by Adam MolinaFebruary 3, 2017

There are plenty of reasons why you might not want to spend too much on a pair of earbuds. Maybe you lose/break things easily and don’t want to spend money on something that you know won’t last. Or maybe you don’t use headphones often enough to invest in a quality pair. The most compelling use case  is if you already have a pair of headphones and just want a back-up.

There have been numerous occasions where I find myself without my favorite pair of headphones. Having a spare in your backpack or back pocket can really come in handy. There’s a time and a place for everything, including budget earbuds. If you’re looking for some of the best earbuds under $20, check out this list.

Best Overall

Knowledge Zenith ATE in-ears

Knowledge Zenith (KZ) might not be a name you’ve heard before, but that doesn’t matter. There’s a renaissance happening in budget audio and KZ is one of the reasons why. Whether you’re looking for a replacement pair of in-ears for your phone or a backup pair to supplement your favorite headphones, the KZ ATE in-ears should be at the top of your shortlist (that’s why they’re at the top of ours). These are actual in-ears, so if you’re not a fan of IEM’s you might not find these too comfortable. But if you can manage it you’ll be rewarded with crisp highs and surprisingly detailed lows. I wouldn’t exactly call these “bass-heavy”, but there’s a nice emphasis on the low end that will satisfy even the biggest bass-head. The sound quality might be well worth the $20 price tag, but the build quality is where you’ll most likely not be too impressed. They’re made almost entirely of plastic and you’ll have to take good care of the wires, but KZ had to cut corners somewhere right? On the bright side you do get a mic and remote module so you can use these with the average smart phone. Overall, these are well worth the money and the 4.3 star rating on Amazon is hard to argue with.
Fit
Hook
Microphone
Yes
Bluetooth
No
Noise Cancelling
No
Water-Resistance
No
Size/Weight
0.8 x 0.8 x 0.8 inches/ 0.5 ounces
Pros
Sound qualityPrice
Cons
Build quality

Monoprice In-Ear Enhanced Bass Hi-Fi Earphones

One of the headphones that consistently pop up in conversation when discussing bang for your buck in-ears are these Monoprice gems. They may look like a particularly large pair of in-ears and that’s because they are. That said they’re not uncomfortable or heavy at all despite the size. If you’re looking for a reason as to why they’re so big, look no further than the 14.2mm drivers packed into each ‘bud. They deliver a wide range of sound spanning the entire frequency range that’s audible to humans (20Hz - 20kHz). If you’re looking for a pair of cheap headphones solely for music purposes these are a great option. One thing to note is that there is no in-line mic or playback controls. So if that’s something you absolutely need you may have to look elsewhere on this list. They do get tangled fairly easily so make sure to wrap them up nicely after each use if you don’t want to spend the first couple of minutes of your next use untangling wires.These are behind-ear headphones meaning that you have to wrap them around the back of your ear in order to wear them correctly. Even if you already have a favorite pair of go-to earbuds these are good to have as a backup. Throw these in your bag and if you’re ever unlucky enough to forget your main headphones, you’ll have these to fall back on. The “enhanced bass” part of these might be slightly intimidating if you’re not a fan of boomy earbuds but don’t worry, they’re not. They do have a really solid bass due to the larger drivers Monoprice threw in, but it won't make your eyes rattle. Probably the most important feature of these headphones is the price. These will only cost you around $10 and have a 3.7 out of 5 star rating on Amazon so if you prefer great sound over features definitely give them a shot.
Microphone
No
Bluetooth
No
Noise Cancelling
Noise-Isolating
Water-Resistance
No
Pros
SoundPriceFabric covered cable
Cons
Tangle easily
Best Design

CB3 Metal Earbuds

One important aspect of earbuds if fit. It’s hard to get a good sound out of even the most expensive pairs of ‘buds if you can’t get them to sit in your ear right. One pair of earbuds that does this well (and looks good doing it) are the Metal Earbuds by CB3 Audio. Don’t worry, the headphones aren’t entirely made of metal. The cable is made of a quality fabric that’s surprisingly thin. That said, it’s also pretty durable and can withstand a good amount of pulling and being rolled up without getting damaged. To further help with durability is the where the metal in the name comes into play. The headphone jack and driver housing is where you’ll find all the metal these get their name from. The earbuds in particular make use of the metal and have a very unique design. It looks like some of the metal was cut out to reveal a solid gold interior like buried treasure. Of course, these aren’t actually made of gold (or they’d be way more expensive) but it’s a nice design choice that’s symbolic of the sound quality. If you’re looking for a pair of headphones with solid bass and clean highs, these are a good choice. You can usually find the CB3 Audio Metal Earbuds for about $20 and they have a solid 3.7 out of 5 star rating on Amazon.
Microphone
Yes
Bluetooth
No
Noise Cancelling
No
Water-Resistance
No
Pros
DesignFit
Cons
Okay sound

OnePlus Bullets V2

OnePlus has made a reputation for themselves as far making one of the best bang for your buck phones you can get. Their OnePlus 3T even won Android Authority’s award for Best Phone of 2016. Not a bad feat for the company. But along with phones, they’ve also been dabbling in budget audio and the OnePlus Bullets v2 is the epitome of everything the company has learned. Where the previous Icons aimed for neutral, these are a little more fun-sounding. There’s slightly more emphasis on the lows and mids which makes for a slightly warmer and way smoother sound. Sound quality isn’t the only reason these made our list though. Though build quality can’t be described as amazing, they’re definitely made well. They have a flat cable to avoid annoying tangled cables and on that cable are handy controls for music playback as well as a mic for phone calls. The cable ends in a 90-degree connector which many prefer, but are made to work with Android devices. If you’re rocking iOS you won’t have all the playback controls but you will still be able to pause/play music and answer or end phone calls.
Microphone
Yes
Bluetooth
No
Noise Cancelling
No
Water-Resistance
No
Weight
14g
Pros
Smooth soundBuild qualityFlat cable
Cons
Fit
Best Sound

Panasonic Ergo Fit

There’s a reason the Panasonic Ergo Fit earbuds are a bestseller on Amazon and have a 4.4 out of 5 star rating. These are really comfortable and are pretty much the best headphones you can get for only about $11, which is significantly less than $20. They also come with two extra silicon ear tips and don’t have any in-line microphone or playback controls, but it’s forgivable at this price point. As far as build quality goes these do look cheap but then again, they are. They do tangle easily and do not come with a carrying case so be wary of crumbling them up and stuffing them in your pockets. That said, the audio quality is better than anything you’ll find for this price hands down. Key words: at this price. Don’t expect audiophile quality but it’s still impressive. One of the cooler things about the Ergo Fits is that they come in so many color options. They were designed to match the colors of the iPod nano 5th generation, so you can get two of your favorite colors and still be at about $20. They use 9mm drivers to push their sound and the earbuds have an ergonomic (get it?) fit that means they’ll stay in your ear fairly easily. They’re not exactly ear huggers so don’t expect them to stay in if you’re doing anything that requires a lot of movement, but for regular day-to-day usage you won’t have a problem. If you decide on another pair of headphones on this list, you might as well pick up a pair of these too just to try.
Microphone
No
Bluetooth
No
Noise Cancelling
No
Water-Resistance
No
Pros
Good soundPrice
Cons
Build quality

1MORE Piston Classic

Look familiar? 1MORE is the company behind the design of some of the more prominent budget headphones we’ve seen in recent years from companies like Xiaomi. They’ve since iterated on the design and made a few more products, but the sub-$20 price of the classics is hard to beat. They have a nice sturdy wire and earbuds that were designed with a 15-degree angle to angle sound right into your ears. They do have fairly strong bass so if you’re looking for reference sound these might not be for you, but otherwise they’re a really good pickup. The earbuds and control module are made of aluminum so they won’t break if you sit on them. Unfortunately, the cable does gets tangled if you bunch them up but everything can’t be perfect. If you’re an iOS user they do come in Space Grey and Rose Gold so you can match your device. There are some compatibility issues with Android phones but if you’ve been into earbuds for a while that shouldn’t come as a shock. Compatibility issues are nothing new, just something to be aware of before you make the purchase. Still, even with the negatives these have an overall score of 4.1 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Not bad at all.
Microphone
Yes
Bluetooth
No
Noise Cancelling
No
Water-Resistance
No
Weight
13 g
Pros
DesignSound quality
Cons
FitCable gets tangled
Best Sweatproof

MEE audio Sport-Fi M6P

Usually headphones in this price range are fairly bare bones. You won’t usually find any special benefits to a pair of sub-$20 headphones besides the fact that they work, but sometimes you do. Case in point: the MEE Audio Sport-Fi M6P headphones. If you’re looking for a cheap pair of headphones because yours keep breaking when you exercise, these might be for you. Sweat won’t be an issue and getting caught in the rain won’t be a problem thanks to IPX5 certification . These have to be worn over the ear which means that it’ll be even harder to accidentally pull them out. In the box you’ll get six pairs of eartips as well for the best fit. It comes with a universal mic and remote but you can save about $4 dollars if you opt for the model without it. Either way, both are under $20 and come in seven different colors. The MEE audio Sport-Fi M6P headphones have a 3.7 out of 5 star rating on Amazon.
Microphone
Optional
Bluetooth
No
Noise Cancelling
No
Water-Resistance
IPX5
Pros
IPX5 sweatproofSound quality
Cons
Okay sound
Best Durability

GOgroove Audiohm RNF

Some people like using earbuds for when they lift weights, but in most cases they don’t mean that literally. The Audiohms have an ultra-reinforced cable that is said to be able to hold up to 10 lbs in weights. Besides one seriously durable pair of ‘buds, GOgroove promises a lifetime warranty. So if you find yourself constantly breaking headphones these are worth taking a look at. Why you would want to carry 10 lbs of weights with a pair of earbuds is beyond me. Still, it’s good to know that if you want to you can. To accomplish that GOgroove had to make them with heavy-duty cabling. This means that the Audioohm RHFs aren't exactly lightweight. That said, they are earbuds so they’ll obviously be lighter than a pair of over-ears. You just won't forget that you’re wearing these. The Audiohms are reinforced with hard plastic at all of its crucial points. This includes the 3.5mm connector and the Y-connector. Usually when a company focuses on one aspect of headphones other details tend to get looked over, but that’s not the case with these. Not only are the Audiohms borderline impossible to break (and if you do don’t forget about that lifetime guarantee), but they also sound good. These aren’t going to blow you away and there are definitely better sounding. Each ‘bud has a 9mm driver in it and the cable has a built-in mic and control button that is compatible with both Siri and Google Now. If you’re looking for the best sound quality ever these probably won’t do it for you, but if you want unbreakable in-ears with good sound then you should definitely check out the Audiohm RNFs. These have a 3.3 out of 5 star rating on Amazon and even come with a hardshell carrying case for travel.
Microphone
Yes
Bluetooth
No
Noise Cancelling
No
Water-Resistance
No
Pros
DurablePrice
Cons
Fit

We’ll be sure to keep this list updated as new products become available. What do you consider to be the best earbuds under $20? Let us know!

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