Nowadays, you can get a decent pair of headphones on a very tight budget. Cheap headphones are ideal for last-minute purchases or if you need a temporary pair of headphones. However, the choice is limited and build quality tends to be poor.
Below are our recommendations for the best earbuds and headphones under $20 we have reviewed so far. See also our recommendations for the best cheap earbuds, the best budget wireless headphones, and the best wireless earbuds under $50.
The best earbuds under $20 that we’ve tested so far are the Skullcandy Jib. They’re among the best cheap wireless earbuds we’ve reviewed and provide pretty good value for the price. Like most Skullcandy products, their price can vary depending on the color you choose, but most options are either under $20 or are just a couple of bucks more.
Just like most Skullcandy headphones, they have a sound profile that packs a lot of bass, which can be great for certain music genres like EDM or dubstep. On the other hand, it might not be the best option for people who prefer vocal-centric or instrumental music. On the upside, they're very small and are good overall earbuds for small ears. The body of the buds is very small and doesn't apply much pressure inside your ears, making them a decently comfortable option, especially for in-ears. Also, you shouldn't have any problem bringing them around as they're easy to fit in pockets or a bag, which is great if you're going to the gym.
Unfortunately, their build quality reflects their price, and they look quite cheap with thin cables and a plasticky remote with no volume controls. They also have a disappointing 6-hour battery life which takes over 2 hours to fully charge. If you can stretch your budget a little bit, consider the Anker SoundBuds Curve Wireless, which are the best wireless earbuds under $50 we've tested, thanks to their better build quality, battery life, and even more comfortable design. Overall, these headphones provide decent value for the price if you want a pair of wireless in-ears without spending much money.
If you prefer a more reliable and stable wired connection over a Bluetooth one, then check out the KZ ZST. They might not offer the freedom of wireless headphones like the Skullcandy Jib Wireless do, but with a cable, you won't have to worry about latency being an issue when watching video content, or even battery life. They're also well-built for their price point and their cable can be replaced easily if it gets damaged. This is a nice feature to have, especially at this price point, since it makes them quite more durable. Sound-wise, they aren't as bass-heavy as the Skullcandy, but their mid-range is still a bit recessed, meaning they won't be that much of a better option for vocal-centric music.
Get the Skullcandy if you want the extra freedom of wireless headphones, but if you want something more durable and don't mind having a wire, go with the KZ, which are some of the best earbuds under $20.
The best over-ear headphones under $20 that we’ve tested so far are the Koss UR20. They’re comfortable, decent-sounding headphones that could be an okay choice for critical listeners on a very tight budget.
These headphones have large, spacious ear cups that are quite comfortable, and their headband doesn’t apply too much pressure on the head, which is great for long listening sessions. They have deep, punchy bass which makes them best-suited to bass-heavy genres like EDM or hip-hop.
Unfortunately, their build quality feels quite cheap because of the materials used. The all-plastic design doesn't feel durable at all and the hinges feel very fragile. On the other hand, the Tascam TH-02 feel a little better-made. That said, the Koss sound better and are more comfortable, which makes them a slightly better option, and some of the best headphones under $20.
If you want a pair of headphones under $20 that are more portable and feel slightly better built, go with the Tascam TH-02. They aren't as comfortable as the Koss UR20 and their sound profile isn't as well-balanced, but they fold and are less bulky, making them much more portable. Their sound reproduction is adequate, though they lack detail and brightness on vocals and lead instruments. As expected as this price range, their all-plastic design doesn't feel the most durable, though they still feel slightly better than the Koss.
Get the Koss if you want a more comfortable pair of headphones with a more-balanced sound profile, but if need something slightly more portable and durable feeling, go with the Tascam, some of the best headphones under $20.
The best on-ear headphones under $20 we've reviewed so far are the Koss KSC75. They're quite more portable than typical over-ear headphones. They're lightweight, easy to carry around, and have a pretty straightforward design without any mic or remote control.
These headphones have a retro look and only clip onto your ears with an ear-hook design. This makes them very stable, but their design also results in an important lack of bass. They'll be better for people who like to listen to voice-oriented content like podcasts, or runners who like to have a background track while still being fully aware of their surroundings, thanks to the open-back design.
On the downside, their lack of bass results in a very disappointing thump and rumble. They also show very elevated levels of harmonic distortion in the bass range; this makes their bass sound slightly impure, especially at higher volumes. Also, like most of the options on this list, build quality is an issue. They feel rather cheap and aren't the most durable option, which is to be expected at this price point. That said, they’re the most decent-sounding and portable on-ear headphones under $20 that we’ve reviewed so far and are worth considering if you’re a fan of their design.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best earbuds and headphones under $20 for most people to buy. We factor in the price (cheaper headphones win over pricier ones if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no headphones that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here is the list of all our reviews of earbuds and headphones under $20. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There are no perfect headphones. Personal taste, preference, and listening habits will matter more in your selection.
01/03/2020: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in product picks.