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 list was updated on January 17, 2020, to include the 1More Stylish true wireless as a notable mention.
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.
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 but isn’t great
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.
Monoprice’s True Wireless earbuds are supremely portable
Listeners on a budget will enjoy the Monoprice True Wireless. The earbuds feature a vocal-oriented frequency response, and the lack of low-end can quickly be remedied by using more substantial ear tips like Comply’s.
Monoprice True WirelessFull Review
That said, the earbuds don’t just sound good, they’re tough too due to an IPX4 certification. Unlike the JLab JBuds Air, these earbuds retain a slim design that sits flush with the ear. The buttons are small and lay evenly against the housings, which can make it difficult to operate controls. Unfortunately, during our testing, the Monoprice True Wireless struggled to maintain a consistent, reliable connection, but if you favor style and durability—it’s easy to pardon. If you want a wireless charging case, Monorpcie now offers that bundled with the earbuds for an additional ~$20.
Need some nifty features? Go with Rowkin Ascent Micro
The Rowkin Ascent Micro is the little brother to the Rowkin Ascent Charge+, but the earbuds are identical. In fact, many prefer the Ascent Micro to its larger counterpart, because of the compact design that appears to have been influenced by the Apple AirPods.
Rowkin Ascent MicroFull Review
From the case to the earbuds, the Ascent Micro was built with athletes in mind because the ribbed texture makes it easy to grip both parts of the product with sweaty or gloved fingers. What’s more, nearly every control can be made from the touch capacitive earbud panels, meaning that athletes can devote more time to training and less time to fumbling with phones. These are some of the best true wireless earbuds you can usually find hovering around $99.
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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