You don’t always need to spend a small fortune on headphones to find a great product that's suitable for your needs. If you prefer the portable design of in-ears and earbuds, there are lots of options that provide great value for the price.
We’ve reviewed nearly 120 pairs of earbuds and in-ears so far and below you’ll find our top picks for the best cheap earbuds depending on your needs. See 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 earbuds that still provide decent performance are the Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120. When shopping for cheap earbuds, it's important to know what type of compromises you're comfortable with. With these earbuds, the build quality is their weakest point, as they're made entirely out of plastic and the cables are thin. The lightweight construction does help with comfort but does very little to isolate you from ambient noises. Surprisingly, they hardly leak sound, which means that you can turn up the volume without bothering people around you.
Fortunately, Panasonic didn't sacrifice too much when it comes to sound. They may sound a little muddy, but the overall audio reproduction is decent. The bass has good extension, but the treble sounds slightly veiled. Sadly, in the interest of keeping the cost down, there isn't an in-line remote or microphone for calls.
Overall, these headphones are cheaply made, but on the upside, if they do get damaged, they're easily replaceable. If you're in the market for a cheap pair of earbuds that you can simply shove into your pockets, these are a decent choice.
If you don't like wired headphones like the Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120 and would prefer to spend just a bit more for the convenience of wireless earbuds, then check out the Skullcandy Jib. They're not truly wireless, as they have a cable connecting both earbuds, but the cable does house the in-line remote and the microphone, which is a nice addition for such a small price. The overall sound is good but bass-heavy, with a recessed mid-range that can sound a bit thick. The earbuds are small and comfortable to wear for an extended period, but the battery life is the weak point, averaging 6 hours of playback and taking up to 2 hours for a full charge.
If you want a cheap pair of headphones that you can grab without having to worry about battery life, go with the Panasonic. For the convenience and portability of wireless headphones, the Skullcandy are worth a try.
The best cheap earbuds we've tested so far are the Anker SoundBuds Curve. These earbuds have an over-the-ear hook design that is quite comfortable and reminiscent of the Beats PowerBeats Pro Truly Wireless. They have a secure fit and come with a variety of stability fins. Unfortunately, they're not sweat resistant, but that's to be expected at this price point. The overall build quality is decent, but the cable connecting both earbuds are a bit thin.
When it comes to sound, these earbuds are bass-heavy, best suited for genres such as hip-hop and EDM. When using these earbuds on-the-go, they do an acceptable job of blocking out ambient noises, but we can't say the same about the microphone quality, which struggles to separate speech from background noise. You can expect on average a 13-hour battery life, while it takes about 1.5 hours for a full charge.
Overall, if you need a pair of wireless headphones with decent sound and comfort but without a high price tag, these are worth considering.
If you want to save a few bucks and like the no-fuss nature of wired headphones, go with the KZ ZST. They aren't as comfortable as the Anker SoundBuds Curve Wireless and don't have a microphone, but they feel slightly better made and are a bit cheaper. They have deep and powerful bass on top of a good mid-range, but unfortunately their treble is a bit uneven, meaning they may not be the best for more vocal-centric music. Their build quality is good and they even have a detachable cable which means you can swap it out if it gets damaged. They do a slightly better job at isolating background noise than the Anker, though they still aren't great and won't effectively block out engine rumbles from a bus or train.
If you want a comfortable pair of wireless headphones, go with the Anker, but if you're often away from a charging source and don't want to worry about batteries in your headphones, get the KZ.
If you like the extra freedom and portability of truly wireless earbuds but don't want to spend the premium they usually demand, go with the SoundPeats TrueFree. They aren't as comfortable as the Anker SoundBuds Curve Wireless, and their battery isn't as good, but they are even more portable and do a better job at isolating background noise. Like most options on this list, their sound tends to be a bit bass-heavy and they may not be the best choice for vocal-centric genres, but their sound reproduction is decent overall and impressive considering their price. They do a much better job at isolating background noises than the Anker and can even decently block out engine rumble, making them an alright choice for your daily commute.
Get the Anker if you don't mind having a cable connecting your left and right earbuds, but if you want the freedom of truly wireless headphones without spending a ton of money, go for the SoundPeats.
The best budget earbuds we've tested so far are the Sony WI-C310. They're decently comfortable earbuds with a good 17-hour battery life. The neckband design lets you hang the earbuds around your neck when you're not using them, and the earbuds are magnetic, so they snap together to avoid getting the wires tangled. The overall build quality is alright, but the wires feel very thin and fragile.
Their overall sound profile is decent, with an excellent bass extension, but there's a bit of boominess in the bass and the treble can sound sibilant. Sadly, unlike Sony's higher-end headphones, these earbuds aren't compatible with the Headphone Connect mobile app. Noise isolation is fair, with good performance in the mid and treble range, but they won't be able to block out noise in the bass range, making them less ideal for commuting. They have an in-line remote that's fairly easy to use; however, the quality of the microphone is disappointing, as speech tends to sound thin and muffled, and the microphone struggles to separate voice from background noise when used in a noisy environment.
Overall, these are very portable wireless Bluetooth headphones with decent performance and a good choice for those shopping on a budget.
If you're looking for a pair of headphones to take to the gym, take a look at the JBL Endurance Sprint. They're a bit bulkier than the Sony WI-C310, but their ear hook design provides a very stable fit and shouldn't fall off during vigorous exercise. They have a better build quality than the Sonys and they're rated IPX7 for water and sweat resistance. The overall sound signature is well-balanced, but the treble may sound overly bright for some. While their 9-hour battery life isn't as good as the Sony, they charge up quickly and there's also a power saving feature available. Lastly, the most impressive feature of these earbuds is their noise isolation. Even without active noise cancelling, they're able to block out noise across the entire frequency range. Unfortunately, there's no mobile app for customization and their touch-sensitive controls are hard to use.
All in all, for everyday use, the Sony are a better choice, but for those who need a pair that's better suited for exercise, go with the JBL.
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 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.
01/10/2020: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.
12/04/2019: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.
11/04/2019: Changed all categories and picks.