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 under $100.
Editors note: this list of the best true wireless earbuds under $100 was updated on September 6, 2020, to replace the Samsung Galaxy Buds with the RHA TrueConnect.
The Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 are the best true wireless earbuds under $100 for most listeners
Anker’s sophomore Liberty Air true wireless earbuds hit it out of the park. These are by no means the “end all, be all” earphones, but they’ll suit the needs for most listeners on a budget. Whether you’re a commuter, chronic conference caller, or an athlete, the SoundCore Liberty Air 2 can work for you.
Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2Full Review
These stemmed earbuds merit an IPX5 rating, meaning they can endure high-pressure sprays of water from nearly any direction; suffice to say, they can handle your workouts. SoundCore dropped the glossy finish in the first-generation earphones, and instead went with a more mature matte veneer. Not only does this look more premium, but it does a better job of repelling fingerprints. The case has been further improved and is a joy to flick open.
Despite the strong bass amplification, sound quality is good. If the exaggeration really bothers you, there are plenty of presets to choose from in the SoundCore app or you can make your own. While these aren’t noise cancelling true wireless earphones, they manage to block out low-frequency noise well and render it about 1/2 as loud as it would otherwise sound. Anker SoundCore ensures optimal audio quality thanks to dual high-quality Bluetooth codec support; both AAC and aptX may be used.
Microphone quality is bar none for this price point. Voices of all pitches are transmitted clearly, which can be attributed to the four-microphone array. Not only does it work to relay voices accurately, but it also actively reduces background noise, so friends on the other end of the call aren’t subjected to environment clatters and such.
Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 microphone demo:
Battery life is above average for totally wireless technology: you’re granted 7 hours, 5 minutes of playtime on a single charge. Plopping the ‘buds into the case for just 10 minutes provides you with two hours of playtime, which is pretty efficient fast charging. Said case supplies listeners with an extra three charge cycles before it has to be re-charged, which may be done via the included USB-C cable or by way of a Qi wireless charging pad. If you want to get the most out of your $99, get the Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2.
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, even the best true wireless earbuds under $100, you’re sacrificing style, build quality, and extra features like noise cancelling. 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. Whether you’re getting a pair of the best true wireless earbuds under $100 or the best earbuds you can find, the battery cells will deplete over time, forcing you to reach out to the company for repairs or to buy a new set.
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 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
None of the best true wireless earbuds under $100 will supply a wide range of ear tips or outperform something like 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 RHA TrueConnect have excellent isolation for only $58
The first-generation RHA TrueConnect true wireless earbuds have angled nozzles, making their fit very secure and ideal for maximizing passive isolation. Their onboard controls are comprehensive and they offer an IPX5 rating, so these are great for workouts or commutes, and you’ll never have to take your phone out of your pocket to adjust your music.
RHA TrueConnectFull Review
The RHA TrueConnect operate via Bluetooth 5.0 firmware but they only support the SBC codec. The microphone is fine for everyday use and does a decent job at combatting ambient noise. They have a 4.38 hour battery life and the case holds an additional 4 hours of charge. They support fast charging as well.
While their passive isolation is very good, the sound signature itself is extremely bass-heavy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as many consumers prefer emphasized bass. It does, however, mean that mid and treble frequencies are more likely to fall victim to auditory masking, making them lose their detail.
The JLab JBuds Air Sport are the best true wireless earbuds under $100 for athletes
As it stands, the JLab JBuds Air Sport is one the best true wireless earbuds under $100 on the market. 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.
Listen for longer with 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, which mimics surround sound and is 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 reproduces 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 retains 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. These are hands-down 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.
True wireless earbuds under $100: notable mentions
- 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.
- Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2: The Liberty Air 2 earphones supply 40% more battery on a single charge than the original model and offer a more streamlined design.
- 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.
- Helm Audio True Wireless 5.0: These earphones support aptX for high-quality streaming on Android devices and Bluetooth 5.0 firmware that facilitates efficient power consumption. Listeners get up to six hours of playtime on a single charge with an additional 30 hours supplied by the charging case.
- Jabra Elite 65t: This too is going to run you quite a bit more than the $100 limit, but we crowned it as the best true wireless earbuds for nearly a year. If you’re not opposed to refurbished products, you can easily find it for under $100.
- JLab GO Air: These true wireless earbuds are just $30 and showcase some of the company’s more premium features like dual connect technology and a uniquely lightweight, slim build.
- 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.
- JLab JBuds Air Icon: JLab’s second go at its successful JBuds Air cheap ture wireless earbuds hits it out of the park with improved battery life, connectivity, and smaller housings.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds: The Galaxy Buds used to be on this list, but they’ve since increased in price to $110. However, they are still an excellent pair of earbuds with a neutral-leaning frequency response, 6.53 hours of battery life, and an IPX2 rating.
- 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.
- 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.
You may like: Apple AirPods Pro vs. Apple AirPods (2019)
How we tested the our pick of cheap 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 SoundGuys
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
In most cases, yes. If, for example, you notice your Anker SoundCore Liberty Air 2 case is low on battery but your earbuds still have enough charge to use, you can just plug in the case and continue wearing your earbuds. Then, when you do need to charge the earbuds themselves, the case will be ready to top them off.
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.