Although the new Powerbeats Pro 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 June 14, 2019, to replace the Creative Outlier Air with the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air.
Best all-around: 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 support is great for iPhone users.
Best sound: Monoprice True Wireless
Reasons to consider the Monoprice True Wireless:
- IPX4 water-resistance
- Good sound quality
- Chic earbud and case design
- Easy-to-operate playback controls
Best battery life: Rowkin Ascent Micro
Reasons to consider the Rowkin Ascent Micro:
- IPX5 water-resistance
- Comprehensive touch controls
- Portable design with AirPods-like charging case
- Effective isolation and noise-reduction performance
Best connectivity: Jam Ultra
Reasons to consider the Jam Ultra:
- Unique cloth-wrap design makes the earbuds and case easy to grip
- Reliable connectivity
- Bass lovers will enjoy the exaggerated low-end in lieu of crystal clear reproduction
- 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.