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What are the best cheap true wireless earbuds? We tested 15 — Here's our top 8

Skip the expensive AirPods.
By
November 24, 2022
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 noise cancelling true wireless earbuds with one 'bud out of the open, angled charging case.
Lily Katz / Android Authority

There are nearly endless models of cheap true wireless earbuds out there, so how should you pick one? Don’t worry, it’s pretty easy once you consider your needs:

  • Where and when will you use them, during commutes, at the gym, or for casual listening?
  • What features matter the most to you, low-latency, ANC, or a handy companion app?
  • What design do you find most comfortable?

Once you’ve got a clear picture in mind after answering these questions, it’s pretty simple to pick a pair. We’ve reviewed the most popular true wireless earbuds models on the market and narrowed down the field. If you want a more in-depth look at what to consider, we’ve got that covered, too. But if you already know what you need, skip to the top choices that we’ve selected after rigorous testing.

Read on to see our picks for the best cheap true wireless earbuds you can buy in 2022.


The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are the best cheap true wireless earbuds

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
Compact design • In-app ear tip fit test • Sound quality
A fine pair of noise-cancelling earbuds that might get lost in the confusing line of other Buds.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 don't rattle the world of audio wearables, but they do their job well as a pair of everyday earphones. Sound quality is very good and bound to please most ears, and the noise-cancelling edges out that of the Galaxy Buds Pro. Still, you may have a hard time choosing the Buds 2 over the more premium Buds Pro and more affordable Buds Plus.

Samsung is a big name in phones and earbuds, and Galaxy Buds 2 show why that reputation is well-deserved. These small, lightweight buds can be found heavily discounted these days, but that doesn’t mean you’re losing out on a good overall earbuds experience. We found the Buds 2 to be a great pick for everyone from commuters to casual listeners. These cheap true wireless earbuds have an IPX2 rating, so they can withstand some sweat, but lots of moisture might be a bit too much for them, and moving your head around a lot may dislodge them.

To help you out during daily tasks, the Galaxy Buds 2 have in-ear detection, which stops playback once you remove the buds. We found the touch controls on these buds to be quite sensitive — verging on hypersensitive, in fact. After taking out the buds, you can store them in the magnetic charging case, which keeps everything secure, even if you drop it.

Android users get to take advantage of the Galaxy Wearables app, which has a few configuration options. There’s no app for iPhone, however. Inside the app, you can toggle through ANC settings, a handy ear tip fit test, and some EQ presets. There’s no custom equalizer, however. And if you want to use your voice to command the buds, you can choose from Bixby, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant.

Fast device switching works across all sorts of devices and operating systems, so you don’t have to manually juggle BLUetooth connections. We found it to be pretty reliable. And if you find the amount of audiovisual lag unacceptable, you can dive into the Galaxy Labs tab to enable “gaming mode,” which cuts down on latency.

Like other Samsung earbuds, the Galaxy Buds 2 support the SBC and AAC BLUetooth codecs on most devices, while Galaxy phone owners get the Samsung Scalable Codec. While not having aptX is a bit of a bummer, this codec is generally hard to find on cheap earbuds. Still, we didn’t experience any connection unreliability or hiccups during our testing.

You get around five hours of battery with noise-cancelling enabled, according to Samsung, while the charging case gives you another 15 hours. And a quick five-minute stint in the case nets you 60 minutes of playback time. To charge the case itself, you can use USB-C, Qi wireless charging, or Samsung PowerShare with compatible devices.

The ANC on the Galaxy Buds 2 actually beats out the first-gen Galaxy Buds Pro.

In our experience, low-frequency noises tended to be quieted well with ANC on. High frequencies will also be attenuated if you can get a good seal from the ear tips. This is where the ear tip fit test in the app can help you out by seeing which of the included tips works best.

Their sound quality is also quite good. We found the Buds 2 to have a frequency response curve that most people will find pleasing. It reproduces instruments and voices well overall, with the usual boost to sub-bass notes that most consumer headphones and earbuds have. If you really strain to listen, you might notice some missing nuances, but that’s not a major concern for casual listening on the bus or during a day at the office. Galaxy phone owners can also take advantage of 360 Audio, which is what Samsung calls its spatial audio implementation.

The mic will also work well for phone calls, and the other party was able to understand us just fine in our tests. While the mic does a decent job of blocking out noises such as wind, you will notice some distortion. Still, at this price, the Galaxy Buds 2 have a mic that will do well for your daily conference calls and quick chats with friends.

If you want a pair of earbuds with good sound that can go everywhere during daily activities and have some handy convenience features, then the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 make for a great overall pick. And if you have a Galaxy phone, you get some other bonuses like the Samsung Scalable Codec and spatial audio.

What makes them stand out

  • Lightweight and comfortable fit: The Galaxy Buds 2 won’t weigh you down during daily activities.
  • Solid ANC: The Galaxy Buds 2 give you good noise-cancelling to block out distracting sounds.
  • Good sound quality: The frequency response curve for the Galaxy Buds 2 reproduces sound that most people will enjoy.
  • IPX2 rating: If you happen to sweat on these buds a little, it’s not a major concern.
  • Reliable mic: Taking phone calls with the Galaxy Buds 2 means the other party can make out your words without too much hassle.

Best of the rest: seven other cheap true wireless earbuds models worth considering

For most people, we recommend the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2. These earbuds strike a great balance between price, features, ease of use, and sound quality. However, there are other use cases for earbuds, and some models might suit those better. You might go even harder at the gym or need low-latency codec support across all sorts of devices. For these scenarios, here are some other picks of note:

  • Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro: Tinkerers who demand more control will appreciate these earbuds. The Soundcore app lets you extensively tweak features, while both iPhone and Android users can benefit thanks to solid AAC and LDAC codec support.
  • Amazon Echo Buds (2nd gen): If you use Alexa heavily daily, these earbuds will slide in nicely. Plus, the Alexa app contains many bonus features, including workout tracking.
  • Google Pixel Buds A-Series: Android phone owners that want an option tailored to their device can take advantage of these ecosystem-friendly buds.
  • Jabra Elite 3: Finding aptX on cheap earbuds can be difficult, but these buds have it. Plus, they’re pretty ruggedly built, and they sound good, too.
  • Nothing Ear 1: Got AirPods envy? Get these buds. They boast a similar design to Apple’s earphones at a much cheaper price and a pretty good mic, too.
  • OnePlus Buds Z2: Athletes looking for earbuds that enhance their workouts will likely appreciate the IP55 rating of these buds and the IPX4 rating of their case.
  • Sony WF-C500: If you cannot decide which set of features matters most to you, these jack-of-all-trades buds have a taste of everything — except ANC. But they do have spatial audio support, good isolation, and a mobile app with an EQ.

The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro are for tinkerers

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 ProAnker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro
Fast charging • EQ customization • LDAC support
Mulitple noise cancelling modes and excellent microphone
The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 earbuds have an impressive microphone with background noise reduction. They are comfortable and support fast charging.

If you demand the ability to alter nearly everything that your earbuds can do, then the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro are a great choice. These buds don’t work as seamlessly out of the package as some others, but getting this level of control over their features is notable at any price, not just for cheap true wireless buds.

However, a few tweaks and some fiddling can make these into truly great buds that you can set up just the way you want. And that begins the instant you take them out of the box, with a selection of eight ear tips to choose from to get the right fit, plus a fit test in the Soundcore app. However, the tips are rather short, so getting a tight seal might be trickier if you have deep ears. The buds may not look too fancy, being made of plastic, but they weigh only 5.2g, and we didn’t feel burdened by them during daily use. Plus, an IPX4 rating means they can survive a workout just fine.

The configurability of the Anker Soundcoure Liberty Air 2 Pro continues into the Soundcore app (iOS and Android). It contains many features to tinker with, even compared to offerings from much more expensive models. You get equalizer presets to choose from, or create your own if none of them please you. There’s also HearID, which creates a sound profile tailored to your ears. We found these to be fun to play around with and useful for hearing various genres at their best.

You can also adjust what single, double, and tap-and-hold actions on the earbuds do, which many cheap true wireless earbuds give you little if any control over. You even get wear detection, which pauses playback as soon as you remove the buds.

Anker claims the Liberty Air 2 Pro can get seven hours of battery, but we found they reached four hours, 50 minutes. That’s far from the manufacturer’s claim but in line with other true wireless earbuds. The charging case gives you three additional full charges, and a fast charge option provides 180 minutes of listening time with only 15 minutes in the case. You can top up the buds using USB-C or wireless Qi-compatible charging pads.

Unlike other companion apps, not only does the Soundcore app let you turn noise-cancelling on and off, but you can further tailor it to your needs.

As far as ANC goes, beyond activating transparency mode, you can choose from Transport, Indoor, Outdoor, and Custom modes to suit your use cases. You can even change transparency mode between full and vocal mode, which amps up the mids slightly more to help you hear other people. We found this level of fine-grained adjustments over features definitely handy, but you’ll have to have the right kind of control-centric personality to fully appreciate them. We found the ANC capabilities of the earbuds to be about equivalent to the AirPods Pro, which is saying a lot, considering the Anker model is far cheaper.

Another way in which the Air 2 Pro buck the trend in cheap earbuds is in their support for the LDAC BLUetooth codec, along with AAC and SBC. LDAC is itself a configurable codec, and if you own a device that supports it, you can choose between a stability-focused connection or a quality-focused one in the Soundcore app. Furthermore, you can dive into the developer setting on your phone to choose what bitrate to use. We recommend 660kbps, which strikes a good balance between reliability and quality.

Unfortunately, out of the box, the Anker Soundcoure Liberty Air 2 Pro don’t have the best frequency response curve. We found that they amp up bass notes by quite a bit in our tests. That means low notes may end up drowning out other sounds as you listen to music. However, this is easy to fix in the app because you can use the custom EQ to move the 100Hz slider down a few notches. But if you’re a big bass-head, you can leave this as is. The mic in the earbuds does a decent job of capturing your voice, but from our experience, don’t expect perfection. Our reader poll found that 93% of respondents rated the mic as “Okay” or better, which is pretty typical of true wireless earphones.

If you are the kind of person that loves to tinker with your devices, then the Anker Soundcoure Liberty Air 2 will suit you well. They let you adjust nearly every aspect of their design, and you get pretty good ANC and reliable, high-quality BLUetooth codecs on Android and iOS alike.

What makes them stand out

  • In-depth app: The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 let you configure nearly aspect of the buds to your specifications.
  • Detailed ANC: You can choose different noise-cancelling settings based on various scenarios, so you can get the most out of the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 no matter where you are.
  • LDAC BLUetooth codec: At this price point, LDAC is a rarity, but you get it on these buds and can even configure how it works, too.
  • Lightweight buds: The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 earbuds only weigh 5.2g each, so you won’t feel burdened even if you wear them for a few hours.

The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) are best for Alexa aficionados

Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)
Affordable earbuds • Alexa assistance • Good ANC
Better than ever for dedicated Alexa users.
The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) is a very solid set of true wireless earbuds with ANC and Alexa integration.

Amazon might be known for the online shopping platform, but the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) make for an Alexa user’s ideal set of cheap earbuds. These buds come with three ear tip sizes and two sizes of ear stays, which help anchor the buds into your ears more securely. In our experience the stays make a big difference, so you won’t feel the need to keep adjusting the buds. That, and the ear tip fit test, go a  long way in getting a good experience with them. And an IPX4 rating helps these buds say protected during workouts, to boot.

Touch controls on either bud give you some basic control over your content, but the Alexa integration is the star here. However, if you want to use Google Assistant or Siri, you can use the Alexa app to switch to those voice assistants. The app contains a wealth of handy options that you won’t find with many other earbuds at this price, These include workout data, equalizer control, an ear tip fit test, find my device, and much more.

Many of the buds' features come with using Alexa, and if you use that voice assistant daily, you'll find these buds will integrate well into your life.

These Echo Buds (2nd Gen) only support the SBC and AAC BLUetooth codecs, as is the case with most cheap true wireless earbuds. We did find some noticeable lag when watching videos because of this, but this was a rare occurrence. Also, these buds have a 6.1-meter maximum range, which is less than the nine to ten meters of other models.

We found their battery life to be four hours, 42 minutes, which is pretty average for earbuds. The Echo Buds (2nd Gen) charge via USB-C, but you can spend more money to get the wireless charging-enabled case if you want. The case gives you an additional 15 hours of listening time, while a 15-minute fast charge provides up to two hours of playback time.

The Echo Buds (2nd Gen) have decent ANC, and it does best at cutting down noises you are likely to hear during commuting, like rumbling engines, in our experience. Because you get two methods to ensure a secure fit, isolation was also pretty good in our testing. That means higher-pitched noises should be quieted well, too.

Sound quality is really where the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) show their price point. By default, we found that they emphasize bass notes and underemphasize mids, making it hard to distinguish instruments and pick out vocals. Furthermore, the highs are quite emphasized as well. Thankfully, you can use the equalizer in the Alexa app to knock down the “treble” and “mid” sliders by around a notch or two. The mic is likewise alright. It is not outstanding, but it will do for phone calls with friends.

The Echo Buds (2nd Gen) make for a great pick for Alexa aficionados and anyone looking for feature-packed buds. While they don’t sound great out of the box, you can adjust this with a quick tweak in the Alexa app, and you’re set for using them at home, on the bus, and in plenty of other places, too.

What makes them stand out

  • Tight Alexa Integration: The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Generation) give you tight Alexa integration that will surely please people that love this voice assistant.
  • Lots of features: You get workout tracking, an equalizer, and more, all thanks to the Alexa integration in the Echo Buds (2nd Generation).
  • Comfortable, secure fit: The Echo Buds (2nd Generation) not only give you ear tips but ear stays, too, so it’s easy to get a secure fit.

The Google Pixel Buds A-Series bring tight Android integration to any device

Google Pixel Buds A-SeriesGoogle Pixel Buds A-Series
Google Pixel Buds A-Series
Terrific Android integration • Low price • Multiple fun colors
The core features of the Pixel Buds and Pixel Buds Pro at a lower price
If you like the Pixel Buds line but think they are too pricey, the Pixel Buds A-Series should be on your radar. They have the core features you need at a price you'll love.

Other entries on this list might be tailored for certain flavors of Android, but the Pixel Buds A-Series are for every kind of Android phone. You don’t have to use any specific manufacturer’s walled garden to get the most out of these cheap true wireless earbuds, provided you don’t have an iPhone, of course.

The Pixel Buds A-Series are lightweight, and the case is compact, so you can take these earbuds around town easily. The buds have an IPX4 rating, so taking them to the gym shouldn’t be a concern. Plus, they have vents, which help increase their comfort, and little pegs that stabilize them in your ears.

The Pixel Buds A-Series have touch controls, but you can’t customize them. We found that they worked well, however. The Pixel Buds app is only available for Android, and it contains a lot of handy options. You can track the location of your earbuds, toggle in-ear detection on or off, and more. Having such a tightly-integrated app makes these buds ideal for Android users in our experience. Google Assistant integration is also great. You can access all sorts of earbud commands using your voice and control your phone with them, too.

Oddly for an Android-tailored set of earphones, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series only have the SBC and AAC BLUetooth codecs. That's pretty typical at this price point, though.

The Pixel Buds A-Series do not have noise-canceling, however. Instead, they have Adaptive Sound, which attempts to adjust the volume of your content in response to external noise. We found this to be lackluster at best, and disabling it will likely improve your experience. Isolation is alright, but these buds are designed to keep you aware of your surroundings.

The default frequency response is a bit wonky, too. It actually underemphasizes bass a lot. We determined that this kind of frequency response is likely for better speech intelligibility, like if you’re placing phone calls all day. We recommend sliding the bass EQ slider in the app to the right to get a more consumer-friendly sound. There is also the Volume EQ feature, which adjusts bass and treble as you increase or decrease the volume, but we didn’t find this to be all that helpful.

The microphone in the Pixel Buds A-Series does a good job of blocking out noise, but it might get overzealous at times. If that happens, we found that these buds might also cut off parts of your voice. In more quiet areas, this won’t be a concern, however.

We got four hours, 44 minutes of battery with the Pixel Buds A-Series, which is about average for true wireless earbuds. Quick charging is quite useful because a brief 15-minute stint in the charging case gets you 180 minutes of listening time. USB-C charging is how you top up the case and buds, but there is no wireless charging.

Android die-hards will appreciate how well the Google Pixel Buds A-Series integrate with their devices and how easy Google Assistant is to access multiple functions. Plus, they’re lightweight and comfortable to use all day.

What makes them stand out

  • Android tailoring: The Pixel Buds A-Series can tightly integrate with Android phones from all sorts of manufacturers.
  • Unobtrusive design: The Pixel Buds A-Series are lightweight plus they have vents, so you won’t feel an annoying pressurized sensation when wearing them.
  • Google Assistant at the ready: These earbuds make it easy to use your voice to do almost anything, which is great for busy days or when your hands are full.

The Jabra Elite 3 are the best cheap true wireless earbuds with aptX

Jabra Elite 3Jabra Elite 3
Jabra Elite 3
Affordable • High-res audio • Solid battery life
The Jabra Elite 3 are cheap, sound good, and are easy to use.
This is Jabra’s most affordable set of truly wireless earphones to date and the company manages to pack in premium features like an IP55 rating and aptX support.

It can be hard to find aptX support on true wireless earbuds in general — especially on cheap earbuds. The Jabra Elite 3 offer this BLUetooth codec, so Android phone owners get a reliable, low-latency option at a great price.

While the buds themselves have an IP55 rating, the case is much less durable. We found it to be rather flimsy-feeling and plasticky. Still, the earbuds are comfortable and lightweight. In our experience, getting the buds to sit securely with the included silicone ear tips was not too much of a hassle.

Using The Jabra Elite 3 is also straightforward, with a multi-function touch panel on each bud to aim for. There’s also the pretty simple Jabra Sound+ app for both Android and iOS, which lets you toggle HearThrough mode and select EQ presets or create a custom equalizer profile. Your phone’s notification area gets quick access controls, too, where you can toggle HearThrough mode and see the buds’ battery status.

You get aptX on these buds, so Android users have a reliable, high-quality BLUetooth codec to take advantage of.

But there is no support for AAC, so iOS users are stuck with SBC. We found actually getting the Jabra Elite 3 connected to be a bit of hassle because you have to install the app first. Otherwise, Google Fast Pair doesn’t work properly.

These earbuds don’t have ANC, so HearThrough mode doesn’t toggle this on or off. Rather, it is there to counteract some of the isolation of the Jabra Elite 3. Getting a good seal with the ear tips means decent isolation, but you will still hear traffic noise, for example, in our experience.

The sound quality of the Jabra Elite 3 was good overall in our testing. It does bump up bass notes a bit, as is expected for cheap wireless earbuds. If it bothers you, the equalizer in the app is easy to use, and you can knock down the low-frequency sliders. Still, we didn’t have any trouble making out instruments and lyrics when listening to tunes with these buds. The microphone is fine but doesn’t do well at blocking out background noises. You’ll be fine making phone calls indoors in relatively quiet areas, but wind and traffic noise outdoors might be too much.

We got six hours, 48 minutes out of the left earbud, and six hours, 55 minutes out of the right earbud, which is pretty close to Jabra’s claim of seven hours. You can get three more charges out of the case. There’s no support for wireless charging, so you’ll have to use the USB-C cable. But there is fast charging support, and ten minutes in the case gives you an hour of playback time.

If you want cheap buds with aptX, the Jabra Elite 3 has that, plus good sound quality and battery life. These buds may not have lots of whiz-bang features, but they’re lightweight, boast an IP55 rating, and give you BLUetooth codec support that is hard to find in their price range.

What makes them stand out

  • aptX: Cheap buds with aptX BLUetooth codec support are rare, but the Jabra Elite 3 has this.
  • Lightweight and rugged: The Jabra Elite 3 buds themselves have an IP55 rating without being too heavy or bulky.
  • Straightforward controls: The touch panels on either bud are easy to aim for, and the companion app is simple, too.
  • Better-than-average battery life: The Jabra Elite 3 get nearly seven hours of battery life with a single charge, which beats out the five-hour average of other earbuds.

The Nothing Ear 1 help alleviate AirPods envy

Nothing Ear 1Nothing Ear 1
Nothing Ear 1
Adjustable ANC • Loud and clear microphone • IPX4 rating
True wireless earbuds that pack all the essentials in an affordable package
The Nothing Ear 1 buds are super comfortable, sound good, and feature decent noise-cancelling abilities. Nothing's signature transparent design philosophy reflects in the form factor of the earbuds, and you get all of this for a very comfortable price.
$53.99 at Amazon
Save $95.01

Apple is known for creating aesthetically pleasing products, and if you want an option with similar good looks, then the Nothing Ear 1 can give you that at a much lower price. These stylish, transparent buds look like the AirPods Pro and have stems, though they aren’t pressure-sensitive. While the buds don’t have distinct left and right options, instead relying on colored dots for this, they only fit into the case in one way to help you get them into the proper ear.

Much like the AirPods, these earbuds also don’t have the most customization options. But they do provide a comfortable fit and good sound in our experience. The buds are lightweight and feature an IPX4 rating, meaning sweat shouldn’t be much of an issue.

We found the buds simple and easy to use, and features like in-ear detection reliably detect when you’re not wearing the buds and pause playback accordingly. The touch controls are straightforward combinations of taps and holds. In our tests, these worked well and didn’t have too steep of a learning curve.

That simplicity carries over to other aspects of the buds. The accompanying Nothing Ear 1 mobile app (iOS and Android) isn’t as in-depth as the Anker buds, but it is easy to use. You can change some of the actions that tapping the earbuds controls, toggle two noise-cancellation levels, enable transparency mode, and disable ANC altogether. With Google Assistant and Siri available, voice assistant support is also possible on Android and iOS. Overall, we found the app to be a hassle-free way to configure the buds.

Like most cheap true wireless earbuds, the Nothing Ear 1 support the AAC and SBC BLUetooth codecs. That’s fine for iOS users, but Android users don’t have a reliable low-latency option. The buds do have a low-latency option you can enable in the app, and it does help words line up with people’s lips when watching videos in our testing. Still, this probably won’t be enough for hardcore gaming.

Our tests got four hours, 28 minutes from the Nothing Ear 1 with ANC enabled, which is practically spot-on with the manufacturer’s claim of four hours, 30 minutes. With the charging case, you can get up to 34 total hours of playback. But if you’re in a hurry, fast charging nets you 60 minutes of listening with just 10 minutes in the case. Both USB-C and Qi wireless charging are available.

Noise-cancelling with these buds is decent but not as effective as Samsung’s buds. Still, according to our tests, it was enough to prevent cranking up the volume and potentially damaging your hearing. You get three ear tip sizes to choose from, so picking the ones that give you a good seal is important for isolation. This also helps block out higher-frequency noise, as lower-frequency noises are where ANC does best.

The Nothing Ear 1 buds look good and don't sacrifice sound quality for aesthetics.

When it comes to sound quality, the Nothing Ear 1 does not take a shortcut by amping up bass a ton in an attempt to create a consumer-friendly frequency response. In our testing, bass notes were definitely present, but vocals and instruments were still amply audible. Overall, you’ll probably enjoy most genres of music with these earbuds and won’t notice anything off one way or the other. If you want to alter how they sound, there are basic EQ presets in the app, but not a full equalizer.

The stem design of the Nothing Ear 1 means that there’s a mic at the bottom of each one, putting them closer to your mouth. This leads to clear calls in our testing with the other party easily understanding your words. In fact, the results of our mic poll showed that 94% of readers rated the mic between “Okay” and “Perfect” after listening to sample recordings, which is above the average rating most cheap true wireless earbuds get of “Okay” to “Good.”

Overall, the Nothing Ear 1 buds work well out of the box and make it simple to use them daily. Add to that some sleek looks and a top-quality mic, and you’ve got buds that might just cure that AirPods envy once and for all. Unfortunately, these have increased in price since they launched. The followup Nothing Ear Stick are more affordable, but we recommend getting the Ear 1 buds if you can.

What makes them stand out

  • Good looks: It’s hard to deny how cool the Nothing Ear 1 buds look, and they definitely give the AirPods a run for their money in the aesthetics department.
  • Easy to use out of the box: You likely won’t run into anything show-stopping when using these buds, even fresh out of the case.
  • Great mic: The microphones in the Nothing Ear 1 sit at the end of the stem of each bud, so they can pick up your voice clearly.
  • Unobtrusive app: You can get to most of the available settings in the Nothing Ear 1 app with just a few taps, so there’s no need to hunt through extensive menus.

The OnePlus Buds Z2 can handle the sweatiest of workouts

OnePlus Buds Z2OnePlus Buds Z2
OnePlus Buds Z2
Good noise cancelling I IP55 water and dust resistance • Mono listening
A great value companion for OnePlus phones
The OnePlus Buds Z2 offer plenty of features at an affordable price. With water resistance and solid noise cancelling performance, these earbuds are great if you have a OnePlus phone. If not, they are still a value for money pair to get.
$49.99 at Amazon
Save $50.00

The OnePlus Buds Z2 are another big name associated with a walled garden. But what also sets these buds apart is a rugged IP55 rating for the buds plus an IPX4 rating for the case. So no matter how much you sweat at the gym, these buds won’t mind. You get three sizes of ear tips in the box, so getting a secure fit should be relatively simple.

Touch controls let you play and pause music, adjust the noise-cancelling level of the buds, and skip songs. You can also customize what each kind of tap does in case you don’t like the default settings. Automatic ear detection can come in handy at the gym if you need to pop out bud to ask if someone’s finished with that bench. We found the touch controls to be pretty reliable, and a mono option is available if you want to keep one ear free. We also liked the earbud fit test, which does a good job of determining if you’ve got a good seal from the ear tips.

The HeyMelody app, which is what you use to configure the OnePlus Buds Z2, is where you’ll notice most of the ecosystem-exclusive features. If you have a OnePlus 7 or newer, you can use Dolby Atmos to get spatial audio support with compatible content. OnePlus owners can also take advantage of a special low-latency gaming mode that cuts down latency to 94ms. Plus, they can use instant pairing to connect the buds, while other Android users get Google Fast Pair and iPhone users have to use manual BLUetooth pairing. But everyone has access to the equalizer presets, custom EQ, and the earbud fit test. Like most cheap true wireless earbuds, the OnePlusBuds Z2 only have SBC and AAC BLUetooth codec support.

Still, even without a OnePlus phone, you get earbuds that can stand up to sweat, dust, and hard workouts with ease.

The ANC capabilities of these earbuds are quite good, and we definitely noticed this in our testing. Low-frequency noises are especially quieted, and getting a good seal from the ear tips means high-frequency ones are also noticeably attenuated. In fact, the OnePlus Buds Z2 do a better job of dealing with noise than the AirPods Pro, and that’s a good result for cheap wireless earbuds.

We found that the OnePlus Buds Z2 exhibited a similar frequency response to many cheap earbuds: they emphasize bass notes a lot and kick up the highs while suppressing the mids. Some people prefer this kind of super-bassy listening experience at the gym, but it does mean it might be hard to distinguish instruments and vocals. However, if it bothers you, there’s always the custom EQ in the app where you can bring down the low- and high-frequency sliders. As for phone calls, we found the mic in the OnePlus Buds Z2 to be pretty good at dealing with background noises, even when at the gym.

Our tests got four hours, 22 minutes out of a single charge of the OnePlus BudsZ2 with ANC at max, while the case brought that up to 38 hours of total playback time. If you’re in a rush to get to the gym, then just ten minutes in the charging case nets you four hours of listening time. Both USB-C and wireless charging are available.

OnePlus owners will get the most out of the Buds Z2, but if you want buds that can stand up to tons of sweat, then these fit the bill well. While the out-of-the-box frequency response is wonky, you can EQ them using the HeyMelody app. Even without a OnePlus phone, you still get a solid pair of workout buds.

What makes them stand out

  • IP55-rated buds and IPX4-rated case: Not only can the IP55-rated OnePlus Buds Z2 withstand plenty of sweat, but even their case is IPX4-rated.
  • Good ANC: The OnePlus Buds Z2 ANC handles low-frequency noises well, while a solid seal from the ear tips takes care of high-frequency sounds.
  • Customizable touch controls: Using the touch controls on the OnePlus Buds Z2 isn’t too complicated, so you can control content during an intense workout.

The Sony WF-C500 have a little bit of everything

Sony WF-C500Sony WF-C500
Sony WF-C500
Small and lightweight • Comfortable ear tips • Price
Comfortable everyday earbuds for exercising and commuting.
The Sony WF-C500 makes for a comfortable commuting and workout companion. Noise isolation helps keep the background noise to a minimum while the lightweight design is easily worn all day long.

While all the other options here might seem like you have to choose between gaining some features and losing others, the Sony WF-C500 offer a little of everything if you just cannot decide. These earbuds don’t have ANC, but they do have many features other cheap true wireless earbuds don’t, including spatial audio that’s not exclusive to particular phone models. In our experience, the WF-C500 probably won’t “wow” you with high-tech bonuses, but it doesn’t make too many sacrifices, either.

In our testing, the ear tips struck a good balance between soft enough to be comfortable and stiff enough to hold the buds in place. They have large pads to aim for when using touch controls and don’t rest on your face, so chewing and talking won’t be as likely to dislodge them. Eventually, they may slide out slightly but won’t tumble to the floor. Even the charging case manages to occupy this goldilocks zone in our experience, thanks to its small size.

The touch controls are easy to use and have you doing multiple taps or press-and-holds. Each bud has control over different functions. Overall, we found these to work pretty reliably. If you want, you can activate your chosen voice assistant by pressing and holding the right bud, which is handy.

Using the Sony Headphones Connect app is also a balance between simplicity and available features, and here too, the WF-C500 manages to walk the line well. It includes an equalizer with presets and the ability to customize the sliders a little more. Right up front, the app also tells you the buds’ current battery life and the codec you’re using, but they only support AAC and SBC. There’s even an ear shape analyzer, though, in our experience, this didn’t offer too much of a notable difference after using it.

A benefit of not having ANC is long battery life, and the WF-C500 clock in just shy of 10 hours.

In our testing, we got an exceptional nine hours, 46 minutes of battery life on a single charge. That’s only 14 minutes shy of Sony’s claim of 10 hours. USB-C charging gives you an easy way to charge the buds and the case, but you don’t get a power adapter. By default, the earbuds will tell you their battery status upon startup, and you get status updates at 50% battery and before they die.

Without noise-cancelling the Sony WF-C500 rely on isolation to block out unwanted sounds. Getting a good fit with the included ear tips was pretty easy in our experience, leading to solid isolation. You’ll find that highs get blocked more than lows, as is expected without ANC. Still, it’s a pretty solid performance for cheap wireless earbuds, and even lows and mids will be a bit quieter.

Sound is another aspect in which the WF-C500 rests in a sweet spot. Their frequency response curve emphasizes bass notes, like most consumer earbuds. The buds include a feature called Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE). Sony claims DSEE restores “high-frequency sound and fine fade-out sound … to the track for a more authentic listening experience.” In our testing, we found it functions by amping up the high notes a bit, which is welcome as these can be quiet in some tracks. Unlike many budget earbuds models, the WF-C500 supports spatial audio, namely Sony 360 Reality Audio. And unlike the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, you can use this with any device, provided you have compatible content from services like Amazon Music Unlimited.

The microphone is serviceable but will transmit background noises like wind and office sounds to the other party in your call. You’ll be fine taking calls indoors in relatively quiet areas, though, and the touch controls to answer and hang up are handy to have.

For those looking to buy a pair of cheap true wireless earbuds but unsure what they might want, the Sony WF-C500 suits commuters, gym goers, and everyday listeners quite well with a broad suite of features without being complicated to use. These buds offer a little taste of everything (except ANC) if you want to have your cake and eat it, too.

What makes them stand out

  • Lots of battery life: With nearly ten hours of battery life, the Sony WF-C500 buds can go nearly all day.
  • Spatial audio support: You get Sony 360 Reality Audio support on any phone with these buds, with no need to buy into an exclusive ecosystem.
  • Comfortable and secure: The ear tips included with the Sony WF-C500 are comfortable while being stiff enough to keep the earbuds in place.
  • A bit of everything: The Sony WF-C500 manage to include features that should please a wide audience of listeners, so if you can’t decide what’s important to you, that’s a plus.

What to look for in a good pair of cheap true wireless earbuds

With all the options out there, it might seem overwhelming to decide on a pair of cheap wireless earbuds. Some people prefer plenty of tinkering options, others just want an easy-to-use solution out of the box, and some people demand good looks from their tech. But don’t worry, by considering a few key points, you can narrow the field and find the perfect pair.

Your daily routine is important

Think about what you do daily. Do you spend time in the office and then head home on public transit? Are you into working out for long, sweaty hours? If it’s the latter, look for high IP ratings, such as IPX2, IPX4, or even IP55. Also, track down buds that stay in place because vigorous activity can dislodge them. If you are a commuter, look for true wireless earbuds with ANC because noise-cancelling can deal with those droning bus engines and other bothersome background sounds. A good mic is handy to have if you chat on conference calls all day. Whatever you do all day, find earbuds that are built to handle it.

Do you want to set it and forget it, or tinker constantly?

Some people love having complete control over their listening experience, while others just want earbuds that work out of the box and don’t bother them. If you are of the latter type, don’t opt for buds with detailed apps and many settings. Instead, choose a pair that work well out of the gate and don’t make you fiddle with things. But if you love that, choose a pair that let you tinker to your heart’s content.

Does latency bother you?

Cheap true wireless earbuds often do not have aptX or LDAC BLUetooth codec support (but some of our picks do), so if latency and audiovisual lag really bother you, choose a pair that has one of these codecs. But if you can live without this, because you mostly keep your phone in your pocket when listening to podcasts, for example, then this is much less important.

Tight platform integration can be tricky

Cheap is not a word to describe the AirPods, and without Apple’s walled garden, it can be hard to find earbuds that integrate tightly with every single Android phone. Samsung and OnePlus offer their own walled gardens, so if you have a phone from these brands, choosing their respective wireless earbuds will give you very good interoperability. But if you don’t have a phone from them, look at offerings from Google or Amazon, which support many more models, like the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) or the Pixel Buds A-Series on this list.

How much do your care about marquee features?

Big buzzwords like spatial audio can draw you in, but consider how much you see yourself using these features before buying a pair of cheap true wireless earbuds. Sometimes, these kinds of features are exclusive to certain phone brands. There are exceptions, like the Sony WF-C500, which lets you use spatial audio anywhere as long as you have content that supports 360 Reality Audio. So, take into account if you really require splashy features before buying earbuds that have support for them.

Battery life is mostly going to be short

A few of the models in our picks for the best cheap earbuds do have seven- or even ten-hour battery life ratings, but overall true wireless earbuds tend to last around five hours, especially if they have ANC. If you want to get the most battery life possible, you will have to forgo noise-cancelling, so keep that in mind.


Why you should trust us and how we test

At Android Authority, we have a long history with tech devices of all sorts. Along with our sister site, SoundGuys, we’ve tested hundreds of earbuds and headphones over the years. Our team of experts personally uses each product in their daily life, at the gym, and on the go to see how they stack up in the real world. We only select the very best of these below $100 to make it onto our list of cheap true wireless earbuds. We focus on user experience and sound quality, and to that end:

  • Wear the product for at least a week, listen to lots of different kinds of music, and do all sorts of activities.
  • We note the comfort, construction quality, materials, and ease of use.
  • We go through any associated companion apps to ensure they work well with the earbuds.
  • We make phone calls to check mic quality in the real world.
  • We subject each earbud model to the same battery test, sound quality and frequency response tests, and isolation and ANC test.
  • We routinely go back and update old reviews if new features, fixes, or problems are discovered.

As you can see, we’re very thorough and don’t take this lightly! We recognize every model of true wireless earbuds is different. So, we determine what makes them unique (if anything) and how they stand out in the market. Then, we check to see if they might be missing anything important or have flaws that would knock them out of the running. Finally, we make objective measurements of everything we can. That includes battery life, frequency response, isolation, and noise-cancelling performance.

You can trust that our experts put each device through the wringer. Usually, our review period lasts about a week or so, but this might be extended for really feature-packed or unique devices. We also revisit our reviews periodically to see how the products have held up over time.


FAQs

You could, though we would not call the AirPods an affordable set of earbuds. Plus, the experience will be quite lackluster.

To put it simply, it’s because there is not a lot of space to cram in batteries into the small bodies of earbuds. Because of that, the capacity and lifespan of the cells is limited.

When it comes to cheap earbuds, manufacturers often ramp up the low-end of the audible spectrum to create a consumer-pleasing sound, but this can wreak havoc on everything else. We look for earbuds that either do not do this or have an EQ that lets you compensate for this.

A transparency mode, also known as a conversation mode, HearThrough, and many other names, is useful if you want to chat with someone quickly without removing your buds or at the gym or on a jog where you want some awareness of your surroundings.