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.
Editors note: this list was updated on May 1, 2019, to replace the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air with the Creative Outlier Air
For the best true wireless earbuds under $100, get the Creative Outlier Air
Creative’s true wireless earbuds ring up just shy of $80 and give all three-digit products a run for their money. The Outlier Air supports AAC and aptX, is IPX5 water-resistant, and has the best battery life of any true wireless earbuds we’ve tested.
Creative Outlier AirFull Review
It isn’t all perfect, though; the earbuds and charging case are slippery as all get out. Accidental drops happened a few times during testing. What’s more, the onboard 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: isolation is pretty poor. This lack of a strong seal allows outside noise to mask your music, making things seem perceptibly less clear.
The emphasized bass response seems an attempt to compensate for the lack of a reliable seal and does tend to mask vocals a bit. That said, bear in mind that these are $79 earbuds and considering all of the excellent features you get, USB-C charging included, it’s still an outstanding deal.
What you should know about cheap true wireless earbuds
- Generally speaking, the included charging cases make up for an across-the-board poor standalone battery life. There are, however, a few contenders with solid playback time like the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air, which feature an AirPods-like charging case.
- Typically we advise listeners to keep an eye out for high-quality Bluetooth codecs—although the validity of the streaming quality claims is dubious—but in the instance of the best true wireless earbuds under $100, you’re not going to find anything with high-quality codec compatibility… yet.
- 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.
- For the price, none of these options are going to outperform something like the Samsung Gear IconX or Earin M-2, 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 offer the best sound quality
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.
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.
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. On a full charge, the earbuds provide 3.17 hours of playback, outlasting all other listed true wireless options here.
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 a truly solid pair of ‘buds that you can usually find hovering around $99.
The JLab JBuds Air is for the athlete
As it stands, the JLab JBuds Air also happened to be the one of our best bang-for-your-buck option in the best true wireless earbuds list. These IP55 earbuds feature the same durability ratings as the Jabra Elite 65t for one-third the cost. The ‘buds feature a 3.07 standalone playback time and are afforded an extra 10 hours of listening from the 500mAh charging case. To combat the earbuds’ bulky frames, JLab includes a proprietary Cush-Fins; these drastically improve stability especially when exercising. Additionally, the earbud nozzles jut out at an angle and provide a comfortable fit.
JLab JBuds AirFull Review
Sound quality reflects the fact that the JLab JBuds Air are workout earbuds. The most aggressive emphasis is experienced with lower midrange and higher bass frequencies. While this is suitable for exercise, it becomes fatiguing after an hour of casual listening. On the whole, if you’re in need of cheap true wireless earbuds but can’t afford to break the bank, the JLab JBuds Air is a solid choice.
Reliable connectivity takes precedence with the Jam Ultra
While the Jam Ultra is a bit more expensive, running just under $100, the included earbuds are easy to pair and stay connected without issue according to Adam’s experience.
Jam UltraFull Review
Unlike the Rowkin Ascent Micro, listeners aren’t granted a ton of liberty as far as playback controls are concerned, but Jam has users covered with the basics and call functionality.
The cloth wrap design is reminiscent of waterproof speakers like the JBL Charge 3 or Flip 4 and sets the ‘buds apart from other more traditional designs. With a bass-heavy frequency response, the overall sound lacks clarity but not to the extent of the Soul Emotion earbuds.
If you’re willing to stretch your wallet a bit more, these are some excellent alternatives.
- Rowkin Ascent Charge+: The build is identical to that of the Ascent Micro, but the whole package includes a Qi Wireless charger and a larger carrying case that sports an elongated design.
- Apple AirPods: If all you want is the best true wireless option for your iPhone, the AirPods are the platonic ideal; although they do have their flaws like poor isolation.
- 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 Push: While these don’t perform well enough to be crowned the best true wireless, the 6-hour and 21-minute battery life is impeccable and worth checking out if you need your ‘buds to last the bulk of the day.
- Anker Soundcore Liberty Air: These ‘buds were the reigning champion for a while before being kicked off by the more affordable Creative Outlier Air. The Liberty Air support AAC and an AirPods-like design.
You may like: Are the AirPods 2 worth the money?
How we test
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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