Earbuds don’t have to be expensive to sound good. Finding a pair that don’t sound terrible, but that you also don’t need to baby is like walking a tightrope. Luckily, there are plenty of solid earbuds under $50 that will get the job done nowadays. So if you’re looking to upgrade from the gummies you got at your local gas station, this is the list for you. No one pair of ‘buds on this list is going to be as good as something that costs you hundreds of dollars, but you’d be surprised how close you can get for a fraction of the price.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on March 17th, 2020 to include new picks and updated pricing.
Who are these for?
- Budget listeners. 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.
- Listeners looking for a backup pair of ‘buds. If you don’t want to break the bank but still want your ears to be happy, any of these options have you covered if you just want something to have in your bag on those days when your favorite pair of headphones get left at the office or if the battery dies.
- Streamers. Most people probably aren’t using a high-res media player while listening to their music on the go. If you’re someone that listens to music from streaming services like Spotify or Apple Music, any of these ‘buds will be more than fine.
Related: How your in-ears fit matters
The best earbuds under $50 are the RHA MA390
We didn’t just pick these because they’re easy to spell; no, the MA390 includes 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 silicone ear tips are comfortable and durable. Aside from that, RHA includes a shirt clip and drawstring, mesh carrying pouch.
For workout earbuds under $50, look no further than Creative Outlier One
The Creative Outlier One earbuds are IPX4-certified and can withstand intense workouts and harsh weather alike. Despite the large size, they’re comfortable for daily use and isolate listeners from external noise. The control module, like the earbud housings, is bulky and buttons require effort to push, but for sub-$30 earbuds, it’s understandable.
Creative Outlier OneFull Review
Battery life exceeds expectations; during our objective testing, we measured 9.4 hours of playback while the earbuds were subjected to a constant 75dB(SPL) output. Only three pairs of variable ear tips are provided, and if you’re not fond of silicone we recommend opting for third-party tips. As far as cheap wireless earbuds are concerned, it’s hard to beat Creative’s flat cable Outlier One.
Looking for a solid pair of wired earbuds? Check out the Tin Audio T2
Sometimes you don’t need anything crazy, you just need some solid sound that you can fit in your back pocket. For that, it’s hard to beat the Linsoul Tin Audio T2 earbuds. These have been making the rounds on forums everywhere because of their good sound and build construction for the price.
Linsoul Tin Audio T2
While you shouldn’t expect these to blow you away (I mean, they are only $50) you can definitely rely on these to get the job done whether you’re working from home or commuting to the office. These use a MMCX detachable cable so that if you need to you can just swap out the wire instead of buying a brand new pair of earbuds. Toss some memory foam eartips on here and they’re hard to beat.
Related: Best neckband earbuds
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. But just know that if microphone quality is important to you then you might want to spring the extra $10 to get that version.
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 we’re closing out the list with the Panasonic Ergo Fit. These earbuds are comfortable and cost around $10 which is just unheard of. 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 and they just get it done.
Panasonic Ergo Fit
Originally designed to match the colors of the 5th generation iPod nano, the Ergo Fit are available in eight colorways so chances are you’ll find one that you like. 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 you should know about earbuds under $50
- When buying cheap earbuds, one of the first things to hit the chopping block is build quality and general R&D. Isolation improvements can be made, however, by using third-party ear tips.
- Noise-induced hearing loss is a real threat to our eardrums when listening with cheap earbuds. We may be inclined to pump up the volume, compensating for poor frequency response. Doing so repeatedly could irrevocably damage your hearing.
Believe it or not, there are true wireless options as well
There is a sea of cheap earbuds under $50, and we made this list to help people find the cream of the crop. Then there were Bluetooth earbuds, which were more expensive at first but then eventually dropped in price. But it seems companies were in a race to make affordable true wireless earbuds, and customers are reaping the benefits. So if you think you want to try out a pair of true wireless earbuds without breaking the bank, check out our list of true wireless ‘buds for under $100. A few of those options (like the Monoprice True Wireless) you can even find for less than $50, so instead of grabbing a wired pair, you can give one of those a try as well.
- Anker Soundbuds NB10: These earbuds were previously the best cheap wireless earbuds, only to be knocked out by the Creative Outlier One.
- 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 around $40, 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.
- Samsung Active In-Ear: These winged earbuds provide a comfortable and stable fit. The in-line mic and remote is well placed and the 12mm drivers produce more clarity than the sub-$20 price tag suggests.
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. We made sure that the sacrifices each company made for its respective earbuds were reasonable. After all, we want you to like the earbuds under $50 that you choose, and even though this generally isn’t the most durable category, there are some options that are workout-friendly. Ultimately, we wanted these picks to be versatile: good enough for daily listening but with a few features thrown in.
Why you should trust us
Working at SoundGuys has afforded each of us hours upon hours of hands-on time reviewing the latest, greatest, and could-be-better products on the market. But we don’t expect you to just take our word for it; we make sure to perform objective tests to measure battery life, isolation, and frequency response of the headphones and earbuds that we get our hands-on.
Ultimately, we want each of you to enjoy the earbuds that you choose, and none of our writers may benefit from directing readers to one product or another. For the sake of transparency, we have our full ethics statement available on the site.