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The 8 Best Cheap Earbuds - Fall 2018
Reviews

Best Cheap Earbuds
288 Headphones Tested
  • Store-bought headphones; no cherry-picked units
  • Retest after major updates
  • Easily comparable results
  • No ads; unbiased reviews
Learn more about our approach to product reviews here.

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, you should be looking at headphones that are comfortable, have good sound quality, and that won’t break at the first impact.

We’ve reviewed 40 earbuds and in-ears under $100 so far and below you’ll find our top picks for the best cheap earbuds, going from the cheapest headphones with decent performance all the way up to $100 headphones, all divided by price range. Check also our recommendations for the best wireless earbuds under $50.

  1. The Cheapest, Yet Decently Performing Earbuds: Panasonic RP-HJE120

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    6.0
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    6.4
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    5.8
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    6.6
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    5.9
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    5.7
    TV
    Score components:
    5.4
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : No
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you’re looking for really inexpensive earbuds that have a surprising performance, get the Panasonic RP-HJE120, they're the best budget earbuds you can get under $20. These simple wired in-ears are only $15, and you can even get them at under $10 when they go on sale. They don’t enter the ear canal deeply like typical in-ears, making them more comfortable, and they have decent sound for their price.

    They have slightly overemphasized bass and their treble range is slightly veiled, but for the price tag, they have a surprisingly decent sound quality. They also isolate a decent amount of sound thanks to their in-ear design and barely leak, making them quite versatile for office work or daily commuting.

    However, they feel cheaply made. The plastic build doesn’t feel durable, and they have thin cables that don’t have an in-line remote with a microphone. On the upside, these headphones are a small investment, and you can get great value for your money.

    See our review

  2. Best Cheap Earbuds Under $25: Skullcandy Jib

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    6.6
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    6.7
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    6.8
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    7.5
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    6.7
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    5.3
    TV
    Score components:
    4.9
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you’re willing to pay a little extra for additional features, the Skullcandy Jib are the best cheap earbuds under $25. These are wireless in-ear headphones, which is nice at such a low price point. They are quite versatile for everyday casual use and offer better performance than the Panasonic RP-HJE120. Their price varies a lot, going from around $30-35 down to $15, so be sure to stay alert to see when they are on sale. 

    Bass-heavy genres fans should love the powerful bass, but they won’t be ideal for vocal-centric music lovers. They are decently comfortable in-ears since the buds are very small and almost no contact is made with the outer ear. They also have an in-line remote to play/pause music and take/end call, with a decent in-line microphone, which the Panasonic lack.

    Unfortunately, the in-line remote doesn’t feature a volume rocker and the 5 to 6 hours of battery life is not the best. On the upside, the in-ear fit isolates a decent amount of noise, which makes them a viable pick for commuting and the office.

    See our review

  3. Wired Alternative: 1More Piston Classic

    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Semi-Open
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you want to watch many videos with headphones on, get the wired 1More Piston Classic. They won’t have the latency issues of Bluetooth earbuds like the Skullcandy Jib and what you see will match what you hear. The in-line remote also features a volume rocker than the Jib don't offer. Their comfort is similar to the Jib, but they also come with a small hard case which is a nice addition.

    Unfortunately, the sound quality of the 1More Piston Classic is not as good as the Skullcandy’s. Our unit also had mismatched drivers, and they sounded muddy. On the upside, they isolate well like most closed-back in-ears, and you can use them with your console controller for audio and microphone support.

    See our review

  4. Best Cheap Earbuds Under $50: Anker Soundcore Spirit X

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    6.7
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    6.9
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    6.8
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    7.8
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    6.8
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    5.3
    TV
    Score components:
    5.1
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    The best cheap earbuds/in-ears under $50 are the wireless Anker Soundcore Spirit X. They have a better sound quality than the previous options and are very comfortable for in-ears. They come with multiple tips and fins options for you to find the best fit. They also have over-ear hooks for great stability during physical activity like running.

    They have a great in-line remote with a decent microphone. They also come with a great small hard case to store and protect the headphones while you’re on the go. Their bass is powerful, but without doing it too much and the mid-range is even and flat. Their battery life is about 12 hours of continuous playback and they take under 2 hours to charge fully.

    On the downside, they don’t isolate much noise like the other in-ears previously stated, but they barely leak, so you’ll be able to cover more ambient noise by raising your listening volume, without people around you hearing your music. They also are more sweat resistant than the similar, but cheaper, Anker SoundBuds Curve which also offer great value for their $25 price tag.

    See our review

  5. Samsung Phone Alternative: Samsung U Flex

    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you have a Samsung phone and are looking for customization options on cheap earbuds, get the Samsung U Flex. These wireless around-the-neck headphones are decent for most use cases and are compatible with the Samsung Level mobile app. It is available on all Android phones, but only Samsung devices get access to all options like the parametric EQ, room effects and presets; it is mainly useless with non-Samsung Android devices, which is disappointing.

    The U Flex can connect to two devices simultaneously which is very useful if you switch between your computer and phone often. They also have similar battery life than the Spirit X at around 11-12 hours, which should last you a whole day. They might not be as portable as typical in-ears, but they are easy to use and are quite comfortable if you don’t mind the around-the-neck design.

    See our review

  6. Extra Bass Alternative: Sony MDR-XB50AP

    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you’re a fan of bass-heavy music genres and are looking for cheap earbuds that pack a lot of bass, get the wired Sony MDR-XB50AP Extra Bass. They are usually $50, but you might be able to grab them for $30 if they are on sale. These headphones, like their name suggests, have an emphasis on bass but are still decently versatile for everyday casual use. They aren’t as comfortable or stable as the Anker Soundcore Spirit X, but their build quality is more rubberized, and they have flat cables.

    Since they are wired, they don’t offer the freedom and convenience of the wireless Spirit X, but you’ll be able to watch videos without any latency issues. They also isolate better and leak less than the Ankers, making them a better choice for commuting.

    See our review

  7. Best Cheap Earbuds Under $100: Jaybird Tarah

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    6.9
    Mixed Usage
    What it is: This is the combination of the different use cases to evaluate how versatile the headphones are. Therefore an everyday headphone should be well-rounded enough to adapt to most situations and environments without significant losses in sound quality, design ergonomics or isolation.
    Score components:
    7.0
    Critical Listening
    What it is: The level of audio fidelity a headphone can reproduce. Therefore a balanced and true representation of bass, mids, treble, soundstage and imaging, as well as a comfortable listening experience, is essential for critical listening.
    Score components:
    7.4
    Commute/Travel
    What it is: How well the headphones handle the loud environments involved in commuting or traveling. Therefore your listening experience should be comfortable, hassle-free and as isolated from noise as possible.
    Score components:
    8.0
    Sports/Fitness
    What it is: How well-adapted the headphones are, to use while doing sports or strenuous exercise. Therefore the headphones should not be too cumbersome and deliver a stable and comfortable listening experience.
    Score components:
    7.2
    Office
    What it is: How well the headphones can deliver a comfortable and isolated listening experience in an office-like environment. They should not leak much and should block the noise of a busy office.
    Score components:
    5.2
    TV
    Score components:
    4.8
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you can afford more expensive earbuds, get the Jaybird Tarah. These wireless sports headphones are versatile for everyday usage and have an above-average sound quality, on top of being compatible with the Jaybird MySound app which gives many customization options like a good parametric EQ and presets.

    They support Bluetooth 5.0 so if your audio source does too, you might get better wireless range and stability than what we measured on these headphones with our current test bench. Their default sound quality is decent and is not an upgrade over the previous X3 model, but you can EQ it to your liking. They are also rated IPX7 which is great for sweat and water resistance.

    On the other hand, Jaybird combined the tip and stability fins into one unit, giving you fewer options to find the best fit possible, but they are still fairly comfortable and stable for most sports. The 6 hours battery life is a bit disappointing, especially since you need the proprietary charging cradle to charge them. On the upside, they have good isolation and leakage performance, especially if you can find a good air-tight seal and you can connect them to 2 devices simultaneously.

    See our review

  8. Wired Alternative: 1More Triple Driver In-Ear

    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : No
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Hybrid

    If you prefer having no latency issues and want wired in-ears that have good sound quality, get the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear. They won’t have the range of the wireless Jaybird Tarah, but you won’t have to worry about battery life and always having a charging cradle on you. The Triple Driver In-Ear are well built and have a nice-looking design that feels high-end. They are usually sitting at a $99 price tag, but seem to go down at around $75 quite often. 

    They are quite versatile and decent for every type of usage with above-average sound quality. They have angled earbuds, and the tips don’t enter your ear canal deeply, making them quite comfortable for in-ears. They also come with a lot of tips options, including foam tips, so you can find the ones that fit you the best. Unfortunately, they don’t have any app for added customization like the Jaybird Tarah. If you want better-built wired headphones for the same usage, we suggest the KZ AS-10 with their detachable cables.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Anker SoundBuds Curve. A less expensive alternative to the Anker Spirit X. Better sound but worse sweat resistance. See our review
  • KZ ZS10. A budget wired in-ear with a good build quality and good sound. A decent alternative to the 1More triple Driver and slightly cheaper than the KZ AS10. See our review
  • MEE audio X7. A cheap wireless headset with a decent design for sports. Mediocre sound and build quality compared to some of the other headsets on that list. See our review
  • Anker SoundBuds Life. A budget around the neck design with decent performance; not as good or as portable as the Anker Curve or Spirit X. See our review
  • Mpow Jaws. A very budget around the neck design. Mediocre performance in most aspects; not as good a value as the recommended headphones. See our review
  • Mee audio M6 Pro A good alternative to the KZ ZS10. Good build quality and a decent sound for the price. A bit too sharp on some tracks. See our review
  • Samsung Level U Pro. A customizable wireless in-ear with a decent sound. Not as well built as the U Flex but a good alternative. See our review
  • Jaybird Freedom. A lightweight and well-built sports headphone with a customizable sound. The charging clip may be a deal breaker for some. See our review
  • JBL E25BT. A very budget wireless in-ear with a decent sound and overall performance a good alternative to the Jib but more expensive See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best budget earbuds to buy for most people in each price range. We factor in the price (a cheaper headphone wins over a pricier one 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.

 

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