I asked people to guess the difference between $40 and $300 wireless earbuds — and their answers shocked me

You’d think that if you had people blind-test two pairs of earbuds with drastically different prices, that they’d prefer the more expensive option, right? Yet when I asked strangers on the street to choose between the $40 JLab JBuds Mini and $299 Sony WF-1000XM5, their choices varied.

The Sony WF-1000XM5 are an impressive-sounding pair of wireless earbuds with no shortage of premium features. That’s why we’ve rated them the best wireless earbuds we’ve tested, period.

But when the JLab JBuds Mini arrived a bit earlier this year, they outright proved that you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to own a quality pair of earbuds. What’s more, they’re the smallest wireless earbuds on the market, recognizing comfort as a key factor for many shoppers. Ounces make a difference when we’re talking about something you carry on your head.

In our debut episode of What’s The Deal?, a new series on Tom’s Guide YouTube channel, I compared the JLab JBuds Mini and Sony WF-1000XM5 in terms of design, functionality, battery life and, of course, sound quality.

Except I’m not quite the “average consumer,” I’ve tested dozens of wireless headphones in 2023 alone. So while the nuances of sound performance might be blaring to my ears, I know that a lot of people don’t consider it as high of a priority. To some, qualities like a pleasant fit, fun colors and an approachable price matter more.

So, I stopped people in New York City to see whether they would spend their own $40 on the JLab JBuds Mini or $300 on the Sony WF-1000XM5 after trying out both and guessing the prices based on their impressions. Not only did everyone place the JBuds Mini at a higher price, but everyone thought the WF-1000XM5 cost less than they do. A few even used their AirPods Pro as a point of reference when making their estimates.

To see which ones they’d buy themselves, you’ll have to check out our video either by watching above or clicking the link here to visit our YouTube channel.  

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.