Whether you're looking for a pair of backup earbuds to keep in your gym bag or want something cheap that you don't have to worry about spending a fortune replacing if it breaks, you can still find something decent for less than $20. Keep in mind that you won't be getting audiophile-level sound or premium build quality at this price point.
We've tested over 665 pairs of headphones. Below, you'll find our recommendations for the best earbuds and headphones under $20 to buy. Also, make sure to check out our recommendations for the best cheap earbuds, the best budget wireless headphones, and the best wireless earbuds under $50.
The JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless are the best earbuds under $20 with a truly wireless design that we've tested. These lightweight in-ears have three EQ presets built-in to help you find their best sound. Using the 'JLab Signature' EQ, which is the flattest EQ, they have a bass-heavy sound that delivers extra thump, rumble, and boom to mixes.
Thanks to their over nine hours of continuous playback time, they should last through long days on the go. Their carrying case also holds roughly three additional charges, which is handy if you need it. They have a stable as well as decently comfortable fit, are well-built, and are rated IPX4 for water resistance.
Unfortunately, they struggle to block out the low rumble of bus and plane engines. They also have high latency on PCs as well as iOS and Android devices, which could be frustrating if you like to stream video. On the upside, they offer a fairly versatile performance and should please most users.
If you want earbuds with a more neutral sound profile, check out the Skullcandy Dime True Wireless. While they're not as comfortable as the JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless, and their price can fluctuate above the $20 mark, their bass is less boomy, making them a solid choice if you like genres like folk and classical. They also have a good build quality, stable fit, and are rated IPX4 for resistance against splashes of water. They struggle to block out bass-range noise, but they can cut out office sounds like ambient chatter and the high-pitched hum of an AC unit. Unfortunately, their continuous battery life of under four hours won't last through long listening sessions without pausing to recharge them. Luckily, their carrying case holds 2.5 additional charges if you need it.
Take a look at the JLab if you're looking for earbuds with a more customizable sound. However, if you want a more neutral sound from your headphones, try the Skullcandy instead.
The Sony WI-C310 Wireless are the best headphones with an earbud design under $20 that we've tested. These headphones have a flexible neck cable design that allows you to hang them around your neck when you're not using them. They also have a decently comfortable fit and are stable enough for a jog in the park.
These headphones have a slightly bass-rich sound profile that adds extra body and boom to your mixes, which should please fans of EDM and hip-hop. They also have over 17 hours of continuous battery life, so you don't need to worry about recharging them after a shift at the office. Although their in-ear fit struggles to block out bass-range noise like bus engine rumbles, they can cut down a great amount of ambient chatter.
Unfortunately, parts of their design, like the rubber audio cables leading to the buds, feel thin and fragile. Their in-line mic also has a sub-par recording quality, and your voice sounds thin and lacking in detail. That said, for no-frills headphones, they offer decent value at this price point.
If you prefer over-ear headphones, the best headphones under $20 that we've tested are the Koss UR20. These lightweight headphones have a comfortable fit that makes them suitable for long listening sessions. Thanks to their wired design, you don't need to charge them to use them, and their low latency makes them suitable for wired gaming.
They have a fairly balanced sound profile, though the overemphasis in the mid-range can make vocals and lead instruments forward and boxy in the mix. However, they should still be suitable for lots of audio content. They can also passively isolate against higher-frequency background noises, like the hum of a nearby AC unit.
Unfortunately, they struggle to block out lower-frequency background noises, so you can still hear the low rumble of bus and plane engines or chatter from people nearby. They also leak a bit of noise, distracting those around you. If you want straightforward over-ears for less than $20, they're a solid choice.
If you want more portable over-ear headphones, try the Tascam TH-02. While they don't feel as comfortable as the Koss UR20, they can fold up to save space, which is great if you want to take them with you on the go. They also have a decent leakage performance, so if you're listening to audio at high volumes in a busy office, it's unlikely that you'll bother others around you. Their warm sound profile adds extra boom to mixes, so they're a solid choice for bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop. Their overemphasized bass also muddies vocals and lead instruments, which are dulled by their recessed treble. They also don't have a microphone, so you can't make calls, and they struggle to block out background noise.
If you prioritize comfort from your over-ears, consider the Koss. However, if you want more portable headphones, consider the Tascam instead.
The best headphones under $20 with an on-ear design that we've tested are the Koss KSC75. They have a unique clip-on design that's very lightweight and ensures a stable, secure fit without putting any pressure across the top of your head. It also makes them very portable and breathable, so they're not bad if you're looking for something affordable to wear while running but don't like earbuds.
These inexpensive on-ears have a similar sound profile to the popular yet more expensive Koss Porta Pro Wireless. They have less bass, but they share the same overall bright yet still fairly neutral sound. It makes them very well-suited to podcasts or audiobooks. Since they have an open-back design, they also sound spacious.
Unfortunately, the ear-clip design isn't the most comfortable. Their ear-hooks stop feeling as intrusive once you've had them on for a while, but if you wear glasses, it doesn't get much better. They also don't isolate any ambient noise at all. While this can be a good thing if you're jogging around the neighborhood, they're not suitable for wearing on the bus, especially since they leak a lot of sound.
Mar 16, 2022: Checked our picks for product availability and accuracy. There hasn't been a change in our recommendations.
Dec 14, 2021: Replaced the Skullcandy Spoke True Wireless with the JBL Audio GO Air POP True Wireless as the JLab offer a more customizable sound. Also added the Skullcandy Dime True Wireless as 'Neutral Sound Alternative'.
Sep 16, 2021: Checked that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are in stock. There were no changes to recommendations.
Jun 21, 2021: Verified that picks represent the best recommendations and that the products are available.
Mar 23, 2021: Replaced the Skullcandy Jib Wireless with the Sony WI-C310 Wireless and replaced the KZ ZST with the Skullcandy Jib Wireless as they represent a better value to most users. Added the KZ ZST to Notable Mentions.
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'd like to choose for yourself, here's 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.