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 150 pairs of earbuds and in-ear headphones, and below are our recommendations for the best earbuds under $50 to buy in 2020. Also 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 so far 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. This can be expected at their low price, however, 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 so far 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 TaoTronics SoundLiberty 79 are the best truly wireless earbuds under $50 that we've tested to date. These well-built earbuds offer a good cost-to-performance ratio while still remaining sleek, lightweight, and comfortable.
Their sound profile is surprisingly well-balanced and is versatile enough for most audio genres. Fans of EDM and hip-hop can especially enjoy the extra thump and rumble too. Thanks to their small size, they can easily be pocketed away in their charging case when not in use and their stability fin design helps to keep them stable while you run. They've also got a 5.7-hour battery life and come with four additional charges in their case, which is nice when you're on the go.
On the downside, they have mediocre touch-sensitive controls and it can take time to get used to the commands. Their integrated microphone also struggles to separate speech from even moderately noisy environments, which may be frustrating if you need to take a call on the subway. However, despite their barebone features, these earbuds have a well-rounded performance that's sure to please most listeners.
If you're looking for an even more affordable pair of truly wireless headphones that don't sacrifice too much on performance, get the SoundPeats TrueFree/True Wireless. While these earbuds last only 3.3 hours on a single charge, they have a standby mode to help conserve battery life. They can also isolate more background noise and deliver a more punchy and warm bass that some listeners may enjoy. Still, not everyone will find this sound profile ideal for vocal-centric content like audiobooks or podcasts. Their carrying case also lacks a lid and although there are magnets inside to keep the earbuds in place, they could still fall out with a hard enough impact or jostle.
That being said, if you're looking for a pair of versatile truly wireless headphones with a well-balanced sound profile, get the TaoTronics. However, if you're on a tight budget and want something that can help cut down more background noise, get the SoundPeats.
The best wired earbuds under $50 that we've tested so far are the Beats urBeats3 Earphones. These wired earbuds are available with either a 1/8" TRRS or a Lightning connector, so you can use them even if you have a newer iPhone without a headphone jack. They feel decently well-made, and thanks to their optional stability fins, they're secure enough in the ear to take with you to the gym.
Their sound profile is fairly well-balanced, with just a bit of extra kick and thump that shouldn't be overpowering or boomy, making them well-suited for a wide variety of genres. They do a good job at passively blocking out background noise, especially in the mid-range, where speech sits. They also leak very little audio, so you should be able to turn up your music to block background noises without bothering those around you.
Unfortunately, they aren't the most comfortable, and their controls can be limiting on Android as you lose access to their volume controls, and the voice assist only seems to work on some devices. Overall, they're a good choice if you don't want to have to worry about keeping your headphones charged or connecting them via Bluetooth.
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.
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.
10/15/2019: Replaced 'Best Sounding Earbuds' with 'Best Wired Earbuds', added JBL Endurance Sprint to 'Best Earbuds Under $50', added JLab Audio JBuds Air to 'Best Truly Wireless Earbuds', added Beats urBeats3.
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 in-ear 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.