It may not seem possible, but earbuds under $50 can offer an excellent audio experience at a fraction of the price you’d pay for a premium pair. This is made possible by headphone companies beginning to take features previously available only on the highest-end gear and filtering them down to their entry-level offerings. Even true wireless earbuds, which used to cost several hundreds of dollars, are now available for under $50.
There are still some features, like active noise cancellation, that haven’t made their way to sub-$50 earbuds, but the tide is turning. You’d only have to stretch your budget by a few dollars to get a pair with that feature (and more), and we’ll update this story when ANC comes to earbuds at this price. Until then, the best earbuds under $50 will satisfy your craving for great sound in a small package.
How We Picked the Best Earbuds Under $50
Our earbud recommendations are based on a mix of hands-on testing and research. Here are the major factors we considered when making our recommendations:
Battery Life: Wireless earbuds are small, which means they won't last as long as on-ear or over-ear headphones; this is true regardless of their price. Nobody wants their earbuds to conk out in the middle of a flight or workout, so the models we’re recommending offer at least six hours of music playback per charge. Your actual battery life will depend on how loudly you listen to your music.
True wireless earbuds have the smallest batteries, which limits their playback time, but this style of headphone comes with a battery case. The earbuds’ case can top up the battery life when they’re not in use, extending the amount of time you can use them without a charger.
Eartip Type: The end of an earbud that fits inside your ear is referred to as its tip, and there are two types to consider: hardshell and gummy.
All of the earbuds we’re recommending in this guide have a gummy tip, which is squishy and creates a tight “seal” around your ear. This improves the earbuds’ ability to block outside sounds (known as passive noise cancellation), and makes music sound better by creating the perfect listening environment inside your ear.
Most companies bundle multiple sets of tips with this style of earbuds in a range of sizes, which allows you to find the ones that fit your ears the best. We strongly recommend taking an hour or so to find the eartips that fit your ear best before walking outside and running the risk of losing your wired earbuds.
Wired vs. Wireless: One of the first decisions you need to make when selecting earbuds is deciding whether you’d like them to be wired or wireless.
Wired earbuds have “unlimited” battery life, and won’t compress or otherwise futz with the sound of the music coming from your device. The drawbacks to using wired earbuds is their cable, which will inevitably flop around when you move, and the lack of a headphone jack on many mobile devices, which will force you to use an adapter.
Wireless earbuds are more convenient to use because there’s no cable in your way, but you will have to worry about charging them on a regular basis. Audio will be compressed on its way from your device to the earbuds, which will result in a loss of quality — though many people won’t be able to tell the difference. Wireless earbuds also introduce the possibility of latency (lag), which can be annoying if you switch songs frequently.
Most of the earbuds we’re recommending in this guide are wireless because their convenience outweighs our concerns about audio compression and battery anxiety.
Active Noise Cancellation: The chief feature you won’t find on a pair of earbuds under $50 is active noise cancellation. We anticipate that this will change in the next year or two, though.
Best Earbuds Under $50: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Edifier X3
Why They Made the Cut: Edifier’s X3 earbuds offer great sound and excellent battery life in an incredibly portable package.
— Style: True wireless
— Battery Life: Six hours (24 with battery case)
— Weight: 3.52 ounces
— Compact size
— IPX5 water resistance
— Solid battery life
If $50 is all you have to spend on a pair of earbuds, do yourself a favor and get Edifier’s X3s. The true wireless earbuds get six hours of music playback per charge, which means they last a half hour longer than Apple’s AirPods Pro. The X3s battery case can fully recharge them three times, so they practically offer all-day battery life — with short charging breaks in between. Edifier’s X3s don’t have active noise cancellation, but were designed in such a way to reduce the amount of sounds that leak through them, isolating you quite a bit.
The X3s also have an IP55 rating, which means they can handle exposure to dust and water, so you can wear them while exercising without fretting about your sweat. These aren’t waterproof earbuds (don’t worry, we have a recommendation for that), but they won’t get damaged if you accidentally get caught in a rainstorm mid-run. True wireless earbuds are ideal when working out because of their extremely small size.
Edifier has continually surprised us by how much audio performance they can pack into budget-priced headphones and speakers. Their higher-end items are no slouches, either. It’s no surprise that the company’s NeoBuds Pro topped our list of the best wireless earbuds under $100 due to their excellent sound. The X3s feature a custom-tuned driver to deliver excellent-sounding audio, and you can tweak the way these earbuds sound by using Edifier’s mobile app. You shouldn’t have any audio issues with these earbuds out of the box.
Typically $59.99, the Edifier X3s are currently $10 off on Amazon, and the site has sweetened the pot by offering a 20% coupon, which reduces the price by another $10. This is one of the most expensive pairs of earbuds in our guide, but considering what you’re getting for under $50, we’re impressed.
Best Budget: iFrogz Impulse Duo
Why They Made the Cut: iFrogz’s Impulse Duo earbuds have a unique design that’s held up through the years, and still sound great for their price.
— Style: Wireless
— Battery Life: 10 hours
— Weight: 5.3 ounces
— Double-driver architecture
— Magnetic clip
— MicroUSB Charging
iFrogz’s Impulse Duo earbuds are five years old, and remain our top budget pick if you have an ultra strict headphone budget. We gave the Impulse Duo earbuds this slot in our guide to the best earbuds under $100, and feel just as strongly about them now. Below are our thoughts from the other guide we posted, which are still true.
Despite the company's funny name, these earbuds have impressed us since they were originally released half a decade back. They lack premium features, like active noise cancellation and true wireless design, which have come into vogue over the past couple of years, but they've held up pretty well beyond that.
They still sound good for casual music or podcast listening, which is all you should expect to do with the Impulse Duos. iFrogz Audio says they're sweat-resistant, and we’ve never had an issue with them during our testing period, but we still recommend using the Spirit X2s if you're looking for earbuds designed for exercising.
The feature that distinguished the Impulse Duo earbuds upon release and continue to impress today is their unique design. The buds are attached to a small Bluetooth controller that comes with a magnetic clip that's physically attached to the controller on one side. This feature allows you to clip the earbuds onto your clothing, or keep the earbuds' cables organized when you're not using them. We've seen dozens of wireless earbuds over the ears, and wish the Impulse Duo's design took off. That's especially true because the Bluetooth controller has a physical play / pause button, so you can control your music comfortably.
The Impulse Duo's biggest downside is its Micro USB charging port. These wireless earbuds predate the ubiquity of the USB-C charging port, so you may need to keep an extra cable around if you use them. That said, it's a literal small price to pay for this minor inconvenience. If you want an ultra-inexpensive pair of Bluetooth earbuds that don't look, feel, or sound cheap, iFrogz Audio's Impulse Duos are the only option to consider.
Best Wired: Sennheiser CX 300S
Why They Made the Cut: Sennheisser’s CX 300S earbuds are well made, easy to use, and never need to be charged.
— Style: Wired
— Battery Life: N/A
— Weight: .38 ounces
— Four sets of eartips
— In-line controls
— “Unlimited” battery life
— Their cable may be obtrusive
If you don’t mind wearing earbuds that need to be tethered to your device with a cable, Sennheiser’s CX 300S are our top choice. These earbuds come with four sets of eartips, which means you’re almost guaranteed to find a set that’ll fit in your ears. Ear tip fit is especially important when wearing wired earbuds because their cable can put tension on your ears as it moves around. If the earbuds have a loose fit, they’ll constantly pop out of your ears, which is incredibly annoying.
Picking a pair of wired earbuds does come with the advantages of limitless battery life, no lag, and zero audio compression, but we’re partial to Sennheisser’s gear because it’s always been well made. In our experience, the company always delivers the right mix of audio quality and comfort. You'll need both of those features to wear headphones for several hours at a time.
Many wireless earbuds have volume and media playback controls built into one of both of their buds, but the CX 300S’ have a dedicated controller in the center of their cable. You’ll be able to make your music louder or softer, play or pause a track, and switch songs in just a few taps. This is helpful if you choose to wear these earbuds in an environment where touching your device is difficult, like the gym.
Many people consider wired earbuds to be old school, but Sennheisser’s CX 300S prove there’s still a lot to like about this style of earbuds.
Best Waterproof: Boean Bluetooth Headphones
Why They Made the Cut: Boean’s Bluetooth Headphones are the perfect pair for working out above or below the water thanks to their ear hooks and waterproof design.
— Style: Wireless
— Battery Life: 15 hours
— Weight: 3.84 ounces
— Fully waterproof
— Great battery life
— Designed specifically for working out
Boean’s Bluetooth Headphones earned a slot in our guide as the best waterproof earbuds because of their incredible price and gym-friendly design. While everything we like about the earbuds remains true, we have to include the caveat that they’re designed primarily for working out. Their ear hooks, which keep the earbuds in place while you move around, may feel annoying if you wear the earbuds for multiple hours. That said, if you need workout earbuds under $50, we couldn’t think of a better pair.
These waterproof earbuds have an IP7X rating, get 15 hours of battery life per charge, and have a hook that fits behind the back of your ear to keep the headphones in place. These aren’t true wireless earbuds though, which means they don’t have a case that will recharge them automatically. This means you’ll probably have to plug them twice as often as a pair of true wireless earbuds.
Still, you’re getting a lot out of performance from a pair of earbuds that cost less than $20 thanks to an Amazon coupon. The right earbud has volume up and down buttons, which can also be used to switch the track you’re listening to. This is helpful because it allows you to change your music without having to touch your phone. Boean says it’s tuned the earbuds to have the right balance of treble and bass to satisfy the taste of any listener, but you’ll ultimately be the judge of that. If you’re trying to get in better shape and want to add some water exercises to your repertoire, this pair of earbuds from Boean will satisfy your needs at a very reasonable price.
Best for iPhone: Beats Flex Wireless Earbuds
Why They Made the Cut: The Beats Flex features Apple’s W1 Chip, which allows the earbuds to pair with your iPhone, iPad, or Mac more effectively than typical Bluetooth wireless headphones.
— Style: Wireless
— Battery Life: 12 hours
— Weight: 0.6 ounces
— W1 Chip
— Battery life
— Bass performance
If you have an iPhone, the best pair of earbuds you can get for under $50 are the Beats Flex. This is true whether you’re searching for a pair of earbuds, on-ear headphones, or over-ear headphones; the Beats Flex cannot be beaten at their price.
This is because the Beat Flex features Apple’s W1 chip, which is the same processor found in Apple’s first-generation AirPods. This allows the earbuds to connect with Apple devices using wireless technology that’s different from standard Bluetooth. The biggest difference you’ll notice when the Beats Flex are paired with an Apple device is better battery life. Apple’s proprietary wireless connectivity software is more energy efficient than Bluetooth, which means you’re much more likely to get close to the Flex’s full 12 hours of battery life advertised. It’s important to point out that the Beats Flex can also still connect to Android and Windows devices over Bluetooth.
Another benefit of the W1 chip is that it enables you to trigger Siri by saying “Hey Siri” instead of holding down a button. This is helpful if you want to quickly dictate a text message while you’re walking around or have your hands busy. You can only get this feature when using headphones that have Apple’s hardware inside, which basically boils down to gear made by Beats or Apple’s AirPods line.
Having custom-designed Apple hardware does drive up the Beats Flex’s price to $50, which is our limit for this guide. That’s a pretty incredible price for any piece of Apple-related gear, but is still high compared to most of our other recommendations. Still, you’re getting a pair of earbuds that are guaranteed to sound great to your ears — especially if your preferred music genres feature a lot of bass.
The Beats Flex are a great set of earbuds regardless of what type of device you use, but basically a must-have if you’re an iPhone user looking for wireless earbuds in this price range.
Things to Consider Before Buying Earbuds Under $50
Primary Listening Environment: The decision of what type of earbuds you should get generally comes down to the device you use most often, and the places you listen to music regularly. If you tend to listen to music in a single quiet area (a room in your home or an office), using wired earbuds, or wireless pairs with a cable, will make more sense because you can connect them to your device and listen without feeling encumbered. If you’re constantly on the move, you should strongly consider true wireless earbuds, which can keep up with your active lifestyle without missing a beat.
Q: Can you buy refurbished earbuds under 50?
Yes. You can find many refurbished earbuds under $50 (and thousands of other items) by shopping at Amazon’s Warehouse section.
Q: Which earbuds have the longest battery life?
TK has the best battery life according to our research and testing. Technically speaking, wired headphones have the best battery life because they last as long as your device does and don’t need to be charged.
Q: How do I responsibly dispose of my old earbuds?
If you're replacing an older pair of earbuds with one of our recommendations, we recommend reading our guide on how to responsibly dispose of e-waste.
Final Thoughts on Earbuds Under $50
There’s no denying that it’s fun to have the latest and greatest gear, but we’re thrilled to see so much competition in the sub-$50 earbud market. We don’t have to qualify our recommendations with disclaimers, and can confidently tell you about the best gear in this price range without reservation. The best part is that new features come to earbuds under $50 every year, and those steady improvements make it less and less necessary to shell out a lot of money unless you have a very specific need.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.