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 many products available at a very affordable price that can give you a good bang for your buck.
We've bought and tested over 285 pairs of earbuds and in-ears, and below are our top picks for the best cheap and affordable earbuds. Also, check out our recommendations for the best cheap wireless earbuds, the best Bluetooth earbuds, and the best earbuds under $50.
The JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless are the best cheap earbuds we've tested. These wallet-friendly buds have a continuous battery life of about 9 hours to last you through a 9-5 workday, and their case holds about three additional charges. Their fit is comfortable, breathable, and stable, meaning they're a solid choice for workouts. They also have a good build quality and an IPX4 rating for resistance against water splashes. Like most headphones without ANC, they struggle to block out bass-range noise like rumbling engines but can reduce sounds like background chatter or a humming A/C unit.
Unlike other picks on this list, they have three EQ presets built-in, which let you adjust their sound to better suit your tastes. With the 'JLab Signature' EQ preset, their most neutral setting, they have a bass-rich sound profile that delivers extra thump, rumble, and punch to your audio. It's not too overwhelming, so they're still suitable for a variety of genres and types of content. Still, if you want a more neutral sound profile out-of-the-box, you might prefer the Skullcandy Dime 2 True Wireless. Their roughly 3.5-hour continuous battery life is much shorter, and they don't have sound customization features.
The best-sounding cheap earbuds we've tested are the Sony WI-C310 Wireless. Although they have a little extra punch and warmth in their sound, these neck cable headphones are still neutral, making them a versatile choice for most kinds of audio. Unlike the KZ ZSN, their mid-range is very flat and even, so vocals and lead instruments sound accurate and clear. Their treble range is smooth, ensuring adequate brightness in your mixes. They have a decently comfortable fit, and you can even wear them around your neck when you're not using them. The long cables feel a little thin and can get snagged on something if you're not careful.
Although they're not designed to block out commuter noise, like the rumble of bus and plane engines, they can help cut down ambient chatter and the high-pitched hum of an AC unit, which is nice if you work in a noisy office. They also last roughly 17 hours continuously but lack any power-saving features to help conserve battery life when you're not using them.
If you want to customize your earbuds' sound profile, the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 Truly Wireless are the best cheap option we've tested. Their sound profile isn't as neutral as the Sony WI-C310's out-of-the-box, but they're a better option if you like to adjust your earbuds' sound to suit your tastes or different types of content. By default, they have a bass-heavy sound profile well-suited for genres like EDM and hip-hop. They work with an app that has a graphic EQ and presets for sound customization, unlike the other earbuds listed here. You can also use the app to remap some of the onboard controls.
They aren't as well-built as the KZ ZSN, but feel sturdy and have a decently comfortable fit for most people. Their battery lasts about 6.5 hours of continuous use, which is on the short side even for cheap earbuds, but they come with a case that holds three additional charges. They also don't have ANC, but they passively block out a good amount of ambient sound, like background conversations or a computer fan.
If you want an option that doesn't sacrifice build quality, the KZ ZSN are the best cheap earphones with a durable design that we've tested. The JLab Audio GO Air POP have a sturdy build, but these are a step up, thanks to the solid metal buds and braided audio cable. The cable is detachable, meaning you can replace it if it gets damaged without buying a new pair of earbuds. While wireless earbuds are more popular these days, wired buds offer better sound quality and eliminate latency. Then again, if you don't like the wired design, you can buy them with a Bluetooth adapter and use them wirelessly, although that adds to the cost of the earbuds.
Their excited, v-shaped sound profile adds a bit of extra punch and boom to your audio, while vocals and lead instruments sound clear and bright. Like a lot of cheap earbuds, they don't have an app or sound customization features. They also lack ANC and don't do a good job of isolating you from ambient sound. You may find them less comfortable if you have small ears, but on the plus side, they hardly leak any audio, so people nearby won't hear your music even if you crank it up.
The Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless are the best earbuds under $50 we've tested. These earbuds stand out for their long total battery life, making them a good option for longer trips. They last for more than seven hours off of a single charge but come with a case that holds about 12.5 additional charges, so you can top them up for nearly 100 hours of use before recharging the case. Unlike the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 Truly Wireless, they don't have an app, which you might find disappointing if you like to customize your headphones' sound profile. Their sound profile adds some extra rumble, punch, and boom to your audio, but it's well-balanced enough for a variety of content and genres.
They do a good job of passively isolating you from ambient sound, but like most earbuds without ANC, they struggle to block out the low rumble of bus and plane engines. If you need earbuds for your commute, you might prefer the TOZO NC7 Truly Wireless, which are around the same price and equipped with an ANC system. They do a great job of blocking out bass-range noise like engines but lack the Anker's long total battery life since their case only holds a couple of extra charges.
If you're still looking for the right earbuds, try our list of the best earbuds under $50.
Mar 27, 2023: Made minor updates to the text and checked that the products are relevant and in stock.
Jan 23, 2023: Added the TOZO NC7 Truly Wireless as a noise cancelling alternative to the Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless.
Nov 02, 2022: Added the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 Truly Wireless as a 'Most Customizable Cheap Earbuds' pick. Moved the Samsung AKG Type-C to the Notable Mentions.
Jun 15, 2022: We've rehauled our article to provide better recommendations. Removed the Skullcandy Dime True Wireless, KZ ZSN, and JBL E25BT Wireless. Added the KZ ZST, and Sony WI-C310 Wireless to our picks.
Apr 19, 2022: Replaced the Samsung AKG Type-C with the KZ ZSN as the KZ have a traditional 1/8" connector that's more commonly used. Made the Samsung the 'USB-C Alternative'.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cheap earphones 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 earbuds and in-ears under $50. 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.