There are quite a few types of headphones on the market today and each one is uniquely different in how it works and how it sounds. Some are foldable, portable, low profile and slim while others are bulky and oversized. Over the ear headphones are increasingly becoming the go to gadget for those looking immerse themselves in the music and block out the noise and world around them.
When it comes to headphones, you don’t have to spend a lot of money for awesome sounding equipment. In fact, you can get the best over the ear headphones under $50 if you know what to look for and where to shop online. There are some affordable options available with good sound quality and cheap pricing that won’t break the budget.
Before we get into individual product reviews, let’s talk about what over the ear headphones are and the distinct types available.
What Are Over the Ear Headphones?
When I hear the term over the ear headphones, I am often reminded of the kind of headphones we used to have back in the mid-seventies to early eighties. If you are old enough to remember, those were the ones that completely covered your ear (and half the side of your face) and had the long curly cord with the big ¼ inch headphone jack. If you are too young, go ask an adult that grew up around that time frame listing to records on a turntable or 8 track tapes.
Today, you might hear over the ear headphones called Circumaural (which is a fancy word for something that covers the entire ear), traditional, or even full sized headphones. What you need to know is that these types of headphones will cover your entire ear and if you are looking to block out all the noise around you, that is an excellent quality to have when it comes to headphones.
Wireless Bluetooth or Wired?
Quite a few of the over the ear headphones on the market today are wired, meaning that they have a fairly long cord that is attached and can be plugged into a multitude of devices including mobile phones, tablets, computers and high end stereo equipment.
On the other hand, you have a multitude of wireless Bluetooth options that are available to you. People on the go will love the fact that you can connect your wireless headphones directly to your mobile device and not have to worry about long cords. If you are someone who likes to use these types of headphones while working out, the wireless model may interest you more than the wired ones.
You also have hands free options available for some brands who offer headphones with a mic or without a mic as well as a separate volume control.
Two Types of Over the Ear Headphones
The earcup is the part of the headphone that fits on your ear. There are basically two types of earcups, open and closed, and which one you choose largely depends on the type of sound and ambiance you like. It also doesn’t hurt to understand exactly how the technology around headphones work either.
Headphone speakers are designed to produce sound in two directions: toward your ear and away from your ear. Let’s look a bit more in depth at how the two distinct kinds of earcups work with the two sounds emitted from the headphone speaker.
Open-Back Earcup Design
The open-back earcup is designed to allow more ambient sounds to flow into and out of the earcup. As a result, you get a more natural sound. Some say it’s more like a speaker allowing the headphone to incorporate more natural sounds in and around the sounds produced by the headphone.
One drawback is that others around you can hear what you are listening to and that could be distracting at times. Let’s put it this way, an open-back headphone is not something you want to use when you are on a plane or riding the bus. For the true audiophile, the advantage is that it sounds more like you are in a concert hall and less like you are locked in a closet with your favorite band.
Closed-Back Earcup Design
The closed-back earcup is designed to keep the sound traveling away from your ear enclosed within the earcup and isolate you from the noise around you. The closed earcups are usually made of durable and rugged plastic and do an excellent job of holding in sound.
One drawback to the closed earcup design is that you hear the music more in your head rather than the music sounding like you are in a concert hall. The advantage you have using the closed-back earcups is they are noise isolating and you can completely shut out the world and become one with the music you are listening to.
Top 7 Best Over Ear Headphones Under $50
Sony MDRZX110AP ZX
Sennheiser HD 201
Product Review Summary
Initially, there were 10 products that were evaluated under $50, but 2 of those turned out to be not so good in terms of long range use and durability. I adjusted the field of contenders down to the top 7 and have ranked them in the grid above.
As with any product, you will want to read the reviews and then check the current pricing to ensure that it is indeed still under $50. Prices do fluctuate due to demand and availability, especially in the category of electronics.
Sony MDRZX110AP ZX Over-Ear Headphones
The Sony MDRZX110AP ZX Series delivers exceptional sound and great sounding bass in a portable and foldable design.
It comes with a 30mm driver that allows for a wide frequency in the range of 5 - 22 kHz and delivers a full and balanced sound.
One thing that I really like about the MDRZX110AP ZX is that this headphone is really lightweight and the earcups are designed so that they can be worn for prolonged periods of time without hurting your ears.
For those hard to please audiophiles who love a little extra bass, the Sony MDRZX110AP ZX offers an acoustic bass booster that really adds a nice boost of bass without sounding distorted. If you are using these to watch movies you will really want to turn on the bass booster for action and horror movies.
It all comes with the standard 3.5mm headphone jack and is compatible with all smartphone devices such as IPhone, Andriod, Kindle and more.
Panasonic RP-HTF600-S Over-Ear Headphones
The Panasonic RP-HTF600-S is a dream for those who want a rich bass sound intertwined with a natural sounding treble that delivers exceptional sound in a lightweight headphone.
At the heart of the Panasonic RP-HTF600-S are the 50mm neodymium drivers which deliver the kind of bass that surrounds you and offers the crisp and clear mids and highs in a wide 10Hz - 27kHz frequency range.
You get noise isolation and ergonomically designed earcups that keep out extraneous noise and are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
If you are a DJ, these are the low-cost headphones for you. Not only is the sound amazing, but you get flip away earcups, a long 9.8-foot cord as well as free-style and single-side monitoring. They are stylish and look great molded in black and silver.
Comes with the standard 3.5mm and 1/4 inch gold plated connector and can connect to just about any device and home system.
Panasonic RP-HTX7-K1 Over-Ear Headphones
The Panasonic RP-HTX7-K1 is a great performing set of over the ear headphones with a really cool retro kind of look. They have a very distinct appearance and look similar to the old headphones used by pilots back in the day.
The Panasonic RP-HTX7-K1 is powered by 40mm Neodymium Drivers that have incredible bass that doesn’t distort when you push it at higher volumes. The mids and highs are also very good considering the price point.
These headphones are most comfortable and lightweight. They weight only 5.4 ounces and stay in place when you put them on. That is a drawback of some of the headphones in this price range as some of the competitors tend not to stay in place.
This model is offered in quite a few colors such as black, white, blue and cream but you may pay a bit more for it if you want a color other than black.
If you are looking for cool looking headphones that have accurate and balanced sounds at an affordable price, the Panasonic RP-HTX7-K1 headphones should be on your shortlist to check out.
Audio-Technica ATH-T200 Closed-Back Over-Ear Headphones
If you are looking for a set of headphones that you can wear for extended period of time and prevent interference from outside noise, the Audio-Technica ATH-T200 is worthy of your time.
The budget friendly ATH-T200 has a rubber support system at the top that make them super comfortable to wear along with soft, low profile earcups.
The 40mm driver cranks out a natural and clear sound that Audio-Technica is known for and this pair of headphones do not disappoint.
These headphones are built for the wear and tear of everyday use and are quite popular with sound recording professionals because of the great sound and ruggedness.
While the Audio-Technica ATH-T200 does not have the ability to boost the bass presence, it does deliver as an affordable alternative to high end headphones.
JVC HARX700 Full Size Over-Ear Headphones
JVC has been cranking out high quality, top rated electronics for years and they make a very good pair of headphones.
The JVC HARX700 delivers a high quality and dynamic sound powered by 50mm Neodymium drivers with a special ring port design.
If you are looking for a true full sized, high quality, excellent sounding over the ear headphone for under $50, then the JVC HARX700 is your best bet. They have large earcups and a very good sealing capability that drowns out the loudest of sounds.
If you are looking for headphones with a long cord, the HARX700 boasts a 11-foot cord and comes with an adapter for a 6.3mm plug.
The JVC HARX700 sounds incredible for the money and is very durable. The earcups are on the larger side but they successfully block out ambient noise. It has rich lows and sweet highs and is very comfortable to wear long stretches of time.
Sennheiser HD 201 Over-Ear Headphones
When it comes to high end headphones, Sennheiser is considered one of the leaders in the headphone market. Even the low priced Sennheiser products are extremely good and a few fall into that below $50 price point.
The Sennheiser HD 201 delivers great clarity and power with what they consider an entry level stereo closed-back headphone. The mids and highs are rich and the bass is crisp and clear while keeping ambient noise to a minimum.
Because of the sealed earcup design these sound isolating headphones can be safely used in a studio recording environment without the danger of sound bleed into the studio microphones.
The ultra-lightweight design means that you can wear these headphones for lengthy periods of time and the Hypo-allergenic earcups provide the comfort you expect from a Sennheiser headphone.
The cord length is a little over 9 feet which is less that some of the models listed for under $50, but will be just fine for most people. Comes with a standard 3.5mm plug for smartphones, tablets and computers and a ¼ inch stereo adapter for everything else.
Monoprice Over-the-Ear Headphones
I had heard about the Monoprice 108324 over-ear headphones from a friend and I had to check them out. I was pleasantly surprised at what I found.
The Monoprice 108324 50mm drivers pump out a rich and full sound with 102 dB sensitivity. The sound is amazing.
The bass that these headphones deliver is punchy and is not watered down or muddy at high volume. The mids and highs are clear and crisp and compliment the bass very well for headphones in this price range.
Some people complain about comfort during long use, but the reviews of other buyers tend to suggest that they are as comfortable as any other headphone in this price range.
They are not noise cancelling headphones, but they do block a lot of ambient noise due to the over the ear design. They seem to be built very well and has a long cord for those that like to wander around.
At this price point, the Monoprice 108324 commands attention and is worth a look.
As you can see, there are some excellent choices in over ear headphones under $50. You don't have to sacrifice quality and craftsmanship just because the price point is low. As with most of the electronics category of products, the prices tend to go down and the quality goes up once there is demand and competition.
A few key takeaways are:
- Choose a closed-back headphone when you want to block out ambient sound and choose an open-back headphone when you want to allow ambient sound in to create a concert hall effect.
- Choose a lightweight model if you are going to be traveling or on the go. The Sony MDRZX110AP ZX has a folding design and may help out in that regard.
- Choose a wired over ear headphone when you want to get the most faithful reproduction of sound vs a wireless over ear headphone. Wireless seems to incur more interference in the lower price point models.