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To say I’m a headphone junkie is a severe understatement.

I’ve carrying a set in my pocket since college, and there are usually 2-3 pairs in my backpack at any point. It was rare to see me without headphones on during my freshman year at Morehouse College, to the point that my nickname on campus was Radio.

I’m very particular about my headphones having good, crisp sound and nice bass, and I will pay a decent amount for this. The headphones I use for recording have cost me as much as $150, and I have two pairs of that set. (Audio-Technica ATH-M50X, for the curious)

However, I’ve lucked out several times in finding good quality headphones and earbuds for under $50. I don’t care about name brands, as long as the sound is good.

People ask me all the time for suggestions on good headphones that won’t damage their wallets, so here you go: a list they (and you) can reference. If you’re in the market for a good set of headphones, you can’t go wrong with any of these.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases; nevertheless, I stand behind my choices. However, I do recommend picking the one pair that best works for your lifestyle (and don’t be like me with 37 sets of headphones everywhere).

Mini Bluetooth In Ear Headphones

My friend Ailish recommended these on Facebook a couple of years ago, and they were only $17 at the time… so I bought 2 pairs. I figured if I didn’t like them, I could always give them away.

For as small as they are, they are top notch. The sound quality is crisp, the bass is there, and the battery life is pretty good. The case is small enough for pockets, and the sound isolation is good enough that I don’t recommend wearing both if you’re walking around and need to be aware of your surroundings.

Active Noise Cancelling Headphones

I bought these while preparing for an 8-hour trip that included two separate flights. They were only $36 at the time (most well-known noise-canceling headphones cost upwards of $100), so I was going off a wing, a prayer, and really good reviews.

Thankfully they worked like a charm. The sound was crisp upon first listen, and the low rumble of the plane disappeared when I activated the Active Noise Cancellation button. They lasted the entire travel day plus another week of casual listening before I had to recharge them, and the sound quality is consistent even without the Active Noise Cancellation activated.

I keep them in my backpack at all times, and they come in clutch when I’m at the office (which is an open floor plan, so the noise level can be distracting).

Hybrid Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Earbuds

These were an impulse-buy based on an Amazon Lightning Deal ($6 off the regular $40 price), but TOZO is clearly in the business of making good quality, low-priced headphones. I don’t know how much “active noise canceling” is based on the earbuds themselves or the sealing function of the rubber ear tips, but they work pretty well and the sound is crisp.

These are the ones I carry in my pocket most, mainly because strangers are less likely to randomly talk to you if they see the headphones (the A1s are slightly too small for this strategy). The Infurture H1s are superior on flights, but these NC2s are much more convenient. My one complaint is that it sometimes feels like they’ll fall out at any point (they rarely do). I wouldn’t recommend these for running because of this, but they are great in every other scenario.

Kurdene S8
Deep Bass Bluetooth Wireless Earbuds

These were the first pair I bought that sold me on Bluetooth earbuds. I was brokenhearted when the iPhone got rid of the headphone jack because I SWORE by my Skullcandy earbuds. I’d tried several pairs of Bluetooth earbuds before these and returned each and every one of them.

I’m pretty sure I’ve purchased at least 3 pairs of these around my house: one exclusively for my work laptop, one for my phone, and one pair in red that I gave my Mom. They’re cheap, but the sound is pristine. The microphones aren’t great for Zoom calls, but for $20 I’m not complaining.

APEKX Bluetooth Headphones

These were purchased solely for the purpose of working out at the gym, and only because they had an ear hook. I didn’t want the bulkiness of the over-ear headphones, and the earbuds I had would just fall out (or feel like it).

For $30, I can’t complain. The sound is decent (not as good as the TOZOs), and they hold a pretty good charge. I use them about an hour each time, and the case only needs recharging every few weeks.

One last thing to note:

If you swear by Beats Headphones, I immediately distrust your ears. They are overpriced and muffled.


Orondé Jenkins is a multidisciplinary artist and media consultant based in Nashville. No Average Journey was born out of his desire to help artists grow in their lives and careers.