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 a lot of products available at a very affordable price that can give you a good bang for your buck.
We’ve reviewed over 180 pairs of earbuds and in-ears so far, and below you’ll find 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 cheapest earbuds with a decent performance that we've tested so far are the Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120. These wired earbuds are quite straightforward, but they still have a pretty versatile performance for their price. They're lightweight, portable, and decently comfortable so that you can wear them for longer listening sessions without a lot of fatigue.
Overall, these earbuds are adequate for neutral sound, so they're suitable for lots of different music genres. Their bass-heavy sound profile adds an extra thump and punch to the mix that fans of bass-heavy music like EDM and hip-hop can enjoy. They also don't leak a lot of noise, which is nice if you like to crank up the volume on your favorite tunes without bothering the people around you.
On the downside, these headphones feel a bit cheaply made, and they don't have a lot of features. They also don't have a very stable fit, so they may not be the best choice to use while you're at the gym. That said, if you're on a budget and looking for a decent pair of basic earbuds, they're a solid choice.
The best cheap earbuds under $20 that we've reviewed so far are the Skullcandy Jib Wireless. These wireless in-ears aren't a bad choice for taking out 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 an extra helping of 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.
On the downside, these headphones 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 aren't a fan of wireless headphones, consider the KZ ZST instead. While their wired design isn't as ideal for sports as the Skullcandy Jib Wireless, you don't have to worry about charging these headphones before using them. Their wired design means that they don't have any latency issues that could cause a lag between the videos you watch and the sound you hear. These comfortable, well-built headphones also have a stable in-ear fit, and they come in lots of different colors. Their bass-heavy sound profile adds an extra thump and punch to your favorite music. On the downside, their powerful bass may be overwhelming for some listeners, but if you love listening to bass-heavy genres like EDM and hip-hop, these headphones are a solid choice.
If you prefer more versatile, wireless earbuds, consider the Skullcandy, but if you want better-built wired headphones, check out the KZ instead.
The best cheap truly wireless earbuds that we've tested so far are the SoundPeats TrueFree/True Wireless. Despite their very low price tag, they look and feel quite well-made, and should be able to withstand a few accidental drops and bumps without sustaining much damage. As with most truly wireless headphones, they're extremely portable, and you can easily toss them in your pocket while on-the-go.
They feel very stable in the ear, making them a good choice for taking to the gym, and they passively block out a good amount of background noise. While they have a well-balanced mid-range, fans of classic rock or pop will likely find they sound fairly muddy due to bass-heavy sound that lacks a lot of brightness and detail on higher frequencies. Overall, they're best-suited for non-vocal-centric genres like EDM or dubstep.
Unfortunately, their battery only lasts 3.3 hours, and while their case houses around four additional charges, they take nearly 1.5 hours to fully charge. Their case also doesn't have a lid, and the earbuds are only held in place via magnets. There's a model available with a lid on the case, but it costs a bit more, and we haven't tested it, though we'd expect the headphones themselves to perform the same. Overall, they're surprisingly decent for the price and are among the best true wireless earbuds we've tested.
The best budget earbuds under $50 that we've tested so far are the Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019. These wireless earbuds offer fantastic value and are among the best wireless Bluetooth earbuds we've tested. They feel very stable in the ear thanks to their ear-hook design, and they're even rated IPX7 for sweat and water resistance, though this isn't something we test for.
Their sound profile is fairly bass-heavy, but should still be well-balanced enough for most popular genres and content. Their in-line remote is easy to use, and their 18.4-hour battery is one of the longest we've ever tested on a pair of wireless earbuds. The microphone built into the remote is surprisingly decent, though, like most integrated mics, your voice tends to get drowned out in noisy environments.
Unfortunately, like with most budget options, they don't have a dedicated companion app, so you can't EQ the way they sound or make any changes to their settings. Their low price is also reflected somewhat in their build quality, and while their plastic feels dense and solid, the cord connecting the left and right earbuds feels quite thin. That said, overall, these headphones provide an excellent price-to-performance ratio and are among the best headphones we've tested.
09/04/2020: Slight changes to the text for accuracy and clarity; no change in product recommendations.
05/01/2020: 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 headphones. 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.