The best budget wireless headphones

Adrian Wengenroth

If you use your wireless headphones often for phone calls, look for a pair of wireless earbud headphones with single-ear use so that you can keep one earbud out while you're on the phone and still hear everything else around you.

If you’re tired of constantly detangling your headphone cable or have caught your headphones on the back of your office chair one too many times, you might be ready to cut the cord and go wireless. Beyond ease of use, wireless headphones are a great option for their portability, especially if you travel a lot, are an athlete, an active person who spends a lot of time outside or if you can’t always be next to your listening devices but don’t want to have a long cable trailing behind you. 

Thankfully, there are many options for budget wireless headphones that will suit your needs for an affordable price. For example, if you work in an office and want a versatile pair of headphones that work for phone calls or listening to music, consider the JBL Tune 510BT wireless headphones. Their PureBass technology will give you a full, rich low end on all your music and the buttons on the earcup allow you to easily manage phone calls.

What to know before you buy budget wireless headphones

Headphone styles

Some wireless headphones are earbuds that fit right in your ears, and others are sports-style earbuds with hooks that go around your ears. Some wireless headphones fit like traditional headphones and go over your ears. Especially if you work in a noisy environment, over-the-ear headphones might be a good fit for you. However, if you’re on the go a lot, earbuds might be best, since they’re portable and durable.

Headphone specifications

All headphones have specifications that show how well they perform. Depending on your needs, some of these specifications might be more important than others.

The first important specification is frequency response, measured in Hertz, which is a measure of how the headphones handle high and low frequencies, or pitches. The human ear is able to hear a range of about 20Hz-20,000Hz, with 20Hz being the lowest pitch and 20K being the highest. Ideally, headphone frequency response will mimic this range in order to give you the fullest and most accurate listening experience.

The second important specification is impedance. The impedance is a measure of how high you need to turn up the volume of the headphones in order to get a good listening level. The higher the impedance, the more power your headphones need in order to reach that level. However, generally higher impedance also gives clearer, better sound quality. So which is better? They each have their use. Higher impedance headphones are generally used for studio recordings, whereas lower impedance headphones are best for casual listening and earbuds.

Sensitivity is another consideration. Sensitivity is rated in a loudness unit known as decibels, or dB. The safe listening level for music is about 85 dB depending on how long you’re listening for. You can listen to music safely at volumes up to about 110 dB, but beyond that, it will cause hearing damage. Headphones with a higher sensitivity rating can be played louder with less power, but you might hear distortion at higher volume levels. Headphones with lower sensitivity are generally more durable, even though they require more power to replicate sound. 

Charging and accessories

Some wireless headphones come with a charging case, which has a battery pack built in so that you can charge the headphones themselves without needing to connect to power. Usually, wireless headphones charging cases connect via USB to either your computer or a power supply for easy charging. The charging case may last from five to 20 hours, with a single charge depending on specifications. If your wireless headphones don’t come with a case, it’s a good idea to get one so you can protect them.

Budget wireless headphones features

Waterproof wireless headphones

Some wireless headphones are water-resistant or waterproof. These are great for sports or for anyone who spends a lot of time outside. Waterproof headphones are rated with a system called Ingress Protection, known as the IP code. You’ll usually see it written as “IPX7” for example. The first number indicates how well the headphones are protected against solids, such as dust or an impact. When there’s no exact known number, this is denoted with an X. The second number is the waterproof rating. The higher the number, the more resistant to water they will be. Remember that water resistance is different from waterproof.

Noise canceling wireless headphones

Some wireless headphones have noise-canceling capabilities. Noise canceling works by analyzing the sounds around you and then, with tiny built-in microphones, canceling the noise with opposite frequencies. 

You might see this rated as Noise Reduction Rating, or NRR, which is the amount of background noise the headphones can reduce, measured in decibels. The higher the NRR, the better the headphones will be at canceling noise.  

Bluetooth and pairing

Wireless headphones sometimes use Bluetooth technology to pair with other devices such as smartphones, tablets or computers. Other times, they use radio frequency waves to transmit an audio signal. Bluetooth wireless headphones are most common for listening to music or making phone calls. You can easily connect them to your listening device just like any other Bluetooth accessory. 

Budget wireless headphones cost 

Wireless headphones range in cost from roughly $20-$450, depending on if they are designed for professional studio use.

Budget wireless headphones FAQ

How do I stop my wireless headphones from falling out of my ears?

A. If you have earbud-style wireless headphones and they keep falling out of your ears, you can get detachable hooks to hold them in place, a headband or even custom-fitted inserts which mold to the shape of the inside of your ear. 

Do I need to plug in my wireless headphones to charge them?

A. If your wireless headphones come with a charging case, you can charge the case and then charge your headphones without having to plug them in. You may also be able to charge them via USB on your laptop. 

Which budget wireless headphones should I get?

Best of the best budget wireless headphones

JBL Tune 510BT: Wireless On-Ear Headphones with Purebass Sound: available at Amazon

Our take: These on-ear headphones come in three different colors and have up to 40 hours of listening time with a single charge. 

What we like: The controls are conveniently located on the earcup. They’re compatible with Siri and Google personal assistants. You can switch quickly between two wireless devices.

What we dislike: Some users find them uncomfortable. They are not noise-canceling.

Best bang for your buck budget wireless headphones

6S Wireless Bluetooth Headphones Over Ear, Hi-Fi Stereo Foldable Wireless Stereo Headset: available at Amazon

Our take: These affordable on-ear headphones come in five different colors and are foldable, making them portable for on-the-go listeners.

What we like: They charge in about two and a half hours. They have a wired mode to help save battery. 

What we dislike: Some listeners find the bass to be slightly muddy. Some listeners find that the Bluetooth connectivity drops out easily.

Honorable mention budget wireless headphones

Otium Wireless Headphones, Bluetooth Headphones: available at Amazon

Our take: These sports-style headphones are waterproof and hook around your ears, keeping them secure for workouts. They’re available in four different colors.

What we like: The headphones connect to each other with a neckband so you won’t lose one. They have a background noise-reduction mode.

What we dislike: The headphones do not shut down or go into standby when you’re done listening. Some listeners find that they need to be repaired often.

Honorable mention budget wireless headphones

TOZO T10 Bluetooth 5.0 Wireless Earbuds with Wireless Charging Case: available at Amazon

Our take: These waterproof headphones come with a charging case and are available in five different colors.

What we like: They have an IPX8 waterproof rating. Their bass frequency response goes down to 16Hz. They are easy to pair using your phone’s Bluetooth settings.

What we dislike: They are not noise canceling. Some listeners experienced Bluetooth connectivity dropouts. Some listeners feel the built-in microphone is too quiet for phone calls.

Adrian Wengenroth is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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