If you’re in the market for a new set of earphones, it’s time to cut the cord. You can get good quality Bluetooth earphones and earbuds for anywhere between $20 and $50, in various styles like regular earphones, sports wear, neckbands, or even true wireless earbuds.
As a general rule, wired earphones will offer better audio quality at the same price as a pair of Bluetooth earphones. But they come with their own issues, like how the cable keeps breaking. Plus, with smartphone makers slowly abandoning the 3.5mm headphone jack, you are better off buying wireless Bluetooth earphones.
A Quick Note When Buying Bluetooth Earphones
In this article, you will find the two words “earphones” and “earbuds” used interchangeably. Technically, they are different: earphones go into your ear canal (like the new Apple Earpods), while earbuds sit in your ear (like the old Apple Earbuds). But these days, manufacturers and consumers don’t differentiate between them, so we won’t either.
Broadly, there are four categories of Bluetooth earphones:
- Regular In-Ear Bluetooth Earbuds
- Sports and Exercise Bluetooth Earbuds
- Neckband-Style Bluetooth Earbuds
- True Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds
Overall Best Cheap Wireless Earbuds
Anker Soundcore Spirit X
For the best overall pick, the category isn’t as important as the balance of audio quality, battery life, build quality, and value for money. The Anker Soundcore Spirit X surpasses expectations (and some big-brand competitors) to provide the best Bluetooth earbuds under $50.
Anker is more renowned for its cables, chargers, power banks, and other such accessories. But over the past couple of years, it has upped its game in the headphone market, especially with wireless earphones like the Soundcore Curve.
The Soundcore Spirit X delivers a rich and balanced sound with its 10mm drivers. The bass isn’t artificially boosted like many other earphones in this category, which is a pleasant surprise. But of course, these are still cheap Bluetooth earphones, so don’t expect great audio quality.
You will get about 10 hours of battery life on a single charge, so you won’t run out while you’re running out. Oh yeah, the Spirit X is also sweatproof and IPX7 water-resistant.
Anker has also equipped these earbuds with the new Bluetooth 5 standard, making them future-proof for the next range of smartphones and other smart devices.
The only thing missing in this well-rounded package is support for AptX, the hi-fidelity Bluetooth codec. If I was you, I wouldn’t worry about that. AptX is useful only with headphones that can produce much better audio quality than anything you will find in $50 earbuds.
Anker also has a non-neckband variat, the Anker Soundcore Spirit Sports. But this comes with smaller 6mm drivers, and a lower 6 hours of battery life. They’re not as good as the Spirit X for the same price, and we believe there are better options for budget in-ear Bluetooth earbuds.
Runner-Up Best Cheap Wireless Earbuds
If you don’t like the hook style of the Soundcore Spirit X, or you prefer a better brand, then look no further than the JBL E25BT. These are ideal for those who want a standard pair of in-ear wireless earbuds that last a long time, deliver good audio reproduction, and look good doing it.
Everything about the JBL E25BT is “normal” and “standard” in the look, feel, and style, right down to the different sizes of silicon tips you get with it. If you’ve used any earphones before this, you’ll know what the E25BT will be like. But it’s refined in the right ways.
Even though the sound quality is excellent, the housing unit is small and well-designed. The cord is not too long, but not too short either, so you can wrap it around your neck or dangle it in front. There’s also a little removable clip to attach the earphones to your shirt. And there’s a carry pouch so it doesn’t get tangled up. It’s the little things, but it makes all the difference.
But the true exception is the sound quality. While the bass definitely has an artificial boost, I haven’t heard bass feel this punchy on cheap Bluetooth earphones in a long time, especially with such small housing units. The rest of the sound profile is as balanced as it can be when you’re boosting the bass. The highs are sharp, but I wouldn’t call them clear. In fact, if audio quality matters more than Bluetooth 5 or battery life, buy the JBL E25BT over the Anker Soundcore Spirit X.
The battery life of 8 hours is good enough for most users, but this is where you need a bit of a warning. Customers who have used the JBL E25BT for a year or more have noticed that the battery life has degraded to about 4-5 hours. Keep that in mind, it’s something you should know before buying wireless headphones.
Best Cheap Neckband-Style Wireless Earbuds
It seemed like Skullcandy was going to win this round easily with the Skullcandy Ink’d, which is much-loved by several reviewers. But then there was a price cut on the Sony MDRXB70BT, which is a damn fine set for wireless earbuds under $50.
The Sony MDRXB70BT is all about the bass. If you like a thumping, extra thumping, or even a tubathumping bass, this is the neckband earphones set for you. Sony has amped up the bass, considering that’s that the biggest demand (and usual complaint) from customers.
I’m also a fan of silicon neckbands as opposed to rigid ones, since it’s easier to fold and carry silicon bands in your pocket. But you should know that this neckband is a bit longer than average ones. The left one also houses the volume and playback controls at its tip, which is not very comfortable.
But when you consider the sound quality, the 10 hours of battery life, and the silicon folding design, you can’t really complain when you get these cheap wireless earbuds for less than $50.
Best Cheap True Wireless Earbuds
It is truly difficult to recommend true wireless earbuds under $50 because in the quest for mobility, you will lose out on battery life and sound quality. Still, if you are looking for such a budget buy, then go with the Enacfire E18.
It’s “the best of the worst” in many ways. The battery life is only three hours (although you can recharge them once popped into the carry case). The fit is better than others at this price, but not as good as what you’ll get from several $100 cheap wireless earbuds.
As for the sound quality? Well, let’s just say don’t expect much from the bass. These are earphones you use for casual music listening, or listening to podcasts, movies, and audiobooks. Voices and highs will sound all right, but don’t expect to truly enjoy your music.
The good news is that Enacfire E18 is rated highly on Amazon. And yes, I checked for fake reviews. It is also frequently available in flash sales and discounts, for as low as $30.
Super Cheap but Still Good Wireless Earbuds
It’s rare to find several different reviewers agreeing about any set of earphones, but the Aukey Latitude has won over everyone with what it offers for such a low price. This set is good for sports and exercise, for regular listening, or just as a backup pair of cheap Bluetooth earbuds. Buy this, you won’t be disappointed.
For its price, the Latitude gives you 8 hours of battery life, as well as a 15-minute quick charge feature for an extra hour. It is sweat-proof and mildly water-resistant (IPX4). If you want a pair of cheap sports or exercise headphones, this is the pair to get.
Aukey has included one of the things I love in earphones: magnets. Putting magnets at the tips of the earbuds lets you attach them together around your neck, or before you put them in your pocket so they don’t tangle up with each other.
The in-ear hook isn’t everyone’s favorite design, but Aukey makes it removable, which is a nice touch. The earphones won’t sit for long without them though, especially on a run, so it’s advisable to use the hooks.
Best Wireless Earbuds Under $20
JLab Jbuds Pro
For such a low price, the JLab Jbuds Pro are the only regular-style earbuds from a good brand that you should consider. JLab claims 6 hours of battery life, but it’s a bit hard to believe. It’s more likely to be around the 3-4 hours in regular usage.
Best Sports Earbuds Under $20
An Amazon darling, these sweatproof earphones are widely recommended by customers who have bought them. Considering the price, the Mpow Flame is worth the risk if you’re looking for the cheapest sports earphones you can buy.
Cheap Neckband-Style Wireless Earbuds
Anker Soundbuds Curve
If you’re a fan of the neckband, especially since it can give a battery boost, then try the Anker Soundbuds Curve. They’re old at this point, but they get the job done and cost very little. With over 12 hours of continuous music playback on a single charge, this is excellent battery life on a Bluetooth headset.
Cheap Runner Wireless Earbuds
Jabra Halo Free
The Jabra Halo Free is an excellent set of earphones for this price, and I don’t expect it to last at this price for long considering it’s almost 50% off its original selling price. But if you see it for less than $40, it’s an excellent deal, especially with the one-touch Google Now and Siri button.
Great Neckband-Style Cheap Wireless Earbuds
Skullcandy Ink’d is one of the most-liked headsets out there, and a good competitor for the Sony MDRXB70BT. There is hardly any difference between the two, but the Sony headset sounds slightly better. If you can get the Skullcandy Ink’d for $10 less than the Sony, go for it, that’s a good deal.
Good Earphones Will Definitely Cost More
With one of these choices, you should be able to get an excellent pair of wireless or Bluetooth earphones that satisfies most of your needs. But chances are, they won’t satisfy everything you want. When you buy budget earphones, there’s always a sacrifice in sound quality, build quality, or battery life.
If you care about the listening experience and want a long-term set of earphones, you’ll need to spend more than $50. Where should you look? MakeUseOf has you covered with the best wireless earbuds for all budgets. And for something more powerful, check out the loudest Bluetooth speakers you can buy.