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 tested over 220 pairs of earbuds and in-ears, and below are our top picks for the best cheap 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 best cheap earphones under $20 that we've tested are the Skullcandy Jib. These wireless in-ears aren't a bad choice for taking on a run or to the gym, as they're highly portable and offer a decently comfortable and secure fit thanks to an included selection of differently-sized ear tips.
These in-ears have a very bass-heavy sound profile that should please fans of EDM and hip-hop who prefer extra thump and rumble in their listening experience. That said, their powerful bass doesn't overwhelm more delicate vocals and instrumentals. Also, they do an impressive job of preventing audio from leaking out, so you can listen to your music pretty loud without having to worry about disrupting people nearby.
Unfortunately, they don't feel especially well-built, which isn't too surprising given their low price. Their in-line microphone lacks volume controls, which could be a bit of an annoyance if you want to adjust while you're on the go. Their battery life is also disappointing, offering just under six hours of playback on a two-hour charge. Still, these are a solid choice if you're looking for a pair of no-frills wireless headphones.
If you're looking for wired headphones, consider the Samsung AKG Type-C. While they don't passively isolate as much background noise as the Skullcandy Jib True Wireless, the Samsung have a wired design, so you don't have to worry about battery life or latency. They have a comfortable, well-built design and use a USB-C connector, which is nice if your smartphone or other devices only have a USB-C port. They have a slightly bass-heavy sound profile that delivers a touch of extra boom. The rest of their sound profile is neutral, though, so vocals and lead instruments sound clear and accurate. They also have an in-line mic that can capture your voice clearly. However, it struggles to separate speech from background noise around you.
Try the Skullcandy if you're looking to block out more noise around you when you're on the go. However, if you prefer using wired headphones with a more comfortable fit, check out the Samsung.
The best cheap truly wireless earbuds that we've tested are the Skullcandy Dime True Wireless. These lightweight headphones are well-built and are rated IPX4 for water resistance, although this isn't something we test. They also have a stable in-ear fit and should stay in place if you're using them while working out.
They have a slightly bass-heavy sound profile with a touch of extra thump, rumble, and boom. That said, vocals and lead instruments are still clear and accurate, making these headphones suitable for lots of audio content. While they don't have an active noise cancelling (ANC) feature, they do a decent job of passively blocking out noise around you.
Unfortunately, they have a bulky design, and using their controls can push them deeper into your ear. They also have a short continuous battery life of under four hours, which may not be enough to get you through long days at the office. Luckily, their carrying case holds roughly 2.5 additional charges, and you can use one bud while the other one recharges.
If you're looking for a pair of cheap truly wireless earbuds that are more comfortable, consider the SoundPeats TrueFree 2 instead. While they don't block out background noises as well as the Skullcandy Dime True Wireless, and their price point can fluctuate, the SoundPeats' ear tips don't enter your ear canal too deeply, which can be more comfortable for some users. Overall, these well-built headphones have a more stable fit, so they shouldn't fall out of your ears during more intense workouts. Their bass-heavy sound profile can help keep you motivated while you're at the gym, too. While their 3.6-hour continuous battery life is a bit disappointing, their portable charging case offers around four additional charges, which is convenient.
If you're looking for in-ears with a more neutral sound profile and a better noise isolation performance, check out the Skullcandy. However, if you want headphones with a more comfortable and stable fit, consider the SoundPeats instead.
The best earbuds under $50 that we've tested are the FIIL T1X. These truly wireless in-ears have a comfortable fit and should stay in place without issue while you're on the move. They're mostly made of high-grade plastic and feel quite sturdy. Their near-seven-hour continuous battery life, combined with their standby mode feature and charging case with roughly three additional charges, should get you through a couple of days' use.
These in-ears have a fairly well-balanced default sound profile, though with a slightly overemphasized bass response that adds extra thump and rumble to genres like EDM or hip-hop. If you aren't a fan of how they sound out-of-the-box, their companion app allows you to select one of 15 different EQ presets. They're also quite effective at filtering out background chatter or high-pitched ambient noise, like the hum of an AC unit, though they struggle somewhat with low-end noise like bus or plane engines.
Unfortunately, their integrated mic makes your voice sound thin, unnatural, and distorted. The headphones also exhibit high audio latency, especially on Bluetooth-enabled PCs, which can be disruptive while streaming videos. Otherwise, their comfortable fit, long overall battery life, and fairly broad feature set make them a versatile, value-conscious option.
May 27, 2021: Removed the Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120 as it's getting harder to find them in stock. Also replaced the KZ ZST with the Samsung AKG Type-C and replaced the Skullcandy Jib True Wireless with the Skullcandy Dime True Wireless as the Samsung and Skullcandy offer a better value for most users.
Feb 26, 2021: Replaced Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019 with FIIL T1X Truly Wireless due to current availability. Added Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019 to Notable Mentions.
Dec 03, 2020: Replaced the SoundPeats TrueFree/True Wireless with the Skullcandy Jib True Wireless as 'Best Cheap Truly Wireless Earbuds'. Added the SoundPeats TrueFree 2 Wireless as 'Sports Alt'. Removed AUKEY Latitude Wireless from 'Notable Mentions' due to availability.
Sep 04, 2020: Slight changes to the text for accuracy and clarity; no change in product recommendations.
May 01, 2020: Moved SoundPeats TrueFree from 'Truly Wireless Alternative' to 'Best Cheap Truly Wireless Earbuds'.
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 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.