If you take your headphones with you everywhere, you may find over-ear headphones too large and bulky. In-ear and earbud headphones are a great alternative that are often very portable and can easily be tossed into a pocket or bag. While some of the most popular in-ear headphones can be extremely expensive, you don't have to spend a ton to get a good pair for everyday use. Note that while typically the term 'in-ears' refers to headphones that go deeper in the ear canal, and 'earbuds' simply sit in your ear, these terms are often used interchangeably, so we'll include both in this article.
We’ve tested over 180 pairs of earbuds and in-ear headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best earbuds under $50 to buy in 2020. Also, make sure to check out our recommendations for the best earbuds, the best cheap earbuds, the best headphones under $50, and the best wireless Bluetooth earbuds under $50.
The best earbuds under $50 that we've tested are the Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019. These Bluetooth in-ears feature an ear-hook design that makes them stable enough to take to the gym, and they're even rated IPX7 for water resistance, though this isn't something we currently test for. They have an excellent 18.5-hour battery life, so they should easily last you a couple of full work days, and they're quite comfortable overall.
Their out-of-the-box sound profile has a bit of extra thump but should be versatile enough for most genres and content. Unfortunately, they feel a bit cheaply made, with a very thin cable connecting the left and right earbuds. However, this can be expected at their low price, and the earbuds themselves are made of dense and solid plastic. Since these headphones don't have ANC, they won't help much with blocking out the low rumble of bus or train engines, but they do a good job with background chatter or the noise from an AC unit.
They even come with a nice hard case to take them around with you, which is a welcome addition at their low price point. Overall, they're among the best headphones we've tested, and they offer a great price-to-performance ratio, making them well-suited for a wide range of uses, from exercising to commuting.
If you want a pair of budget headphones that do a much better job at blocking out background noises, get the AUKEY Latitude. Their 7.3-hour battery life is much shorter than the Anker SoundBuds Curve Upgraded 2019, and they aren't quite as comfortable, but they have a better-balanced sound profile. Despite not having an ANC feature, they still do an impressive job at blocking out background noise, and will even help isolate out the low rumble of bus or plane engines.
If battery life is very important to you, get the Anker, but if you want a pair of budget in-ears that will do an excellent job at blocking out background noise, go for the AUKEY.
The best truly wireless earbuds under $50 that we've tested are the FIIL T1X. These comfortable, well-built headphones come with a few different sizes of ear tips and stability fins to help you get a stable in-ear fit. They have an over six-hour continuous battery life, and their portable charging case offers around three additional charges for when you're on the go.
These earbuds have a balanced, though slightly bass-heavy default sound profile that adds an extra thump and punch to your favorite songs. If you prefer a different sound, you can customize the sound profile using the 15 EQ presets available on the FILL + companion app. They don't leak a lot of noise, either, so you can crank up the volume without bothering the people around you.
While these headphones can block out voices and other higher-frequency background noises, they struggle to isolate against more bass-heavy sounds like bus engines, making them less than ideal to use during your commute. Their touch-sensitive control scheme also isn't the most intuitive, so it may take you a few tries to learn the commands. That said, these headphones offer a lot of features and decently versatile performance for their price point.
If you're looking for truly wireless earbuds on an even tighter budget, consider the SoundPeats TrueFree/True Wireless instead. While they aren't as comfortable as the FIIL T1X True Wireless and they don't come with any sound customization options, these truly wireless earbuds offer reasonably versatile performance for their low price. Their sound profile is even more bass-heavy than the FIIL, making them ideal for listening to bass-heavy genres like hip-hop and EDM. They don't leak a lot of noise, and they have a good noise isolation performance, too. Their over three-hour continuous battery life isn't very long, but their charging case offers around four additional charges, which is convenient.
If you want a more comfortable pair of earbuds with more customization features, check out the FIIL, but if you're on a tight budget, consider the SoundPeats instead.
The best wired earbuds under $50 that we've tested are the Beats urBeats3. These wired earbuds are decently well-built, with flat rubberized audio cables that feel like they’ll take quite a bit of abuse. They offer a unique perk in the form of an available Lightning port connector, so they’re a good pick of you own a newer iPhone but miss zero-latency audio connections. Optional stability fins and their lightweight design mean that they should stay in your ears, even during high-intensity workouts.
They deliver a slightly overemphasized bass response that’ll ensure a bit of added kick and thump in your favorite EDM or hip-hop tracks without completely crowding out more delicate instrumentation, so they’re suitable for everything from hip-hop to folk music. They do a decent job of passively blocking out ambient noise and provide very good audio leakage performance, meaning that they’re also a solid choice for listening on your daily commute.
Unfortunately, volume and voice assistant controls don’t seem to work on Android devices. Their deep in-ear fit also might not be comfortable for everyone. Still, the Beats are a good fit if you’re looking for a well-balanced, zero-latency listening experience in a portable package.
If you want a wired pair of earbuds that feel much more durable, get the TIN Audio T2. Their sound profile isn't as well-balanced as the Beats urBeats3 Earphones, and they don't block out as much background noise, but they feel much better built. Their earbuds can detach from their cable, so you can easily replace it if it becomes damaged, and they're built from dense metal that feels very durable and premium. They leak practically no audio at all, so you can blast your music without bothering those around you.
If you listen to a very wide variety of genres and content and want headphones with a better-balanced sound profile, get the Beats, but if you're rough on your earbuds and want something very durable, go for the TIN Audio.
09/25/2020: Replaced TaoTronics SoundLiberty 79 Truly Wireless with FIIL T1X True Wireless. Added TaoTronics Sound Liberty 79 Truly Wireless to 'Notable Mentions'. Removed Samsung U Flex Wireless from 'Notable Mentions' to reflect pricing changes.
07/28/2020: Slight changes to the text for accuracy and clarity; no change in recommendations.
05/29/2020: Replaced Anker SoundCore Liberty Lite Truly Wireless with TaoTronics SoundLiberty 79 Truly Wireless. Added Anker SoundCore Liberty Lite Truly Wireless to 'Notable Mentions'.
03/31/2020: Changed "Best Truly Wireless Earbuds Under $50" to Anker SoundCore Liberty Lite and added SoundPeats TrueFree as 'Cheaper Alternative'.
02/04/2020: Anker SoundBuds Curve replaced with Upgrade 2019 version. Removed JBL Endurance Sprint, JLab Audio JBuds Air, and "Most Customizable" category.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best earbuds under $50 for most people to buy. 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's the list of all our reviews for headphones. Be careful not to get caught up in the details, there are no perfect headphones and everyone perceives the comfort and sound of their headphones differently.