The 6 Best Budget Earbuds of 2022

Find quality buds without breaking the bank

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The best budget earbuds are for people who like quality sound but don't want to spend a ton of money on it. There are so many out there, it's hard to know what's good. Most of the earbuds on this list cost less than $30, which should please the most budget-constrained audio connoisseurs. Our picks include true wireless stereo (TWS), Bluetooth headphones, and wired earbuds. No matter your preference and style, you can find a great pair of buds to deliver your tunes or podcasts to your ears.

For most people, the Skullcandy Sesh Evo True Wireless In-Ear Earbuds are a great budget pick. They have 24 hours of battery life—five hours per charge and 19 hours from the charging case. They also include built-in Tile functionality, a variety of colors, and the ability to use one bud at a time.

The best budget earbuds are great for grabbing and going, no matter where you're headed. If they get a little worn out or run down, they don't cost enough to fret about. But they still give you good audio without taking up too much space in your bag. Here are our best picks.

The Rundown

Best Overall: Skullcandy Sesh Evo True Wireless In-Ear Earbud

Skullcandy Sesh Evo True Wireless In-Ear Earbud

Amazon

What We Like
  • Built-in Tile functionality

  • 24 hours of battery life

  • Adjust volume and skip tracks

  • Use one bud at a time

  • Available in five colors

What We Don't Like
  • Buds don't sit well in the charging case

  • No automatic pause

Skullcandy is one of the big names in budget sound. Our best overall pick has a lot going for it, including built-in Tile functionality. That means you can download the free Tile app and use it to locate your earbuds. You also get 24 hours of battery life with five hours per charge and 19 hours in the charging case. Speaking of the charging case, reviewers noted the buds don't always sit well inside, so it's important to make sure they're seated properly.

The buds come in five different colors to match your style. They don't automatically pause when you remove them from your ears, but you can otherwise control your music and podcasts with the touchpads on the buds. You can adjust volume, skip tracks, and answer calls without having to touch your phone. All that adds up to a great true wireless stereo experience, which is why they're our top pick.

Type: True wireless | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: No | Water/Sweat Resistant: Yes (IP55)

Best Waterproof: Mpow Flame

4
Mpow Flame

Courtesy of Mpow

What We Like
  • Comfortable

  • Waterproof

  • Strong Bluetooth connection

  • Comes with a case

What We Don't Like
  • Short battery life

  • Slow to charge

If you're looking for a set of earbuds that can power through even the most intense workouts, look no further than the Mpow Flame. These connect to your phone with a strong Bluetooth connection, so you can enjoy your music uninterrupted while you pump some iron.

These headphones are also very comfortable, so you can wear them for extended workouts if needed. When you're not wearing them, they come with a convenient round case for storage. 

The earbuds have decent battery life at around seven hours of use, and they're slow to charge, taking around 90 minutes through the micro USB port. It's not terrible, but many other earbuds charge faster.

Overall, these headphones are a great price and are IPX7 waterproof, meaning they can survive up to one meter of water for up to 30 minutes. That's handy if you're a heavy sweater or if you work out around a pool.

Type: Wireless | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: No | Water/Sweat Resistant: Yes (IPX7)

Tested by Lifewire

Though Mpow touts these headphones as waterproof, we don’t recommend keeping them under water for long periods of time. When we left them in a bucket of water for twenty minutes one of the earphones stopped working. There are arrow buttons on the side of the earphone to control music and volume, but because they are so tiny, we found it much easier to pull out our phone to make adjustments. Created for athletes, the Mpow Flame were reliably comfortable during all types of workouts and we especially appreciated the shallow, angled design of the earbuds themselves. Instead of being shoved in your ear canal, they sat comfortably right outside it. The earloops stayed secure during all our activities and were consistently innocuous. The one thing we found slightly bothersome was the earphone cable. If left alone, it tended to bounce on our neck while we ran. To fix this, we used the included cord clip for a closer fit around our neck. You won’t get the clarity and pure quality of more expensive options, but we were impressed with the composed sound and the high-quality audio for making and taking calls. We were also able to walk about as far as 32 feet to get different weights at the gym or grab some water, and we were never completely cut off from the audio. That said, the Bluetooth connection did get spotty if the battery was low. Tobey Grumet, Product Tester

Mpow Flame

Best Battery: AUKEY T21 True Wireless Earbuds

Aukey T21 True Wireless Earbuds

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Great battery life

  • Good sound

What We Don't Like
  • May not be comfortable

  • No bass

If you want great battery life, the AUKEY T21 True Wireless Earbuds fit the bill. They give you five hours on a single charge, with a whopping six extra full charges in the case. That's 35 hours of listening while out and about, which is pretty great for true wireless earbuds. 

The earbuds sound good, but there isn't much bass. If you're listening to anything with pounding bass, they might disappoint. You also get splash protection with these buds, but not water or sweat resistance, so be sure to dry them off if they get wet.

The T21's design is atypical. They go in your ear canal but have a stem that sticks out for the antennae. Some ears will be fine with this, others will not. There's no way to tell except to try them on for yourself. If they fit, they'll last you a long time. If not, AUKEY has a great return policy and customer service.

Type: True wireless | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: No | Water/Sweat Resistant: Yes (IPX4)

Best for iPhone: Apple EarPods with Lightning Connector

Apple EarPods with Lightning Connector

Amazon

What We Like
  • Familiar, iconic look

  • Great sound

What We Don't Like
  • Has only a Lightning connector

  • Poor noise isolation

Is there a more recognized and iconic look to earbuds than Apple's EarPods? The white earbuds with the cord running to your iDevice is one of the most famous looks in modern audio gear. If you lost your original EarPods and want to replace them, or if you never received a set in the first place, these work very well with your iPhone.

They plug into the Lightning jack on the bottom of your iPhone or iPad and provide great sound. Of course, that also limits these earbuds. You can use them only with an iPhone or iPad that has a Lightning port. Other devices need not apply.

The EarPods' design lets them hook onto your ear, but don't enter the ear canal, leading to poor noise isolation. Overall, if you like the look and feel of the original EarPods, these are your best bet.

Type: Wired | Connection Type: Lightning cable | ANC: No | Water/Sweat Resistant: No

Best Bass: Sony MDRXB50AP Extra Bass Earbud Headphones

Sony MDRXB50AP

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Deep bass

  • Tangle-resistant cable

  • 90-degree jack

  • Great isolation

What We Don't Like
  • A little heavy

If you love some heart-thumping bass, these Sony earbuds should be right up your alley. Not only do they pound, but they come with great sound and noise isolation as well. The right set of ear tips fit snugly in your ears and drown the rest of the world out. The earbuds are a little heavier than others of this size, but they shouldn't bother you unless you're listening for a long time.

The headphone jack is set at a 90-degree angle for convenient plugging in while in a pocket. Plus, the cable is flat, meaning it's designed to remain tangle-free. The cable has a good length, an inline remote, and four sets of ear tips for a great seal in your ear. But mainly you'll buy these earbuds for the bass.

Type: Wired | Connection Type: 3.5mm jack | ANC: No | Water/Sweat Resistant: No

Best Noise Cancelling: WSHDZ T7 Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

WSHDZ T7 Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

Amazon

What We Like
  • Active Noise Cancellation

  • Digital readout

  • Case can charge your phone

  • Good sound

What We Don't Like
  • Complicated touch controls

  • Not great for phone calls

The WSHDZ T7 is one of the only sets of earbuds with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), and these earbuds pack a lot of value and novelty. First and foremost, they have a digital indicator showing you the overall charge of the case and each earbud. Further, the charging case has a 1,200mAh battery and USB-A port so you can actually charge your phone with the earbud case.

The earbuds have really good sound, but the microphones are not the best. Callers said they sometimes had a hard time hearing the wearer while on phone calls. Also, the earbuds are touch-sensitive and allow you to adjust tracks and volume, but the sequences are complicated. It's hard to remember that one tap does this, but two taps do this, and three taps do something else. But overall, the novelty and ANC are reasons you should pick up these earbuds.

Type: True Wireless | Connection Type: Bluetooth | ANC: Yes | Water/Sweat Resistant: Yes (IPX7)

Final Verdict

It's hard to pick earbuds with a better value than the Skullcandy Sesh Evo (view at Amazon). They have good battery life, a variety of colors, and built-in Tile functionality. Anyone who uses true wireless earbuds knows how easy they can be to misplace. These earbuds offer a lot, but the Tile functionality really puts them over the top in our book.

If you're looking for noise-canceling on a budget, the WSHDZ T7 buds (view at Amazon) sound good and come with a nifty charging case that has a digital display and a USB-A port you can use to charge your phone.

What to Look For in Budget Earbuds

Connectivity

For most headphones, connectivity falls to one of two methods—Bluetooth or a 3.5mm headphone jack. Bluetooth has the convenience of wireless, but the 3.5mm headphone jack gives you slightly better audio and zero lag or connectivity issues. With many phones serving as digital music players, the loss of the 3.5mm headphone jack might force you to go wireless, but it's important to know what your options are.

Battery Life

A big concern when it comes to headphones is battery life. This isn't a concern for wired earbuds, but wireless earbuds need a charge to work. Longer is always better in this case, but also pay attention to how they charge. Do you want to carry around an extra charging case or would you prefer to just plug them in?

Extras

Just because you're shopping on a budget doesn't mean you can't be picky about getting a little more. Look for things like active noise cancellation, or a good waterproof rating. The WSHDZ headphones case has a USB-A plug to charge your phone. Little extras like this can make a good buy into a great buy. Stretch that dollar as far as you can!

FAQ
  • Why is isolation important?

    Isolation is how well the earbud seals inside your ear canal and blocks outside noise. This is important for two reasons. First, less outside noise means you can immerse yourself in your music even more. Second, less outside noise means you can listen to your tunes at a lower volume.

  • What's the difference between true wireless earbuds and wireless earbuds?

    Wireless earbuds actually do have a wire that connects them together. Often they have a battery or inline remote in that wire as well. They often charge by plugging into a cable. True wireless earbuds have no wire that connects them together. Their batteries and controls are all contained within the bud. They often come with a charging case.

  • If your phone doesn't have a headphone jack, can you still use wired headphones?

    Probably not, unless you pick up a Bluetooth adapter. This adapter is a small unit you plug wired headphones into and it connects to your phone via Bluetooth. Headphone jacks are commonplace on a lot of items except phones.

About Our Trusted Experts

Adam Doud has written in the technology space for almost a decade. When he's not hosting the Benefit of the Doud podcast, he's playing with the latest phones, tablets, and laptops. When not working, he's a cyclist, geocacher, and spends as much time outside as he can.

Yoona Wagener has a background in content and technical writing. She has written for BigTime Software, Idealist Careers, and other small tech companies.

Tobey Grumet has been a writer and editor for 25 years. She spent eight years as the first female Technology Editor at Popular Mechanics. These days, she works as a full-time freelance writer.

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