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Published Nov. 17, 2021

The first wireless headphones actually predated Bluetooth devices by decades. Invented in the 1960s, early wireless headphones used built-in AM/FM radio antennas to pick up audio wherever users went. But the popularization and proliferation of Bluetooth since the ’90s has helped transform a novelty gadget into a nearly ubiquitous piece of audio equipment. And, thankfully, as technology ramps up prices are also able to come down. That means the best cheap wireless earbuds on the market can perform in ways audio engineers of yesteryear could hardly fathom. So whether you’re looking for some best budget-friendly workday wireless or an affordable pair that can undergo an intense workout, listen up: our selections for the best cheap wireless earbuds will pair you with the right pair to meet your needs. 

How we selected the best cheap wireless earbuds

When possible, we put earbuds through grueling workouts, hours of music and podcasts in different environments, and calls to friends to count how many times we have to ask, “Can you hear me now?” We toyed with controls to see if they are as user-friendly as they are purported to be. And when we couldn’t physically test something, we scoured critical consensus and user experiences and compared specs, looking at everything from battery life to bass quality to beamforming microphones. After all, our top priority is to help you make a sound decision. 

What to consider when shopping for the best cheap wireless earbuds 

From water-resistance ratings to weight, there is a lot to consider when shopping for the best cheap wireless earbuds. Here are some important factors.  

Water-resistant is not the same as waterproof  

Especially if you’re looking for the best cheap wireless earbuds for working out, it’s important to pay attention to International Protection ratings, which will signify how well the earbuds will hold up against solids and water. The top rating is IP68, with the 6 indicating that the device won’t allow dust to get in, and the 8 to signal that the headphones can withstand being submerged in more than a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. As the second number drops, so do the device’s defenses against water. An IPX4 rating, for instance, can only withstand small splashes—X signifies it wasn’t tested against solids. So if you tend to sweat or go for runs in the rain, look for wireless earbuds with a higher IP water-resistance rating. And if you’re in a dustier climate or exercise on the beach, etc., pay attention to that first figure.

Are you on call? 

If you’re on the phone a lot, look for the best cheap wireless earbuds with mics built in. Some pairs offer multiple beamforming microphones that focus on your voice, leading to clearer calls. Those microphones can also be part of an active noise-canceling system that pairs electronics with the natural passive reduction of earbuds to block out ambient noise, letting you hear what’s in your ears more clearly. Active noise cancelling is helpful in busy environments like gyms, but if you want to be attuned to traffic on jogs or announcements on the train, look for earbuds with some kind of ambient or talk-through mode that amplifies sounds around you.    

How long can they last? 

The best cheap wireless earbuds can operate the length of the workday, with charging cases capable of boosting the total battery life to more than 24 hours. While some pairs of cheap wireless earbuds can only play for a few hours before needing to go back in the case (which most commonly recharge via USB-C cables), others offer fast-charging, which allows them to regain hours of life in just minutes. 

Are you comfortable with your buds? 

Fit is a huge factor, and ultimately comfort comes down to personal preference. But some basic considerations can help narrow your choice. One important factor is deciding between an in-ear set versus an over-the-ear pair. In-ear buds are lightweight (sometimes about the weight of a nickel), and feature silicone ear gels, with size and shape variations to help them fit snugly. Some earpieces are round, while some add wings and/or fins to help lock the buds into different parts of your ear. Still, the best cheap wireless earbuds with ear hooks will offer an even more secure fit, since they have material that goes around your ear. This adds weight, but if your main mission is to find a pair that’ll stay in place, even if you have a bouncy running stride, over-the-ear may be the way to go.  

Wired can become wireless 

It’s worth noting that even if you prefer old-school wired earbuds, you can make them work wirelessly with a Bluetooth receiver. Adapters like this FiiO BTR3K can receive an over-the-air signal from your phone, tablet, laptop, etc., converting anything with a wire to “wireless” of a sort. Just make sure your receiver supports the best codecs for your gear (AAC for iOS devices and aptX for Android offer the best compatibility/sonic quality before moving up to less-common, less-lossy audiophile formats such as LDAC if you’re converting something more indulgent like the Sennheiser IE 100 Pro, Sennheiser IE 300, or Sennheiser IE 900).   

The best cheap wireless earbuds: Reviews & Recommendations

Best cheap wireless earbuds with noise canceling: EarFun Air

Loud and Clear

These earbuds deliver a detailed sound without distraction.

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Why it made the cut: Microphones on the top and bottom create nearly complete noise canceling. 

Specs

  • Drivers: 6mm dynamic
  • IP rating: IPX7
  • Playtime: 35 hours with case
  • Weight: .15 ounces

Pros: 

  • Two microphones per bud
  • IPX7 waterproof rating (up to 1 meter) 
  • Wireless charging  

Cons:

  • No ambient mode

These cheap wireless earbuds feature crystal-clear sound—literally. The 6mm drivers are made with PEEK + PU, a semi-crystalline organic polymer that delivers a deep, rich, and authentic reproduction of the original recording. Plus, two microphones on each bud—one on the top and one on the bottom—cancel 80 percent of all background noise and focus on your voice during calls, making them some of the best cheap wireless earbuds with active noise canceling (a system that analyzes surrounding noise to create inverse waves that cancel tones out). The IPX7 rating means sweat and rain won’t put a damper on your listening, and touch controls mean you can DJ or answer calls without disrupting your workout by having to reach for your smartphone. These buds will pair instantly to any device that supports Bluetooth 5.0 with SBC codecs. 

Best cheap wireless earbuds under $20: Skullcandy Dime

Sweet Deal

A powerful and affordable pair of true wireless earbuds.

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Why it made the cut: The price and pump of these Skullcandy true wireless earbuds may be music to your ears. 

Specs

  • Drivers: 6mm dynamic
  • IP rating: IPX4
  • Playtime: 3.5 hours per charge
  • Weight: 8 grams

Pros: 

  • Great price 
  • Punchy sound
  • Simple controls
  • Lightweight 

Cons:

  • No active noise cancelling
  • Cheap build 
  • Limited battery life

The Skullcandy Dime earbuds, which are reminiscent of a more colorful pair of original Apple Pods, are far from perfect. But as the best cheap wireless earbuds under $20 that are often priced for only a couple Hamiltons they can afford to be, especially when the 6mm drivers create a crisp and accurate sound quality that punches well above its weight. Significant amounts of water will knock ’em down though—the IPX4 is water-resistant but not waterproof, and the overall cheap plastic build—feels true to the price point. Still, while these cheap wireless earbuds don’t offer high-end features like active noise cancelling and ultra-long playtime, they are lightweight, provide a stable Bluetooth 5.0 connection, and have a comfortable, noise-isolating fit that limits unwanted background sounds naturally. Skullcandy, in general, can be trusted to deliver value under $100, offering gym-friendly models such as the Push Active and sonically customizable options such as the Grind Fuel, both of which integrate the hands-free Skull-iQ voice assistant plus other touch features and app-enhanced functionality.

Best cheap wireless earbuds for gaming: Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Earbuds

Game Speed

Low latency means what you hear matches what you see.

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Why it made the cut: The 60 ms latency is all but undetectable.

Specs

  • Drivers: 13mm dynamic
  • IP rating: IPX4
  • Playtime: 15 hours with charging case
  • Weight: 1.6 ounces

Pros: 

  • Powerful drivers
  • Low latency
  • Simple touch controls

Cons:

  • Not waterproof (IPX4 rating is water resistant)

These Razers can sharpen your competitive edge. Supporting Bluetooth 5.0 devices, the earbuds boast just 60 milliseconds of lag, keeping up nicely with the pace of play. And what you hear is just as wowing. The 13mm drivers are the engine behind a powerful, dynamic sound that can bring the virtual world to life. Don’t go overboard with other expectations when searching for the best cheap wireless earbuds for gaming—IPX4 water resistance is all you get, and 15 hours of battery life (with the case) is pretty standard, if not lacking. (These top-of-the-line true wireless earbuds for gaming extend the life to 20 hours.) Still, gamers give the Razer earbuds high scores because of the sound quality and comfortable fit.   

Best cheap wireless earbuds for working out: Poly BackBeat Fit 3150 True Wireless Sport Earbuds

Fit for Fitness

These ‘buds, with their over-the-ear hooks, can withstand any workout.

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Why it made the cut: The secure, comfortable fit will stay in place, even as your heart races.  

Specs

  • Drivers: 13.5mm dynamic
  • IP rating: IP57
  • Playtime: 24 hours with case
  • Weight: 3.8 ounces

Pros: 

  • Secure fit
  • Up to 8 hours of power in the buds
  • Customizable controls 

Cons:

  • No active noise cancelling 
  • Heavy (13 grams per bud) 

For many people, the best wireless earbuds for working out are simply the pairs that stay in place. Poly, formerly known as Plantronics, has been developing office-friendly headsets for years and years, so they know what it takes to make something ergonomic that busy folks might keep on for hours (or all day). Over-the-ear hooks on the ‘buds provide an extra layer of security, making these BackBeats are some of the best cheap wireless earbuds for working out. They feature a submersible IP57 waterproof rating, up to 8 hours of battery life in each bud, and a 98-foot range that means you can keep your phone in the gym locker and still listen. At 13 grams a bud, they are heavier than in-ear buds, but that’s the tradeoff for added stability. One feature to keep in mind is “Always Aware,” which means these earbuds always let in ambient sound. That’s helpful if you need to keep tabs on traffic around you, but it also means you can’t tune out the grunting and clanking when you’re working out in a gym.   

Best cheap wireless earbuds for phone calls: Jabra Elite 3

Mic-ed Up

Four beamforming microphones mean your friends won’t need to say “what?” when calling to see what’s up.

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Why it made the cut: These lightweight earbuds offer customizable sound and clear calls at a reasonable price. 

Specs 

  • Drivers: 6mm dynamic
  • IP rating: IP55
  • Playtime: 7 hours, 28 hours with case
  • Weight: 4.6 grams per bud

Pros: 

  • Four beamforming mics
  • Customizable sound via app 
  • Lightweight 

Cons:

  • Expensive

At $80, these aren’t the cheapest wireless earbuds, but they offer high-end Bluetooth 5.2 features without a truly top-dollar price making them the best cheap wireless earbuds for phone calls. That feature list includes four beamforming microphones designed to focus on your voice, making for clear phone calls. It also includes sound customization via a synced Sound+ app—a feature common in more expensive earbuds like the Jaybird Vista 2. The 6mm drivers also deliver big bass and a big sound. Throw in mono mode (letting you use just one ‘bud while you charge the other), built-in Alexa, a solid IP55 rating, plus seven hours of battery life in the buds, and you’ve got a pair that could easily retail for twice its listed price. 

Best cheap wireless earbuds for small ears: JLab JBuds GO Air

A Solid Buy

A great price for lightweight buds that feature robust 8mm drivers and sound customization.

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Why it made the cut: A great price for lightweight buds that feature robust 8mm drivers and sound customization.  

Specs

  • Drivers: 8mm dynamic
  • IP rating: IP44
  • Playtime: 5 hours per bud, 15+ hours with case
  • Weight: 5 grams per bud

Pros: 

  • Solid battery life
  • Slim and lightweight 
  • Powerful speakers
  • 3 EQ mixes 

Cons:

  • Microphone only in right ear 

There’s no question that these are solidly in the “budget” category. But they are also a very solid set with features that help make them the best cheap wireless earbuds for small ears. They feature 8mm speakers that pack a powerful punch, and they offer three choices of EQ mixes via the app—one for most music, one for podcasts, and the third for heart-pumping workouts. Five hours of battery life per bud (with a boost to over 20 hours when you add in the case) is ample, and a weight of a little more than 2 grams per bud is nice and light. The IP44 rating means they can only survive splashes but not submersion, and they don’t offer noise cancellation or make the clearest calls. Still, for the very approachable price, these cheap wireless earbuds are bound to be the right call for a lot of consumers.  

FAQs

Q: What are the best wireless earbuds under $30? 

The best wireless earbuds under $30 are the Skullcandy Dime. In fact, they often sell for under $20. They offer amazing sound, via 6mm drivers, and a comfortable fit considering their low price. 

Q: What are the best wireless earbuds under $50? 

The best wireless earbuds under $50 are the EarFun Air True Wireless Earbuds. They feature Bluetooth 5.0, multiple mics, in-ear detection, over 35 hours of playtime (case included), and rich, resonant bass in a low-profile, low-cost body. 

Q: What are the top five wireless earbuds? 

While this guide focuses on the best cheap wireless earbuds, paying more gets you more—often most noticeably in your earbuds sound quality and customization options. A top-five wireless earbuds list would likely include a selection from the Sony WF-1000XM4 for noise cancellation, the Apple AirPods Pro for the everyday iPhone users, the Jaybird Vista 2 for gym workouts, the earfin-equipped Beats Fit Pro for running, the Master & Dynamic MW08 Sport for athletic audiophiles (or the non-sport version for the more laidback listener), and the Jabra Elite Active 75t for a well-rounded, office-ready pair. Just to name a few. But in terms of the budget category, something Skullcandy is a reliable pick, or a JLab option, while the Jabra Elite 3 over-delivers on the higher end of the spectrum (or look for a sale on last year’s model from brands like Apple, etc.).

The final word on the best cheap wireless earbuds

You can find amazing wireless earbuds for less than $50. In fact, some of the best cheap wireless earbuds don’t cost much more than $20. Of course, there are some tradeoffs in sound quality, durability, and battery life when buying cheap wireless earbuds rather than top-of-the-line models. Still, as technology continues to be developed, those sacrifices become smaller as prices drop, letting you find the best cheap wireless earbuds to meet most any listening need. 

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