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 250 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, the best earbuds under $20, and the best earbuds under $50.
The JLab Audio GO Air POP True Wireless are the best cheap earbuds with a truly wireless design that we've tested. Unlike other picks on this list, these wallet-friendly buds have three EQ presets built-in, which allow you to 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.
Their continuous battery life of roughly nine hours can last you through a 9-5 workday, and their case holds about three additional charges. Their fit is comfortable, breathable, and stable, so they're a solid choice for workouts. They also have a good build quality and an IPX4 rating for resistance against being splashed with water. On the downside, their charging cable is built into the case, so if it gets damaged, you'll need to replace the unit. Like most headphones without ANC, they also struggle to block out bass-range noise like rumbling engines. That said, they're effective at reducing mid-range noise like chatty co-workers, which is nice if you want to reduce distractions at work.
The Anker Soundcore Life Dot 2 Truly Wireless are the best earbuds under $50 we've tested. Although they're otherwise simple in design, these well-built truly wireless buds have an outstanding total battery life of just under 100 hours. On a single charge, they last over seven hours, but their carrying case supplies an additional 12.5 charges. They're also able to passively isolate you from a good amount of ambient noise such as office chatter, although they have a harder time reducing the low rumble of bus and plane engines.
Their bass-rich sound profile adds a bit of extra thump, rumble, and boom to mixes while vocals and lead instruments sound clear. Although they lack sound customization features, which is a little disappointing if you want a more neutral sound, their sound is still versatile enough for most kinds of audio content. They also have a decently comfortable fit, and their stability fin design ensures that they stay in place while you're moving.
The KZ ZSN are the best cheap earphones with a durable design that we've tested. These wired buds have great build quality, thanks to their solid buds and braided audio cable. The cable is also detachable, making it easy to replace, should it get damaged. You can purchase these buds with or without an in-line mic and even pick up a Bluetooth adapter separately if you want to use them wirelessly, although this can add to your expenses. However, you may still prefer a wired design if you're looking for a latency-free audio experience when you're streaming video or if you value high audio quality.
They have an excited, v-shaped sound profile that delivers a touch of extra punch and warmth to audio while vocals and lead instruments are bright. If you like to listen to audio at high volumes, others around you shouldn't be able to hear it. Unfortunately, they have a sub-par noise isolation performance and have a hard time blocking out the low rumble of bus and plane engines. Their fit is a bit bulky too, and you may find them uncomfortable if you have small ears.
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 such as 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 have a newer smartphone that doesn't have an AUX port but a USB-C port, check out the Samsung AKG Type-C, which are the best cheap USB-C earbuds we've tested. These in-ears have a USB-C connector that ensures low audio latency, so your audio and visuals stay in sync when streaming video. These buds have a lightweight and comfortable fit too, and you can wear them for long listening sessions without feeling too much fatigue. While they do a sub-par job of blocking out the rumbles from bus engines, they're able to cut down more mid-range noise such as office chatter.
Their slightly bass-heavy sound profile also adds extra thump, rumble, and boom to mixes, which should please fans of EDM and hip-hop. Their mid-range is still well-balanced and neutral, so vocals and lead instruments sound clear. If you need to take calls on the go, their in-line mic offers a good recording quality, ensuring that your voice is easy to understand. However, the mic struggles to separate speech from ambient noise, which can be a problem if you're taking a call from a busy street.
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'.
Feb 23, 2022: Removed the Sony WI-C310 Wireless as the Sony are not currently available at this price point. Made the Samsung AKG Type-C the 'Best Cheap Wired Earbuds'.
Dec 20, 2021: Checked that picks represent the best recommendations in their categories and that the products are in stock.
Oct 21, 2021: Added the JLab Audio Go Air POP True Wireless as 'Best Cheap Truly Wireless Earbuds' and made the Skullcandy Dime True Wireless the 'More Neutral-Sounding Alternative'. Removed the SoundPeats TrueFree 2 Wireless as they aren't currently in stock.
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.