clock menu more-arrow no yes
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Filed under:

The best cheap wireless earbuds to buy in 2021

Spending a little on any of these picks will get you a lot

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

With both Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the past, we’re still tracking the best Cyber Week deals that you can get right now on earbuds.

As fantastic as products like the Sony WF-1000XM4, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, and AirPods Pro are, it doesn’t take spending over $200 to get a perfectly good set of wireless earbuds. You can even drop below the price level of Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Plus or Jabra’s Elite 75ts and still find something that’ll do the job just fine. For this set of recommendations, I’m going to stick to an MRSP of around $100, give or take $30 in either direction.

You can find an endless list of true wireless earbuds under $100 on Amazon from random brands you’ve probably never heard of. But I’m sticking with some tried and true companies that can also be had in retail stores — and are more likely to have established customer support. Just because you’re being sensible about money doesn’t mean you should be left in the lurch if something goes wrong.

These picks won’t fully match the audio fidelity or deep bench of features of premium earbuds. You’ll give up things like active noise cancellation and wireless charging in severa lcases, but they’re still plenty enjoyable in their own right — and retain a lot of the convenience factor and freedom that make true wireless buds so appealing to begin with.

The best cheap wireless earbuds for 2021


The Skullcandy Jib True Wireless, pictured on a table, are the best cheap wireless earbuds you can get for $30.
Okay, so maybe the blue / yellow / red combo looks like it came out of a Happy Meal, but at least there’s also a black option.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

1. Skullcandy Jib True

Best cheap wireless earbuds for $30

Skullcandy just recently put out its most affordable pair of true wireless earbuds yet. The $29.99 Jib True — available in black or this very attention-getting mix of blue, red, and yellow — manage to deliver a solid mix of specs and serviceable sound quality. Battery life lasts up to six hours, they’ve got the status quo IPX4 sweat resistance rating, and you can use either of the earbuds independently. That last part is something that many more expensive earbuds (hi, Jabra) still don’t offer.

The earbud controls aren’t customizable, but Skullcandy packs in pretty much all of the functions you’d want (track skip / back, volume, voice assistant, and play / pause) into the large single button on each earbud. They’ve been easy to memorize in my time testing the Jib True buds.

If there’s one hangup with the Jib True, it’s that Skullcandy hasn’t really optimized them for use with multiple devices. Whereas pricier earbuds tend to remember a handful of pairing sources, the company recommends that you delete these from their current device’s Bluetooth list before repairing with another. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s also fairly inconvenient.

As for how they sound, I found that the Jib True made for a solid seal in my ear with the included large-sized tips. This always helps with bass response, and the Jib True definitely put most of their sonic weight behind the bass. It’s to the point where the low end is overemphasized and takes away from the mid- and high-range frequencies. I’m guessing that’s partly intentional since a more neutral sound signature would reveal the inherent weaknesses of $30 earbuds. Acoustic guitars lack warmth, and everything here feels like it’s happening in the middle of your head, so the soundstage is quite narrow.

But… 30 bucks, folks. The Jib True earbuds never made me want to rip them out of my ears from audio agony, and I consider that a win. Nor did I run into sync issues when watching videos, and their connectivity proved robust and dependable when walking around busy Brooklyn streets. Perhaps most surprising of all, Skullcandy backs these $30 earbuds with a two-year warranty. If I do have one gripe, it’s that they use a Micro USB connector. We’re supposed to be long past that now, but I can forgive it for the price point. If you’re willing to spend more, stepping up to Skullcandy’s pricier earbuds like the $50 Evo Sesh will get you improved audio and other features like integrated Tile tracking.


The OnePlus Buds Z deliver a full sound in a small, affordable package.
Unlike the original OnePlus Buds, the OnePlus Buds Z have silicone tips for an in-ear seal.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

2. OnePlus Buds Z

Great cheap wireless earbuds for $50

Jokes about their troubles with customs aside, I wasn’t enthralled with the original OnePlus Buds. Hard plastic one-size-fits-all earbuds never work out well for me, and these weren’t an exception. But the newer (and less expensive) OnePlus Buds Z, on the other hand, are a much better fit. These ones have traditional silicone tips and sit way more securely in my ears.

Despite their $49.99 price, the OnePlus Buds Z include convenience features like auto-pause when an earbud is removed, and they also support Android’s NFC-based Fast Pair for quick setup. And they’re rated a surprisingly durable IP55 for dust and water resistance, making them a good pick for workouts — as long as you’re okay with no ambient sound mode.

Battery life is likely their biggest weakness. OnePlus estimates they can last up to five hours of continuous playback, but I’ve averaged a bit over four hours so far. But you at least get several full recharges from the case, which the company says has 20 hours worth of juice.

The controls are also a bit rudimentary. Out of the box, all you can do is double tap to skip tracks. If you use an Android phone that isn’t made by OnePlus, you can install the HeyMelody app to configure the earbuds’ tap controls a bit more; OnePlus phones will let you do this once the earbuds are connected.

I’ve been quite pleased with how the OnePlus Buds Z sound. They’ve got smaller drivers than the regular OnePlus Buds but still output a nicely rounded audio profile. Again, the emphasis is on bass (and the treble is boosted), but it’s not quite so blatant as with the $30 Skullcandys. Watching videos across a few devices worked fine, and I didn’t have any connectivity problems. Also, unlike the Skullcandys, the OnePlus Buds Z work nicely with more than one device. You can long-press either earbud for three seconds to switch back and forth between the two most recently paired devices.


The Pixel Buds A-Series are so good, there’s little reason to get Google’s more expensive earbuds.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

3. Google Pixel Buds A-Series

Best cheap wireless earbuds for hands-free Google Assistant

Google’s Pixel Buds A-Series offer the same sound quality and hands-free “Hey Google” voice commands as the 2020 Pixel Buds for a much lower price. The Google Assistant integration lets you receive audio alerts for incoming notifications and is a convenient way of controlling your music or smart home devices.

The Pixel Buds A-Series look very similar to the pricier Pixel Buds, but these earbuds are lighter in your ears and retain the same IPX4 rating for water and sweat resistance.

You do give up some conveniences in exchange for the lower price: there’s no wireless charging, nor direct volume controls, and the earbuds still exhibit occasional connection dropouts — though not nearly to the same extent as last year’s Google buds. But the Pixel Buds A-Series preserve the best aspects of the pricier pair, and there’s frankly little reason to upgrade when you can get these for $100.


The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro are the best cheap earbuds for noise cancellation and voice calls.
Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

4. Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro

Best cheap noise-canceling earbuds

Anker’s Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro improve on the standard model thanks to the inclusion of active noise cancellation. They’ve got a comfortable design, good sound quality, and the mics perform well for voice calls. Anker also includes wireless charging and an IPX4 rating for water and sweat resistance. And you get a ton of ear tips in the box to help find the ideal fit.

The Liberty Air 2 Pros can last for up to six hours on a charge with noise cancellation enabled — or seven in situations where you don’t need it. Anker’s robust smartphone app also provides many options for EQ customization, and you can adjust the balance of noise cancellation and ambient sound to your liking.


5. 1More ColorBuds

Best cheap wireless earbuds for style

1More is one of those companies that’s quietly been making great audio products for a long time. With the ColorBuds, the focus is on comfort — each bud weighs only 4.1 grams, barely more than an AirPod — and looks. Sound quality is also a clear step above the previous two picks, with greater clarity, a wider soundstage, and more nuance in general. (There’s still plenty of bass kick, though.) You’d hope for good sound at their $100 price, and these do come through.

Battery life is up to six hours of continuous listening (22 with the case), and the ColorBuds are rated IPX5 for water and sweat resistance. While most of the picks on this list support the standard AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs, 1More adds Apt-X to the mix on Android.

The ColorBuds are available in a handful of attractive colors which, combined with the price and excellent performance, might be enough to sway some people toward them instead of AirPods.


Anker’s Soundcore Liberty Air 2, pictured in a woman’s right ear, are the best cheap wireless earbuds for making voice calls.
The long stems on Anker’s Soundcore Liberty Air 2 earbuds help the four microphones pick up your voice.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

6. Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2

Best cheap wireless earbuds for voice calls

Though they press right up against our $100 price ceiling, Anker’s Soundcore Liberty Air 2 remain one of the best pairs of “budget” true wireless earbuds on the market. They’re somewhat AirPods-like in design, thanks to the long stems, but this results in the best microphone performance of anything in this price bracket.

The Liberty Air 2s also have lengthy battery life, lasting for up to seven hours of straight playback. (With the case, you get 28 hours of battery life in total.) Sound quality is enjoyable but falls short of what you’d get with the 1More buds — and Anker’s tap controls can prove a bit finicky at times.


The Beats Flex, the best budget neckband wireless earbuds, pictured worn in a woman’s ears.
The Beats Flex are the first earbuds from the company to use a USB-C connector.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

7. Beats Flex

Best neckband-style cheap wireless earbuds

Not everyone loves the concept of earbuds without a wire connecting them, and if that’s you, the recent Beats Flex are a great option — and that still applies for people with Android phones. These $50 “neckbuds” improve upon the older Beats X in several ways: they charge over USB-C instead of Apple’s Lightning connector, they have long-lasting battery life of up to 12 hours, and the built-in microphone is a reliable performer for voice and Zoom calls.

The Beats Flex sound better than AirPods and many earbuds at this price range and beyond. They’ve also got a convenient auto-pause feature when you attach the two earbuds together via their magnetic connection. Connectivity is free of any dropouts or other issues, and iPhone owners can expect the usual instant setup process just by bringing the Beats Flex close to their phone. But Beats also has an Android app that lets you customize settings and shows the remaining battery percentage.

One downside is that the Flex buds aren’t rated for water or sweat resistance, so I can’t recommend them for the gym. But outside of that, they’re a great pick. Sometimes it’s nice to just let earbuds hang around your neck when not in use instead of fussing with a charging case.


An image of the Sony WF-XB700, the best wireless earbuds if you can get a deal, in someone’s hand.
Sony’s WF-XB700 are the best budget wireless earbuds if you can find them on sale. They offer terrific performance, a steady fit, and lengthy battery life.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

8. Sony WF-XB700 earbuds

Best cheap wireless earbuds if you love bass

I’m a big fan of Sony’s entry-level true wireless earbuds, the WF-XB700s. I’ve owned a pair for several months now, and I’ve never once had to put up with connection problems, battery frustrations, or other bugs. They also fit better and seal more tightly in my ears than pretty much anything on this list. Your results may vary, but there’s something about the design that works tremendously well with my ears.

The XB700 buds last for up to nine hours of continuous listening and have all the oomph you could ever want. It can border on too much, but Sony does a nice job of not letting the bass take away from everything else. The mids and high frequencies aren’t drowned out. These earbuds stick out of your ears a bit more than most, and they lack any kind of ambient sound mode — which some might see as a negative considering how good the passive noise isolation is.

I quite like the matte finish on the XB700s and their charging case, and the buds lock into the case with a stronger magnetic pull than is typical; this has always ensured they juice up as expected. They use physical buttons on each earbud for controls, which I prefer over touch gestures.

Technically, the Sonys retail for over $100, but they’re on sale for so frequently that they’re still worth a mention. There’s a ton to like about them, even if there’s nothing flashy about them. They’re a great example of Sony keeping things simple and doing it right.

Microsoft

Microsoft says it took over servers being used by China-based hacking group Nickel

Gaming

Ubisoft is bringing NFT gear to Ghost Recon

Verge Deals

Amazon’s new thermostat is already on sale

View all stories in Tech