8 Best Budget Earbuds of 2021

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The Rundown
"Our best overall pick has a lot going for it, including built-in Tile functionality."
Best Wired Bluetooth:
AUKEY EP-B56 at Amazon
"If you want a nice set of earbuds for working out with good battery life and easy storage, look no further than the AUKEY EP-B56."
"The headphones are very comfortable, so you'll be able to wear them for extended workouts if needed."
"They'll give you five hours on a single change, with a whopping six extra full charges in the case."
Best for iPhone:
Apple EarPods at Amazon
"They plug into the lightning jack on the bottom of your iPhone or iPad and provide great sound."
"You get four sets of ear tips in the box so you can find the perfect size and get great noise isolation."
"Not only do they pound, but they come with great sound and noise isolation as well."
Best Noise Cancelling:
WSHDZ T7 at Amazon
"The WSHDZ T7 is one of the only sets of earbuds with Active Noise Cancellation, and these earbuds pack a lot of value and novelty."

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 earbuds out there, it's hard to know what's good. We can help. We've found our favorite earbuds that you can buy without having to take an extra trip to the ATM.

Most of these earbuds can be had for less than $30, which should please the most budget-constrained audio connoisseurs. We have all kinds of earbuds from true wireless stereo (TWS) to Bluetooth headphones to wired earbuds. No matter your preference and style, you'll find a great pair of buds to deliver your tunes or podcasts to your ears. We put these budget-friendly earbuds to the test with streaming and local audio to find ones that deliver quality sound but won't break the bank.

Of course, if you're looking for higher-end audio, we can help with that too. You'll take care of those headphones, for sure. The ones in this list 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'll still give you good audio without taking up too much space in your bag.

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

What We Like
  • Built-in Tile

  • 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. What that means is, 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 that 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 TWS experience, which is why they're our top pick.

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

Best Wired Bluetooth: AUKEY EP-B56 Wireless Earbuds

What We Like
  • Pairs quickly

  • Lightweight

  • Quick to charge

  • Magnets for easy wearing or storage

What We Don't Like
  • Lacking bass

  • Uncomfortable to wear for long periods

If you want a nice set of earbuds for working out with good battery life and easy storage, look no further than the AUKEY EP-B56 wireless headphones. These earbuds have a wire that connects them but use Bluetooth to connect to your phone.

This allows for lower latency and better battery life in a single charge. You'll get eight hours on a charge, and a recharge takes just 90 minutes, which is nice. The earbuds don't have much bass in them, resulting in a tinny sound which is good for podcasts, but not great for music.

They pair quickly to your phone, and there's no app required. Each earbud has a magnet inside it so that they snap together when not in use. Combined with their lightweight build, the earbuds are quite easy to wear around when you don't have them in your ears. Our reviewer got a little uncomfortable wearing them for longer periods of time, but they should be just right for a workout.

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

"AUKEY Wireless Headphones are an affordable and durable pair of wireless headphones suited for exercise and everyday wear, but the comfort and sound quality are lacking." — Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Best Waterproof: Mpow V5.0 IPX7 Flame Bluetooth Waterproof Headphones

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'll be able to 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 a decent battery life at around seven hours of use, and they're slow to charge, taking around 90 minutes through the microUSB port. It's not terrible, but many other earbuds charge faster.

Overall, these headphones have a great price and are IPX7 waterproof, meaning they can survive up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. That can be handy if you're a heavy sweater or if you're working out around a pool.

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

"The Mpow Flame are super inexpensive, workout-friendly, in-ear wireless headphones that are comfortable to wear and boast water and sweat resistance." — Tobey Grumet, Product Tester

Best Battery: AUKEY T21 True Wireless Earbuds

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'll give you five hours on a single change, 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 sound in the earbuds is good, but there isn't much bass. If you're listening to anything with pounding bass, you'll be disappointed with these. You will get splash protection with these buds, but not water or sweat resistance, so be sure to dry them off if they get wet.

The T21s' design is atypical. They go in your ear canal, but still 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

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 will 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 do not 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 Sound: Sennheiser CX 100 In-Ear Headphone

What We Like
  • 90-degree jack

  • Great sound

  • Four sizes of ear tips

What We Don't Like
  • Not a tangle-free cord

  • Very small

Sennheiser is one of the best names in sound and audio gear, and these earbuds really deliver on that. You get four sets of ear tips in the box so you can find the perfect size and get great noise isolation. That gives you high-quality sound in a very small package. The ear tips are very small and go into the ear canal, with only the stem sticking out. That can be uncomfortable for some people.

The 90-degree headphone jack is great for when you need to drop your phone into a pocket. It takes stress off the jack and the cable. The cord is not tangle-free, as it has a rubberized coating on it. But if you're looking for the best sound you can get on a budget, these are the buds for you!

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

Best Bass: Sony MDRXB50AP Extra Bass Earbud Headphones

Sony MDRXB50AP
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, which is great for your hearing health as well. The earbuds are a little heavier than others of this size, but it 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, 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

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 can be complicated. It's hard to remember that one tap does this, but two taps does this, and three taps does 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 has used 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 not a fan of true wireless earbuds, or you just want a set of wired earbuds that sound great, the Sennheiser CX 100 In-Ear Headphones (view at Amazon) are a great choice. They offer quality sound with good noise isolation. The 90-degree headphone jack is a nice bonus that allows you to keep your phone in your pocket. Either one of these sets of earbuds will work well for you.

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.

FAQs

Why is isolation important?

Isolation is now well the earbud seals inside your ear canal which blocks out 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 lower the volume when you listen to your tunes. This will help prevent long-term hearing damage.

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

Wireless earbuds actually do have a wire that connects them together. Often the buds 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 can pick up a Bluetooth adapter. This adapter is a small unit you plug wired headphones into and connects to your phone via Bluetooth. Headphone jacks are commonplace on a lot of items except phones. Most digital music players and computers still have them, but they've fallen out of favor with phones.

What to Look For in Budget Earbuds

Connectivity

For most headphones, connectivity will fall 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 my phones serving as digital music players, the loss of the 3.5mm headphone jack might force you to go wireless, but it is important to know what your options are.

Battery Life

A big concern when it comes to headphones is battery life. This is not a concern for wired earbuds, but wireless earbuds need charge to work. Longer is always better in this case, but also pay attention to how they charge. Will 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!

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