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.
Start here: Headphone buying guide
Editor’s note: this list of the best earbuds under $50 was updated on February 19, 2021, to include the RHA S500 Universal.
Who should get the best earbuds under $50?
- Budget listeners will be able to afford most of these picks for best earbuds under $50. We made sure that with each pick, you’ll make as few compromises possible.
- Listeners looking for a backup pair of buds can feel good about buying a relatively cheap pair of buds, because they don’t break the bank but function well enough.
The best earbuds under $50 are the RHA S500 Universal
We didn’t just pick these because they’re easy to spell; no, the S500 Universal are an absolute steal for $39 USD. 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 S500 UniversalFull Review
The aluminum housings feature straight nozzles that stay in place during typical movement like walking. RHA’s budget earphones reproduce a generally consumer-friendly frequency response which translates to amplified bass notes and some treble emphasis. This leads to some auditor masking, but that’s to be expected when buying budget earbuds. The Universal microphone and remote module works with both iOS and Android devices, so you can control playback from any phone.
For workout earbuds under $50, look no further than the JLab GO Air
The Jlab GO Air is the company’s smallest, lightest headset and still manages to include premium features like dual connect technology and an IP44 dust- and water-resistant build. For begin so small, the earbuds have a long five-hour playtime with an additional 15 hours provided by the charging case. Like many other JLab charging cases, this too includes an integrated USB cable for charging from anywhere.
JLab GO AirFull Review
If you have smaller ears, these are the true wireless earbuds to get, as the small housings are unlikely to rub against your outer ear. That said, JLab provides only three pairs of ear tips, so some listeners may have to pick up some third-party ear tips for a more comfortable fit.
JLab GO Air microphone demo:
Sound quality is very bass-heavy, which follows suit with many other JLab products. Clarity falls to the wayside due to the noticeable auditory masking that takes place, but you’re paying $30, so it’s to be expected. You can cycle through JLab’s custom EQ modes, Signature, Balanced, and Bass Boost, depending on your musical taste. For those who find the JLab GO Air too plain, it may be worth spending a bit more than our budget for the best earbuds under $50 allows by getting the JLab JBuds Air Icon or JLab JBuds Executive Air, for an AirPods alternative.
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 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 cable terminates at a right angle. 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.
Related: How your in-ears fit matters
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.
- You might need an amp or a better DAC if you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of headphones, but that isn’t the case here. You don’t need any of that stuff for anything on this list.
Believe it or not, there are a handful of true wireless options as well
Now that true wireless earbuds have matured a bit, there are a great many options abound under $100. Heck, there are even quite a few viable options if you want to stay within the same $50 budget. As with any budget option, you’ll want to keep expectations tempered: true wireless earbuds have their limitations. The embedded microphone systems are often just okay, at best, and product longevity is an issue due to the small battery cells. If you can accept their drawbacks, you’ll be happy with your purchase.
Cheap earbuds: notable mentions
- 1MORE PistonBuds: While these are a solid pair of Bluetooth earbuds with Bluetooth 5, an IPX4 rating, and around eight hours of battery life, they didn’t make this list because we tried to focus more on wired options. Still, if you’re after Bluetooth these are a solid choice. If you want a true wireless option, check out the 1MORE PistonBuds.
- Aukey EP-B40P: These affordable Bluetooth neckbuds are great for people who regularly hit the gym with its IPX6 water-resistance rating, 15-hour battery life, and winged ear tips for a secure fit.
- Beats Flex: These earbuds replace the BeatsX, and cost just $49 USD. Apple packed its W1 chip into the neckband, so you can benefit from features like Siri access, fast switching, and more, so long as you have an iPhone.
- Edifier TWS1: These true wireless earbuds are surprisingly great for only being $39. Though some sacrifices are made for the cheap price, such as microUSB charging instead of USB-C, they do include some premium features like an IPX5 rating and aptX support.
- 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. HiFiMan is one of the most trusted brands in audio and these entry-level earbuds are a good entry point for anyone who wants to step it up from the buds that came with their phones.
- JLab JBuds Air Icon: Although priced a little higher than $50, this upgrade to the JLab Go Air offers an improved IP55-rating and an extra hour of battery life.
- 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.
- Skullcandy Indy True Wireless: If you need a cheap pair of true wireless earbuds, Skullcandy has you covered. These buds feature an IP55 water and dust resistance rating, strong connection performance via Bluetooth 5.0, good isolation, and decent sound quality.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tribit FlyBuds 3: With an IPX7 waterproof rating, and a design and fit similar to the Samsung Galaxy Buds, these are perfect for hardcore athletes who don’t want to break the bank for a pair of true wireless earbuds.
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 SoundGuys
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Noise isolation refers to the amount of ambient noise that is physically blocked by your earbuds/headphones. The degree to which noise is blocked depends on the design of a product, such as how well a pair of earbuds create a good seal. This form of noise attenuation is passive, since there's no additional circuitry involved—just physics. On the other hand, noise cancelling is the process of using active circuitry to cancel out ambient noise, which typically works on top of noise isolation. Because of the additional circuity, you'll often find that noise cancelling headphones and earbuds can be expensive.
Although sound quality is just as important, two things to consider for a pair of workout earbuds are water resistance and how well it fits. You'll want a pair of earbuds that can keep up with your workouts, no matter how intense. Fortunately for you, we've already created a list of some of the best workout earbuds.