When it comes to earbuds you can use every day on your commute or at work, the sweet spot seems to be around $100, and earbuds under $100 strike a balance between sound and build quality. Whether you’re looking for a go-to pair of buds for the daily grind or something to keep in your bag as a backup, you can’t go wrong with any of these.
Editor’s note: this list of the best earbuds under $100 was updated on November 4, 2021, to add Sennheiser IE 100 PRO Wireless and Sennheiser CX True Wireless to Notable mentions. Information about the Shure SE-215 isolation was added, and an example of frequency response was added.
For the best earbuds under $100, get the 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear
1MORE isn’t a legacy audio maker like some of the other companies listed, but the company made a splash in the in-ear market with the Triple Driver In-Ear models. As the name implies, these have three drivers, the objects that actually project sound, inside each tiny housing—two of which are tiny balanced armature drivers that act as tweeters. Then, there’s the third dynamic driver which takes care of bass reproduction.
1More Triple-Driver In-EarFull Review
This comes with a small mic and remote, so you can control your music and answer phone calls. Besides the earphones, you get six sets of silicone ear tips and three sets of foam tips, so chances are you’re going to find a good fit to help with noise isolation. The buttons on the control module aren’t the best and might take some getting used to, but if you can get past that, this really will serve as the best earbuds under $100.
If you want good isolation, check out the Shure SE-215
Many musicians have heard of Shure. After all, the company has been in the audio game since 1925, and has a lot of practice when it comes to what makes great sound. The Shure SE215 is a prime example of that. Its pedigree can be traced back to professional-grade in-ear monitors that are used for live performances. With the foam ear tips, it has excellent isolation, meaning you can keep volume down. Naturally, you can expect them to sound great, hence why it’s among the best earbuds under $100.
The buds feature an enhanced bass dynamic micro driver that provides a full sound with a more detailed low end. This makes sense if you consider the fact that performing musicians have a tougher time hearing the lows while on stage. Logically, the in-ear monitors they use have to make up for that. It’s also a good thing if you enjoy bass-heavy music or are looking for an affordable Beats alternative.
Related: How your in-ears fit matters a lot
As far as build goes, the cable is Kevlar-reinforced, so even if the cable snags on something it won’t rip. Plus, you can always replace the wires as they are completely detachable thanks to the MMCX cable. This saves you $65 since the replacement cable is only $35. We reviewed the true wireless, Shure AONIC 215 (Gen 2) which uses the same SE-215 drivers and it sounds great.
Get the best sound quality with the Beyerdynamic Soul Byrd
The Beyerdynamic Soul Byrd retails for less than $70 and offers little in the way of features. That’s not a knock on the Soul Byrd, however, as it outperforms the competition when it comes to sound quality and clarity. While bass frequencies are emphasized they don’t mask vocals.
Beyerdynamic Soul ByrdFull Review
What’s more, when it comes to comfortable in-ears, these are nearly impossible to beat. The flat panels sit below the outer ear, making these a great option for late-night audiobook fans who listen from bed. That said, removing the earbuds takes a bit of effort. To remedy this, just grab the wire descending from either earbud rather than the housing itself. For earbuds under $100, the Soul Byrd provides excellent sound quality and a functional tangle-resistant cable.
For the best true wireless earbuds under $100, get the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2
The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 is among the best pair of true wireless earbuds: it has killer battery life, a secure fit, and customizable controls all for $99. Sure, the stemmed design is uninspiring but isolation is excellent, and you get premium features like quick and wireless charging, aptX streaming, and IPX5 water resistance.
Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2Full Review
Both aptX and AAC high-quality Bluetooth codecs are supported, which results in perceptibly lag-free streaming at higher qualities than is afforded by SBC. You get the standard 10-meter wireless range before connectivity begins to drop out. The earphones output a bass-heavy sound, similar to the newer Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro. You can EQ the bass to be less prominent, and doing so won’t ding you down to SBC streaming.
Battery life is very good: you get 7.5 hours of playback from a single charge, beating out both the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) and AirPods Pro. Yeah, they’re not even close. Microphone quality is very good for this price point, and you can certainly take personal phone calls with these earbuds.
On a budget? Go with the RHA S500
This isn’t just one of the best pairs of earphones under $100 you can find, it’s also one of the best under $50. For a pair of buds that are stylish, sound good, and won’t break the bank go with the RHA S500 Universal.
RHA S500 UniversalFull Review
The “Universal” in its name means that whether you’re on an iOS device or an Android phone, you’ll be able to control music playback with the built-in mic and remote. You don’t get volume controls and the microphone quality isn’t great. That said, this headset only cost about $40 USD, so if corners had to be cut somewhere, we’re glad it was there.
If you’re a fan of strong bass response, you’ll like the S500. The bass emphasis is good while commuting as lower notes tend to be easily masked by outside noises. A little extra oomph will help you hear your favorite bass lines better. Build quality is also impressive as the earbuds are made of aluminum, making them difficult to break. If you’re on a budget but still want a quality pair of earbuds in your back pocket, it’s worth checking out.
Why should you get earbuds under $100, and what you should know
There’s really only one area where earbuds excel over any other kind of headphones, and that’s portability. Thanks to streaming services, music is more portable now than it has ever been, and the headphones you use should be just as easy to bring with you wherever you go. With the advent of true wireless earbuds, standard wireless and wired earbuds are becoming less prevalent but they still have their respective use cases. For one, wired earbuds remain more affordable than wireless ones, they’re also easier to repair if the cable is damaged (as opposed to an internal component breaking).
Learn more: Ultimate headphone buying guide
If you want something reliable and easy to use, you can’t get more straightforward than something that requires a headphone jack. Of course, if your smartphone doesn’t contain a 3.5mm input, you’ll need to get a dongle or surrender to the wireless future. If, however, you’re trying to get the best bang-for-your-buck, wired earbuds are the best option.
A proper fit optimizes sound quality
Isolation improves frequency reproduction by creating a cogent seal between the earbud and your ear canal. If you’ve ever tried to listen to music in a crowded area with cheap earbuds that don’t fit properly, you know why this is important. Outside noise makes it hard to hear your music because of something called auditory masking. This happens when your brain hears two sounds of similar frequencies. It will acknowledge whichever one is loudest because it perceives that sound as more important. And if your brain has to choose between your song or a roaring bus going by, it’s going to focus on the bus. Getting a good pair of ear tips to help isolate those outside noises can dramatically improve your experience.
Isolation is different from active noise cancellation, which uses electronic signals to cancel out unwanted noise rather than a physical blockage. It is more powerful at isolating sound and can help prevent noise-induced hearing loss.
Do you need a DAC or amp?
Consumers often worry that their phones aren’t enough to power their earbuds or headphones. While that might be the case if you’re spending hundreds of dollars on specialized in-ears and plan on plugging them into a computer from 1997, it isn’t necessary for anyone listening to music on a modern smartphone or somewhat recent computer. Especially with these earbuds under $100 that we chose. They were designed to be powered by the average electronic, assuming of course that your phone still has a headphone jack. You still won’t have any issues with power if you’re using a dongle, but it’s definitely annoying.
Frequency response matters
If you keep seeing the words frequency response everywhere and don’t know what it refers to, don’t worry you’re not alone. Frequency response denotes how well a pair of earbuds can reproduce audible frequencies; in the case of human hearing, this ranges somewhere between 20Hz-20kHz, assuming you haven’t damaged your stereocilia too much. Basically, it refers to the ability of each component in your headphones or speakers to accurately reproduce the signal that’s being fed into it.
Unfortunately, nothing is perfect so getting a perfect in and out signal isn’t yet possible, and it might not even be ideal considering our ears aren’t perfect either. This is why some manufacturers adjust the frequency response of their products to help compensate for our lack of hearing, or in the case of a company like Beats, to add some emphasis to lower notes.
Best earbuds under $100: Notable mentions
- Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen): Busting the $100 ceiling, Amazon offers a lot for a bit extra money, including Alexa app integration, decent ANC, and an okay mic.
- Anker Soundcore Life A1: Another true wireless option, these earbuds are great for working out. They have stabilizers that keep them in your ears, and they’re comfortable too. They’re also fully waterproof, so you don’t need to worry about sweating on them.
- Beats Flex: This is a great wireless option for iPhone users. It supports AAC for high-quality wireless streaming from your favorite music services. What’s more, it uses Apple’s W1 chip. While this isn’t the latest and greatest, it still allows for seamless autoconnect.
- Bose SoundSport In-Ear: If you’re an athlete who prefers wired listening while working out, this set of sub-$100 earbuds provide a secure and comfortable fit. Plus it includes an in-line mic and remote for playback and call controls. For a totally wireless variant, check out the Bose Sport Earbuds.
- Edifier TWS1: Though this isn’t a luxury pair of true wireless earbuds, you get all the important things like an IPX5 rating, aptX support, and good sound quality.
- HiFiMan RE-400: These earbuds cost less than $50 and house 8.5mm titanium drivers.
- Linsoul Tin Audio T2: If you’re looking for audio-only earphones with replaceable cables, this inexpensive option might be the pick for you.
- Razer Hammerhead Duo: Gaming earbuds are difficult to come by, but this is a great option for gamers who want the option to use their earbuds outside of a console setting.
- RHA TrueConnect 2: This set of true wireless earbuds are handsome and durable. The buds boast an IP55 rating and effectively block out your environment.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus: You don’t need a Samsung phone to enjoy the company’s popular earphones. The Galaxy Buds Plus works with iOS and Android devices, and has an IPX2 rating to withstand minor rain and sweat.
- Sennheiser IE 100 PRO Wireless: Hovering around the $100 to $150 range, you get the flexibility of a wired option, or a (somewhat awkward) wireless option. The buds sound good, stay put, and isolate well to boot.
- 1MORE ColorBuds: Another great option from 1MORE are its ColorBuds true wireless earphones. These are durable, portable buds with a whimsical design.
If you have a bit more cash to play with, check these out
- Etymotic Research ER2SE: These earbuds use an MMCX connector cable, meaning that if you buy the proper MMCX to USB-C cable, you can listen to them through a device that lacks a headphone jack. Generally speaking, sound isolation and quality are excellent, but they can get uncomfortable after a while.
- Jabra Elite 85t: This pair of true wireless noise cancelling earbuds is lightweight, has an IP55 rating, and stays put in your ears. However, it doesn’t support aptX, so if you have an Android phone, we don’t recommend these.
- Sennheiser CX True Wireless: For an extra $30 you get a really nice set of earbuds with quality aptX codec support, and Bluetooth 5.2.
- 1MORE Quad Driver In-Ear: If you liked what you read about the Triple Driver In-Ear and don’t mind shelling out a bit more cash, then you’ll enjoy these buds.
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We understand that this best list may not be a complete reflection of your experiences, but it’s our concerted attempt to make your search for the best earbuds under $100 as painless as possible. We want you to be happy with what you invest your time and money in and none of our writers benefit from selecting one pair of earbuds over another. In fact, our ethics policy is available for you to read at your leisure.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Beyerdynamic Soul BYRD might be a good bet considering they sit flush with most peoples’ ears and come with five different ear tip sizes.