Popular wireless earbuds such as the AirPods or Galaxy Buds Plus can cost $150 or more (the Galaxy Buds Live are $170), but you don't necessarily need to spend that much cash if you want a pair that's great for listening to music and making calls. While there are plenty of dirt-cheap options out there, you have to prepare yourself to scour sites like Amazon or Wish to find the best deal. So I wanted to help you find the best option to match your budget and listening needs.
After some online sleuthing, I found some reliable gems to share. I chose the following earbuds based on price, overall user rating and the fact that they're from bigger name brands.
Remember that some cheap wireless earbuds may not give you as many features or the same sound quality as more expensive pairs. But as I found, a couple of these really do offer good value and give the likes of the AirPods, Galaxy Buds Plus and Jabra Elite 75t a run for their money.
Read more: How to choose the best earbuds
These buds have elongated stems like the original AirPods and AirPods Pro. These were also among the lightest in my ear for extended wear. Unfortunately, the touch panels were incredibly sensitive and a motion like brushing my hair away from my ear caused the track to pause.
Despite this minor annoyance, the T13 actually turned out to be the most rounded option for listening to music and making calls. The case has USB-C charging and you get a respectable six hours of listening time per charge. They're also rated IPX5 so they have some water resistance.
Along with the Letsfit T13, the EarFun Free are the best overall performers from the earbuds I've tested so far and have a good, tight seal that blocks out a lot of external noise. These definitely feel like a more expensive pair of earbuds thanks to the sturdy case that charges either wirelessly or via USB-C. Thanks to a tight seal and snug fit, they're comfortable to wear for longer stretches. Bass lovers will enjoy how these sound: rounded, but not over the top.
When connected to a computer, I found the sound was off-sync between each bud, so there was a small echo effect when on a Zoom call or Google Hangouts meeting, but this wasn't an issue when connected to a phone. They're water-resistant with an IPX7 rating and battery life will last almost 6 hours on one charge. I found the buttons on the buds quite stiff to press, like the Soundpeats.
With an over-ear hook, the HolyHigh ET1 earbuds look similar to the $250 Powerbeats Pro. Like the Beats, I'd pick the ET1 for workouts thanks to the design that keeps them securely in place no matter what you're doing. Sound quality is good, with balanced mids, trebles and bass on default settings. They do have a faint hiss sound when connected to a phone or a laptop, which might be annoying if you have sensitive hearing.
I found them fairly comfortable to wear for extended use, although it did take a little trial and error to find the best tip size to create a tight seal. And the hooked, over-ear design won't be for everyone.
Do be prepared for a shock when you take the charging case out of the box -- it's huge compared to all the other buds on this list. You'll get just under 6 hours of listening time on the ET1.
These were the first options from all the buds I tested. On their own, they don't sound bad at all, but when you compare the sound quality to the other earbuds in this bunch, they do sound imbalanced. The bass can get distorted and I experienced several dropouts and stuttered playback, especially when connected to a laptop.
But, I love the case's built-in USB cable that plugs into a wall adapter or laptop. I wish the case itself had a cover, since I'd be concerned about throwing these into a bag where dust or dirt might get into the earbuds. Overall though, call quality was fine for phone chats and Zoom meetings.
These were among the most expensive pairs I tried at $49 (but you can easily find them for under $40) and they certainly look the part thanks to a slick, shiny finish and compact case. They are light in the ear, however, I couldn't get a small enough ear tip from the selection provided to adequately block out external noise.
While audio is the least dynamic or exciting from the pairs that I tried, they do sound great when listening on Android thanks to aptX (a technology that helps deliver better Bluetooth audio) and have rock-solid connectivity across all the devices I tested.
Like the T13, they are also rated IPX5 for water resistance. The battery lasts up to eight hours from one charge.
The T1X are among the most balanced-sounding buds on this list. They aren't too heavy on the bass or treble, which makes them ideal for listening to music, podcasts and calls. They worked fine for Zoom calls and Google Hangouts on a computer, and I didn't notice any significant connectivity issues.
Fortunately they're also fairly comfortable to wear for longer stretches, and the battery lasts up to 5 hours per charge. The touch panel on the side of each bud is responsive, and they come with an app that gives you extra control over the sound.
I have a real love-hate relationship with these buds. Of all the ones I tried, these would be the ones I'd pick for listening to music. The bass is punchy and bright, making tracks sound exciting. They were also the most comfortable to wear over long stretches of time.
But the call quality, for some reason, was the worst of all of the buds -- the microphone made me sound distant and distorted. They also have some of the shortest battery life of the bunch at around four hours, and the buttons are tough to press.
These are most colorful earbuds on this list, with five options including mint green and peach. Like the AirPods, the Air 1 Go earbuds rest in your ears, which may be more comfortable for those who don't like the in-ear design of the other buds on this list. You also get a rubberized sleeve that provides more of a snug fit and adds some extra noise isolation. However, they didn't feel particularly secure in my ears when walking around, so I wouldn't choose these buds for a workout.
The Air 1 Go sound fine when left on the default sound profile, but they don't have as much bass as some of the others on this list. They have the shortest battery life at 3.5 hours on one charge and I found they worked best with a mobile rather than a laptop as the microphone wasn't the best for Zoom calls or Google Hangouts meetings.
Does your budget stretch a little further beyond $50? I highly recommend checking out my colleague David Carnoy's selection of best wireless earbuds under $100.