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, giving you good bang for your buck.
Like most of the Skullcandy lineup, they have a slightly overextended bass, making them great for genres like EDM or hip-hop. Easily portable, comfortable, and stable, these earbuds are suited for light to moderate exercise at the gym. They're also very small and are among the best earbuds for small ears. Style-savvy listeners will like the range of color variants and although they range in price, most are around the $20 mark or a couple of bucks over, making them an affordable choice if you don't want to compromise on looks.
Unfortunately, their plasticky build reflects their price. The cable is thin and doesn't feel very durable. However, this design also makes them lightweight. Their battery life is also disappointing: it takes over 2 hours to recharge their 6-hour battery life. However, at such an affordable price, if they break or get damaged, these headphones are easily replaceable, making them the best earbuds under $20.
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. If you like the close feel of over-ears, these comfortable, soft padded headphones are an okay choice for those on a tight budget.
Fairly well-balanced but producing deep, punchy bass, these headphones are best-suited for genres like EDM or hip-hop. If you like to listen to albums back-to-back, you'll also be decently comfortable. Their sling headband doesn't apply too much pressure around your head and their large, spacious ear cups easily cover most ears.
Unfortunately, the design of these headphones is rather plasticky, making them feel quite cheap. They don't feel very durable and the hinges seem poorly made. They also don't have a microphone, so you won't be able to make any calls. Still, if you're on limited funds, these headphones are an affordable over-ear option.
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 at 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. Their unique clip-on style makes them lightweight and easily portable.
Decently well-balanced, particularly in the mid-range, these headphones are better suited for those who like to listen to more vocal-oriented media like podcasts and audiobooks. Outdoor runners will appreciate the open-back design; it lets in background noise like that produced by cars and trains and keeps you alert while you move. Their clip-on ear hook also makes these headphones a stable and suitable option when you're doing light to moderate workouts at the gym. When you're on the go, their small size makes it easy to store them into most pockets.
Unfortunately, these headphones lack bass and produce disappointing thump and rumble. At higher volumes, distortion in the bass range will also make the bass sound slightly impure. The build, like others on this list, isn't great either. Their silver plastic design feels cheap and won't be appreciated by some users. Their lack of a microphone could also be a deal-breaker. However, if you're looking for on-ears at a reasonable price, these unique clip-on headphones are worth considering.
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.
03/03/2020: Minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy. No changes in product picks.