The best cheap earbuds we've tested so far are the Anker SoundBuds Curve. They perform better than a lot of the more premium wireless earbuds we've tested for a fraction of the price. They're surprisingly well-built, with a very comfortable fit for in-ear headphones, and even come with a nice hard carrying case, which is a welcome addition at this price point. They have an excited, bass-heavy sound that will help bring out the thump and rumble of a hip-hop track without drowning out the vocals and lead instruments of a folk-rock song.
When it comes to headphones, getting the most value means getting the most features at the lowest cost. The TaoTronics headphones are clearly the winner, as they have active-noise canceling and a premium aluminum alloy construction that you’d normally associate with headphones that cost four times as much. The active-noise canceling can reduce background and ambient sounds by up to 30dB, but it only lasts up to 15 hours before the battery pack needs to be recharged. As for comfort, the headphones come with three pairs of earbuds and three pairs of ear hooks to help you find the right fit on your ears. If you need to make calls, these headphones work for that as well, thanks to the included a microphone. Keep in mind that because these headphones are less expensive, they may not have the same sound quality and noise-canceling prowess as higher-end models.
The active noise cancellation is decent, but it’s not adjustable at all and may cause “eardrum suck” for some people (you can read more about this phenomenon in our best noise-cancelling headphones guide). Because of the vented earbud design, the Pro earbuds don’t provide much noise isolation without the ANC activated, but they still produce some mild occlusion effect. With battery life of four and a half hours, they won’t last a cross-country flight or a full workday without a charging break. The Pro earbuds are water resistant, but the design is far less secure for high-impact activities than that of the Powerbeats Pro and less durable than that of the IP55-rated Jabra Elite 75t. While we like that Apple did away with the tap-based controls, the squeeze controls are fiddly (we often play/paused when we wanted to skip tracks) and still lack volume controls (which both the Jabra Elite 75t and Powerbeats Pro have).
For those who want to make sure that their earbuds don't fall out during exercise, the Jaybird Vista Truly Wireless are worth considering. They don't have the battery life of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Truly Wireless, but the 5.5 hours of playtime should be enough to get you through your workout, with the charging case providing an extra 2 charges should you run low. They come with a selection of tips and fins to help you get the most secure fit, so you can focus on your workout and forget you even have them on. As always, these earbuds are compatible with Jaybird's great companion app, which lets you tune the sound to your liking, from presets to a parametric EQ, to even sound profiles created by other users.
Bose’s QuietControl 30 offers excellent noise cancellation and is clearly built to last, but if noise reduction isn’t your top priority, you’ll likely be better served by other options. In our tests, the sound quality was good but a little dull. You can’t use a cord to listen, so if you fly a lot and use in-flight entertainment, you’re out of luck.
Earbuds land all over the map when it comes to fit, so it’s reassuring to hear one tester describe this pair as “super comfortable.” She used them every day over multiple weeks and never had any issues. What makes them so easy to wear? According to our testers, the ability to customize your fit is the game-changer — the earbuds are adjustable and also include hooks. In addition to superb comfort, these earbuds get top marks where it matters most: sound quality. “Compared to other earbuds I've had in the past,” one tester said, “the sound quality is much better. And the fact that they fit comfortably in my ears is a plus!” Our reviewers also confirmed that the battery life held true to the promised 15 hours.
Sony hasn't been much of a player in the true wireless (AirPod-style) headphone arena, but its new WF-1000XM3 model may change that. While this pair of headphones isn't cheap, as far as sound quality, they're the best wireless earbuds at this price, matching and perhaps even exceeding the quality and performance of pricier competitors from Sennheiser, Beats, Master & Dynamic and Bang & Olufsen. It also has a feature that those wireless earbuds don't have: active noise cancellation technology to reduce ambient noise.
We’ve tested just over 200 sets of Bluetooth earbuds to date, so we can’t list every competitor here in this earbud review—but we do keep notes. If you’re curious about a specific pair, feel free to reach out to our team with questions. Also, for gym headphones, be sure to check out our workout headphones guide, as we discuss a lot of sport-focused models there.
Technically speaking, earbuds are not earphones, as they don't enter your ear canal. Instead they sit just outside of it, where it's easy to become loose and cause problems when it comes to accurate stereo imaging (in which both ears get the same amount of audio) and bass response. Earphones, meanwhile, fit in the ear canal and form a seal inside your ear, blocking outside noise while piping sound directly into your ears. They're much smaller and lighter than headphones, since they don't need to fit on or over your ears and don't require any outside support (though some have stiff wire sections or flexible fins to keep them in place without getting in the way). Plus they won't mess up your hair.