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.
Knowledge Zenith ATE in-ears
Knowledge Zenith ATE in-ears” top_icon=”best” icon_title=”Best Overall” description=”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.
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.
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.
Disclosure: CB3 Audio is a partner brand of SoundGuys.com
MEE Audio Sport-Fi M6P
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 ear tips 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.
Panasonic Ergo Fit
There’s a reason the Panasonic Ergo Fit earbuds are a bestseller on Amazon and have a 4.1 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.
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!