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.
As is common with most Skullcandy headphones, they have a bass-heavy sound profile, which fans of EDM and hip-hop will surely love, but may not be the best for more vocal-centric music. They are decent earbuds for small ears as they have smaller buds than most in-ear headphones, making them fairly comfortable. Their smaller design also makes them extra portable and they are easy to throw into your pocket or bag.
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, 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 don't need wireless capabilities or would rather a no-fuss wired experience, get the KZ ZST. They don't offer the extra freedom of wireless headphones like the Skullcandy Jib Wireless do, but their wired design means you don't have to worry about battery life. They're quite well-built for the price, and even have a detachable cable which means you don't need to throw them away if the cable gets damaged or worn out. While they aren't as bass-heavy as the Skullcandy, they're still a bit uneven in the treble and mid range, meaning they still aren't the greatest choice for vocal-centric music.
Get the Skullcandy Jib 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 ZST, 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 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, 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.
If you like on-ear headphones and are looking for something easy to carry around, then get the Koss KSC75, the best on-ear headphones under $20. 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.
10/30/2019: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in product picks.