The best cheap earbuds

Hero image for the best cheap earbuds showing the JLab Go Air Pop held in hand
(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

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

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The JLab Go Air Pop placed in front of a MacBook Pro screen

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)
The best cheap earbuds overall

Specifications

Type: Wireless in-ear
Size: 0.9 x 1 x 0.9 inches
Weight: 0.1 ounces (per bud)
Microphone: Yes
Water resistant: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile audio
+
Ample battery life
+
Compact, sleek, and durable design
+
Unbeatable price

Reasons to avoid

-
Unimpressive call quality

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 displayed on the groundbest value awards badge

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)
Great cheap earbuds with strong sound

Specifications

Type: Wireless in-ear
Size: 1 x 1 x 0.4 inches (per bud)
Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud)
Microphone: Yes
Water resistant: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Superb sound for the price
+
Water resistance
+
Compact, trendy charging case
+
Secure fit

Reasons to avoid

-
No app
-
Impractical controls
-
Short battery life

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.

Fit demonstrated on the Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120-K

(Image credit: Panasonic)
Great value wired earbuds

Specifications

Type: Wired in-ear
Size: 1.9 x 1.8 x 1.9 inches
Weight: 0.1 ounces
Microphone: Yes (optional)
Water Resistant: No

Reasons to buy

+
Dynamic sound
+
Outstanding comfort and fit
+
Available in multiple colors

Reasons to avoid

-
Wires are fragile

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 high levels of performance and usage for the lowest possible cost. Sure, that might be asking a lot from any pair of earbuds or headphones priced under $50, but it’s not unrealistic.

Sound quality: 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: 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.

Water resistance: Wherever you plan on using your earbuds, we strongly recommend a pair that are certified to protect against sweat. An IP rating of IPX7 denotes full waterproofing, while IPX4 represents basic moisture resistance; consider what you’ll need and what the risks are of your earbuds getting seriously wet.

Accessories: 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. Speaking of comfort, all of the pairs on this list are fine to wear for a couple of hours at least, though some cope better with extended use than others. 

Battery life: Some qualities are universal across all wireless earbuds, like battery life. Consider how long and how often you’ll want to wear your earbuds for; if you’re a regular traveler it can definitely be worth picking a pair with longer battery life, either per charge or in terms of how much the bundled charging case provides. Wireless earbuds can last about 5 to 10 hours and offer extended playtime with their bundled charging cases — always make sure one is included.

Pricing considerations: Obviously, price is a big consideration when looking for the best cheap earbuds. As the saying goes: timing is everything; and right now many of our favorite models are being discounted by online retailers, meaning you can bag a bargain for even less. Bookmark our best headphone deals page to keep track of the latest price cuts. 

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

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Lee Dunkley
Audio Editor

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.