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 620 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 best earbuds under $20 that we've tested are the Sony WI-C310 Wireless. These lightweight earbuds are sometimes more expensive but are currently available at this price point in some colors. They have a lightweight neck cable design and a comfortable, stable fit, making them a solid choice for runs and workouts.
Their sound profile delivers a bit of extra thump and boom, which fans of bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop may like, but it's well-balanced overall, so it should be suitable for a variety of content and genres. Their continuous battery life of about 17 hours is more than enough to last through a 9-5 workday and commute, and they can passively isolate you from a good amount of mid-range noise like ambient chatter.
Unfortunately, their in-line mic has a disappointing recording quality, so your voice sounds muffled and lacks detail if you use them for phone calls. They also don't feel extremely well-built or durable. That said, the earbuds are magnetic, which can help with cable management, and overall they're a great choice if you want cheap wireless earbuds, especially for sports use.
If you're looking for cheap earbuds with a better mic performance, you may prefer the Skullcandy Jib Wireless. These aren't as well-built as the Sony WI-C310 Wireless, but their integrated microphone has a better recording quality, so they're more suitable for phone calls. Similar to the Sony, they have a flexible neckband and small, decently comfortable earbuds. They're also stable enough to stay in place during workouts, and their bass-heavy sound profile delivers a lot of extra thump, rumble, and punch to keep you pumped up, although some may find it a little overwhelming. Unfortunately, their continuous battery life of about 5.8 hours is on the short side as well.
Go for the Sony if you want the cheap earbuds with a more neutral sound profile, but try the Skullcandy instead if you want to use your headphones for phone calls or like a very bass-rich sound.
The Skullcandy Spoke are the best truly wireless headphones under $20 that we've tested. These cheap Bluetooth earbuds are well-built, stable, and rated IPX4 for water resistance, although we don't test for it currently. Their continuous battery life of about 6.5 hours isn't bad, and they also come with a case that holds roughly 2.5 extra charges, so you can top them up when you're on the go.
While they don't have active noise cancelling, they do a decent job of passively isolating you from background noise like ambient conversation. They hardly leak any sound either, so you can listen to music at the office without much risk of bothering people around you. They have a v-shaped default sound profile that delivers a bit of extra bass. It's suitable for a variety of genres, but it can also be customized with EQ presets that you can access via the earbuds' touch-sensitive controls.
Unfortunately, they aren't the most comfortable earbuds, due to their bulky design and deep in-ear fit, so you may experience some fatigue if you wear them over long periods of time. Using the controls can also put pressure on your inner ear. Overall though, if you're looking for cheap truly wireless earbuds, these are a sturdy, customizable option.
If you're looking for over-ears, 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, which can be distracting to those around you. However, if you want straightforward over-ears for less than $20, they're a solid choice.
If you're looking for cheap over-ear headphones that are easier to bring with you on the go, consider the Tascam TH-02 instead. While they aren't as comfortable and are usually more expensive than the Koss UR20, they fold into a more compact format, so you can fit them into your bag easier. Their sound profile is pretty neutral, and their bass packs a punch that can please fans of bass-heavy genres, though some listeners may find that they're too muddy or boxy. They don't leak a lot of noise and escaping audio sounds pretty thin, so you can listen to music at loud volumes without bothering people around you in a noisy office or busy coffee shop. Unfortunately, they don't come with a microphone, so they aren't suitable for phone calls. They also have poor noise isolation.
If you're looking for comfortable over-ears under $20, check out the Koss. However, if you're willing to spend a little extra for 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 a bit less bass, but they share the same overall bright yet still fairly neutral sound. This makes them very well-suited to podcasts or audiobooks. Since they have an open-back design, they also sound quite 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 actually 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.
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.
Dec 23, 2020: Added the Samsung AKG Type-C to Notable Mentions. Minor updates to the text.
Oct 27, 2020: Minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy.
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.