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. They have a fairly comfortable fit and are decent earbuds for small ears.
These earbuds sound pretty decent for wireless in-ears in this price range, with a bass-heavy sound that fans of EDM and hip-hop are sure to love. They have a good 35-foot wireless range, so you won’t need to always keep your Bluetooth source on you. They have a very compact design, so you can easily slip them into your pockets when they’re no longer in use.
Unfortunately, they feel pretty cheaply made and their battery only lasts for about 6 hours. The JBL E25BT feel better-made and have a nearly 10-hour battery life. Certain color variations are often on sale for less than $20, but they’re generally more expensive. Overall, the Skullcandy Jib provide pretty good value for the price, especially if you’re hunting for wireless in-ears at a great budget price.
If you’d rather have wired earbuds, then consider the KZ ZST. They don’t offer the same wireless freedom of Bluetooth earbuds like the Skullcandy Jib, but their simple wired design ensures you don’t ever have to worry about battery life. They’re very well-built for their price and sound alright too. Their treble is less balanced than the more expensive KZ AS10, though, and they don’t isolate noise as well, but they’re significantly cheaper.
Get the Skullcandy Jib if you’re after the untethered listening experience that wireless earbuds provide, but if you prefer the reliability of a wired connection, then you’ll want to go for the KZ ZST.
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 earcups 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, they’re quite plasticky and feel rather cheap. This is to be expected at this price point, but 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 under $20.
If you want a slightly more portable and durable alternative to the Koss UR20 for less than $20, then get the Tascam TH-02. They’re not as comfortable as the Koss since they have smaller and shallower ear cups, but they're easier to carry around since they fold. Their audio reproduction is okay, but their treble performance is worse than the UR-20. Like most headphones in this price range, they don’t have the best build quality. However, they feel a bit more durable than the UR-20 and are easier to carry around.
Get the UR20 if you care more about sound quality than design, since they sound more balanced, but if portability and build quality matter more to you, then you’ll want to go with the Tascam TH-02.
If you like on-ear headphones and are looking for something easy to carry around, then get the Koss KSC75. They’re straightforward wired headphones that don’t have a microphone or any controls, just a regular audio cable. They have a super lightweight design that’s very portable thanks to their compact form factor.
These headphones clip onto your ears directly, so they’re very stable and can even be not bad to wear while jogging. They have a relatively bright sound profile that’s decent for podcasts or audiobooks and their open-back design will help you remain aware of your surroundings.
On the downside, they don’t produce much 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. 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.