A lot of us are guilty of losing earbuds, so having a $20 budget feels reasonable. Whether you’re looking for replacement earbuds or backup buds, we’re here to ease your decision-making process. Here are the best earbuds under $20.
Editor’s note: this list of the best earbuds under $20 was updated on December 7, 2020, to replace the AKG Stereo Headphones with the Sony WI-C310.
The best earbuds under $20 are the 1More Piston Fit
Each earbud houses a dynamic titanium driver and the nozzles extend at a 45° angle for a comfortable fit. The four colorways are iPhone-matched to fit with your iOS device, but they look just as chic with Android devices too. Partway down the right earbud rests an in-line mic and remote, which facilitates playback and call controls
1More Piston Fit
The aluminum housings aid in mitigating internal vibration and sound distortion. Aside from that, the Piston Fit is outfitted with a tensile-resistant cable that’s wrapped around Kevlar fiber. If you’re familiar with the 1More Triple-Driver In-Ear, then you know that this Kevlar fiber design is durable. For around $15, you’re going to have a hard time finding a better all-around pair of earbuds.
Get clear, amplified bass with the Philips Pro Wired Earbuds
Philips’ Pro earphones are the most expensive buds listed, and these drivers have the most extensive frequency response listed (7Hz-40kHz). The 3.5mm cable is interrupted by an integrated microphone, so you can take work calls remotely.
Philips Pro Wired Earbuds
Philips includes a carrying pouch and three pairs of ear tips so you can find the best fit for you. It takes just a few minutes to do so and will vastly improve both comfort and sound quality, which is important to hear an accurate bass response. The housings are decorated with a metallic finish which makes these best earbuds under $20 a stylish, functional choice.
What you should know about earbuds under $20
Expect many cut corners
If you’re in the market for earbuds under $20, there are bound to be some significantly cut corners. Unfortunately, the sound quality isn’t going to blow anyone’s socks off. Now, relative to what you’re paying, all of these options are impressive but none of them can hold a candle to something like the RHA MA650, which will run you more than double our $20 limit.
One of the first things to go when hunting even for the best earbuds under $20 is build quality. Materials are predominantly plastic. You certainly won’t find any sort of Kevlar-reinforced braided cable like you will with pricier 1More products. Additionally, few research and development resources are allocated to cheaper products. This means that ergonomics and sound quality fall to the wayside. Things are passable, and may be good for the price. However, they won’t outperform professional IEMs.
Take the time to find a good fit
One of the most important factors when it comes to earbuds is seal and fit. A cogent seal will vastly improve sound quality because it isolates you from ambient noise. Bass reproduction is the first to go when a seal isn’t formed to the ear. By allowing external noise in, you’re degrading the overall sound quality of your earbuds, because of auditory masking. Investing in third-party ear tips will vastly improve sound quality.
What if your phone doesn’t have a headphone jack?
If your phone manufacturer nixed the headphone jack, you can always pick up a USB-C adapter. It’s a bit cumbersome but does the trick. Otherwise, you can always look into cheap true wireless earbuds or USB-C headphones. Regarding the latter, though, the technology has yet to impress us. In fact, it seems a dead market at this point.
Related: Best earbuds under $50
Go wireless with the Sony WI-C310
Sony has a lot of experience in manufacturing audio products for budget-conscious listeners—whether it be Bluetooth speakers or wired earbuds. That experience comes through with the Sony WI-C310: a pair of wireless earbuds that offer a little more than you’d expect, given its sub-$20 price tag.
The construction of these neckband-style earbuds is serviceable at best. It’s primarily made of plastic with some rubberized components, which is typical of budget earbuds. The earbuds themselves have magnetic housings that snap together, allowing for easy storage and transport. Along the neckband cable are the control modules which feature playback controls. The modules also house the battery, which Sony claims should last roughly 15 hours.
Despite its low cost, the internals of the Sony WI-C310 are surprisingly modern. It supports Bluetooth 5.0 to help in maintain a stable connection, with support for SBC and AAC. The buds also feature 9mm neodymium drivers that produce a very consumer-friendly sound signature: emphasized low-ends that allow kick drums and bass-lines to cut through a mix. Mids and highs are relatively neutral-leaning, accurately reproducing vocals and other instruments without raising the volume of unwanted resonances.
Make gains with the JBL Endurance RUN
Whether you sweat profusely on the daily is neither here nor there, but the JBL Endurance RUN is a great option for exercise enthusiasts on a budget. These are IPX5-certified, meaning that they can withstand all the sweat your glands can spill onto them.
JBL Endurance RUN
You can wear the earbuds the standard way, with the cables descending directly down from the ear, or hook them over and around the ear. The latter may be preferred if you’re usually aggravated by cable noise; doing so mitigates it. Wearing it around the ear also provides a more secure fit, so you don’t have to worry about them falling out while you complete your circuit training. Need more? These include an in-line mic and remote and extra ear tips. Overall, these are a steal for workout earbuds under $20.
Get the best bang for your buck with the Panasonic ErgoFit
The Panasonic Ergo Fit is legendary. It’s accrued ~54,000 Amazon reviews, proving that we consumers love these $9 earbuds. As you may expect, it doesn’t afford a lot. However, included are three pairs of ear tips: small, medium, and large. Lacking all else, the Ergo Fit is still an outstanding deal.
Panasonic Ergo Fit
Audio quality is fabulous for this price point; the operative phrase being “for this price point.” The ErgoFit come in a wide array of colorways, which also happen to dictate the price. Fun fact: they were designed to pair with the iPod Nano 5th generation colors, hence the whimsy.
Just because you’re paying bottom dollar doesn’t mean that you’re buying bottom shelf.
As far as fit is concerned, well, they’re ergonomic. Now, what does that actually mean? They’ll stay in your ears without causing unbearable hot spots. They stay in fairly well but vigorous movement may be enough to cause them to fall out. For the best earbuds under $20, these are a great value.
Earbuds under $20: notable mentions
- Betron YSM1000 Earbuds: These 24K gold-plated pair of earbuds offer a rather balanced sound signature at an incredibly low price tag.
- Creative EP-630: This pair of earbuds provides listeners with an emphasized low-end and comfortable fit due to the interchangeable ear tips.
- JLab Go Air: If you have a bit more to spend, $10 more, then the JLab Go Air is the perfect pick. These earphones come in a sleek charging case and boast the company’s premium dual connect feature for a more reliable listening experience. Just as with most other JLab products, the case has an integrated USB cable for you to charge from anywhere.
- KZ ATE HiFi: These were formerly the best cheap earbuds, and the ear hook design mitigates microphonics. This results in greater clarity and less external noise masking your music.
- MEE Audio Sport-Fi M6: This pair of earbuds feature a memory wire that wraps over your ear, ensuring a comfortable fit that won’t fall off during your workouts.
- MEE Audio RX18: This is the same company that manufactures the Sport-Fi M6P. If you’re constantly struggling to find cheap earbuds that fit well, your search ends here.
- Monoprice Enhanced Bass Hi-Fi: The Monoprice Enhanced Bass Hi-Fi earbuds are a recurring conversation piece when it comes to affordable IEMs. These ‘buds are bulky and are outfitted with an ear-hook design, so they’ll stay in place as you walk to work.
- RHA S500: If you’re willing to splurge an additional few dollars, RHA’s affordable earbuds are a great pair of budget drivers. Aluminum housings make the earbuds look more grand than the ~$20 price tag implies, and the one-button remote works with both iOS and Android devices.
- Sony MDR EX15AP: These earbuds include an in-line, one-button mic and remote. You can download the Sony Smart Key app to customize control over your Android phone all for less than $15.
How we chose the best earbuds under $20
Being that we’ve been covering the audio industry for some time, we’re acutely aware of what the top of the market is. It’s not exactly a huge mystery which companies are great at this sort of thing, and which ones aren’t as much. However, we give everyone their fair shot because there are always some surprises out there. That said, we’ve culled through countless earbuds under $20 to find the best possible options for you.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
We’re stationed at this site day-to-day and understand that consumer and professional needs are constantly evolving. Seeing as we’re inundated with audio products, we’re able to easily sift through the noise to pick out the good from the disappointing. Each of us has multiple years of experience when it comes to keeping tabs on the audio industry and rely on that to guide our review process.
We also take objective measures when applicable and just want our readers to enjoy their purchases. None of our writers may profit or benefit from steering readers to or from a certain audio device. While the site uses referral links, none of our writers will know whether or not a link was clicked. If you so choose, our ethics policy is publicly available.
Frequently Asked Questions
Out of all the options on this list, the JBL Endurance Run is the best suited for the gym, thanks to its IPX5 water-resistance rating. However, if you're looking for reliable pair of workout earbuds, we'd recommend investing in a pair that has a good quality build, which means you don't have to keep buying the same pair of cheap earbuds every time they break.
Other than the Sony WI-C310, there aren't many options out there. At such a low price point, there are bound to be compromises. Sure, there are wireless earbuds available for less than $20, but they tend to sacrifice audio quality for the sake of wireless connectivity. You're better off spending your cash on a pair of good-sounding wired earbuds, or save up for the JLab Go Air, which provides audio quality and true wireless connectivity for just under $30.