Although the new Powerbeats and AirPods may suggest you have to pay a premium to get true wireless earbuds, we’re here to tell you that’s not the case. Good, cheap true wireless headphones are more prevalent than ever. Today we’re going to separate the high-value products from the rest.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on August 8, 2019, to include the Xiaomi Mi True Wireless noise cancelling earbuds.
Best all-around: Creative Outlier Air
Reasons to consider the Creative Outlier Air:
- These standout from the cheap crowd with their dual-codec support of AAC and aptX.
- Athletes will appreciate the IPX5 water-resistant build.
- The bass-heavy sound isn’t overpowering and appeals to a broad audience.
- Microphone quality is good for quick calls.
- The 7.78-hour battery life is great, and the case charges via USB-C.
Best connectivity: Anker Soundcore Liberty Air
Reasons to consider the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air:
- The Liberty Air provides reliable Bluetooth connectivity.
- Battery life is great for true wireless ‘buds, clocking in just below five hours of constant playback time.
- The earbuds are IPX5-certified, making them great for workouts and unexpected downpours.
Best workout: JLab JBuds Air Executive
Reasons to consider the JLab JBuds Air Executive:
- The earbuds are IP55-rated to ensure dust and water-resistance.
- Standalone battery life is good, and a sleek charging case with an integrated USB charging cable is included.
- Isolation is excellent, facilitating strong bass emphasis.
- AAC Bluetooth codec support is great for iPhone users.
Best sound: Monoprice True Wireless
Reasons to consider the Monoprice True Wireless:
- The earbuds feature IPX4 water-resistance for workouts.
- Sound quality is good for the ~$50 price.
- Both the case and earbuds are lightweight and chic.
- The playback controls are easy to learn and operate by memorizing a series of button taps.
Best noise-cancelling: Xiaomi Mi True Wireless
Reasons to consider the Xiaomi Mi True Wireless:
- The earbuds boast an IPX4 water-resistant rating, meaning they can withstand workouts and unexpected rain showers.
- You can connect to two devices simultaneously; Xiaomi delegates one earbud to the primary device and the other earbud to the secondary device.
- The ‘buds have a stemmed AirPods-like design and charging case with actual nozzles for better isolation.
- Noise cancelling is rare at this price point.
- JLab JBuds Air: These are even more affordable than the JBuds Air Executive and are IP55-rated.
- Skullcandy Push: While these cost slightly more than $100, the 6-hour and 21-minute battery life is impeccable and worth checking out if you need your ‘buds to last the bulk of the day.
What you should know about the cheap true wireless earbuds
- High-quality Bluetooth codecs afford better audio quality and reduced latency.
- Standalone battery life with truly wireless earbuds is generally sub par, and the cheaper options are no exception. Granted, picks like the Creative Outlier Air are vastly improving battery life.
- Water-resistance, while not as prevalent as with workout earbuds, is an occasional feature in cheap true wireless earbuds.
- Cheap true wireless earbuds won’t typically don’t outperform their more expensive counterparts when it comes to sound quality, but that can be mitigated by a good fit and with proper ear tips.