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The 9 Best Cheap Earbuds - February 2019
Reviews

Best Cheap Earbuds
311 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 43 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 and the best 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: Anker SoundBuds Curve

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    6.8
    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:
    7.0
    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:
    7.9
    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:
    6.9
    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:
    5.5
    TV
    Score components:
    5.3
    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 bit more for extra features and better performance, the best cheap earbuds under $25 we’ve tested are the Anker SoundBuds Curve. Not only do these in-ear headphones have a surprisingly premium look and feel, but they are also wireless, which is a welcome surprise at this price point.

    They are pretty comfortable in-ears, with a stable ear-hook design that makes these headphones good for light sports or fitness activities. They sound decent, but have a bass-heavy sound that is better suited for genres with deep bass like EDM or hip-hop than for more vocal-centric music. These headphones also last almost 13 hours on a charge, which is pretty good for wireless budget headphones.

    The SoundBuds Curve don’t isolate noise as well as some other in-ears since their earbuds don’t go very deep in the ear canal. On the upside, this makes them more comfortable for longer listening sessions. These headphones offer great value for the price and are decent for most use cases.

    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 lots of videos with your headphones on, get the wired 1More Piston Classic. They won’t have the latency issues of Bluetooth earbuds like the Anker SoundBuds Curve, and what you see will match what you hear. They're also a bit more comfortable than typical in-ears, and 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 Ankers. 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: JBL Endurance Sprint

    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:
    7.1
    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:
    7.7
    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:
    5.1
    TV
    Score components:
    4.7
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Yes
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you’re looking for durable sports-oriented wireless headphones under $50, then get the JBL Endurance Sprint. They have a slick, matte design which looks more premium than their price would suggest and are decent for most uses.

    They have a versatile and well-balanced sound which makes them perfect for not only all kinds of music genres, but even podcasts or audiobooks. Though it can be a bit tricky to get the twist-to-lock ear-hook fit just right, they provide impressive isolation performance once you get a good seal. Their battery lasts for 9 hours, which is enough for a full work day and they charge in under 2 hours.

    Unfortunately, the JBL Endurance Sprint have higher-than-average latency for a Bluetooth headset and won’t be ideal for watching movies or gaming. The touch sensitive control scheme can also be a bit finicky at times. That said, if you’re looking for a slick wireless headset to wear while working out and you’re a fan of twist-to-lock ear-hook fit, then the JBL Endurance are a good choice.

    See our review

  5. Truly Wireless Alternative: SoundPeats TrueFree

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

    If you want to get rid of wires completely, get the SoundPeats TrueFree. Although they don’t sound as good as the JBL Endurance Sprint and have a much shorter continuous playtime, they’re the best truly wireless option we’ve reviewed for less than $50. They’re very well-designed, comfortable in-ear headphones that are incredibly lightweight. The SoundPeats TrueFree are stable enough for most sports, have very good isolation performance for smooth commutes, and have an outstanding wireless range for home or office use.

    Like many truly wireless in-ears, their battery is quite weak and only lasts for 3.3 hours before needing to be charged. Thankfully, they have a standby mode that helps save the battery a bit. All-in-all, they offer impressive value for truly wireless in-ear headphones under $50

    See our review

  6. Wired Alternative: TIN Audio T2

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

    If you’re looking for earbuds that deliver a decent listening experience over a wired connection, get the TIN Audio T2. They’re not as versatile as the JBL Endurance Sprint and don’t sound quite as good, but they don’t have battery or latency issues since they are wired. They have a solid build, come with a mix of memory foam and silicone tips to suit different preferences, and reproduce audio pretty faithfully for in-ear headphones.

    Unfortunately, the headphone nozzles of the TIN Audio T2 are quite bulky and can be a bit uncomfortable for smaller ears. They also don’t come with a microphone like most of the other recommended budget earbuds. They do come with a surprisingly high-quality detachable braided cable though and are ultra-portable. The TIN Audio T2 are decent headphones for critical listeners who like the fit of in-ears but don’t want to spend a fortune.

    See our review

  7. Best Cheap Earbuds Under $100: Anker SoundCore Liberty Air

    Usage Ratings - Version 1.2

    Test Benches:

    • 1.2: Winter 2018
    • 1.1: Summer 2017
    • 1.0: Winter 2017
    • 0.9: Winter 2016
    7.1
    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:
    7.3
    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:
    7.5
    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:
    8.1
    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:
    7.4
    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:
    5.6
    TV
    Score components:
    4.6
    Gaming
    Score components:
    Type : In-ear
    Enclosure : Closed-Back
    Wireless : Truly Wireless
    Noise-Cancelling : No
    Mic : Yes
    Transducer : Dynamic

    If you are looking for the best cheap earbuds you can get for less than $100, then get the truly wireless Anker SoundCore Liberty Air. Their design is reminiscent of the Apple AirPods, but they have a more stable fit that offers much better sound and isolation performance. The in-ear fit of the Liberty Air might not be for everyone, but if you find them comfortable, they’re very good headphones for commuting and great for sports.

    What the SoundCore Liberty Air lack in flair, they make up for in sound. They have outstandingly faithful audio reproduction for wireless in-ear headphones and sound well-balanced. They’re great for all sorts of music genres, from hip-hop to classical. The Liberty Air also create a good seal that results in impressive passive isolation, making these headphones well-suited for blocking out the sounds of your everyday commute.

    Their glossy plastic exterior may seem a bit cheap, especially compared to the cheaper JBL Endurance Sprint, but they make up for it with their superior leakage performance and exceptional wireless range. If you want a more neutral sound profile than the SoundPeats TrueFree and are willing to spend a bit more, the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air are the way to go.

    See our review

  8. Alternative for Sports: Jaybird Tarah

    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. They're not truly wireless like the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air, but they are still great wireless sports headphones versatile enough for everyday usage. They have an above-average sound quality, are compatible with the highly customizable Jaybird MySound app, and are rated IPX7 for sweat and water resistance.

    Unfortunately, Jaybird combined the tip and stability fins into one unit, giving you fewer options to find the best fit possible. They are still fairly comfortable though, and stable for most sports. The 6-hour battery life is also a bit disappointing, especially since you need the proprietary charging cradle to charge them. On the upside, you can connect them to 2 devices simultaneously, and they isolate well, especially if you can find a good air-tight seal.

    See our review

  9. 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. They 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 to 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 tip 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 Soundcore Spirit X. Good wireless in-ears for sports with decent sound, but the SoundBuds Curve offer slightly better value. See our review
  • JBL Reflect Mini 2. Great wireless sports headphones with stabilizing fins. Well-designed, but our recommendations offer better value for the price. See our review
  • SONY MDR-XB50AP. Budget earbuds with above-average build-quality. Not as comfortable nor as stable as our top picks and have mediocre sound. See our review
  • Samsung U Flex. Well-made wireless headphones with great leakage performance but poor noise isolation. Customization limited to Android and a bit pricey compared to our top picks. See our review
  • Skullcandy Jib. Wireless budget headphones with powerful bass and decent isolation. Good choice for the price point if you don’t like the fit of the Anker SoundBuds Curve. 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
  • 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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