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The best budget wireless earbuds for 2024

Cheap picks for noise-canceling, workouts and more — all for $100 or less.

Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

It used to be difficult to find cheap wireless earbuds that weren't trash. Today, though, it's much less of a struggle to get something good enough without spending triple digits. And with headphone jacks all but extinct on most new smartphones, that should be the case. Still, some models are better than others. If you’re looking to upgrade, we’ve researched and tested more than a dozen wireless earbuds that cost less than $100 and sorted out our top picks below. While none of them beat our absolute favorite wireless earbuds in terms of sound quality or noise cancellation, the best can provide a surprisingly polished experience for a fraction of the price. This is a busy market with new contenders arriving all the time, but for now, here are the best cheap wireless earbuds we’ve tried.

Editor’s note (5/2/24): In accordance with our recent guide to the best wireless workout headphones, we’ve made the JLab Go Air Sport our new “best for workouts” pick. We now highlight our former pick, the Jabra Elite 3, as a good alternative. We’re also in the process of testing a new batch of sub-$100 earbuds, which we’ll include in our next update.

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Bluetooth: v5.2 | ANC: Yes | Transparency mode: Yes | Custom EQ: Yes | Charging port: USB-C | Wireless charging: Yes | Water resistance: IPX4 | Multipoint connectivity: Yes (2 devices) | Wear detection: No | Battery life (rated): 10 hrs, 50 hrs w/ case | Fast charging (rated): 10 mins = 4 hrs | Codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC | Warranty: 18 months

The Anker Soundcore Space A40 is often available for $80 but offers the kind of performance and features you’d see from a pair of earbuds that costs twice as much. Its little round earpieces are light and evenly balanced, so they shouldn’t be a pain for most to wear for hours at a time. The default sound profile is good enough: It’s warm, with a bump in the upper-bass and a dip in the treble that can dull some finer details, but pleasant on the whole. Unlike many cheaper headphones, it doesn’t completely blow out the low-end. As with many modern pairs, you can tweak the sound with custom EQ tools in the Soundcore app. Using these won’t make the Space A40 sound as nice as the best wireless earbuds on the market, but it can give them a touch more deep bass or high-frequency emphasis. The app in general is easy to use, and it saves any changes you make directly to the earphones.

The Space A40's best feature is its active noise cancellation (ANC), which is outstanding for the money. It won’t totally block out higher-pitched sounds, but it’s plenty effective at muting the rumbles of a train or jet engine. By default, Anker uses an adaptive ANC system that automatically tweaks the intensity based on your surroundings, though you can manually set it to strong, moderate or weak levels, too. That’s great for those with sensitive ears. There’s also a transparency mode, which isn’t nearly as good as what you’d find on a high-end pair like the AirPods Pro but works in a pinch.

Most of the little touches you’d want from a modern set of headphones are here as well. The Space A40 can connect to two devices simultaneously, and you can use one earbud on its own. Battery life is solid at eight-ish hours, while the included charging case can supply another 40 or so hours and supports wireless charging. The IPX4 water resistance rating isn’t anything special but still means the earphones can survive light rain and everyday sweat. The touch control scheme can feel somewhat busy, as it lets you assign up to six different shortcuts to different taps and long presses and effectively forces you to omit a function or two, but it works reliably. We’ve had no real connection issues, either.

The only major shortcomings are the mic quality and the lack of auto-pausing when you remove an earbud. The former doesn’t handle sibilant sounds very well and can lose your voice in particularly noisy areas, so this isn’t the best option for phone calls, but it’s usable.

  • Excellent ANC for the money
  • Pleasant, warm sound
  • Multi-device connectivity and wireless charging support
  • Comfortable
  • Good battery life
  • No automatic wear detection
  • Call quality isn't great
  • Audio performance isn't as detailed as higher-end options (as expected)
$49 at Amazon
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$100 at Newegg

Bluetooth: v5.3 | ANC: Yes | Transparency mode: Yes | Custom EQ: Yes | Charging port: USB-C | Wireless charging: Yes | Water resistance: IPX4 | Multipoint connectivity: Yes (2 devices) | Wear detection: Yes | Battery life (rated): 10 hrs, 50 hrs w/ case | Fast charging (rated): 10 mins = 4 hrs | Codecs: SBC, AAC, LDAC | Warranty: 18 months

The Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 NC is a commendable option if you prefer a larger “stem” design akin to Apple’s AirPods. In many ways, these earphones are just the Space A40 in a different shape. Like our top pick, they deliver an impressive adaptive ANC system, a relatively stable fit, wireless charging, an intuitive app, IPX4-rated water resistance and the ability to connect with two devices at once. Battery life is about the same as well, but we were usually able to get a half-hour or so more out of the Liberty 4 NC.

By default, this pair has an exciting sound with big, thumpy bass and a noticeable spike in the treble. It’s a good example of the “fun” EQ curve we often see from mainstream headphones these days, one that lends a nice sense of clarity to vocals and higher-range instrumentation. It fits especially well with EDM and pop music. That said, it’s intense, so some might find it fatiguing. The Space A40 doesn’t exactly sound neutral, but it comes off as easygoing by comparison, so it should be more agreeable for most. You can still personalize the Liberty 4 NC’s sound profile through a variety of EQ settings in the Soundcore app, but it’s hard to fully rein in the bass even with those.

Beyond that, you can manually adjust the strength of this pair’s ANC on a five-step scale, which is a little more granular than the Space A40’s three-step option. The touch controls are slightly more extensive, as you can triple-tap each earbud to change volume or access other commands. It also supports wear detection, plus its integrated mics are a bit better at resisting wind noise. However, it’s sluggish to auto-pause whenever you remove an earbud, and call quality is still mediocre in general. The included transparency mode is still merely serviceable too. And at $100, it’s right on the edge of our “budget” limit.

  • Strong ANC for the money
  • Multi-device connectivity and wireless charging support
  • Comfortable
  • Good battery life
  • Bass-heavy sound is fun but can be fatiguing
  • Bulkier "stem" design is not for everyone
  • Call quality isn't great
$88 at Amazon
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$75 at Abt Electronics

Bluetooth: v5.2 | ANC: No | Transparency mode: No | Custom EQ: Yes | Charging port: USB-C | Wireless charging: Yes | Water resistance: IPX7 | Multipoint connectivity: No | Wear detection: No | Battery life (rated): 7 hrs, 30 hrs w/ case | Fast charging (rated): 10 mins = 2 hrs | Codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX | Warranty: 18 months

If you don’t want to spend more than $50 on a set of true wireless earbuds, consider the Earfun Free 2S. Similar to the Liberty 4 NC, this pair has a big bass response and a smaller bump in the treble. It misses details in the mids and can feel exhausting to listen to over extended periods, but it’s a richer take on this kind of sound signature than most pairs in the price range. You can adjust the sound through EarFun’s app as well, though there’s fewer EQ presets to choose from than with the Space A40.

The earpieces themselves are well-shaped and not oversized; combined with their soft silicone ear tips, they should be comfortable for most to wear over long periods of time. An IPX7 rating means they’re fully waterproof, too. There’s a suite of reliable touch controls and battery life sits at around seven hours. The included case adds another 30 or so hours and supports wireless charging, too. It’s not the smallest case we’ve used, but it’s not so large that it can’t fit in a pocket, either.

That said, you start to run into more “you get what you pay for” situations once you drop into this price range. In addition to not sounding quite as sharp as our pricier picks, the Free 2S lacks active noise cancellation, multi-device connectivity, auto-pausing and a transparency mode. And though their mic quality is decent in most cases, it’s pretty susceptible to wind noise.

  • Very affordable
  • Comfortable and compact fit
  • IPX7 waterproof rating
  • Lively, customizable sound
  • No ANC or ambient sound modes
  • No wireless charging, wear detection or multi-device connectivity, either
  • Sound quality is still less balanced than our top picks
$40 at Amazon
Photo by Valentina Palladino / Engadget

Bluetooth: v5.1 | ANC: No | Transparency mode: No | Custom EQ: Yes (presets only) | Charging port: USB-A (integrated) | Wireless charging: No | Water resistance: IP55 | Multipoint connectivity: No | Wear detection: No | Battery life (rated): 8 hrs, 32+ hrs w/ case | Fast charging (rated): 10 mins = 1 hr | Codecs: SBC | Warranty: 2 years

Any of our picks above will be perfectly fine for working out. But if you want a set of cheap earphones specifically for the gym, the JLab Go Air Sport are worth considering. Engadget’s Valentina Palladino recommends this pair in our guide to the best running headphones and, at $30, it is indeed a strong value. It uses an around-the-ear hook design that keeps everything secure while you’re on the move, and the hooks themselves are soft and flexible, so they shouldn’t be a pain to wear regardless of your ear size. The design is IP55 water-resistant, which isn’t the absolute best but is enough to survive sweaty, non-swimming workouts. (Just note that the rating doesn’t apply to the charging case.) Battery life is solid at roughly eight hours, and the touch controls generally work well.

The Go Air Sport doesn’t have a dedicated app but comes with three EQ modes built in. Unfortunately, all of them are somewhat boomy. A bass-heavy sound isn’t the worst thing for pumping yourself up at the gym, but the Space A40 should be better for enjoying music everywhere else. This pair is also light on features: no ANC, transparency mode, wireless charging, auto-pausing or multi-device connectivity. The case has a short USB-A cable hardwired in, which is sort of convenient but demands extra care — if that cord breaks, you’ll need a whole new case. The case could stand to be a bit smaller as well. But for $30, there’s plenty to like about the Go Air Sport as a cheap beater set used strictly for workouts.

We mostly recommend the Go Air Sport in this spot for its design, but if you really don’t like the hook-style shape, the Jabra Elite 3 is another good alternative. It’s similarly lacking in extra features, but it sounds much more balanced, it has the same water-resistance rating and you can tweak its EQ curve through a handy app. It’s usually priced around $50.

  • Very affordable
  • Secure, gym-friendly design
  • IP55-rated water resistance
  • Solid battery life
  • Bass-heavy sound isn’t for everyone
  • Lacking feature set
  • Case could be smaller
  • Affixed charging cable isn’t USB-C
$20 at Amazon
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$30 at Walmart$30 at Verizon

Bluetooth: v5.2 | ANC: No | Transparency mode: No | Custom EQ: Yes | Charging port: USB-C | Wireless charging: No | Water resistance: IPX2 | Multipoint connectivity: Yes (2 devices) | Wear detection: Yes | Battery life (rated): 5 hrs, 6 hrs w/ wake word off, 20 hrs w/ case | Fast charging: 15 mins = 2 hrs | Codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX | Warranty: 1 year

All of our picks so far are technically earphones, meaning they extend into your ear canal. For some people, that is inherently uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the market for decent yet affordable “earbuds,” which rest on the concha instead of going all the way in your ear, is spotty. If you can’t bring yourself to pay for a pair of AirPods, though, the Amazon Echo Buds are a worthy compromise at $50.

The plastic earpieces here aren’t exactly premium, but they rest lightly in the ear and feel sturdily put together. They let in and leak noise more easily than in-ear headphones, but if you prefer open earbuds, that’s more of a feature than a bug. If the fit doesn’t feel right, you can shed a little bulk by removing the pre-installed silicone covers. (Like most open earbuds, though, comfort here is dependent on your ear shape.) Mic quality is more than adequate, and the circular touch panels give ample room for using the controls, which are customizable and consistently responsive. Battery life sits around five hours, which is middling but not out of character for budget earbuds. The pocket-friendly case adds about three full charges, but it’s worth noting that Amazon doesn’t include a USB-C charging cable. A poor IPX2 water resistance rating means you should avoid the gym with these, too.

While the Echo Buds sound fine out of the box, I'd use the EQ sliders in the Alexa app to bring down the treble a click or two. By default, the highs are a bit too edgy. That said, this emphasis lends a nice crispness to things like vocals, cymbals and strings, and there’s enough separation to keep complex tracks from sounding totally muddled. The profile here isn’t as full-bodied as the latest AirPods, and no open earbuds deliver true sub-bass, but there’s at least some rumble for hip-hop and EDM.

Unlike many cheap earbuds, the Echo Buds support auto-pausing and multi-device pairing. I often had to manually pause playback on one device before I could switch to the other, but having the feature at all at this price is great. Unsurprisingly, they also come with Alexa baked in, which you can access hands-free. You manage the Echo Buds through the Alexa app, which is much more cluttered than a dedicated audio app but includes extras like a lost device tracker and sidetone control for phone calls. And if you want nothing to do with Alexa, it also lets you turn off the mics and wake-word support.

  • Actually decent unsealed earbuds that cost less than $50
  • Lightweight
  • Pocket-friendly case
  • Automatic wear detection
  • Multi-device connectivity
  • Hands-free (and optional) Alexa
  • Open design means you'll hear external noise all the time
  • Poor water resistance
  • Middling battery life
  • Needs a little tweaking to sound its best
  • Alexa app is a bit obnoxious
$50 at Amazon
Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

Our former runner-up pick, the EarFun Air Pro 3 offers a similar shape, feature set and bass-heavy sound profile as the Soundcore Liberty 4 NC. Its call quality and IPX5-rated water resistance are a touch superior as well. But its battery life is shorter at six to seven hours per charge, and its ANC, while serviceable, is neither as comprehensive nor customizable. Anker’s pair also sounds better, with richer bass and greater clarity in the treble range. The main reason to consider the Air Pro 3 is because it often goes on sale for much less than the Liberty 4 NC, so if you prefer a stem-style design and really need to save cash, it’s worth a look. Do note, though, that EarFun has announced an updated model called the Air Pro 4 that will arrive later in 2024.

  • Impressive feature set for the price
  • Excited sound profile isn't for everyone
$56 at Amazon
Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

If you just want a competent pair of wireless earbuds for as little money as possible, take a look at the JLab Go Air Pop. For $25, it has a light design with decent isolation, plus eight to nine hours of battery life, IPX4 water resistance and a full set of touch controls that actually work. As with the Go Air Sport, there’s no companion app but JLab lets you swap between three built-in EQ presets from the buds themselves. It’s still worth upgrading to the EarFun Free 2S if you can afford it, as the Go Air Pop sounds boomier by comparison and isn’t as clear in the treble and upper-mids. But at this price, those shouldn't be dealbreaking trade-offs.

  • Dirt cheap
  • Solid battery life
  • Top picks sound more balanced
  • No app
$25 at Amazon
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$25 at Verizon$25 at Lenovo
Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

The Nothing Ear Stick has a fashionable transparent design and a case that looks like a big, clear tube of lipstick. To access the earbuds, you just twist the case, which is fun. The earpieces feel sturdy and polished, with responsive controls built around AirPods-style stem squeezes. Audio quality isn’t bad, either, though the treble is a little shouty by default. The main problem is that these are unsealed earbuds with a list price of $99. That’s still under our “budget” threshold, but it’s a little too close to AirPods territory for a pair with far fewer software tricks to make up for the sound sacrifices inherent to this design. If you’re particular about aesthetics and must have open earbuds, then the Ear Stick is a good take on the idea. Most others are better off with the Space A40.

  • Fashionable design
  • Decent sound quality for open-style earbuds
  • Clean app
  • Not the best value
  • Poor noise isolation, by design
$99 at Nothing