- Solid audio quality
- Comfortable fit
- Lightweight build
- Long battery life
- No real passive noise isolation
- No option for wired playback
- Micro-USB charging
$30 at Amazon $20 at Best Buy From $19 at Walmart
Listening inside and out
The Riff offers solid sound, excellent battery life, and provide an overall comfortable listening experience.
Best workout buds: Anker Soundcore Spirit 2
The Anker Soundcore Spirit 2 are all about ensuring you can stay active. You get a modest IP68 rating for a decent level of durability, meaning you can work hard while working out, run in the rain, or even accidentally drop them in water. Anker, particularly, points to its “SweatGuard” protection from sweat-induced damage, but you should wipe them down after every activity so you’re ready for the workout.
It helps that they’re comfortable and secure in your ears, too. The ear wing and bud design were created with placement in mind so they shouldn’t move too much while you’re using them. Granted, every pair of ears is different, but Anker tried to make these stay as still as possible during intense activity. With Bluetooth 5.0 onboard, you can count on a stable connection to your phone, but as for fit during activity, Anker would’ve been better served putting ear hooks on them instead.
They do sound good for what you’re paying, especially with the emphasis being placed on bigger sound. There’s some thump and rumble here, with a balanced mid-range and uneven treble, but it’s highly dependent on the kind of seal you get when they’re in your ears. It’s a sound profile that probably won’t wow you from the start, though it does stay consistent. The shame is that they aren’t compatible with Anker’s solid Soundcore app, which would have offered an equalizer for a more personalized sound.
Battery life is excellent at up to 14 hours per charge at 60% volume. That guarantees a few workouts before having to charge them up again. And you get fast charging, though it’s with micro-USB for some reason. Plug them in for five minutes for up to two hours of playback in a pinch.
- Bluetooth 5.0 support
- Long battery life
- Good sound signature
- SweatGuard resistance
- Should fit most ears
- Should’ve had ear hooks
- Still using the outdated micro-USB
Best workout buds
Anker Soundcore Spirit 2
$35 at Amazon
Flexible workout earbuds
With IP68 water resistance, 18 hours of battery life, and agreeable sound, it’s hard to say no at this price.
Best battery life: Tribit XFree Tune
Long battery life is a convenient feature unto itself, and the Tribit XFree Tune fits the bill with up to 40 hours on a single charge. That should keep you listening to music and spoken word content for a full week. It’s just unfortunate you will have to keep a Micro-USB cable handy for charging, as there’s no USB-C support.
They also have a high degree of comfort, where the headband and ear cups shouldn’t pose a problem over long periods of use. The ear cups are large enough to accommodate big ears. When you want to put them away, the cups fold up nicely for a more compact size when you need to take them with you somewhere.
You can expect above-average sound, with deep and punchy bass, balanced mid-range, and boosted treble all combining for a decent soundstage. They are lively, so if you want something that plays a little louder and crisper right out of the box, these are worth a listen.
- Really long battery life
- Comfortable for longer use
- Great sound
- Fold up for easier transport
- Micro-USB for charging
Best battery life
Tribit XFree Tune
$43 at Amazon
Long listening sessions
The Tribit XFree Tune last quite a long time with up to 40 hours of use on a single charge and sound great doing it.
Best comfort buds: Letscom U8I Bluetooth Headphones
When comfort trumps all else, the Letscom U8I should have you covered. The ear hook and bud design are made for greater stability so that when you wear these, they don’t fall out of place. Part of the reason for that is because of the IPX7 rating, which makes these well suited to working out or going for a run.
There aren’t too many surprises with how they sound. The U8I feature boosted bass and treble, where both sides of the audio spectrum are louder by default. It does make the mids a little muddy, drowned out to some degree by the highs and lows. If you’re looking for a thumpy sound at the gym, you will appreciate how these come through.
Battery life is decent at up to eight hours of playback. You will have to make do with Micro-USB to charge them, which should take about two hours from empty to full — a rarity to see faster charging at this price.
- Comfortable and stable
- Bass boosted, V-shaped sound
- Good battery life
- Rugged design
- Should stay in most ears
- Mids sound muddy
- Micro-USB for charging
Best comfort buds
Letscom U8I Bluetooth Headphones
From $23 at Amazon $26 at Walmart
The Letscom is durable and super comfortable with bass-boosted sound, plus respectable battery life.
Great headphones come in all shapes and sizes. But they also come at different price ranges, as evidenced by this list. Just because headphones are cheap doesn’t mean they’re bad. Getting more for less always feels like a win, and that’s one of the best ways to describe the sound quality, comfort, and battery life with this group of the best Bluetooth headphones under $50.
The COWIN E7 are a solid example. They cover most of the bases with excellent sound quality, ANC support, and 30 hours of battery life — all at a price you can afford.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar.