You don’t always need to spend a small fortune on headphones to find a great product that is suitable for your needs. If you prefer the portable design of in-ears and earbuds, there are lots of options that provide great value for the price.
We’ve reviewed nearly 120 pairs of earbuds and in-ears so far and below you’ll find our top picks for the best cheap earbuds depending on your needs. 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 best cheap earbuds that still provide decent performance are the Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120. Their sound reproduction is decent, especially given their price, though their sound can vary between users and some may find them noticeably muddy-sounding. They do a mediocre job at isolating background noise, but they leak very little sound, meaning you should be able to turn them up to help block ambient sound without bothering those around you.
Unfortunately, their low price is reflected in their build quality, and they feel cheaply made. They have a thin audio cable that could easily get damaged over time, but given their price point, this is expected and they can be cheaply replaced if they do get damaged. They're decently comfortable since they're very lightweight and don't enter the ear canal as deeply as other in-ears, though this means they aren't the most stable and may not be great for running. They also don't have a microphone so you can't use them to take phone calls.
Overall, these are an adequate pair of headphones, especially given the price. Their sound profile is decently well-balanced and is better than most at this price range. If you're prone to breaking or losing your earbuds and are looking for something cheap that still sounds decent, these are a good choice.
If you want to go wireless and don't mind spending a little bit more, go for the Skullcandy Jib Wireless. They aren't as cheap as the Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120 but they're wireless and have a microphone. Their sound reproduction is pretty good overall, though they're a bit bass-heavy and may not be the best choice for vocal-centric music. They're decently comfortable in-ears with small buds which makes them less fatiguing to wear for extended periods. Unfortunately, their battery life is disappointing at just under six hours on a two-hour charge. It's also worth noting that, like most Skullcandy headphones, their price varies quite a bit based on color.
Go for the Panasonic if you want a cheap pair of earbuds and don't mind having a wire, but if you want to get a pair of wireless Bluetooth earbuds without breaking the bank, go for the Skullcandy.
The best cheap earbuds we've tested so far are the Anker SoundBuds Curve Wireless. They're quite comfortable and come with six different tip options to help you get the right fit. Stability fins are included and the headphones have an ear-hook design that gives them a nice stable fit which should be good even for intense workouts. They aren't sweat resistant, however, so those who want to use them for sports may want to consider the Anker Soundcore Spirit X. While their build quality feels decent overall, they do have a fairly thin audio cable, though this is common at this price point.
These headphones have good sound reproduction for the price, though they do tend to be a bit bass-heavy and may be best suited to genres like EDM or hip-hop. While they have a microphone, it can be disappointing and speech recorded on it tends to sound muffled and lacking in detail. On the upside, their battery lasts almost 13 hours on a 1.5-hour charge, which is good, and they leak very little sound.
Overall, these are a decent pair of wireless Bluetooth earbuds that perform better than other options in this price range. Their comfortable fit, decent build quality, and surprisingly good sound reproduction makes them a solid option if you don't want to spend much money.
If you want to save a few extra bucks and like the no-fuss nature of wired headphones, go with the KZ ZST. They aren't as comfortable as the Anker SoundBuds Curve Wireless and don't have a microphone, but they feel slightly better made and are a bit cheaper. They have deep and powerful bass on top of a good mid-range, but unfortunately their treble is a bit uneven, meaning they may not be the best for more vocal-centric music. Their build quality is good and they even have a detachable cable which means you can swap it out should it get damaged. They do a slightly better job at isolating background noise than the Anker, though they still aren't great and won't effectively block out engine rumbles from a bus or train.
If you want a comfortable pair of wireless headphones, go with the Anker, but if you're often away from a charging source and don't want to worry about batteries in your headphones, get the KZ ZST.
If you like the extra freedom and portability of truly wireless earbuds but don't want to spend the premium they usually demand, go with the SoundPeats TrueFree. They aren't as comfortable as the Anker SoundBuds Curve Wireless, and their battery isn't as good, but they are even more portable and do a better job at isolating background noise. Like most options on this list, their sound tends to be a bit bass-heavy and they may not be the best choice for vocal-centric genres, but their sound reproduction is decent overall and impressive considering their price. They do a much better job at isolating background noises than the Anker and can even decently block out engine rumble, making them an alright choice for your daily commute.
Get the Anker if you don't mind having a cable connecting your left and right earbuds, but if you want the freedom of truly wireless headphones without spending a ton of money, go for the SoundPeats.
The best budget earbuds we've tested so far are the Sony WI-C310. They're very lightweight headphones with a flexible and portable neckband design that's stable enough for running. They're fairly comfortable as they have small earbuds that don't go too far into the ear canal, and they come with three tip sizes to help you get a comfortable fit. While their flexible neckband makes them nice and portable, unfortunately this comes at the expense of build quality, as their thin cable may get damaged over time. If you don't mind having a wire, you may want to consider the Beats urBeats3 Earphones as they feel a bit better-built, though they're more expensive and don't give you the extra convenience of Bluetooth headphones.
These earbuds have good sound reproduction with only slightly overemphasized bass that adds a bit of boominess. Their mid-range and treble performance are both very good, though vocals and leads may get pushed a bit to the back of the mix, meaning they may not be the best headphones for vocal-centric genres. Like most headphones without ANC, they don't do a very good job at blocking out engine rumbles, and won't be ideal to use in very noisy environments. On the upside, their 17-hour battery life is good and should be able to last you a few days without needing to charge, though unfortunately they don't have an auto-off feature.
Overall, these are a decent, well-rounded pair of Bluetooth headphones. Their small earbuds and flexible neckband design make them a good choice for people who want a portable pair of headphones that can easily be taken around with them.
If you primarily use your headphones for working out and want something geared more towards sports, get the JBL Endurance Sprint. They aren't as lightweight and portable as the Sony WI-C310 Wireless, but they're even more stable thanks to their ear-hook design and have a much better-balanced sound profile. They feel slightly better-built overall, and their ear hooks should help them stay in your ears during even the most strenuous of exercises. They're even rated IPX7 for waterproofing, though we don't currently test this. Their sound reproduction is great with a well-balanced profile that makes them suitable for most genres of music. Their isolation performance is also impressive, making them a good choice to block out the engine rumble of a bus or to use in a noisy gym. Unfortunately, they may take a lot of adjusting to find a comfortable fit, and their touch-sensitive controls can be a bit difficult to use.
Go for the Sony if you want a less-flashy looking pair of portable earbuds that you can easily toss into your pocket, but if you don't mind a more sports-oriented look and want a better-balanced sounding pair of wireless earbuds for the gym, get the JBL.
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.
11/04/2019: Changed all categories and picks.