by Adam MolinaAugust 29, 2016

Finding a good pair of cheap earbuds has almost become a lost art form. Not everyone has the money or the incentive to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on something that they are only going to use for casual listening or a commute to work.

When it comes to convenience nothing beats being able to throw your headphones in your pocket until you need them again. Even the best over-the-ear headphones lack that level of portability. With earbuds, you used to have to sacrifice a great deal of quality if you wanted a sub-$50 pair of earbuds, but that isn’t necessarily the case anymore. So let’s get into it, here are some of our top picks for the best ‘buds fifty bucks can buy.


Best All-Around

Brainwavz Delta

In no particular order, first up are the Brainwavz Delta earbuds. These come either with in-line mic and playback controls or without, but the choice is yours. They look like they were built to last and for the most part feel like it too. The 45 degree 3.5 mm jack has a hard plastic casing that looks like it would be difficult to do any damage to. In fact, one person on a forum had been using them for months when doing yard work and they still worked perfectly, so it’s fair to say that they’re pretty durable. Though it’s sure to be different for everyone, the earbuds fit perfectly in my ear without me having to switch them out for the other two included tips. If the three included sizes still don’t feel right for you, they also come with a fourth “premium” earphone tip made of memory foam. Hopefully those will do the trick. As far as quality goes the bass definitely makes itself heard but, for the most part, not at the expense of the mids or highs. The reinforced cable also means you wont have to worry about these breaking. They have 8mm drivers in the each earbud and a sensitivity of about 100 dB. Digging even further into the specs shows a frequency range that covers all of what humans can hear: 20Hz - 20kHz. Should you decide to get the version that has the playback controls built into the wires it’s worth mentioning that they are designed to work specifically with your devices OS, so make sure to get either the iOS or Android version. Like all the other earbuds on this list, the best part about these are the price. They will only cost you roughly $20 depending on whether or not you want an in-line mic. Not only were these good enough for us but apparently plenty of people who already purchased them like them as well. If you check the Amazon reviews these have a solid 3.7 out of 5 stars with almost 50% of the 2,500 reviews being a perfect 5.
Microphone
Yes
Water-Resistance
No
Voice Controls
No
Size/Weight
6.5 x 2.6 x 1.4 inches/ 0.5 ounces
Pros
DurableSound
Cons
Heavy

Symphonized NRG Wood in-ears

The NRG natural wood in-ears by Symphonized are next on this list. Besides only costing $25.00, they have a unique build quality to go along with the sound. The wire is 1.2m long and wrapped in braided nylon all the way up to the wooden earbuds. The NRG in-ears also have playback controls that work with both Android and iOS. It won’t give you much in terms of functionality, only a simple pause and play option is available, but it does also have a microphone built-in. Sound-wise these are very bass heavy. Not to say that it’s a bad thing, just something to be aware of. For the most part it has solid lows, but for some songs the bass is literally eye-rattling. Also something to note is that the cord is made of nylon it does sometimes make an annoying sound when it rubs against clothes for some reason, but that’s a small price to pay for only $25. Overall if you want playback controls and bumping bass, these are the way to go. They are available in multiple colors, but I decided to go with blue so in the box came 3 black tips as well as 3 blue tips. Some of the other colors it is available in are black, pink, red, white, orange, turquoise, and even zebra (white with black tripes). It also came with a eco-friendly carrying case which looks like it’s made out of a hemp material that complements the wood nicely. Assuming you get a good fit, the NRG’s also do a fairly good job at noise isolation. Then again anything that you stuff in your ear will probably do a good job at blocking outside noise, but I digress. They come with the standard three sizes of silicone ear tips (small, medium, large) so take the time to try them out and see which one is the best fit for your ears. With over 4,500 reviews on Amazon, these have a solid score of 4.3 out of 5 stars.
Microphone
Yes
Water-Resistance
No
Size/Weight
6.6 x 3.9 x 1.3 inches
Pros
DesignFabric cable
Cons
Bass heavy
Best Design

ADV.Sound M4

As it turns out, smaller audio companies know a thing or two about good audio. Case in point: ADV.Sound. The company started a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo for a pair of earbuds that were meant to deliver audiophile in-ear monitors for cheap. Now you should take that with a grain of salt since there are plenty of professional (and much more expensive) in-ear monitors that would blow these out of the water, but that doesn’t mean that these aren’t great for the price. The drivers are housing in aluminum making them fairly durable. Pair that with a braided plastic cable that doesn’t tangle and these are actually really easy to carry around with you on your daily activities. Especially since they come with a handy hardshell carrying case. That said, the cable is a double edged sword because even though it’s durable and doesn’t tangle easily it still feels kind of cheap which reminds you that these are a sub-$50 pair of in-ears. But that changes once you start listening to them. Don’t get me wrong these aren’t the best headphones I’ve ever used by any means, but considering how inexpensive they are I was really impressed. They can easily hold their own against in-ears that were significantly more expensive and sound even better than some of the more known name brands. Aside from some elements of the highs which come across a little harsh, these have a very accurate sound that’s still enjoyable to listen to. Like the other earbuds on this list, these connect via a standard 3.5mm jack. They have a one-button remote built into the cable that’ll let you pause/play songs and skip tracks, but that’s it. If you need anything extra like volume controls, you’ll have to look elsewhere. On the bright side, long pressing the button does let you access personal assistants like Google Now and Siri so if you need to send texts or make a few phone calls you can still do that. For only about $40, you cant go wrong.
Fit
Good
Microphone
No
Noise Cancelling
No
Pros
Nice DesignGood fit
Cons
Limited controls

CB3 Audio 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 actually made of a quality fabric that’s surprisingly thin and light. 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. The CB3 Audio Metal Earbuds can usually be found for about $20 and have a solid 4.5 out of 5 star rating on Amazon.
Fit
Good
Microphone
Yes
Size/Weight
6.8 x 3.7 x 1.2 inches
Pros
Unique designGood soundBuild quality
Cons
Limited playback controls
Best Sound

Shure SE112-GR

Next on the list shouldn’t come as a big surprise if you’ve been following Sound Guys for a while. These come with an in-line mic option but those cost around $60.00 which put them outside of the sub-$50 price range, but they do exist. Without the mic option, the price is just under fifty bucks at $49.00. That price makes it one of the more expensive earbuds on this list, but oh so worth it. The SE112s add to Shures line-up of great audio products. Fresh out of the box, the first thing you notice is the quality of the cable. It’s a heavy duty wire that ends in a 90 degree 3.5 mm jack and looks like I couldn’t snap if I tried. It also came with two other tip options (small and large), and a premium looking velvet carrying case. They max out at 105 dB which is right at the threshold of pain for most people (which is about 120 dB), but I thought this was a good thing. It means you don’t have to max out your device to get a comfortable sound, and at the same time you can blow your ears out if you really want to. Always good choices to have. If you’re looking to wear these in typical earbud style you’ll be a little surprised since these have to be worn in an over-the-ear style. A lot of earbuds take this approach but it’s something we feel is worth mentioning just in case you don’t find that method too comfortable. Wearing it this way also helps with the sound isolation so you’ll hear less of the loud noises going on around you. The Shure SE112-GRs are one of the best earbuds you can get for the price, getting a score of 3.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon. If youre interested in the these be sure to check out our full review.
Microphone
Separate model
Noise Cancelling
No
Size/Weight
7.8 x 2.1 x 3.2 inches
Pros
Sound qualityBuild quality
Cons
Comfort

Xiaomi Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro

Xiaomi has been on this list before, thanks to their Piston 2.0 earbuds. And now two generations later, they’re back on this list. If you want good sound for cheap, check out the new Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro. When they were first announced late last year they were called the “Hybrid Earphones”, but now that they’ve made their way to the states Xiaomi has decided to change the name to Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro. Whatever they want to call them, they sound great. These have dual drivers in each housing. A balanced armature driver that handles the high end and a hybrid dynamic driver which is responsible for the lows and the highs. Pair that with the slick and modern design and you have a pair of headphones that sound better than other earbuds twice the price. That said, nothing is perfect and these do come with a few issues. For one, these were made to work with Android. So if you’re rocking an iOS device you’re out of luck because the control module is rendered all but useless. You lose volume functionality and we even had some issues with pausing and playing as well. You also might want to swap out the earbuds for something that fits a little better since the included pairs aren’t the greatest. Still, the sound of the Mi In-Ear Headphones Pro is top notch. For a great sounding pair of headphones, these are the way to go.
Fit
Pro tip: Replace ear tips
Microphone
Yes
Noise Cancelling
No
Size/Weight
1.18 x 3.94 x 2.76 inches
Pros
SoundPrice
Cons
Ear tips are weirdWonky control module

Best Bang for your Buck

Monoprice Enhances 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 thats audible to humans (20Hz - 20kHz). If you’re looking for a pair of cheap headphones solely for music purposes these are a great option. There is no in-line mic or playback control buttons so if that’s something you absolutely need you may have to look elsewhere on this list. The cable is made of a braided fabric that helps to increase durability, so even though these are inexpensive you won’t be needing to constantly replace them which is always a plus. One thing to be aware of is that 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 listening session untangling the wires. Similar to the Shure headphones mentioned above 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. Simply throw these in your bag or leave them at work and if you’re ever unlucky enough to forget your main headphones, youll 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’s not going to make your eyes rattle by any means. 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
Noise Cancelling
No
Size/Weight
3.3 x 2.4 x 0.8 inches
Pros
Sound qualityPrice
Cons
No playback controls

Panasonic Ergo Fit

Eventually all good things come to an end, so were closing out the list with the Panasonic Ergo Fit earbuds. These are super comfortable and are pretty much the best headphones you can get for only about $7.00, which is way less than fifty bucks if you’re keeping score at home. They also come with two extra silicon ear tips and don’t have any in-line microphone or playback controls, but I wasn’t really expecting it for under $10.00. 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. 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 7 of the 8 available color options from Amazon and still not be over the $50.00 limit. They use 9mm drivers to achieve 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. With over 35,000 reviews on Amazon, these have a great 4.4 out of 5 star rating. If you decide on another pair of headphones on this list or just looking for a cheap secondary pair to compliment your expensive over-ear cans, you can’t go wrong with the Ergo Fit.
Microphone
No
Noise Cancelling
No
Size/Weight
3.6 x 3.2 x 6.8 inches
Pros
SoundMultiple color options
Cons
Build qualityNo mic/playback controls

 

Sound quality and comfort differs from person to person, but these have been pretty much unanimously agreed upon by many as some of the best bang for your buck earbuds. Be sure to let us know what your favorites were and also let us know if you have any personal favorites that were not on this list. Who doesn’t like a good deal?

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