If you don’t want to throw down more than $100 on a pair of wireless ear buds, you’re not alone. These tiny devices, while invaluable, are super easy to lose or break, and it can feel like wasted a lot of money if one falls out on a run and tumbles into a drain.
So, you are on the hunt for a cheap alternative. So am I. I have spent a lot of time poking around Amazon looking for cheap wireless earbuds in place of Apple’s AirPods, which start at around $120 and jump to around $160 if you want a wireless charging case. Meanwhile, the AirPods Pro, which add active noise canceling, cost around $200 (read our in-depth review of the AirPods Pro). However, there are plenty of bargain wireless earphones out there with high ratings that work with iPhones, Android phones and everything in between. The question is, which of these earbuds are actually any good?
In the past, a lot of discount AirPod Pro or AirPod clones, including sports earbuds, noise-canceling earbuds and other wireless Bluetooth earbuds, didn’t deliver particularly good sound for music listening. Nor were they all that great for making calls. But an increasing number of wireless headphone models beat the “meh” cheap AirPods wireless earbud alternatives classification, and a few are actually quite decent true-wireless headphones. These cheap wireless earbuds have surprising sound performance (for their low price anyway), filter out background noise during calls, can pair with Android or Apple devices, have good battery life, offer touch controls and more.
Here’s a look at the best AirPod alternatives among the current crop of budget true wireless earphones I’ve tested: All of these cheap true wireless earbuds are under $100, several cost less than $50, and all are truly wireless. Equipped with Bluetooth 5.0 or higher, they also all maintain solid wireless audio connections with minimal Bluetooth audio-pairing hiccups. These earphone options for the best budget wireless earbuds also worked well for making phone calls, and, in some cases, really well. I’ve also included info on battery life, as well as how water-resistant they are in case you’re interested in using these for running or gym use. I’ll update this “cheap” true wireless ‘bud list as new affordable earphones are released.
Edifier has a few different new true-wireless earbuds and most, including the TWS 330NB, are very good true wireless earphone values. While the TWS 330NB buds are missing a sensor that automatically pauses your music when you take them out of your ears, this true wireless earbud features very good sound quality for the money, decent active noise canceling with a transparency mode, and solid voice calling (they have three microphones in each bud for noise canceling and noise reduction during calls).
They fit my ears well — they’re essentially AirPods Pro clones — and while the earphone touch controls are a little limited, they are programmable using the Edifier Connect app for iOS and Android (you can also set the level of touch sensitivity). These budget wireless earbuds have an IP54 rating, which means they’re splash- and dust-proof, and battery life is rated at four hours with noise canceling on and five hours with it off (at moderate volume levels). That’s only OK, but you do get an additional two charges in the charging case.
TCL is known for its high-quality, high-value Roku-powered TVs, but has moved into the headphones arena in the last few years. I wasn’t too impressed with its earlier models, but its latest wireless earbud Moveaudio S600 delivers excellent sound and good active noise canceling along with decent battery life (up to 6.2 hours with noise canceling on and eight hours with it off, with three extra charges from the charging case). I found that audio quality headset performance for voice calls is decent, but not quite up to the level of the AirPods Pro Apple device. The charging case does offer earphone wireless charging.
These budget earbuds are slightly more geared toward Android users — TCL makes budget Android phones after all — and feature Google Fast Pair. That said, this wireless earbud works fine with iPhones and TCL’s companion app is available for iOS and Android (you can customize the sound and touch controls in the app). The earbuds support the AAC audio codec but not aptX.
These automatically pause your music when you pull the earbuds out of your ears and they’re IP54 splash- and dust-proof. The stems are a little long, but the earbuds fit me comfortably and I got a tight seal using the largest ear tips. The S600 is available in three color options.
I had the Soundcore Life P2 on this list for a while, but I’ve moved on to the new-for-2021 Life P3, which have been upgraded with active noise canceling. They’re essentially a more affordable version of the Liberty Air 2 Pro ($130 list) and are missing wireless charging and a wear-detection sensor that automatically pauses your music when you take the earbuds out of your ears. That said, these noise cancelling earbuds sound quite decent (they have a bass-boost mode) and also have good sound quality for making calls. A companion app allows you to tweak the sound a bit, but I mainly stuck with the default sound profile.
Battery life is rated at up to seven hours at moderate volume levels and these offer IPX5 water-resistance, which means they can withstand a sustained spray of water and are splash-proof.
Like with the Liberty Air 2 Pro, I had a little trouble getting a tight seal with the included ear hook tips (it should only impact a small percentage of users), so I used my own. To get optimal sound and noise-canceling performance, it is crucial to get a good seal. There’s also a transparency mode that lets ambient sound in, which works fine but isn’t on par with the AirPods Pro’s excellent transparency mode.
Available in multiple color options, the Life P3 carries a list price of $80, but I do expect to see some discounts for these budget earbuds that bring it closer to $60, which would put it in bargain territory. The Liberty Air 2 Pro sporadically sells for $100 or $30 off its list price.
TaoTronics SoundLiberty P10 bluetooth headphones are another AirPods Pro true wireless earphone knock off but it’s one of the better ones out there for the money, with good sound and decent headset performance for making calls. The noise canceling isn’t up the level of the AIrPods Pro but it’s reasonably effective and there’s also an ambient mode that lets sound in (the equivalent of the AirPods Pro’s transparency just not quite as natural sounding) and an anti-wind mode.
I’ve tried many Taotronics headphones over the years and these may be the company’s best earbuds yet. While the earphone is not fancy, this cheap wireless earbud fits my ears well, their case is compact and the instructions clearly spell out how to use the touch controls. They’re equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 and are fully waterproof with an IPX8 rating. Battery life is rated at six and a half hours with noise canceling on and volume at 50%.
I was a fan of the original Earfun Free buds and now there’s an upgraded version called the Earfun Free 2. They’re not a huge upgrade but like the originals, they fit my ears well and deliver decent bang for the buck with strong sound — it has just a touch of treble and bass boost (there’s plenty of bass) — and extra features such as wireless charging.
Battery life is rated at up to seven hours at moderate volume levels and these buds are fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating. These are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 and use Qualcomm’s QCC3040 chip that includes support for Qualcomm’s aptX audio codec if you’re using an aptX-enabled device (certain Android smartphones support aptX).
Some of Tribit’s 2020 true wireless earbuds were decent for the money, but none of them truly stood out from the pack. Its Flybuds C1, however, are top-notch as far as inexpensive true wireless go. Not only do these sound very good for their modest price, with good clarity and strong, punchy bass, but their voice-calling performance is good. |The earbuds have two microphones each and a sidetone feature that allows you to hear your voice in the ‘buds when making a call.
They also have strong battery life (12 hours at 50% volume) and 30-meter range with Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity. They use Qualcomm’s QCC3040 chip, which includes aptX audio streaming for compatible devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy phones.
While they don’t have active noise canceling like the AirPods Pro, if you get a tight seal, they do a good job of passively sealing out a lot of ambient noise. They’re IPX4 water-resistant (splash-proof) and have a compact matte-black charging case with USB-C charging. I also liked how they have tiny physical buttons on their stems that work well for controlling playback and volume.
Google’s Pixel Buds A-Series are kind of unusual, in that they’re new but not exactly an upgrade. They look and sound similar to last year’s Pixel Buds 2, which debuted at $179 but are now selling for less. However, instead of adding new features — like active noise canceling — they’ve actually lost a few. Why? They only cost $100: The “A” stands for affordability. That new lower price is the real story here and what makes these a bonafide true-wireless value, particularly for Android users. They’re splash-proof with an IPX4 rating.
Read our Pixel Buds A-Series review.
If you get a tight seal (three different sized ear tips are included), 1More’s ComfoBuds Pro not only sound quite good but also perform well as a headset for making calls, with three microphones in each earbud. There’s a touch of presence boost in the treble and the bass packs good punch, which gives these a dynamic sound profile (they’re not laid-back) and they play loud for those looking for that.
You can toggle between two levels of noise cancellation (as well as “off”) using the touch controls — and there’s a pass-through transparency mode and a wind noise-reduction mode. You can also toggle through all of those modes using the companion app for iOS and Android. Battery life is rated at six hours with noise canceling on and eight hours with it off. The noise canceling earbuds are IPX4 rated for water resistance, which means they’re splash-proof, the same as the AirPods Pro.
In short, if you don’t want to spend $200 or so on the AirPods Pro, the 1More ComfoBuds Pro are a good budget alternative (they sometimes dip to $80). Note that 1More also makes an open version of the ComfoBuds (see below) that is similar to the standard AirPods and cost less than $50. This Pro version is better.
We used to have the cheaper EarFun Free on this list, but the newer and more feature-rich EarFun Free Pro buds are the ones I’m using more for sporting activity these days. They have active noise cancellation with a transparency mode, wireless charging and Bluetooth 5.2. Rated for seven hours of battery life without the noise-canceling function on, or about six hours with it on, they’re IPX5 water-resistant, which means they can withstand a sustained spray of water.
They sound very good for the money, with relatively clean, balanced sound and bass that has some kick to it — they’re pretty open-sounding. Lightweight and comfortable to wear, they have little fins that help keep them securely in your ears, and they’re fairly discreet-looking.
Don’t expect them to cancel noise as well as the AirPods Pro, but they do provide some noise canceling muffling. It’s worth noting that you can use either the left or right earbud independently, and there’s a low-latency mode for video watching (and presumably gaming). Call quality was decent, too: Callers said they heard some background noise but it wasn’t intrusive and they could hear my voice well. The touch controls were responsive.
The Mpow X3 sound shockingly good for the price, with decent clarity and powerful bass (they play loud), and they even have active noise canceling that’s fairly effective. Amazon removed them from their site but we’ve been seeing them on sale on Walmart at closeout prices.
They did fit me comfortably and securely, and I got a tight seal from one of the XL ear tips. They’re fully waterproof (IPX7) and get up to seven hours of battery life at moderate volume levels with USB-C charging. (The charging case looks like a fatter version of the standard Apple AirPod case.) Call quality is decent — they have a sidetone feature that lets you hear your voice in the ‘buds — but I’ve used other models with better noise reduction during calls. I noticed a touch of audio lag when I streamed a YouTube video, but I had no issues when streaming iTunes movies.
The touch controls take some getting used to (they’re a little wonky), and it didn’t help that the instructions in the box seemed to be for an older version of the X3 (I found the current instructions online, which helped me figure things out). Aside from a few minor downsides, the X3 is a very good value.
1More has a new take on the standard AirPods for those who have trouble keeping them in their ears. The $50 ComfoBuds have mini ear tips on them that help secure them in your ear. These bluetooth earphones don’t sound fantastic (the bass is a little lacking) but as their name implies, they’re lightweight and comfortable to wear. It’s also worth noting that their charging case is remarkably narrow and compact. It looks like a tiny hot-dog bun. They’re also available in white.
The T10, which Tranya keeps slightly updating while keeping the price low, have been on this list for a while and it remains a good value at around $25 (there’s now a low-latency gaming mode).
Like most true-wireless earbuds from Chinese brands that sell through Amazon, these have a pretty generic look and feel, especially the case, and they may not fit all ears equally well — they do stick out a little. But if you get a tight seal they sound good, with potent, well-defined bass and good detail (for a true wireless earbud). They also work decently as a headset for making calls, thanks to decent noise reduction that helps tamp down background noise so people can hear your voice better.
Battery life is rated at eight hours at moderate volume levels and these are fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating.
I was impressed with JLab’s Epic Air ANC bluetooth headphones partially because they fit my ears really well. They’re comfortable, include a wide assortment of ear tips, and fit securely with an IP55 water-resistance rating (they can withstand a sustained spray of water).
These bluetooth earphones also sound decent, have active noise canceling and a compact wireless charging case that can also be charged using the integrated USB cable, a trademark of JLab true wireless earbuds. Don’t expect the noise canceling to be as good as the AirPods Pro, but they’re a good value, especially when they get discounted from their list price of $100. Additionally, they work reasonably well for making calls although their background noise reduction could be a little better.
Note that these were on sale over the holidays in 2020 and dipped to as low as $50 in a Black Friday deal, so you may find these at a lower price from time to time.