This pick of the best cheap earbuds lists our recommendations in the sub-$25 market — just because you want to spend less doesn’t mean you need to put up with bad sound quality or shoddy craftsmanship. We've thoroughly reviewed and rated every model, so you can be sure these really are the best cheap earbuds you can buy.
We literally test dozens of earbuds a year, which means we have plenty of insight into the latest market trends, and huge experience in assessing sound quality and weighing up the most important features for you. Just like the best wireless earbuds overall, you can count on the models listed here to deliver despite their budget price tag.
Don't forget, you'll find lots more info in our in-depth standalone reviews, covering design and comfort, features, ANC performance (where applicable), battery life, and sound quality across all kinds of media, as well as how well they handle calls. Simply scroll down and you’ll find our recommendations for agreeable low-cost wireless earbuds, plus an old-school wired version that's still going strong.
The best cheap earbuds you can buy right now
Why you can trust Tom's Guide Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Number one on our list of the best cheap earbuds is a recently launched true wireless model: the JLab Go Air Pop. Serviceable in numerous ways, these buds are some of the smallest and most durable in the category, covered in solid plastic with IPX4 sweat and water resistance. Music sounds lively, thanks to three built-in EQs that JLab fine-tuned to give listeners a more personalized listening experience. Balance keeps audio neutral, while Bass Boost is self-explanatory and JLab Signature emphasizes bass and vocals. The most surprising hallmark on these buds must be battery life; a full charge generates 8 hours of playtime. Toss in a super-compact charging case with an integrated USB cable and you have a sweet package at an unbeatable price.
Though the Go Air Pop ranks No. 1, that doesn’t make it perfect. Those who want a more reliable calling headset or extra features to play with will want to spend extra on any one of the market’s best wireless earbuds.
Read our full JLab Go Air Pop review.
- The Skullcandy Dime are currently available discounted to $22 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
True wireless earbuds for less than $30? And good ones at that? Yes, the Skullcandy Dime is one of the most pleasant surprises around for earbud shoppers on tight budgets. Coming tucked into a charging case that's small enough to pass for a car key fob, the Dime quickly earned a place on this list with its impressive sound quality and robust build.
Thanks to IPX4-rated water resistance and a secure fit, it's even a respectable pick for running and workouts. Beware the low battery life, however: you'll struggle to get even four hours of playback per charge, though you can extend this on the go with that compact charging case.
Read our full Skullcandy Dime review.
- The Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120-K are currently available discounted to $15 at Amazon (opens in new tab)
They might look like something that you would find behind the glass countertop at your local grocery store, but Panasonic’s tiny in-ears have been considered the best bang-for-the-buck deal for the past several years. The ErgoFit earbuds deliver crisp highs, warm mids, and deep lows despite their low price. Compared to other earbuds in their price range, the ErgoFit produces cleaner audio; the soundstage lends itself well to modern music genres like alternative rock, EDM, and hip hop.
Even better, they conform to the shape of your ear canal, creating a snug, but comfortable fit for those long jam sessions. Those who love to accessorize their headphones with their outfits will find a variety of colors, which should appeal to the fashion-conscious. You’re looking at 15 bold shades in total. Panasonic also sells the ErgoFit with or without a built-in mic, though the latter is preferable since it grants you the ability to answer calls.
We also recommend checking out the RP-TCM125, which comes with a control module and mic for calls.
Read our full Panasonic Ergofit RP-TCM125 review.
How to choose the best cheap earbuds for you
When shopping for the best cheap earbuds, you’re looking for models that can offer the most performance and usage at the lowest cost possible. Sure, that might be asking a lot from any pair of earbuds or headphones priced under $40, but it’s not unrealistic.
Clearly, you want earbuds that sound good. Some companies have a great track record with audio, so seek out options with reputable namesakes. You’ll also discover some hidden gems from lesser known brands, though you’ll want to do your due diligence and research their credibility (e.g. consumer feedback, expert reviews). In any case, pick a pair that matches your sound preference.
Features are another priority. The limited hardware of cheap earbuds won’t allow them to offer the advanced feature sets of premium true wireless models, but you can still get practical use out of them. You’ll want a pair with a built-in controls for playback, call management, and volume; these controls may also support modern features like Google Assistant or Siri. A microphone is also important to answer calls on the go.
Accessories like extra ear tips are a huge bonus. These factor into comfort and fit, which is essential to enjoy music when commuting or listening at home for long stretches.
Lastly, you need to decide what media device you’ll be using these earbuds with. Those who still own an MP3 player (e.g. iPod Classic, Zune) or use an older smartphone with a headphone jack are fine. For those with an Apple or Android smartphone, you'll want to consider one of our wireless recommendations or get a Lightning to 3.5mm female jack socket adapter from Amazon (opens in new tab) or USB-C to 3.5mm female jack socket (opens in new tab) to connected a wired headphone to your music player.
Contributions from Alex Bracetti
How we test the best cheap earbuds
When creating our list of the best cheap earbuds, Tom’s Guide looks not only at price, but also design, sound quality, and ease of use. Our reviewers also test available features such as controls, mics, and digital assistant support (if applicable).
During the testing phase, each pair of headphones are worn for 2 hours at a time throughout the course of a week. We evaluate how securely they fit and noise isolation.
In terms of sound quality, we listen to many tracks across multiple music genres, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical, and electronic, while evaluating volume, clarity and fullness. Movies, podcasts, and video games are considered, when necessary. We also make phone calls to assess both call quality and microphone performance.
For sound quality, we listen to many different sample tracks and span as many music genres as possible, including hip-hop, rock, jazz, classical and R&B, while evaluating volume, clarity and fullness. Find out what we listen for during our testing process and how to get the best headphone sound for you.
Star ratings explained:
We evaluate earbuds based on a five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). If a product hits nearly every mark, it’s awarded a coveted Recommended badge, while our Best Value award speaks for itself. Only products with truly exceptional performance across the board are awarded an Editor's Choice badge.
For more information, check out our how we test page for Tom's Guide.
Contributions from: Alex Bracetti
More from Tom's Guide
- Got a bit more budget, check out our recommendations for the best wireless earbuds under $100.
- Fancy something a bit more versatile then check out our picks for the best cheap noise-cancelling headphones.
- Our best wireless earbuds is the pick of the very best models you can buy right now.