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The best cheap wireless earbuds for 2024: Our top budget picks

Apple AirPods? In this economy? I experience real sticker shock when shopping for true-wireless earbuds, whether they’re from Apple, Bose, Sony or another premium brand. No matter how much I might like them, I can’t bring myself to spend $180 or more. Fortunately, I don’t have to: There are some genuinely good alternatives priced significantly lower. I tested and reviewed a bunch of them, resulting in the following list of the best cheap wireless earbuds. The winners deliver solid sound quality, decent active noise cancellation (ANC) and, in most cases, a waterproof (or at least water-resistant) design so sweaty workouts won’t ruin anything.

So how are we defining “cheap,” here? Nothing priced over $100, but I was especially eager to see if any Bluetooth earbuds around $50 (or even less) could measure up to more expensive competition. Turns out yes! Read on for my top picks, then stick around to learn how I tested them and what factors to consider when shopping for budget wireless earbuds.

Read more: The best wireless earbuds of 2024: Apple, Bose, Sony and more

Rick Broida/Yahoo News

ANC: Yes | Touch controls: Yes | Ear detection: No | Multipoint connectivity: Yes | Case charging: USB-C | Waterproof rating: IPX6 | Max battery life: 8 hours on a charge | Ear tips included: 3 sizes

Baseus has crafted amazingly good earbuds with a price tag that’s even more amazing: just $40, and often on sale for even less. They may not rival AirPods in terms of noise-canceling power or phone-call quality, but they sound great and promise even better battery life.

Available only in black, the MA10s are bullet-style earbuds, which I find a little harder to grip than AirPods and other “pipe” style earbuds. The orientation is also less obvious — it took me a minute to figure out “which end is up” when first trying these out.

The good news is that they fit snugly and comfortably — in my ears, at least — with the medium-size ear tips and hooks that came already installed. (Other sizes are included for those with larger or smaller ears.) 

The charging case is on the large side, and therefore not very pocket-friendly. It doesn’t support wireless charging, either — only USB-C — but it can recharge the earbuds more than 16 times before needing to be recharged itself. And the earbuds last up to eight hours, meaning you’re looking at nearly 140 total hours of playtime.

I’m no audiophile, but I’ve tested a lot of earbuds. Color me impressed: The Bowie MA10s produce rich and well-balanced sound, maybe not quite as full-bodied as AirPods, but extremely good overall. And if you’re one who likes to fiddle with sound settings, the Baseus companion app provides 12 equalizer presets and lets you create multiple custom ones.

I also found ANC to be surprisingly good given the price tag, though I did have a little difficulty hearing myself on phone calls, even with transparency mode enabled. That aside, these are without question some of the best budget earbuds I’ve ever tried.

Pros

  • Exceptional battery life
  • Very good sound and noise-canceling
  • Smart touch controls
  • Useful companion app
Cons

  • No in-ear detection
  • Charging case too large for most pockets

$32 at Amazon

Rick Broida/Yahoo News

ANC: No | Touch controls: Yes | Ear detection: Yes | Multipoint connectivity: Yes | Case charging: USB-C | Waterproof rating: IPX2 | Max battery life: 5 hours on a charge | Ear tips included: 2 pair silicone covers

If you love using Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant around the house and wish she could accompany you out in the world, consider Amazon’s Echo Buds. Though a bit lacking in some areas, they’re affordable, easy to carry in a pocket and Alexa-ready right out of the box.

Speaking of which, there’s no USB-C cable included, so you’ll have to BYO in order to charge the charging case. It’s potentially less eco-waste, yes, but also mighty inconvenient for anyone who doesn’t have a spare cord. That initial hassle aside, Amazon’s Alexa app walks you through earbud setup and operation, with animated instructions regarding earbud fit and touch-powered gesture controls. There’s also a pretty good printed quick-start guide, which I’m always glad to see.

The Echo Buds are “semi-in-ear” earbuds, meaning they don’t have silicone tips that nest inside your ear canals to create a noise-isolating seal. Rather, they just rest gently (and comfortably, at least in my ears), allowing for situational awareness. That’s important if you walk or bike and need to hear outside sounds for safety reasons. Alas, there’s no noise-canceling capability for those occasions when you might want it.

Amazon does preinstall silicone covers for a bit of added comfort and to help the earbuds stay put. Unfortunately, these don’t improve the Echo Buds’ unusually low waterproof rating (IPX2). If you sweat a lot, or there’s an accidental encounter with a puddle, there’s no guarantee they’ll survive.

I like the squat, square design of the charging case, which slips easily into a pocket. However, the earbuds themselves can last only about five hours on a charge (six if you disable hands-free Alexa), which is just average. And because the case is so small, it nets you only three full recharges.

That’s hardly a dealbreaker; poor sound quality would be. Good news: I was pleasantly surprised by the Echo Buds’ audio acumen. Music sounded well-balanced, detailed and generally pleasant overall. There’s not much bass, but that’s normal for semi-in-ear ‘buds. 

In my testing, I found that hands-free Alexa worked quickly and efficiently. Interestingly, music doesn’t pause for her responses; the volume simply lowers temporarily when her voice kicks in. I’m not sure if I like this or not. It’s less jarring than pause/resume would be, but it also means she’s talking over a snippet of the song.

Another Amazon-specific perk: The Echo Buds can auto-pair with Fire TVs and tablets, and you can issue voice commands to make that happen. That’s on top of traditional multipoint pairing.

Like most Amazon-branded products, the Echo Buds are frequently discounted; wait for the next sale and you might snag them for $40 or even $35. I would consider that a very solid buy for good-sounding, Alexa-ready earbuds.

Pros

  • Inexpensive — and frequently discounted
  • Hands-free Alexa
  • Ultra-compact charging case
  • Find-my-earbuds feature
  • Can automatically pair with Fire TVs and tablets
Cons

  • So-so battery life
  • Not sufficiently sweatproof
  • Charging cable not included

$50 at Amazon

Rick Broida/Yahoo News

ANC: Adaptive | Touch controls: Yes | Ear detection: No | Multipoint connectivity: Yes | Case charging: USB-C or wireless | Waterproof rating: IPX4 | Max battery life: 10 hours on a charge | Ear tips included: 5 sizes

If you’re looking for earbuds that can last an entire day, the Space A40 is your best choice: Anker promises an impressive 10 hours on a single charge, a good two to three hours more than most. (For additional reference, Apple’s current-gen AirPods Pro can manage only six hours.) The charging case can supply as many as four full recharges, for a whopping 50 total hours of playtime before you need to revisit a powered USB port (or Qi charging pad, as the case supports wireless charging as well).

These earbuds also feature ramped-up noise-canceling and transparency-mode capabilities. Activate adaptive ANC, for example, and the earbuds will detect what kind of background noise is present and adjust accordingly. (You can also set this manually, but honestly, why would you?) Transparency mode adds a “vocal” option that boosts voices, the better to allow conversation without removing the earbuds. In my tests, ANC proved rock-solid.

It’s especially nice to see multipoint connectivity make its way into $100 earbuds; it’s great if you routinely want to switch between, say, smartphone and tablet, phone and computer, etc., without having to unpair and re-pair.

The Space A40 also adds Anker’s HearID to the mix: It conducts an in-app test to tailor equalizer settings to your hearing. I found this really fascinating: Turns out my left ear doesn’t pick up treble quite as well as my right. The end result was an equalizer preset tuned specifically for me. I’m not sure I noticed a huge before/after difference, but for anyone with hearing loss or other issues, this could be a real boon.

Available in black, white or blue, the mid-range A40 has only one real flaw: no ear detection. Once you get accustomed to that feature, it’s hard to live without it. In nearly all other respects, though, these are superb earbuds. And watch for sales; I’ve seen them priced as low as $50.

Pros

  • Exceptional battery life
  • Transparency mode boosts voices
  • HearID creates custom equalizer for your ears
  • Often discounted
Cons

  • Bullet design
  • No ear-detection

$59 at Amazon

Rick Broida/Yahoo News

ANC: Yes | Touch controls: Yes | Ear detection: No | Multipoint connectivity: Yes | Case charging: USB-C, wireless | Waterproof rating: IPX5 | Max battery life: 9 hours on a charge | Ear tips included: 4 sizes

EarFun has been on my audio radar for several years; the company makes some pretty great headphones and speakers, all at very competitive prices. (Love the name, too.) Indeed, the Air Pro 3 earbuds are a serious AirPods Pro rival, with tons of features at a fraction of the cost. There’s just one thing missing, and it bugs me.

That thing is ear detection; music doesn’t automatically pause when you take an earbud out and resume when you put it back in. While I wouldn’t let that stop me from buying these, it’s a feature I definitely miss. (It’s also harder to come by in budget earbuds; fewer than half the products in this roundup have it.)

On the flipside, you get multipoint connectivity, a case that supports wireless charging and a battery that’s good for up to nine hours (with ANC off), according to EarFun. And that case can give it four additional recharges, for a whopping 45 total hours of playtime.

Kudos to EarFun for providing a detailed setup and operation booklet; demerits for making the print unnecessarily tiny. I also like the companion app, which makes it a snap to adjust noise-canceling, equalizer and touch-control settings. It does have one or two rough spots, like a “FAQ” option that opens your mobile browser and sends you to EarFun’s Air Pro 3 product page — not a FAQ page.

In my tests, I really liked the smooth, detailed, slightly bass-forward sound that came from EarFun’s default equalizer setting — but appreciated being able to tweak it using either presets or an “adaptive” equalizer that’s created after a simple hearing test. To my surprise, I liked that customized result even better. 

If you’re an Android user, you may also enjoy the presence of aptX Adaptive Audio, which promises better fidelity across music, movies and games. (iPhones don’t currently support that codec; hence, I wasn’t able to test it.) AptX is more commonly found in earbuds costing more.

As for ANC, it isn’t quite AirPods Pro-level, but it’s definitely above average and good enough for keeping the peace in an office or while traveling.

Although EarFun prices the Air Pro 3 at $80, it’s discounted to around $56 on an almost monthly basis. That’s a surprisingly good deal given the sound quality, robust ANC and other standout features. If only ear detection was among them.

Pros

  • Solid bass response
  • Impressive noise-canceling
  • Excellent battery life
  • Supports aptX audio, wireless case charging
Cons

  • No ear-detection
  • Instruction manual has tiny print

$80 at Amazon

Rick Broida/Yahoo News

ANC: Adaptive | Touch controls: Yes | Ear detection: Yes | Multipoint connectivity: Yes | Case charging: USB-C | Waterproof rating: IP54 | Max battery life: 5.5 hours on a charge | Ear tips included: N/A

Most earbuds employ silicone ear tips that sort of screw into your ears to form a tight seal. Not everyone loves that; some prefer hard-plastic earbuds that gently rest inside (think: original AirPods). If that’s you, check out the Edifier W320TN — and prepare for a surprise.

Though they share the same basic design as standard AirPods, Edifier’s earbuds offer ANC. Does it work well? Surprisingly, yes: When I parked myself next to a noisy air-conditioning unit and enabled adaptive noise cancellation, the hum was reduced dramatically. This despite the lack of added noise isolation that comes from silicone ear tips. 

I did notice a slight hiss, an effect that’s not uncommon with ANC technology. But it didn’t really bother me, and I could no longer detect it once I started playing music.

Take note, however, that the very nature of the all-plastic design means the W320TNs won’t fit perfectly in all ears. I found them very comfortable, but if your ears are on the smaller side, they may feel tight. Alternately, they could fall out of larger ears.

Another surprise: These earbuds deliver extremely good sound, which is no mean feat when you don’t have that silicone ear-tip seal. I’d say they’re on par with Apple’s 2nd-generation AirPods. And like 3rd-generation AirPods, they have stems you can “pinch” (rather than tap) to perform actions like skip to the next track or enable Game Mode.

Control programming takes place in Edifier’s companion app, which also lets you tweak things like pressure sensitivity (how hard you need to pinch), prompt volume and in-ear detection: You can opt to resume audio when the earbuds are inserted or do nothing, a level of control I haven’t seen from many other earbuds. There’s also a library of “soothing sounds” you can play and a “find my headphones” function that actually works pretty well.

Battery life here is just OK at 5.5 hours, and the case must be recharged using USB-C; it doesn’t support wireless charging. Those nitpicks aside, it’s easy to recommend the Edifier W320TN, a superb pair of AirPods alternatives for those who don’t want to go Pro.

Pros

  • In-ear detection
  • ANC works well even without silicone ear tips
  • Useful “pinch” controls
  • Good companion app
  • Built-in find-my-earbuds feature
Cons

  • So-so battery life
  • May not fit well in all ears
  • Case doesn’t support wireless charging

$70 at Amazon

Rick Broida/Yahoo News

ANC: No | Touch controls: Yes | Ear detection: No | Multipoint connectivity: Yes | Case charging: USB-C | Waterproof rating: IPX5 | Max battery life: 9 hours on a charge | Ear tips included: N/A

Like to exercise? Unless you’ve figured out how not to sweat, many earbuds can slip right out of your ears. That won’t happen with the Soundpeats GoFree2, which hook onto your ears instead of augering into them.

That affords two additional benefits. First, because there’s no noise-canceling of any kind, you’re better able to stay aware of your surroundings — especially important if you’re walking or exercising outdoors. Second, comfort: I found I could wear these for hours and barely notice they were there. In comparison, even the best earbuds get a little uncomfortable after a while — and don’t get me started on over-the-ear headphones. 

The GoFree2 pairs easily with your phone, but the Soundpeats app has a few issues. First, there’s the annoying registration requirement, which includes entering an emailed code within 60 seconds or you have to repeat the process. I also couldn’t uncheck the box to opt out of receiving Soundpeats promotional emails; it simply wouldn’t respond to taps.

Like a lot of wireless earbuds, the GoFree2’s employ touch controls for things like volume and track skipping. However, it’s a challenge to remember them all; different functions require a single, double or triple tap, or a long press — and it varies between left earbud and right. The Soundpeats app lets you disable all touch controls but not modify them.

App gripes aside, I really like the GoFree2. Bolstered by Hi-Res Audio with LDAC support, the sound quality is much better than I expected given the open-ear design. There’s not a ton of bass, but music seemed detailed and well-balanced overall.

Best of all, they won’t go flying even if your workout involves a lot of bouncing.

Pros

  • Ear-hook design ideal for comfort, safety and exercise
  • Excellent battery life
  • Supports Hi-Res Audio with LDAC
Cons

  • Confusing adaptive-EQ test
  • No ANC
  • Touch control settings can’t be changed

$56 at Amazon

Rick Broida/Yahoo News

ANC: Yes | Touch controls: Yes | Ear detection: Yes | Multipoint connectivity: No | Case charging: USB-C, wireless | Waterproof rating: IPX6 | Max battery life: 10 hours on a charge | Ear tips included: 6 sizes

You’ve likely never heard of Tozo — I hadn’t — but it’s a good representative of the countless “no-brand” earbuds you can find on Amazon. So how does the company’s NC2 stack up against better-known options from Amazon, Anker and Edifier? Pretty darn well.

For starters, note that Tozo sells about a dozen different wireless earbuds, nearly all of them priced below $50. Some have ANC, some don’t. I chose the NC2 because it does, and because it routinely goes on sale for $34 (not that the $40 regular price is objectionable).

Tozo supplies a whopping six silicone eartip sizes; most earbuds come with 3-4, tops. The mediums that came preinstalled proved comfortable and secure in my ears, but as with all these things, be prepared to experiment to find your ideal fit.

I loved that Tozo included a printed quick-start guide as well as a more detailed user manual. I didn’t love that the print on both was so tiny, I nearly needed a magnifying glass. 

In addition to ANC, the NC2s offer touch controls, ear detection, an impressive IPX6 waterproof rating — making them especially ideal for sweaty workouts — and a case that supports wireless charging. Those are some admirable specs given the price tag, but you won’t be able to pair the earbuds with more than one device at a time; multipoint isn’t available.

What’s more, there’s no companion app (at least for these earbuds; some of the other Tozo products have one), so you can’t modify the touch controls, apply equalizer settings or update firmware.

So how’s the sound? In the end I have to go with “decent.” There’s not a lot of detail or nuance; music sounds… fine. Good balance, enough bass, plenty loud if that’s your thing. But ANC was just okay; it definitely reduced outside noise, just not as much as some others.

Remember, though, these are the very definition of budget earbuds. They’re solid, if not exemplary, the kind of thing you can toss in your gym bag and not have to worry too much about losing.

Pros

  • Low price (and often even lower)
  • Excellent battery life
  • Detailed print instructions
  • Robust feature set
  • Decent sound quality
Cons

  • No multipoint connectivity
  • No companion app
  • Instruction-guide text is tiny
  • So-so ANC

$40 at Amazon

1MORE

ANC: Adaptive | Touch controls: Yes | Ear detection: No | Multipoint connectivity: Yes | Case charging: USB-C | Waterproof rating: IPX5 | Max battery life: 7.5 hours on a charge | Ear tips included: 3 sizes

$55 at Amazon

  • ANC: Active noise-canceling is the technology that helps reduce outside sound. Many modern earbuds pair that with noise-isolating silicone earbuds so you can listen in peace. Some now employ “adaptive” ANC as well, meaning the strength and/or frequencies of the noise-canceling will automatically adjust based on your environment (indoors, outdoors, etc.).

  • Battery life: There’s the battery life of the earbuds themselves and the battery life of the charging case. The former can vary dramatically depending on volume level, ANC usage, spatial audio usage and so on. The “max battery life” referred to above reflects the company’s estimate, and it’s based on ANC and other potentially battery-draining features being off. Thus, earbuds with a max battery life of, say, six hours might last only four hours with ANC on.

  • Companion app: In the old days, you’d pair your earbuds with your phone and that was the end of it. Today, you’ll often find companion apps that let you check battery life, install firmware updates, tweak touch-control settings, add equalizer effects and more. It’s not a crucial thing to have, but definitely useful.

  • Ear detection: At some point you’ll need to pop out an earbud so you can hear what someone is saying or have a quick chat. If it has ear detection, your music, video or whatever will automatically pause, then resume when you put the ‘bud back in. It’s a feature I really love, though harder to come by in budget earbuds.

  • Multipoint connectivity: This increasingly common feature lets you pair your earbuds with more than one device and easily switch between them. This is great if you typically connect to your phone but also want to use, say, your laptop for work meetings or the like.

  • Water resistance: Good earbuds should be able to survive the sweat that pours off you at the gym, to say nothing of getting knocked into a puddle. Thankfully, all the products here have an IPX rating of 4 or better, which means they can withstand exactly those kinds of watery encounters. And at higher numbers (6 and 7), even a full-on dunk in the pool or bathtub won’t fry them.

This may shock you, but I tested these earbuds by listening to … lots of music. I also watched some videos, played some podcasts and so on. Obviously sound quality is a primary focus, but it’s also quite subjective; what sounds good to me may sound like AM radio to you. I suspect most wireless earbud shoppers prize comfort, ease of use and noise-canceling as much as they do audio fidelity. Consequently, much of my attention went to those areas as well.

As for battery life, we elected not to conduct real-world tests, and here’s why: too many variables. Earbud runtime is affected by volume, ANC, spatial audio and other factors, all of which are likely to be different from one listening session to the next (or even within the same session).

Consequently, we relied on manufacturer’s battery-life estimates for both the earbuds themselves and the charging cases. Anecdotally speaking, these tend to be pretty accurate, but remember what I said: many variables.

Wireless earbuds rely on Bluetooth to pair with your phone, tablet, PC and other devices. The actual act of pairing them is quite easy, and no different than pairing a Bluetooth speaker or the like: Just head into your settings and follow the usual steps to add a new device. The one exception is Apple’s AirPods, which an iPhone or iPad will detect and automatically pair when brought in close proximity for the first time.

These things go in your ears, so it goes without saying you’ll want to exercise caution and make sure you don’t use excessive force. The bigger issue is volume: Listening to music or other audio for long periods at higher volumes can definitely damage your hearing. If you take advantage of ANC, however, you won’t have to crank your tunes just to hear them over the sounds of airplane engines, city traffic and the like.

A good set of wireless earbuds should last you many years. The only thing that’s likely to change over time is battery life: Just like the battery in your phone, the batteries inside wireless earbuds will eventually lose some capacity. And because they can’t be replaced, you’ll have little choice but to start shopping for new earbuds once that capacity gets too low for your liking.

This gets a little gross, so stay with me. When you take earbuds out of your ears, you may notice some yellowish gunk. Mostly it accumulates on the silicone ear tips, which you can easily wipe clean. You can also pop them off and rinse them under water. (Make sure they’re dry before reattaching.) But if it gets on the tiny speaker grills, you can use a dry cotton swab and a soft-bristled brush.

If you want to throw a little money at the problem, there are earbud cleaning kits like this one for around $7.

The ones that are comfortable, secure-fitting and sweatproof (look for at least an IPX4 rating). Part of this depends on the kind of workout you’re doing. If you’re a runner, for example, you might prefer open-ear earbuds (as opposed to noise-canceling ones) that allow ambient noise to come through — the better to hear oncoming traffic. If you spend a lot of time at the gym, robust noise-canceling will help drown out their playlists in favor of your own.

Small and large ears alike can have difficulty with earbuds, which might be too small to stay put or too large to fit comfortably. The more silicone ear tip sizes that come in the box, the better your chances of finding a comfortable, secure fit. But also consider an open-ear product that hooks over your ears, effectively taking size out of the equation.

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