Just a year ago, functional and reliable cheap true wireless earbuds would have been an oxymoron, but now they’re being released in droves. You no longer have to shell out $150-plus for solid truly wireless earbuds, instead, save your money and enjoy the latest and greatest audio technology has to offer. Here are the best true wireless earbuds that cost less than $100.
Editors note: this note was updated on March 4, 2020, to include the Samsung Galaxy Buds.
For the best true wireless earbuds under $100, get the Creative Outlier Gold
Creative’s true wireless earbuds ring up just shy of $80 and give all three-digit products a run for their money. The Outlier Gold earbuds support both AAC and aptX, are IPX5 water-resistant, and have some of the best battery life among the competition.
Creative Outlier GoldFull Review
It isn’t all perfect, though; the earbuds and charging case are slippery as all get out, something that plagued the original Outlier Air. What’s more, the on-board buttons require a bit of force before a command is actually registered.
Creative Outlier Gold microphone demo:
While both of these complaints are rather nitpicky this next one isn’t: Super X-Fi processing, a selling point of the Creative Outlier Gold, is limited to native files that must be played back through the SXFI app. This means most of us who rely on streaming services for our music consumption can’t benefit from the Outlier Gold’s greatest offering. This isn’t to fault Creative as media available from the likes of Spotify and Tidal are protected, but it does mean that you may not want to buy the Outlier Gold for its SXFI processing alone.
The bass response has been tempered from the original Creative Outlier Air, meaning the Gold are able to reproduce a more accurate representation of all music genres. Battery life is impeccable for this price: we measured 10.3 hours of playtime on a single charge, which is a huge improvement over last year’s model. The Outlier Gold retain quick charging functionality; placing the earbuds in the case for just 10 minutes affords one hour of listening. This is great if you show up at the gym only to realize the earbuds are depleted.
What you should know about cheap true wireless earbuds
The technology has vastly improved over just a few years
When true wireless earbuds were first released, it was lucky to get four hours of playback from a single charge. Now, we have earbuds exceeding 10 hours, setting a new standard for the technology. While shelling out more than $100 on truly wireless earbuds is worth it for many, it’s unnecessary if you’re just looking to get a basic, reliable pair of everyday earbuds. Companies like Creative and JLab are cornering the cheap true wireless market by pumping out good quality products for significantly less than the competition. Heck, even the Outlier Air support both AAC and aptX Bluetooth codecs.
When you buy a cheap pair of earbuds, you’re sacrificing style, build quality, and extra features like noise canceling. Just because you’re saving money on your affordable truly wireless ‘buds, doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing basic Bluetooth performance though.
Battery life is getting better
Generally speaking, the included charging cases make up for an across-the-board poor standalone battery life. Huge battery life improvements have happened though. For instance, the Beats Powerbeats Pro exceed 10 hours of playback on a single charge. If you’re on an international flight, you may want to look at over-ear headphones instead.
Get the most out of wireless audio with high-quality Bluetooth codecs
Typically we advise listeners to keep an eye out for high-quality Bluetooth codecs. If you’re not too familiar with how codecs work, fear not. They dictate how data is transferred from a source (phone) to a receiver (headphones). Ideally, Bluetooth transfer rates wouldn’t have to make compromises between efficiency and quality, but bandwidth remains limited. Companies are always looking for inventive workarounds: Bluetooth SIG teamed up with Fraunhofer to produce LE Audio and the new LC3 codec, which will greatly improve wireless streaming standards and aid the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
iPhone users should get earbuds with AAC support, while Android users should invest in aptX-supported 'buds.
If you’re an iPhone user, make sure to get earbuds with AAC support. Android users, on the other hand, should get something with aptX support. While Android devices support AAC streaming, its performance is inconsistent across the board.
Athletes need IP-certified earbuds
IP, or Ingress Protection, ratings denote how dust- or water-resistant a product is. Our deep dive into IP ratings is a great resource, but if you don’t have time, the higher the number the more resistant a product is to dust or water.
Isolation is key
For the price, none of these options are going to outperform something like the Samsung Galaxy Buds or Sony WF-1000XM3, but improving isolation is an easy way to improve sound quality. Take a few minutes to figure out which included ear tips are best for you or invest in a pair of third-party ear tips if it’s supported by the headphones. Doing so could end up preventing irrevocable hearing loss, too.
The Edifier TWS1 are supremely portable
Listeners on a budget will enjoy the Edifier TWS1 for their premium audio features, including aptX and Qualcomm True Wireless Stereo Plus support. Few of the best true wireless earbuds support this technology, let alone the best true wireless earbuds under $100. For less than $50, listeners can enjoy high-quality audio streaming on Android devices, and all smartphone users reap the benefit of advanced connection stability afforded by Qualcomm.
Edifier TWS1Full Review
That said, the earbuds don’t just sound good, they’re tough too due to an IPX5 certification. Each earbud panel is touch-sensitive, so you can make basic playback and call controls without withdrawing your phone. Consistency poses an issue when making commands: oftentimes multiple taps weren’t registered.
Edifier TWS1 microphone demo:
Surprisingly, the Edifier TWS1 includes a microUSB charging case. This outdated technology is a nuisance but not a dealbreaker. What may prove more annoying to listeners is the complete lack of fast charging capabilities, so you’ll have to be patient when topping up both the earbuds and case.
Generally speaking, if you’re looking to get a portable package with great sound quality, there aren’t many better deals than the Edifer TWS1.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds hit a sweet spot
The Samsung Galaxy Buds currently hover right at $100, which is a marked price decrease. This makes sense seeing how the company is now pushing its Galaxy Buds Plus. Although the newer model makes useful improvements, the fact remains that the Galaxy Buds were and are still a great pair of earbuds.
Samsung Galaxy BudsFull Review
These IPX2-rated earbuds may not be the most durable on this list but prove fine for casual workouts. What’s more, they operate via Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and boast the same codec support as their successor, AAC and Samsung’s scalable codec.
Battery life is excellent for a one-year-old pair of totally wireless earbuds: you get 6.53 hours of playtime on a single charge. When the battery dies, you can pop the ‘buds in the USB-C case for 15 minutes and get more than 1.5 hours of listening. Another way to charge the case is via Wireless PowerShare, meaning you can place it on top of a compatible Samsung smartphone to charge it.
Samsung Galaxy Buds microphone demo:
Sound quality is pretty good for a pair of small earbuds, as they should be since AKG tuned the drivers. Despite being a consumer-oriented headset, the Galaxy Buds have a neutral sound signature which means most music will sound true to form from these ‘buds. If you want more bass or to make other adjustments, you may do so in the Galaxy Wearable app for Android.
The JLab JBuds Air Sport are for athletes
As it stands, the JLab JBuds Air Sport is one the best true wireless, bang-for-your-buck options available. The included IP66 earbuds feature a higher durability rating than the Jabra Elite 65t for half the cost. You get a 4.5-hour playback time from the earbuds and are afforded an extra five and a half charge cycles from the case. Said case houses a USB-A charging cable, so you don’t have to worry about keeping track of cables.
JLab JBuds Air SportFull Review
The ear hook design effectively keeps the Air Sport ‘buds in place, and the nozzles seal to the ear well. However, the large nozzle-diameter causes discomfort after an hour of listening. Each earbud is outfitted with a touch-capacitive panel, which allows for comprehensive controls. This includes volume adjustment, basic playback and call control, Ambient Aware mode, and more.
Related: Best Apple AirPods Pro alternatives
Sound quality reflects JLab’s roots: workout earbuds. Bass frequencies are aggressively emphasized, which is fun at first but can be tiring if you’re casually listening, not breaking a sweat. They operate via Bluetooth 5.0 and support AAC for lag-free streaming with iOS devices. If you’re using an Android device, you may still notice some lag.
On the whole, if you’re looking for a pair of true wireless earbuds designed to mimic the AirPods for a fraction of the cost, the JLab Epic Air Sport is it.
Reliable connectivity takes precedence with the Soundcore Liberty Air
These maintain a reliable connection under all conditions. Sure, they look like AirPod knock-offs but come in a stealthy all-black, so we’ll let it pass. In fact, the biggest complaints with these ‘buds have to do with their build. The glossy plastic of the earbuds is fingerprint prone. Functionality is superb, though.
Anker Soundcore Liberty AirFull Review
Just like the AirPods, the Soundcore Liberty Air auto-connect to your device when you take them out of the case. Once connected, they stay connected. They feature Bluetooth 5.0 and rarely drop a signal, a problem that plagues many true wireless earbuds. Sound quality is also surprisingly good. Bass notes aren’t too exaggerated. The earbuds are IPX5-certified. Feel free to take them to the gym.
The biggest problem with these is the lack of volume controls. Additionally, the return-to-previous-track function doesn’t work reliably. Battery life is pretty good for truly wireless earbuds at 4.82 hours of constant playback. We get more into the nitty-gritty in the full review. Even with all of the issues, they’re still some of the best true wireless earbuds under $100.
If you want something smart, get the Amazon Echo Buds with Alexa built-in
The Echo Buds cost a bit more than $100, disqualifying them as a top contender, but they’re a great pair of entry-level smart earbuds that retail for much less than the likes of the Apple AirPods Pro. For just $130, you get hands-free access to Alexa, which is helpful for smart home enthusiasts. If your home is full of Internet-of-Things (IoT) products, then the Echo Buds make it easy to control your light bulbs, routines, and more, all while keeping your phone in your pocket. Sound quality, clarity in particular, leaves a lot to be desired, but the selling point is Alexa integration. Althletes may breathe a sigh of relief knowing these are IPX4 water-resistant, and morning commuters may enjoy Bose noise reduction technology.
- Apple AirPods: These earbuds run you more than $100 and, even though they’ve been outdated by the AirPods Pro, they’re the best and most affordable true wireless option for your iPhone. Granted, they do have their flaws like poor isolation.
- Creative Outlier Air: These earbuds precede the Outlier Gold and feature a nearly identical build but with a more covert all-black paint job, instead of the Gold’s gold accents. Battery life isn’t quite as impressive as the Outlier Gold (7.78 hours compared to 10.3), but it still exceeds more expensive true wireless earbuds’ stamina.
- 1More Stylish True Wireless: These earphones use Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and support both AAC and aptX high-quality codecs, which is rare at this price point. If you like the idea of the Monoprice True Wireless but want more bass, get these.
- Jabra Elite 65t: This is going to run you quite a bit more than the $100 limit, but we crowned it as the best true wireless earbuds available to date.
- Crazybaby Air Nano: These are an older model of the Air 1S, and support the AAC codec. If you have an iPhone but don’t want to splurge on AirPods, this may be a good alternative.
- Sol Republic Amps Air: This affords 45-plus hours of playback with the included charging case, but didn’t make it as a top pick due to poor connectivity and fit.
- Skullcandy Indy: Skullcandy nailed the fit and compact design of the Indy earbuds. These are affordable and boast an IP55 certification. However, there are some drawbacks like disappointing battery life and fickle touch controls.
- JLab JBuds Air: These are directly related to the JBuds Air Executive and retail for just shy of $50. They’re IP55-rated, great for outdoor exercise, and include an integrated USB charging cable at the base of the case.
You may like: Apple AirPods Pro vs. Apple AirPods (2019)
How we tested the best true wireless earbuds
While we encourage you to read our comprehensive article elucidating how and why we test, the short of it is that we run three basic tests: frequency response, isolation, and battery life when applicable.
As with all valid tests, we make sure that the results of each one are repeatable and not just a fluke. As for battery life, we subject each pair of earbuds or headphones to a constant 75dB(SPL) output until the unit’s battery is completely drained. In order to record the battery life, we make sure the output is being recorded by software through a dummy head.
Why you should trust us
SoundGuys serves as each of our day jobs, or rather we serve SoundGuys as our nine-to-fives, and Adam, Chris, and Lily each have multiple years keeping tabs on the audio industry. Our collective experiences allow us to pick out the good from the bad, or the unremarkable, reducing the time you have to spend doing independent research.
While our site does use referral links, none of our writers may benefit from suggesting one product over another; in fact, they won’t even know if a link was ever clicked. Ultimately, we just want you to enjoy your purchase because we get that picking out audio products can be an overwhelming, time-consuming process. If you so choose, we recommend reading up on our ethics policy.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Only the earphones listed to support ambient mode or passthrough listening support it. For instance, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air does not support ambient sound mode, but the Samsung Galaxy Buds headset does as is listed or omitted from the positives and negatives section at the top of the list. However, it is possible that companies like Creative add such functionality in a firmware update.
Between the Creative Outlier Air, Edifier TWS1, Rowkin Ascent Micro, JLab JBuds Air Sport, and Anker Soundcore Liberty Air, the Edifier TWS1 has the best microphone quality. If you're strictly prioritizing mic quality for cheap true wireless earbuds, the Jabra Elite 65t earphones are your best bet. These occasionally dip below $100, and can be had for just $64 when bought renewed.