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Best wired earbuds under $50
Earbuds don’t have to be expensive to sound good, and there are plenty of solid wired earbuds under $50 USD that will get the job done. No one pair of buds on this list outperforms something that costs you hundreds of dollars, but you’d be surprised how close you can get for a fraction of the price.
Editor’s note: this list of the best wired earbuds under $50 USD was updated on September 30, 2022, to add the Moondrop Chu and expand the list of buying options where possible.
Budget listeners will be able to afford most of these picks for best wired earbuds under $50. We made sure that with each pick, you’ll make the fewest number of compromises. Listeners looking for a backup pair of buds can feel good about buying a relatively cheap pair of buds that don’t break the bank and function well enough.
Why is the KZ ZSN Pro X the best pair of wired earbuds under $50 USD for most people?
The KZ ZSN Pro X is an excellent set of wired earbuds that comes with a removable 2-pin cable, which extends the life of the buds. We recommend the ZSN Pro X for most people because it costs less than $30 USD, meeting most people’s budgets, and its sound quality punches weigh above its price point. With a frequency response that gently boosts bass and treble notes, the ZSN Pro X is sure to make just about any genre of music sound good. (See the last image in the gallery below to view the frequency response chart.)
Isolation is surprisingly good here too, and KZ provides four sets of silicone ear tips that range from 10-14mm in width. It’s important that you take a minute to find which ear tips fit your ears best because this will block out the most background noise, therefore optimizing the buds’ bass response.
While this headset is not feature rich, you still get an integrated in-line mic and remote so you can take phone calls and control music playback. Interestingly, our headset’s “return to previous track” function does not work but all others do.
The KZ ZSN Pro X is likely not a good option for those with particularly small outer ears since the housings are fairly large, but most people will find these buds comfortable. For the price, it’s hard to beat the Pro X.
KZ ZSN Pro X microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
KZ ZSN Pro X microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
The Moondrop Chu blocks out plenty of background noise
The Moondrop Chu is another surprisingly good set of budget in-ears with a simple, yet elegant design. It blocks out more noise than some earbuds with active noise cancelling, and can cut the loudness of midrange frequencies down to one-quarter their original perceived loudness.
The black plastic housings have a gold accent that looks a bit like a spark, and the earbuds have an ergonomic fit that angles the nozzles into your ear canals. You get three sets of silicone ear tips to choose from, a cable holder, and ear hook-like guides.
The over-the-ear cable guides are a bit tricky to fit right and they sometimes pop out of place, cheapening the look of the headset. If you can get past that, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how the Chu sounds as it follows the same “shape” of our target curve with some under-emphasis to the lows and mids.
With the microphone, your voice will sound fairly good during calls, and it blocks out background noise fairly well. The biggest thing to be aware of is the mic’s direction relative to your mouth. It can swivel a bit due to the cable dangling near your mouth, so you may have the best luck holding the mic in place next to your mouth while speaking.
To be clear, the in-line microphone is an optional purchase; you can also buy the Chu without an integrated microphone.
Moondrop Chu microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Moondrop Chu microphone demo (Office conditions):
Moondrop Chu microphone demo (Street conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Looking for a solid pair of wired earbuds? Check out the TIN HiFi 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 TIN HiFi T2 earbuds. This makes the rounds on forums everywhere because of its good sound and build for the price.
While you shouldn’t expect this to blow you away, you can definitely rely on it to get the job done whether you’re working from home or commuting to the office. The Linsoul TIN Audio T2 uses an MMCX detachable cable, so you can just swap out the wire instead of buying a brand new pair of earbuds. You can even turn it into a pair of wireless earbuds with the right adapter. Toss some memory foam ear tips on here, and this is hard to beat.
The TIN Audio T2 does a pretty good job of following our studio curve, with some under-emphasis to the sub-bass and treble.
The Shure SE112-GR is a comfortable pair of budget earbuds
The Shure SE112-GR shouldn’t come as a big surprise. The brand has a well-earned reputation for quality audio products. This comes with an in-line mic option, but those cost around $60 USD, which puts it outside of the best wired earbuds under the $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.
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. This maxes 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.
If you’re looking to wear the SE112-GR in typical earbud style, you’ll be a little surprised, since you need to wrap the cable up and around the back of your ears. 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. This set of earbuds is comfortable and costs around $10 USD which is just unheard of. As far as build quality goes, it looks cheap—because it is. The cable tangles easily, so be wary of crumpling it up and stuffing it in your pockets. That said, the audio quality is better than anything you’ll find for this price and they just get it done.
Originally designed to match the colors of the 5th generation iPod nano, the Ergo Fit is available in eight colorways so chances are you’ll find one that you like. Unsurprisingly, the earbuds have an ergonomic fit, meaning that they will 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.
Gamers, get the JBL Quantum 50
The JBL Quantum 50 is great for gamers who want something comfortable, portable, and pocketable. It doesn’t get much simpler than a wired pair of buds, but at least JBL includes an inline microphone. The sound is very good and closely follows our consumer curve, so it should please most listeners. If you want something a bit cheaper, consider the ROCCAT Syn Buds Core.
The best cheap wired earbuds: Notable mentions
- HiFiMan RE-400: For around $40 USD, 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.
- Master & Dynamic ME03G: Anyone who appreciates fine design will like the M&D ME03G. The company is known for beautiful wireless headsets like the MW08 earbuds. You get a flat, tangle-resistant cable, inline mic and remote, and leather storage bag.
- MEE audio M6 PRO: The M6 PRO is an absolute steal for under $50 USD. If you like a more secure, around-the-ear fit, the M6 Pro is a great set of sweat-resistant earphones. You get a pair of Comply T-Series memory foam tips, a protective carrying case, and a 1/4-inch adapter.
- Sennheiser CX 300S: This set of in-ears is about as basic as it gets. You get a flat, ribbon cable with a one-button control module. If all you want to do is listen to music, this is a good pair of wired earbuds.
- 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. The wooden design is eye-catching and the sound is good for a bargain pair of buds. Symphonized even manufactures an MFI-certified version with a Lightning connector for iPhone owners.
Hold up! Something’s different:
Some of our picks’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this article (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and isolation performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
What you should know about wired earbuds under $50
What makes good earphones under $50 USD is exactly the same as what makes good earphones in general. Regardless of price, earphones need to have good battery life (if applicable), decent comfort, and good sound. Missing any of these means that a product isn’t a good set of earphones!
No matter which pair of wired earbuds under $50 you purchase, you’re going to make sacrifices. Companies have to cut corners in order to keep the products so cheap, and the first things to go: build and sound quality. However, what makes good earphones is immutable—they need to have good battery life, decent sound quality, and can’t be actively uncomfortable.
How should cheap earbuds sound?
Affordable earbuds within this price point usually have a standard consumer-friendly sound, though many headsets tend to amplify bass more than our house curve recommends. While most of us prefer some boost in bass relative to the mids, too much bass can actually make it hard to hear other, higher-pitched sounds in your music.
Seeing how wired earbuds don’t include mobile apps, you won’t be able to equalize the sound of your buds through the company’s software. However, any EQ that you create in your music streaming service app will apply to any set of wired earbuds.
How do you get a good fit with cheap earbuds?
To get a good fit with cheap earbuds, take time to play with the various ear tips sizes. That way, you can get optimal isolation performance. If you can’t get a good fit with the default tips, you may want to buy some third-party ear tips.
Good isolation is important for sound quality and auditory health. Blocking out ample background noise can also help prevent noise-induced hearing loss. This 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.
What is an IP rating?
IP ratings are ingress protection ratings and these denote how dust or water-resistant a product is. If it has an IPX4 rating, the buds are fairly water resistant but it isn’t guaranteed that they’ll survive submersion for any amount of time. If, instead, you see something with an IP44 rating, that means it can resist dust particles and water droplets to a certain degree.
Now, when buying cheap earbuds, you’re not going to get something indestructible, but we want your favorite pair of the best wired earbuds under $50 to last. There are some options that are workout-friendly and others that are just flat-out versatile—good enough for daily use and with a few features thrown in.
Believe it or not, there are a handful of wireless options as well
Now that 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: 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.
Why you should trust SoundGuys
We make sure to perform objective tests to measure the battery life, isolation, and frequency response of the headphones and earbuds that we get our hands on. 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 about wired earbuds
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.