This article was updated on September 9th, 2018 to add more information and links to deeper dives into certain topics.
Finding a good pair of cheap earbuds is a lost art form, which is why we want to help you find the best earbuds under $50. Not everyone has the money or the incentive to spend hundreds of dollars—or even $100—on something just for casual listening or a commute to work.
When it comes to convenience, nothing beats throwing a pair of ‘buds in your pocket. Even the best over-ear headphones lack that level of portability. With earbuds, you used to have to sacrifice a great deal of quality for sub-$50 earbuds; fortunately, that isn’t the case anymore. So let’s get into it. Here are some of our top picks for the best ‘buds $50 can buy.
Who are these for?
- Anyone who has found themselves between a rock and a hard place, financially speaking. No matter what pair you commit to from this list of the best earbuds under $50, you’ll be making the least amount of compromises possible given the constraints.
- Anyone looking for a supplementary, on-the-go pair of earbuds. If you don’t want to break the bank but still want your ears to be happy, these will have you covered.
Though sound quality and comfort differs from person to person, 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 if you have any personal favorites that weren’t listed.
The best earbuds under $50 are the RHA MA390
We didn’t just pick these because they’re easy to spell; no, the MA390 are the best earbuds $30 can buy. And, yes, this is a list of the best earbuds under $50, which leaves you with an extra few bucks to deck these out in a pair of Comply ear tips; they cost a pretty penny but dramatically improve sound quality and passive noise isolation.
RHA MA390Full Review
Each housing is molded from a single piece of 6063-grade aluminum; this one-piece design removes unnecessary internal obstructions to provide you with a clear sound. The bass is surprisingly emphasized, and it’s reproduction only slightly masks vocals. Of course, these aren’t going to hold a candle to the ‘buds found on our best earbuds list, but they’re still solid.
The dual-material construction rarely gets tangled, and if it does, it takes a mere few seconds to straighten out. Additionally, the dual-density silicon ear tips are comfortable and durable. Aside from that, RHA includes a shirt clip and drawstring, mesh carrying pouch.
No headphone jack? No problem
The Anker SoundBuds NB10 are Bluetooth-enabled and oriented towards workout enthusiasts. Though these don’t quite cut it for our best workout earbuds list, they surpass what most consumer may expect for sub-$40 earbuds. The flexible hook-design is great for working out, providing added stability. Plus, the ear tips are ergonomically angled to stay in comfortably. Battery life isn’t going to blow you away at six hours, but it’ll get you through a week’s-worth of workouts. Not to mention, they’re IPX4-certified.
Anker Soundbuds NB10Full Review
Housed in aluminum, the drivers are fairly durable. Pair that with a braided, tangle-resistant cable, and these are easy to regularly carry around. That said, the cable is a double-edged sword, because it still feels cheap. Then again, who’s surprised? After all, these are the best earbuds under $50. In all fairness, things get more luxurious once you start listening to them. And connecting is easy via a standard 3.5mm jack.
The Shure SE112-GR provide the best sound for earbuds under $50
The Shure SE112-GR shouldn’t come as a big surprise. The brand has a well-earned reputation for quality audio products. These come with an in-line mic option, but those cost around $60, which puts them outside of the earbuds under $50 price range.
Shure SE112-GRFull Review
Fresh out of the box, the first thing you notice is the quality of the cable. The heavy duty wire ends in a 90-degree, 3.5mm jack and looks impossible to break. They max out at 105dB, nearing the threshold of pain for most people (120dB). But this could be a good thing. It means you don’t have to max out your device to get a comfortable sound.
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. Though it may be odd, a lot of earbuds take this approach. Plus, it mitigates microphonics, which is when vibrations from the cable impede sound quality.
Need good sound on the cheap? Check out the 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 comfortable and a cost less than $10. As far as build quality goes, these look cheap… because they are. They tangle easily, so be wary of crumpling them up and stuffing them in your pockets. That said, the audio quality is better than anything you’ll find for this price.
Panasonic Ergo Fit
Originally designed to match the colors of the 5th generation iPod nano, the Ergo Fit are available in eight colorways. Unsurprisingly, the earbuds have an ergonomic fit, meaning that they’ll stay in fairly easily. If you decide on another pair of cheap headphones on this list, these are worth picking up as a secondary pair to compliment them.
What else you should know
What if you don’t have a headphone jack?
Why should you even get a pair of cheap wired earbuds when some of the most popular phones don’t even have a headphone jack? To be frank, it’s to save money. The only reason the Soundbuds NB10 even made it on this list is because they actually sound decent and don’t cost an exuberant sum of money. And trust us, that’s a rare achievement.
It’s no secret that some companies are trying to push consumers towards going wireless with claims that it’s easier and more convenient, and while some of that might be true, most people are smart enough to see right through that. It’s all about money. If you want good sound quality, Bluetooth headphones can get expensive. And while it’s true that some wireless earbuds do sound great, you can generally get similar quality for less. Although, you’ll have to be willing to live that #donglelife.
The right ear tips improve isolation
One of the most important and overlooked aspects of how music sounds in your headphones is the fit and isolation. This is especially true when it comes to earbuds. If your headphones sound bad, chances are they’re not giving you a proper seal (not that you need to burn-in your headphones, because you don’t). Earbuds, by their very nature, don’t cover your entire ear. Instead, they sit in your ear canal and generally don’t provide a great seal to begin with. The EarPods that come with every iPhone are a prime example of ‘buds that don’t do a good job at blocking outside noise, but they’re not the only ones.
Every pair of earbuds on this list can be improved simply by switching out the ear tips with ones that fit your ear better/are made with better materials. We doubt anyone is going to be getting custom molding for a pair of earbuds that cost $9, but even just swapping out the stock tips for a pair of memory foam ones will get the job done.
Avoid noise-induced hearing loss
While we’re on the topic of stuffing things in your ears, it’s worth mentioning that you should be mindful of just how loud your music is. At the risk of sounding like a grandma, playing your music too loudly is actually dangerous for your hearing and can cause long-term damage even if you don’t realize it.
That’s just as true for cheap earbuds as it is for thousand dollar headphones. Keeping your music at or below around 85 dB is generally considered to be a safe bet, and if you’re still not convinced just read our piece on noise-induced hearing that Chris Thomas wrote up so you can prevent any issues in the future.
- AKG Y20U: These are cheap earbuds with attenuated bass, but they fit well and provide solid passive isolation.
- Symphonized NRG: These used to be our best all-around pick. Their wooden design is eye-catching and the sound is good for a bargain pair of buds.
- HiFiMan RE-400: For $49, you get two 8.5mm titanium drivers, ergonomically fitted earbuds, plenty of ear tips, and a zipper carrying case.
- Sony MDRXB50AP Extra Bass: These earbuds sport a large housing and, like the company’s other “Extra Bass” products, these place a great deal of emphasis on the low-end. Unfortunately, the designers omitted any sort of control module.
Didn’t find what you were looking for?
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What makes a set of earbuds “the best?
When it comes to earbuds under $50, we know that there are sacrifices that companies have made to each product. From build quality to sound clarity, there are cut corners for the sake of affordability. Plus, we took extra time to take into account how most people actually use headphones. After all, what’s the good in having a best list that doesn’t help most people buy headphones they like? Because our ad-free business model relies on you enjoying your headphones without returning them, this list represents what we earnestly feel is the most deserving of your money.
Why you should trust us
Not only is this site our nine-to-five, but Adam, Chris, and Lily each have multiple years of reviewing consumer audio products. We’ve kept tabs on the ever-changing world of audio, giving us the ability to parse apart the gimmicks from the gems. As frequent visitors of SoundGuys already know, Chris wears his hatred for all things Bluetooth like a lovesick teenager wears his heart on his sleeve. The Bluetooth products listed? They’re damned special.
Adam, a SoundGuy for nearly three years, has heard everything from pristine highs to vacant lows. Then there’s Lily with countless hours clocked in at a radio station working in a professional studio environment and reviewing audio products on her own time prior to joining SoundGuys.
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