Spending a lot of money on earbuds doesn't necessarily mean that you will get better performance. You don't have to break the bank to find the best product for your needs, as there are a lot of products available at a very affordable price that can give you a good bang for your buck.
We’ve reviewed over 150 pairs of earbuds and in-ears so far and below you’ll find our top picks for the best cheap earbuds. See our recommendations for the best cheap wireless earbuds, the best Bluetooth earbuds, the best earbuds under $20, and the best earbuds under $50.
The cheapest earbuds with decent overall performance that we've tested so far are the Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120. These very inexpensive wired in-ears may lack some features you'd get with higher-end wireless models, but are a decent choice if you're tough on headphones and don't want to spend more than what you'd pay for a fancy coffee. They don't enter the ear canal as deep as some other options, making them decently comfortable, and they can easily be tossed into a pocket or bag.
Their sound profile is decently well-balanced and is versatile enough for a somewhat wide range of genres or content. While their over-emphasized bass range makes them better suited for hip-hop or EDM and less so for classic rock, they're still better balanced than most headphones at this price point. They don't do much to block out background noise, but on the upside, they leak very little audio, so you can crank up your music without bothering those around you.
Unfortunately, they don't have a microphone or in-line controls so you won't be able to take calls or control your music without taking out your phone. They also have a disappointing build quality and their cables feel thin, flimsy, and lack overall durability. That being said, if you tend to lose or damage your headphones a lot, or just want something very inexpensive that still performs decently, these are a good choice.
The best cheap earbuds under $20 we've reviewed so far are the Skullcandy Jib. These in-ears have surprisingly decent performance for their price, especially for a wireless design. They're comfortable and come with different tip sizes, they're easy to carry around in your pockets, and their sound is great for bass fans.
They have a very bass-heavy sound profile that has extra thump and rumble, which is very well-suited for people who listen to a lot of bass-heavy genres like EDM or dubstep. The rest of the range is very well-balanced and accurate. Their wireless design is also great for working out as you don't have any wires in your way, and the bass-heavy sound is great to keep you pumped up.
However, they only have about 6 hours of battery life, which might not be ideal for everyone, especially if you plan on listening to music during a full work day since they'd require daily charging. On the upside, you have an in-line remote for track skipping and it also has a microphone, but no volume control. Overall, these are some of the best cheap earbuds if you're looking for very straightforward wireless headphones.
If you don't want to charge your headphones on a daily basis like with the Skullcandy Jib Wireless, or if you watch a lot of videos and would prefer a wired connection to make sure latency is kept to a minimum, check out the wired KZ ZST instead. They might not offer the freedom of a wireless design like the Skullcandy and they don't have a microphone, but they feel noticeably better-built. There's a model with an in-line remote and microphone, but it's usually a bit more expensive, although not by much. Their audio reproduction is decent, although a bit excited, and their cables are fully detachable, which makes it easier to replace them if they get damaged.
If you work out and listen to bass-heavy music, go for the Skullcandy, but if you don't want to manage battery life, the KZ are a great, affordable option.
The best cheap truly wireless earbuds that we've tested so far are the SoundPeats TrueFree. For their price point, they offer more mobility with fewer cables, which those on-the-go may enjoy.
With a well-built design, these earbuds are portable and lightweight. Their fairly comfortable fit is stable, making them suited for sports or commuting. They can also reduce a good amount of ambient noise around you, which is great for noisier environments like the office, and they barely leak. Although they don't have a well-balanced sound profile, fans of EDM and hip-hop may enjoy the overemphasized bass with its heavy thump and rumble.
On the downside, not everyone will find their in-ear fit comfortable. Their 3.3-hour battery life is also a little disappointing, but the carrying case holds four additional charges and they go into standby mode if you forget to put them back in the case. Still, the case doesn't have a lid and your earbuds could fall out, even though they're held in by magnets. If you're looking to transition to truly wireless on a budget, these headphones are an affordable choice.
The best budget earbuds under $50 we've tested so far are the Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019. These wireless earbuds offer fantastic value and are among the best wireless Bluetooth earbuds we've tested. They feel very stable in the ear thanks to their ear-hook design, and they're even rated IPX7 for sweat and water resistance, though this isn't something we test for.
Their sound profile is fairly bass-heavy, but should still be well-balanced enough for most popular genres and content. Their in-line remote is easy to use, and their 18.4-hour battery is one of the longest we've ever tested on a pair of wireless earbuds. The microphone built into the remote is surprisingly decent, though, like most integrated mics, your voice tends to get drowned out in noisy environments.
Unfortunately, like with most budget options, they don't have a dedicated companion app so you can't EQ the way they sound or make any changes to their settings. Their low price is also reflected somewhat in their build quality, and while their plastic is dense and should be able to withstand regular daily use, the cord connecting the left and right earbuds feels quite thin. Overall, they provide an excellent price-to-performance ratio and are a good choice if you want a relatively inexpensive pair of Bluetooth in-ears that outperform the competition.
05/29/2020: Updated text for clarity and accuracy; no changes to recommended picks.
05/01/2020: Moved SoundPeats TrueFree from 'Truly Wireless Alternative' to 'Best Cheap Truly Wireless Earbuds'.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cheap earbuds to buy for most people in each price range. 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 for in-ear headphones and earbuds. 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.